July 26, 2011

When the top two batted together

Also: when all four openers were lefties and when all four innings were played on the same day

Rahul Dravid has overhauled Ricky Ponting as the second-highest Test run-scorer. He may well bat with the leader, Sachin Tendulkar. When, if ever, was the last time the top two run-scorers batted together in a Test? asked Michael Browne via Facebook
This has not happened since the last Test of the 1911-12 Ashes series, after which the four leading run-scorers in Tests were all Australians who were playing in the match: Clem Hill (3412), Victor Trumper (3163), Warwick Armstrong (2247) and Syd Gregory (2210). England's Tom Hayward (who wasn't playing) was next, with 1999 at the time. In that match in Sydney, Hill and Trumper batted together briefly in the second innings of what was the final Test for both of them. Jack Hobbs took over as the leading run-scorer late in 1924. Since then there have been a few occasions when the top two runscorers were from the same country, although they never played together when they were top: Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe briefly in the 1930s, then Hobbs and Wally Hammond; Hammond and Colin Cowdrey in the late 1960s and, more recently, Allan Border and Steve Waugh (thanks to Sreeram and Michael Jones on Facebook for much of this research).

All four openers in the 2000th Test match at Lord's were left-handers. How often has this happened? asked Jeremy Gregory via Facebook
Until 2002 this had never happened in any Test - but then in October that year the openers in Sharjah were Taufeeq Umar and Imran Farhat for Pakistan, and Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer for Australia. Since then, such has been the proliferation of left-handers opening the batting that it has now happened on no fewer than 28 further occasions, including all the Tests of the 2005 and 2006-07 Ashes series. What did surprise me was that Gautam Gambhir and Abhinav Mukund were the first pair of left-handers to open for India in the same Test, apart from one innings against Sri Lanka in Delhi in 2005-06, when Irfan Pathan went in first (and scored 93) with Gambhir in the second innings after Rahul Dravid had opened in the first.

Is it true that the only Test match where part of all four innings took place on the same day was the one between England and West Indies at Lord's in 2000? And did Courtney Walsh have the distinction of taking wickets or batting in all four innings on that day? asked Zaheer Clarke from Jamaica
That did happen during the 2000 England-West Indies Test at Lord's: on the second day West Indies' innings ended with the first ball (Courtney Walsh was out), England were bowled out for 134 (Walsh 4 for 43), but then skittled West Indies for 54 (Walsh 3 not out). England faced seven balls that evening - just one from Walsh - and limped home by two wickets the next day. But there has been one other Test in which part of all four innings featured on the same day: on a difficult pitch in Hamilton in December 2002, India started the third day at 92 for 8 and were soon all out for 99. That was enough for a lead, though, as they rolled New Zealand over for 94, but were then bowled out again themselves for 154. There was time for New Zealand to score 24 without loss before the close of a busy day. I think both Ashish Nehra and Tinu Yohannan batted and bowled during all four innings that day.

Madhav Mantri is India's oldest living Test player. But who is the oldest of all living Test players? asked Keith D'Souza from Nigeria
The oldest living Test player is - god willing - about to celebrate his 100th birthday: Norman Gordon was born on August 6, 1911. He is already the oldest-known Test player - there have been no other confirmed centurions. Gordon, a fast bowler, played in all five Tests of South Africa's 1938-39 home series against England, the one that ended with the famous ten-day Timeless Test in Durban. Sunil Gavaskar's uncle Madhav Mantri, who is due to celebrate his 90th birthday in September, is indeed the oldest living Indian Test player. For a full list, click here.

Who has hit the most sixes in a Test innings in England? asked Sam on Ask Steven Live on chat during the Lord's Test
The record for a Test innings in England is seven sixes, set by Andrew Flintoff during his 167 against West Indies at Edgbaston in 2004, and equalled the following year at The Oval by Kevin Pietersen during his 158 in that season's Ashes climax. Flintoff's innings included one six that was dropped by a spectator in the crowd... Freddie's father, Colin. Wisden reported: "In one act of glorious bravado, he lofted Lawson high into the top tier of the Ryder Stand. A powerfully built middle-aged man stood up to take the catch. From a crowd of 20,000, Flintoff had somehow picked out his father, who muffed it: the only false move from a Flintoff in the entire Test."

Who took the most innings to score his first century in a one-day international? asked Harry Lucas from Bristol
The man who took longest to register a one-day international century was Shaun Pollock, who reached three figures for the first - and only - time in his 190th innings. Oddly this wasn't for South Africa, but for the Africa XI against Asia in Bangalore in June 2007. Rather surprisingly the next name on this list is Steve Waugh - his first ODI century for Australia came in his 167th innings, against Sri Lanka in Melbourne in January 1996.

And there's an update to last week's question about young Lord's centurions, from Sam Gibbs
"If you count women's cricket, Sarah Taylor was 19 when she scored 129 for England in a one-day international against South Africa at Lord's in August 2008."

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2011. Ask Steven is now on Facebook