Ask Steven September 10, 2007

Greedy fielders, and trouble with numbers

The best tag teams, Michael Slater's tattoo, and Mike Brearley's scheme

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

c Jayawardene b Muralitharan: the leading fielder-bowler combination in Tests © AFP

What are the top bowler-fielder combinations in Tests and ODIs, in terms of catches (excluding wicketkeepers)? asked Vasu from India

The leading fielder-bowler combination in Test matches is caught Mahela Jayawardene bowled Muttiah Muralitharan, with 62 catches in 76 matches so far. They took over from the previous record-holders - c Mark Taylor b Shane Warne, with 51 - a couple of years ago. If you include wicketkeepers, then c Rod Marsh b Dennis Lillee still leads the way with 95. In one-day internationals there's a rather surprising combination at the top of the list: caught Shaun Pollock bowled Jacques Kallis, with 26 - and next comes c Kallis b Pollock, with 22! This excludes two people who have taken 29 caught-and-bowleds - Murali again and the New Zealander Chris Harris. For a full list for ODIs, click here.

Is it true that Michael Slater exchanged the number that he should use on his shirt with someone, and if so what was the reason? asked Mohammad Imthinal from Sri Lanka

What happened was that Michael Slater knew that 355 men had played for Australia before him, so he purchased personalised number-plates for his Ferrari and had himself tattooed with the number 356. Only later did he find out that he was actually No. 357, as Brendon Julian also made his Test debut against England at Old Trafford in 1993, and beat him alphabetically, which is the way these things are normally decided if more than one player makes his debut in the same game (Slater had thought it had to do with the batting order, which would have meant he was first). Fortunately for Slater and his medical bills, the Australian board and Julian agreed that they could exchange numbers.

Who has taken most wickets in ODIs against Australia, and who has the best bowling average against them? asked Danny Raymond from New Zealand

The man with the most wickets in ODIs against Australia is Wasim Akram, with 67, six ahead of Curtly Ambrose. The leading current bowler, with 57, is Shaun Pollock. The best bowling average against them, given a minimum of 10 wickets taken, is 13.88 by New Zealand's Shane Bond (34 wickets), although the West Indian Pedro Collins has taken eight wickets for 51 in two matches against the Aussies at the startling average of 6.37.

I heard that Mike Brearley, frustrated by Middlesex's inability to break a stubborn partnership, put the spare fielding helmet in front of the wicket to try to tempt the batsmen to hit it and score five easy runs. Is this true or is it an urban myth? asked Mike Shearing from China

No, it's not an urban myth, it did happen, and I was there! (I was working at Lord's at the time.) Mike Brearley mentions it in his excellent book The Art of Captaincy, saying it was in a match against Yorkshire, "who were batting without much sense of adventure". I remember him calling to the bowler, Phil Edmonds, "Let's try The Ploy": they placed a spare fielding helmet on the ground at short midwicket, to try to tempt the batsmen to play across the line to Edmonds's left-arm spin in order to collect the five penalty runs they would have received if the ball hit the helmet. Brearley doesn't mention the year, but I think it must have been this match in 1980. If that is the one, the ploy doesn't seem to have worked, although Edmonds did take three wickets, and shortly afterwards the regulations were amended so you could only park the spare helmet behind the wicketkeeper.

Kyle Hogg: played for three counties in 2007 © Getty Images

I see that Kyle Hogg has played for three different counties this season. Is that unique? asked Nicky Jones from Cambridge

During the 2007 season Kyle Hogg has played for Lancashire (his usual county) but has also been out on loan to Worcestershire and Nottinghamshire. He has played for all three in the County Championship (including against Warwickshire for both Lancashire and Worcestershire), which as far as I can see is unique - the only other person I can find who has played for three first-class counties in the same year is James Southerton (the oldest Test debutant at 49), who played for Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire in 1867 - but not in the Championship, and at a time when qualification rules for county cricket were much less stringent. Kyle Hogg is the grandson of the former West Indian "mystery spinner" Sonny Ramadhin, which leads us nicely into the next question ...

I was looking at an old book and saw Sonny Ramadhin given the initials "K.T." But these don't show up in Wisden or on Cricinfo. What did they stand for? asked Maurice Beale from Kidderminster

Vijay Kumar's book Cricket, Lovely Cricket, about the 1950 tour, reproduces a copy of Sonny Ramadhin's birth certificate: the only name shown on it is "Ramdin". He also quotes an interview with Ramadhin from 1999: "My birth certificate said my name was Ramdin. My father's name was Boodhai. However, in those early days the British clerks did not correctly record our names. So instead of being Ramdin Boodhai my name was legally just Ramdin. Everyone called me Sonny. The reporters in England wrote K. T. Ramadhin. I don't know why. It just stuck and went down in the cricket books as that."

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