Ask Steven August 6, 2007

Sri Lanka's half-century, and 386 five-fors

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

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



Muttiah Muralitharan got to 700 wickets in Sri Lanka's 50th Test win © AFP

I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere that Sri Lanka's win over Bangladesh in the recent third Test was their 50th victory in all Tests, in only 25 years or so - how does this rate alongside the other countries in racking up 50 wins? asked Ashley Silva from Colombo

That win over Bangladesh at Kandy was indeed Sri Lanka's 50th victory in Test cricket (and, by the way, it was mentioned in Cricinfo's Bulletin of the final day's play). It did set a new record in terms of time, as it took them just over 25 years: England are next with 35, Pakistan took 40, Australia 44, West Indies 47, India 61, New Zealand 72, and South Africa a whopping 108 (including their 22-year "suspension" from international cricket). However, this statistic is skewed by the increased amount of Test cricket played these days, and a better yardstick is the number of matches it took each country to chalk up 50 Test wins. Here England lead the way with 111 (their 50th win came against Australia in 1911-12), a whisker ahead of Australia with 112 (they reached 50 against England in 1921). West Indies took 160 Tests to reach their half-century, Sri Lanka 170, Pakistan 203, South Africa 205, India 286, and New Zealand 296. Zimbabwe currently have eight wins from 83 Tests, and Bangladesh one from 49 - at that strike-rate they will have to play 2450 Tests (nearly three times as many as England have played in 130 years) before winning 50.

Is Murali the only player to have taken more than 100 five-fors in first-class cricket? asked Alex "Spins it a Mile"

Muttiah Muralitharan has currently taken five or more wickets in an innings 110 times in first-class cricket, a record 60 of them in Tests. That's the most by any current player: Mushtaq Ahmed has 99 as I write. But it's a long way adrift of the overall record-holder. Eleven bowlers, all of them Englishmen from the days when much more county cricket was played, have managed over 200 five-wicket hauls, with the Kent legspinner Tich Freeman leading the way with a scarcely credible 386, 99 ahead of the next man, Yorkshire's Wilfred Rhodes.

What was the special thing about EM Grace's 10-wicket haul against Kent? asked Mohammad Imthinal from Sri Lanka

This question even predates Wisden, which first came out two years after EM Grace's feat for MCC against the Gentlemen of Kent at Canterbury in 1862. The first odd thing was that EM Grace - WG's older brother - was playing for MCC at all, since he wasn't a member at the time. They probably asked him to join though, after he carried his bat for 192 as MCC made 344 in reply to Kent's 141, in which he had taken five wickets. Then Kent batted again, and the ubiquitous EM took all ten wickets for 69, bowling unchanged through the innings of 65.2 (four-ball) overs. This was actually a 12-a-side match, but one Kent batsman was absent in that second innings, so "The Coroner" took all the wickets to fall.

When I was small, one of my uncles told me an unusual story about the 1983 World Cup - that a famous reporter had commented that if India won then he would eat his words. And of course they did win ... who was it, and did he really eat them? asked Rajish Nair from New Zealand

Yes, it is true. The writer who put that in his World Cup preview was David Frith, the prominent cricket historian who was the editor of Wisden Cricket Monthly magazine at the time. In his defence it should be pointed out that India had only won one World Cup match in two attempts before 1983, and that was against the minnows of East Africa in 1975. They had also lost to Sri Lanka (not then a Test nation) in 1979. So it wasn't that outlandish a prediction. And yes, he did eat his words, washing down the offending page from the magazine with a drop of red wine.



Simon Guy, in his "Hannibal-mask", has played 36 first-class games for Yorkshire © Getty Images

Somebody said the other day that Simon Guy is the first Yorkshire wicketkeeper since the Second World War whose surname doesn't begin with B! Is this true? asked Richard Bailey from Yorkshire (we're guessing)

Well, most of the regular Yorkshire keepers since the war have indeed been Bs - Don Brennan, Jimmy Binks, David Bairstow, Richard Blakey (who all played for England), and now Gerard Brophy. But a few representatives of the rest of the alphabet have occasionally had a look-in, most notably Simon Guy, who has now played 36 first-class games for Yorkshire, and Neil Smith, who played in eight matches in 1970 and 1971 before joining Essex when Bairstow arrived. Another future England keeper, Steve Rhodes played three matches for his native Yorkshire in 1981 and 1984 before seeking greater opportunities at Worcester.

Can you settle a bet for me? I say that although Wasim Akram batted and bowled left-handed he uses his right hand to write. On the other hand, Sachin Tendulkar is a right-hand batsman and bowler, but uses his left hand to write. Am I right? asked Aamir Khokhar from Canada

I wasn't entirely sure about this, so asked Cricinfo's Indian office, where Mathew Varghese came up with (almost) the full answer: "Tendulkar writes with his left hand for sure. Not sure about Wasim but this picture suggests that he does write with his right."

Steven Lynch is the deputy editor of The Wisden Group. If you want to ask Steven a question, use our feedback form. The most interesting questions will be answered here each week.