January 24, 2012

Ajmal's lbws, and better first-day hauls

And an away losses record that India will hope not to equal

Saeed Ajmal had five lbws in the first innings of the first Test against England. Is this the most in a Test innings? asked Peter Simons from England
Saeed Ajmal's five lbws in the first innings of the first Test against England in Dubai was actually the sixth time a bowler had trapped five men in front in the same innings. The only other spinner to do it was Monty Panesar, for England against West Indies at Lord's in 2007. Two of the faster bowlers to achieve the feat did so on their Test debuts: Mohammad Zahid, for Pakistan against New Zealand in Rawalpindi in 1996-97, and England's Richard Johnson, against Zimbabwe in Chester-le-Street in 2003. The first man ever to take five lbws in the same Test innings was Terry Alderman, for Australia v Pakistan in Melbourne in January 1990, followed three months later by Curtly Ambrose, for West Indies v England in Bridgetown. The most lbws by an individual bowler in a Test match is eight, by Zahid, in the above-mentioned match in Rawalpindi, and by Chaminda Vaas, with four in each innings for Sri Lanka v West Indies in Colombo in 2001-02.

Has any spinner recorded better figures on the first day of a Test than Saeed Ajmal's 7 for 55 in Dubai? asked Ahmed Paracha from Pakistan
This is a slightly awkward one, as we don't always know a bowler's figures at the close of play. But while that might affect the minor placings, it doesn't change the top spot: Muttiah Muralitharan took 9 for 51 on the first day of Sri Lanka's second Test against Zimbabwe in Kandy in 2001-02 (he had nine overnight but Chaminda Vaas nipped in to take the tenth wicket next morning). In second place is Pakistan's Abdul Qadir, who took 9 for 56 on the first day of the first Test against England in Lahore in 1987-88. Another legspinner, India's Subhash Gupte, took 9 for 102 on the first day of the second Test against West Indies in Kanpur in 1958-59. There have been three instances of spinners taking eight wickets on the opening day of a Test: the old England legspinner Len Braund (8 for 81 against Australia in Melbourne in 1903-04), slow left-armer Alf Valentine (8 for 104 for West Indies v England at Old Trafford in 1950, on his Test debut), and Murali again (8 for 87 for Sri Lanka v India in Colombo in August 2001).

Before the Adelaide Test India had lost seven successive Tests away from home. Which country holds this unwanted record? asked Hemant Kher from the United States
India do hold this record - but not because of their current run of poor form. Between June 1959 and January 1968 they lost 17 successive Tests away from home, a sequence that included whitewashes in England and West Indies (both 5-0, in 1959 and 1961-62), England again (3-0 in 1967) and Australia (4-0 in 1967-68). Next come Bangladesh, who lost their first 16 away Tests, between April 2001 and February 2004. They have now played 36 Tests outside Bangladesh, and lost 32 of them.

What is the lowest total which was enough to win a Test by an innings? asked Zahidul Islam from Bangladesh
The lowest Test total that proved enough for an innings victory is 153, by Australia in Melbourne in 1931-32. On a spiteful rain-affected pitch - known in those days as a "sticky dog" - they bowled South Africa out for 36 and 45 to win by an innings and 72 runs. Bert "Dainty" Ironmonger, the slow left-armer who spun the ball off the remnants of a finger damaged in a childhood accident, took 5 for 6 and 6 for 18 in the match - not bad figures considering he was two months short of his 50th birthday at the time. The smallest first-innings lead that proved enough for an innings victory was 46, by England in Auckland in 1954-55: after making 246 in response to New Zealand's first innings of 200, England then bowled the hosts out for 26, still the lowest total in Test history.

What is the biggest first-innings lead overturned to win a Test match? asked Derek Robinson from England
England trailed by 331 runs on first innings at The Oval in 2006, but ended up winning by forfeit when Pakistan refused to play on after being accused of ball-tampering. But if you ignore that rather unusual result, the answer is 291 runs - in the first Test in Colombo in August 1992, Australia made 256, to which Sri Lanka replied with 547 for 8 declared... but Australia then amassed 471 and, with Sri Lanka needing only 181 to win, bowled them out for 164. An almost unknown legspinner called Shane Warne polished off the innings with three wickets for no runs.

When India toured Pakistan in 2005-06, Harbhajan Singh bowled 81 overs in the Tests and failed to take a wicket. Surely no one can have had a more barren series? asked Arjun Mehra from Mumbai
This seems to be a record where off-pinners corner the market. Harbhajan Singh actually comes in fourth on the list with 486 balls and no wickets in that series in 2005-06, just behind another Indian, Arshad Ayub, who bowled 516 balls without reward in an earlier series in Pakistan, in 1989-90. But two England players lead the way: John Emburey is out on top after a barren series at home to Pakistan in 1987, when he bowled 107 overs - 642 balls - without taking a wicket. Behind him comes Robert Croft, with 522 wicketless deliveries against South Africa in England in 1998. Harbhajan does, however, hold the record for the most runs conceded in a series without taking a wicket, though, with 355: Ayub is next with a round 300.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2012. Ask Steven is now on Facebook