February 7, 2012

January madness, and the worst collapses

Also, identical scores, fastest to 100 wickets, two farewell hundreds and 20 wickets in a day

Michael Clarke has scored nearly 600 runs already this calendar year. What's the most anyone has scored before the end of January in Tests, and who was the last person to make over 500 before Clarke? asked James Dignan via Facebook
Helped by his scores of 329 not out in Sydney and 210 in Adelaide, Michael Clarke has already amassed 594 runs in 2012. That is a record for any January: the only other man to score over 500 Test runs during the first month of the year is Younis Khan, with 553 in 2006, when he made 199, 83, 194, 0 and 77 in a home series against India. Another Pakistani, Javed Miandad, just missed out, with 491 runs in January 1983.

It was said that England's collapse in Abu Dhabi, when the last five wickets went down in 11 balls, was the worst in Test history. Is this right? asked Brian Lord from Scotland
England's remarkable demise in Abu Dhabi, when they lost their last five wickets in 11 balls to slide from 68 for 5 to 72 all out, is the swiftest collapse (of the last five wickets) to be shown up by the ESPNcricinfo database, beating five in 15 balls in Sydney in 1998-99, when Australia's fall from 318 for 5 to 322 all out was hastened by a Darren Gough hat-trick. But even our database lacks ball-by-ball information for the majority of Test matches - this sort of thing wasn't routinely recorded until fairly recently. I asked Charles Davis, a Melbourne statistician who has made an extensive study of Test scorecards, if he knew of any even more dramatic collapses. He replied: "The Leeds Test of 1957 is the only Test in England in the last 55 years whose scorebook cannot be found - but, fortunately, the report in the Times is explicit about the number of balls for the last five wickets." West Indies' last five wickets that day tumbled for three runs in just nine balls, three of them thanks to a hat-trick by Peter Loader. Charles goes on: "There are a number of other candidates where exact data is lacking (Auckland 1963-64, for example), but very few of them are likely to be under 20 balls. One Test for which I have no relevant information at all was the one in Dhaka in 1958-59 [when West Indies' last five first-innings wickets added just five runs]. There is also Lord's 1888, which was just like Abu Dhabi; England lost by the same number of runs as they scored, and the last five fell in a flash (but more than 20 balls, it appears)." Many thanks to Charles for his invaluable, and illuminating, help on this one.

Is the 125 scored by Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers recently the highest identical score by two batsmen in a one-day international innings? asked Brad Fooks from Australia
Those twin 125s, by Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers for South Africa against Sri Lanka in Johannesburg last month are indeed the highest identical individual scores made by two batsmen in the same one-day international innings. The previous record was 103, by Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid for India against Sri Lanka in Ahmedabad in 2005-06; the only other instance was 102 by Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers (again!) against West Indies in Antigua in May 2010. In Tests there have been 18 instances of two batsmen making identical scores of 100 or more in the same innings. The only one higher than 136 is the famous occasion in Sydney in 1946-47, when both Sid Barnes and Don Bradman were out for 234 - it's said that Barnes got out deliberately when he matched Bradman's score, so he would forever be bracketed alongside the Don.

Saeed Ajmal took his 100th wicket in his 19th Test, at Abu Dhabi. Is he the fastest Pakistani to reach this milestone? And which bowler holds the overall Test record? asked Marco Vallarino from Italy
Saeed Ajmal reached 100 wickets with his final victim (Matt Prior) as England subsided in the recent Test in Abu Dhabi. He is the fastest Pakistani to get there, in terms of matches - Mohammad Asif and Waqar Younis shared the record previously, with 20. Only four bowlers have ever reached 100 wickets in fewer Tests: the great England bowler SF Barnes, and the Australians Charles "The Terror" Turner and Clarrie Grimmett, did it in 17... but the 19th-century England medium-pacer George Lohmann got there in just 16 matches. In terms of innings, Turner got there fastest, with 30, ahead of Grimmett (31), Lohmann (32) and Barnes (33); Ajmal (37 innings, the same as Dale Steyn) is joint 14th by that reckoning, and slower for Pakistan than Waqar (35 innings) and Fazal Mahmood (36). Ajmal, at 34, is also the oldest Pakistani to take his 100th wicket (Intikhab Alam was 32).

How many times has a team lost all 20 wickets on the same day of a Test, as Zimbabwe did recently? asked Annie Mathew Paul from Sri Lanka
That match in Napier last month provided only the third instance in Test history of a side being bowled out twice on the same day. New Zealand had done it to Zimbabwe before, skittling them for 59 and 99 on the second day in Harare in August 2005; and it also happened to India at Old Trafford in 1952, when England bowled them out for 58 (Fred Trueman 8 for 31) and 82 on the third day.

Who is the only batsman to score two centuries in his last Test match? asked Keith D'Souza from Nigeria
The man who pulled off this unlikely feat was the old Essex batsman CAG "Jack" Russell, who made 140 and 111 in England's final Test in South Africa in 1922-23, in Durban. Wisden reported: "Russell's performance was the more remarkable, as he had to battle against illness; when he started his second innings he ought to have been in bed rather than on the cricket field... In getting his second hundred, Russell was batting nearly four hours and a half. During all that time, he was scarcely more than once at fault. A collection made on his behalf during the afternoon produced £90." This was the last of Russell's ten Tests, in which he scored five centuries in all and averaged 56. He was undoubtedly unlucky not to play more - but he usually went in first at a time when England had one of their most successful opening partnerships, in Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe, neither of whom made that trip to South Africa.

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