September 13, 2011

Bowling equality, and good grounds for tourists

Also: playing Tests without knowing it, not playing Tests after taking 2000 first-class wickets, myths about Miandad, and the opener who was never dismissed

There's only one innings in ODI history where all five bowlers took two wickets each. Which match was it? asked Solaiman Palash from Bangladesh
The match in question was this year's World Cup semi-final between India and Pakistan in Mohali. In Pakistan's reply all five bowlers - Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh - took two wickets apiece. This is the only time that five bowlers were used in an ODI innings and all of them took two wickets, but there are six other instances of five men taking two and one other bowler failing to take any. The most recent of these was by Bangladesh in their victory over England in Bristol in 2010: Mashrafe Mortaza, Abdur Razzak, Shafiul Islam, Rubel Hossain and Shakib Al Hasan each took two wickets, but Mohammad Ashraful bowled a solitary over and failed to strike.

Which Test ground has the highest percentage of away wins? asked Daoud Jackson via Facebook
There are five grounds - Sheffield, the Bombay Gymkhana, Lucknow University, Fatullah and Bogra - whose only Test was won by the visiting side, giving the tourists a 100% record. But if you impose a qualification of at least five Tests at a ground, then the best ones for tourists are, predictably I suppose, the two venues in Chittagong (Bangladesh have played eight Tests on each, and lost seven at both grounds), and the new ground in Mirpur, where Bangladesh have lost five of the six Tests played so far. Then come Queen's Club in Bulawayo - Zimbabwe have lost 10 of the 18 Tests played there - and the old Bangabandhu Stadium in Dhaka. That staged 16 Tests, some of them home games for Pakistan before Bangladesh's independence, eight of which resulted in defeat for the home side (seven of them for Bangladesh; Australia beat Pakistan there in 1959-60). After Harare, where the visitors have won 13 of 27 Tests played, comes the first ground not from Zimbabwe or Bangladesh: rather surprisingly, perhaps, South Africa have lost 11 of the 23 Tests they have played at St George's Park in Port Elizabeth. South Africa haven't won there since beating New Zealand in November 2000, and the four Tests since have included victories for England, Pakistan and West Indies - so maybe that's why there haven't been any Tests in PE since Christmas 2007!

Is it possible that some cricketers went to their graves never realising that they played in a Test match? asked Bob Langford from Australia
It's absolutely certain that several early players never knew they had taken part in a Test match. This particularly applies to South Africa, whose early Tests weren't really classified as such until about 1907. What is now recognised as South Africa's first Test (on pretty flimsy grounds, it has to be said) was in 1888-89, and by 1907 four of those early players had already died: Gus Kempis (who died of fever in 1890, little more than a year after playing in that inaugural Test), the unrelated Richardses Dicky (1903) and Alfred (1904), and Vincent Tancred (who shot himself in 1904). Several of the other South African players of their era might also not have realised that their matches had subsequently been recognised as Tests. England-Australia Tests were not really properly categorised until 1894, and by then around 15 of the early players had already passed away. I think it's reasonably safe to assume, however, that everyone who played in a Test match since around 1907 was aware that they were doing so.

Who is the only player to take more than 2000 wickets in first-class cricket without ever playing in a Test? asked Annie Mathew Paul from Pakistan
The unlucky bowler here is the old Glamorgan stalwart Don Shepherd, who took 2218 wickets in a long county career without ever finding favour with the England selectors. Shepherd started as a fast bowler in 1950, but changed in the mid-fifties to bowling brisk offcutters, with great success. He took 177 wickets with them in 1956, and altogether passed 100 on 12 occasions - the last time in 1970, when he was honoured as one of Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year. He retired in 1972, aged 45. Actually, it's not true to say that Shepherd is the only bowler to take more than 2000 wickets without playing in a Test: the Gloucestershire slow left-armer George Dennett claimed 2151, and the Hampshire medium-pacer Jack Newman 2054, and neither was capped either. Oddly (or, some in Wales might say, significantly), the man who made the most runs without winning an official Test cap was also from Glamorgan: Alan Jones scored 36,049 runs between 1957 and 1983 without playing for England, although he did appear in an unofficial Test against the Rest of the World in 1970.

Javed Miandad batted 288 times in Tests without ever being dismissed leg before wicket. Is that a record? asked Jude Franco from India
It would be a record... if it were true. But Javed Miandad was actually out lbw 33 times in Tests (from 189 innings, not 288). The other urban myth is that he was never given out lbw in Pakistan - but that's not true either, as he was dispatched leg-before on eight occasions in home Tests, although admittedly it was quite a long time before the first one. He'd been playing Tests for more than nine years before he was lbw at home, to Ravi Ratnayeke of Sri Lanka in Sialkot in 1985-86. The man who has had the most innings in Tests without ever being out lbw is the old Australian captain Joe Darling, who had 60 lbw-free innings. Bill Ponsford of Australia and Pakistan's Shahid Afridi both had 48 innings in Tests without being given out lbw, Max Walker of Australia 43, and the great South African batsman Graeme Pollock 41.

Who is the only Test opener who was never dismissed? asked Trevor Landers from Romania
The answer to this conundrum is the Warwickshire batsman Andy Lloyd, who made his Test debut for England against West Indies at his home ground of Edgbaston in 1984. Lloyd had already seen Graeme Fowler and Derek Randall depart when, with the score standing at 20 for 2 after half an hour, he was smacked on the head by a ball from Malcolm Marshall. Wisden recounted the gory details: "After showing a sounder technique and greater resolution than some of his new team-mates were to do, he was hit on the side of the head and spent the rest of the match, and five days more, in hospital, suffering from blurred vision. The ball, fast and shortish, hit Lloyd on the earpiece of his helmet as he took evasive action." Sadly, Lloyd's eyesight was permanently affected, and although he returned for Warwickshire with some success, he never played for England again, finishing with that one innings - retired hurt 10.

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