November 8, 2011

Five five-fors, and fake deaths

Round 100s and awards on debut, most doubles, and the original one-cap wonder

Elias Sunny of Bangladesh recently won the Man-of-the-Match award on his Test debut. How many others have done this? asked Kash from the United States
The Bangladesh slow left-armer Elias Sunny did indeed win the Man of the Match award in his first Test, after taking 6 for 94 against West Indies in Chittagong last month. He was the third Bangladeshi, after Javed Omar (against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo in April 2001) and Mohammad Ashraful (against Sri Lanka in Colombo in September 2001), to achieve this feat. Overall there are 28 known instances of a debutant collecting the Man of the Match award, but it must be stressed here that such awards are a fairly recent innovation, in Test terms: it was not until the late 1970s and early '80s that they were regularly handed out in Test matches. Bearing that in mind, the first person to win one on his debut was Kepler Wessels, for Australia against England in Brisbane in 1982-83.

What is the most individual five-fors in the same Test? The maximum is eight, but that seems very unlikely, asked Vikas Vadgama from India
You're right, there's never been anything close to the theoretical maximum of eight instances of bowlers taking five wickets apiece in an innings in the same Test. The record is actually five, which has happened just once, in the third Test of the 1902 Ashes series, the only Test ever played at Bramall Lane in Sheffield: Sydney Barnes took 6 for 49 and Wilfred Rhodes 5 for 63 for England, while Jack Saunders took 5 for 50 and Monty Noble 5 for 51 and 6 for 52 for Australia. There are 31 further instances of four individual five-fors in the same Test, the most recent coming in Kingston in 2006, when Jerome Taylor and Corey Collymore took five-fors for West Indies, and Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble did so for India.

According to a news report, Asim Butt's wife has claimed that he faked his own death. If this is true, would it be a first for cricket? asked Yasir Hasan from Pakistan
If it is ever established that the former Scotland fast bowler Asim Butt did not die in 2009, as reported, I think it would indeed be the first case of a cricket falsifying his own death. There have, however, been a few instances of deaths being incorrectly reported before. One of the most notable concerned the Reverend AHC Fargus, who played first-class cricket for Cambridge University and Gloucestershire. He was reported lost in action during the First World War, after the ship on which he was acting chaplain went down in the Pacific, and he duly received an obituary notice in Wisden 1915. However, Fargus had missed the train that should have connected him to the doomed ship, and was reassigned to another: the mistake was noted in Wisden, and Fargus lived on to 1963, when he died at the age of 84. And the former BBC commentator Rex Alston was not particularly amused to read his own obituary in the Times in 1985 (there had been a mix-up and his obituary, which had merely been updated, was somehow published) nine years before he actually passed way.

Another famous journalist, Sir Neville Cardus, was once prematurely obituarised in the Buckinghamshire Examiner. He quipped: "I have no wish to challenge the authority of the provincial press. They must have some information." And Sir Aubrey Smith, who captained England in their first Test against South Africa in 1888-89 before going on to a notable career in Hollywood movies, made the obituary columns of South Africa's Graff-Reinet Advertiser not long after his Test appearance, after apparently suffering from inflammation of the lungs. "Much regret will be felt at his decease," said the newspaper. In fact, Sir Aubrey's lungs held out for a further 59 years.

Azhar Ali was out the other day for exactly 100, after completing his maiden Test century. How many others have done this? asked Tasi Leota from Australia
Azhar Ali made exactly 100, his maiden Test century, for Pakistan against Sri Lanka in Dubai at the end of October. It turns out that Azhar is the 34th batsman whose maiden Test ton was a round 100; that includes 14 people who finished up with 100 not out. The first was Jack Gregory, who was out for exactly 100 for Australia against England in Melbourne in 1920-21.

Does Don Bradman still hold the record for the most double-centuries in Tests? asked Jim Campbell from London
Yes, Don Bradman still leads the way in that list, with 12 scores of 200 or more in Tests, from only 80 innings (an average of a 200 every 6.66 innings). Next comes Brian Lara with nine (from 232 innings, or a 200 every 26 knocks), while Kumar Sangakkara recently moved clear in third place with eight double-hundreds (from 169 innings - one every 21), after his 211 in the first Test against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi last month. Wally Hammond made seven Test double-centuries, and Marvan Atapattu, Javed Miandad, Mahela Jayawardene, Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar six.

Who was the first "one-Test wonder", and how many have there been now? asked Richard Hartley from Liverpool
There were two Australians who appeared in the very first Test of all - against England in Melbourne in 1876-77 - and never played another one, so they were the first "one-cap wonders" in Test history. One was EJ "Ned" Gregory, the brother of Australia's first captain (Dave Gregory) and the first person to be out for a duck in a Test; the other was Bransby Cooper, who was born in what is now Bangladesh. As I write, there have been 408 men who have appeared in just one solitary Test match - but that includes around two dozen current or recent players who may well soon win another cap and leave this exclusive club.

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