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Whitewashes and white coats

The regular Monday column in which Steven Lynch answers your questions about (almost) any aspect of cricket:

Steven Lynch

January 8, 2007

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The regular Monday column in which Steven Lynch answers your questions about (almost) any aspect of cricket:

The victor and the vanquished - Warwick Armstrong and Johnny Douglas © The Cricketer International

We've heard a lot about this embarrassing 5-0 "whitewash" that England have suffered. But how often has it happened in Tests? asked Daniel Robertson from Coventry

As nearly everyone has written, this was the first 5-0 result in an Ashes series since 1920-21, when Warwick Armstrong's powerful Australian side overwhelmed England, captained by Johnny Douglas, in the first series after the First World War. Rather like Andrew Flintoff, Douglas was something of a stand-in captain: the Lancashire amateur Reggie Spooner was the original choice, but withdrew for personal reasons. The next five-Test whitewash was also in Australia, in 1931-32, when South Africa were the sufferers. Since then India have lost all five Tests in England (1959) and West Indies (1961-62); England lost all five Tests to West Indies in 1984 - the only instance a home side has been blanked - and in the Caribbean in 1985-86 (David Gower became the only captain to be whitewashed twice); and West Indies lost all five Tests in South Africa (1998-99) and Australia (2000-01). For a full list of whitewashes, including four-, three- and two-Test series, click here.

Andrew Flintoff's problems as captain bring to mind another great England allrounder in Ian Botham. What was his captaincy record? asked Steve Durrant from Worcester

Ian Botham captained England in 12 Test matches, and didn't win any of them - four were lost and eight drawn. The first ten were all against West Indies, the strongest team of the period, and since Botham emerged with seven draws from those it's possible that his captaincy skills have been under-estimated over the years (as mentioned above, David Gower captained in ten Tests against the Windies and lost the lot). Botham also skippered in two Tests against Australia in 1981, resigning shortly before he was sacked - and famously returned to form to win that Ashes series almost single-handedly under Mike Brearley's leadership. Andrew Flintoff has now skippered in 11 Tests, and has two wins and two draws to go with seven defeats.

There were loads of books published after the 2005 Ashes series. How many will there be this time? And was there a book about the previous Ashes whitewash, in 1920-21? asked Ken Baldwin from Reading

You're right: there were at least 15 books published after the 2005 Ashes series, which threatened the record set after Len Hutton's Ashes victory in 1954-55. Several were planned for this series - by the well-known Ashes authors David Frith and Gideon Haigh, to name but two - and most of those will go ahead, as the agreements would have been signed before the series. I can't imagine the UK sales will be quite as high as for the 2005 books though! I'm only aware of one tour account of the 1920-21 Ashes series, and it will set you back quite a lot of money if you can track it down: the former Surrey captain Percy Fender, a member of the England team, wrote a book called Defending the Ashes which was published by Chapman & Hall. The last one I saw advertised would have cost well over £100.

Is Mark Benson the only current international umpire who also played in Tests? asked Mark Davidson from Tunbridge Wells

Kent's Mark Benson, who won one cap for England against India at Edgbastonin 1986, is the only current member of the ICC's elite panel of umpires - from which most of the Test appointments are made - who also played Test cricket. However, the international panel (the next rung down from the elite list) includes Asoka de Silva, the former Sri Lankan legspinner who won ten Test caps, and a pair of slow left-armers: Bangladesh's Enamul Haque, who also played ten Tests, and Nadeem Ghauri, who played one Test for Pakistan in 1989-90. Asoka de Silva has stood in 33 Tests, the most recent being the match between Pakistan and West Indies at Lahore in November 2006, and Nadeem Ghauri in five. Enamul Haque is still awaiting his Test umpiring debut, although he has stood in one-day internationals.

Is it true that Milkha Singh, the famous Indian athlete, also played Test cricket? asked Anuj Chauhan from the United States

AG Milkha Singh was a talented batsman from Madras who played four Tests for India in 1960 and 1961, all before he had turned 21. He continued in the Ranji Trophy until 1968-69, finishing with eight centuries and a batting average of 35.44, with a highest score of 151 for South Zone in 1961-62. However, as far as I am aware he is not related to the Indian athlete Milkha Singh (born 1935), who just missed out on a medal in the Rome Olympics, when he finished fourth in the 400 metres.

Jacques Kallis has scored seven Test centuries against West Indies - has anyone ever made more? asked Jean-Pierre de Rosnay

Jacques Kallis has indeed scored seven Test hundreds against West Indies, equalling the number made by Steve Waugh and Mohammad Yousuf. But they are all a long way behind the record-holder - Sunil Gavaskar, whose 2749 runs against them at an average of 65.45, including an amazing 13 centuries. For a full list of the leading Test century-makers, with a country-by-country breakdown, click here.

  • Steven Lynch's new book, The Cricinfo Guide to International Cricket 2007, is out now. Click here for more details, or here for our review.

  • Steven Lynch is the former editor of Cricinfo

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    Steven Lynch Steven Lynch won the Wisden Cricket Monthly Christmas Quiz three years running before the then-editor said "I can't let you win it again, but would you like a job?" That lasted for 15 years, before he moved across to the Wisden website when that was set up in 2000. Following the merger of the two sites early in 2003 he was appointed as the global editor of Wisden Cricinfo. In June 2005 he became the deputy editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. He continues to contribute the popular weekly "Ask Steven" question-and-answer column on ESPNcricinfo, and edits the Wisden Guide to International Cricket.

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