April 24, 2012

A Lord's conundrum, and a Titanic victim

Also: the youngest bowler to take a wicket, the author of Flying Stumps, and 19th century selectorial issues

I watched Middlesex play South Africa during the 1950s, and seem to remember a batsman called Delisle had to go off three times before lunch after being hit three times by the fast bowler Peter Heine. Can you give any more details? asked Peter from the UK
During South Africa's tour match at Lord's in 1955, the fearsome fast bowler Peter Heine took 7 for 60 in the first innings, with what Wisden called "devastating pace". Peter Delisle, an Oxford Blue who was born on St Kitts, was indeed playing for Middlesex: Heine dismissed him for 0 in the first innings, and he completed a pair in the second. I'm afraid none of the reports I could find talk about him retiring hurt. The Times said that "Delisle was out at once, trying to hook." The former England batsman John Dewes was hit on the head, and in trying to evade the ball trod on his wicket. One of the people I asked about this was David Frith, the former Wisden Cricket Monthly editor. He couldn't add anything about that 1955 match, but he did come up with a case he'd witnessed of a player leaving the field injured three times in one day: "Scott Ledger, playing for Queensland Country XI against Mike Brearley's England XI at Bundaberg in 1978-79. First he ran into the pickets and hurt his stomach/chest. He left the field. He did turn out to bat later, but was pinged on the head by John Lever and had to go off with blood gushing from the wound. 'We shan't be seeing him again,' was the general verdict. But Ledger did reappear after the fall of a few more wickets, and Mike Hendrick hit him on his bandaged head first ball. So off he went for the third time. No one had the nerve to suggest that we'd seen the last of him. But that really was the end. He may have gone to hospital or maybe not, but he'd had enough by then. Little that Delisle might have done surely could have matched this!"

I'm writing on the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking, and was wondering if there were any cricketers on board? asked Yasir Hasan from Pakistan
The only first-class cricketer to perish when the Titanic sank in April 1912 was the American John Thayer, who had taken part in seven matches now recognised as first-class for teams in Philadelphia in the 1880s, at a time when cricket was very popular there (Philadelphian teams made some successful tours of England; Thayer himself scored 60 and 93 against the Gentlemen of Derbyshire during one, in 1884). When the Titanic went down he was just short of his 50th birthday, and was a vice-president of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Thayer's wife and son survived the sinking.

Who is the youngest bowler to take a wicket - and a five-for - in a Test and a one-day international? asked Carl Johnson from England
The youngest man to take a wicket in a Test, according to the dates on ESPNcricinfo's database, is the Bangladesh fast-medium bowler Talha Jubair. He was 16 years and 223 days old when he made his debut against Sri Lanka in Colombo in July 2002, and he took 2 for 120, both his wickets coming on the second day. The youngest to take five wickets in a Test innings is Nasim-ul-Ghani, the Pakistani left-arm spinner, who was 16 years 307 days old when he completed his 5 for 116 against West Indies in Georgetown in 1957-58. For the full list, click here. The youngest bowler to take a wicket in a one-day international is Pakistan's Aaqib Javed - 16 years 127 days against West Indies in Adelaide in December 1988. The youngest to take a five-for in an ODI is another Pakistani, Waqar Younis, who took 6 for 26 against Sri Lanka in Sharjah in April 1990 when 18 years 164 days old - about three months younger than his frequent new-ball partner Wasim Akram when he claimed 5 for 21 against Melbourne in 1984-85.

It should be said that there are doubts about the accuracy of some of these birthdates, and other sources have different figures (Wisden, for example, lists Bangladesh's Mohammad Sharif as being born in 1985 - ESPNcricinfo has 1983 - which, if true, would make him the youngest to take a Test wicket, at 15, during his debut in Zimbabwe in April 2001).

Which cricketer called his autobiography Flying Stumps? asked Jim Mitchell from Cambridge
My first thought was that it was the Lancashire and England fast bowler Brian Statham, but when I looked I discovered that his 1961 book was actually called Flying Bails. The man behind Flying Stumps, which had come out seven years previously, was a contemporary - and frequent opponent - of Statham's: the great Australian fast bowler Ray Lindwall. His book was published by Stanley Paul (as was Statham's) in 1954. The two men had similar book titles... and similar Test records too: Lindwall took 228 wickets at 23.03, and Statham 252 at 24.84.

Who played the same number of Tests and took the same number of wickets for two countries? asked Peter Typl from Hungary
The answer to this conundrum is Sammy Woods, the popular Australian-born Somerset cricketer. He played three Tests for Australia in England in 1888, taking five wickets at 24.20, and in 1895-96 played three Tests for England in South Africa, this time taking five wickets at 25.80. The only other person to play the same number of Tests for two countries is the senior Nawab of Pataudi (Iftikhar Ali Khan), who played three for England and three for India, but never bowled.

A man called AJL Hill scored 124, then took 4 for 8, as England beat South Africa by an innings in 1895-96. But this was his last Test - were England's selection practices strange even then? asked Hari Menon
The point about the Hampshire player Arthur Ledger Hill is that South Africa were very weak in those days - they lost all eight matches now recognised as Tests that they played in the 19th century - and tours there were privately arranged rather than centrally organised. Hill did indeed pull off those good all-round figures in the third and final Test, in Cape Town in March 1896, but only two players from the victorious team in that game - the Surrey pair of Tom Hayward and George Lohmann - appeared in England's next Test, the opening match of the 1896 Ashes series three months later at Lord's. Hill played on for Hampshire until 1921, finishing with 10,353 runs (at 27.98) and 305 wickets (at the remarkably similar average of 27.99).

Wisden said: "Tall and stylish, Hill was a splendid batsman with a free, natural approach to the game. He was also a useful fast bowler before taking to lobs, and in addition he was a reliable field, notably at short slip." (Thanks to Rob Smyth at the Guardian for sending this one on.)

And there's an update about last week's question regarding the most overs bowled in a Test match innings, from Frank Davis via Facebook
"There is actually one instance of someone sending down more than 100 overs in a Test - Bobby Peel of Yorkshire and England had figures of 102.1-56-78-3 in the first innings of the second Test against Australia in Melbourne in 1884-85. But those were four-ball overs, so his innings total of 409 deliveries puts him well behind Sonny Ramdhin's 588 - 98 six-ball overs - at Edgbaston in 1957."

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