Pakistan's late starters, and a regal riddle
Mohammad Ayub played his first Test for Pakistan aged 32 - have they had any older debutants? asked Anand Mistry from Delhi
You're right in thinking that it's very unusual for Pakistan to blood new players at a relatively advanced age: there have only been 11 men who played their first Test for Pakistan when they were past 30 (the last one before Mohammad Ayub was the current fast bowler Aizaz Cheema), and five of those were in the 1950s, Pakistan's earliest days in international cricket. Mohammad Ayub, a consistent run scorer in domestic cricket for many years, was indeed 32 (he was born in September 1979) when he made his Test debut in the absence of the banned Misbah-ul-Haq in Galle in June. Only two older players have ever made their Test debuts for Pakistan: Mohammad Aslam Khokhar was 34 when he played in England in 1954, while Miran Bakhsh was 47 - the second-oldest debutant of all time - when he won his first cap against India in 1954-55. Pakistan's only other 32-year-old debutants were Anwar Hussain (1952-53) and Shakeel Ahmed (1998-99), but both were younger than Ayub.
Which first-class match featured a governor general on both sides? asked Maurice Jones from Cardiff
At first I thought this must have something to do with the great Australian Test batsman Charles Macartney, whose nickname was "The Governor General", on account of his imperious batting. But actually I think it refers to a match on MCC's (non-Test) tour of Australasia in 1935-36. The first match in New Zealand, at the Basin Reserve, was a close-run thing which Wellington eventually won by just 14 runs. Their leading bowler was Denis Blundell, with 3 for 29 in the first innings and 5 for 50 in the second. Later Sir Denis, he was Governor-General of New Zealand (the first one born there) from 1972 to 1977. One of Blundell's first-innings victims was MCC's Charles Lyttelton, Worcestershire's captain from 1936 to 1939, who top-scored with 35: he later succeeded as Lord Cobham, and was New Zealand's Governor General from 1957 to 1962.
Is New Zealand's 534 for 9 against Australia at Perth the highest Test total in which no one made double figures? asked Patrick from New Zealand
The catch here, in case you're wondering, is that four New Zealanders - Nathan Astle, Stephen Fleming, Adam Parore and the debutant Lou Vincent - made centuries in that innings at the WACA in 2001-02, but none of the other batsmen made more than Mark Richardson's 9. There is one higher total with no double-figure score, and it was made only three months before that Perth one. In Multan in August 2001, Pakistan ran up 546 for 3 declared against Bangladesh: five batsmen made centuries (including Inzamam-ul-Haq who retired hurt not long after reaching his), but the only other man who batted, Faisal Iqbal, missed out... he was bowled for 9. The only other total of more than 500 that does not feature any double-figure scores is England's 517 for 1 declared in Brisbane in the last Ashes series (Andrew Strauss 110, Alastair Cook 235 not out, Jonathan Trott 135 not out).
You wrote a while ago about cricket being played at the South Pole. I vaguely recall hearing that John Reid, the old New Zealand captain, once hit a six there - is that true? asked Mark Cameron from Auckland
I'm not sure it was officially a six, but John Reid - who played 58 Tests for New Zealand between 1949 and 1965 - certainly played cricket in Antarctica, while visiting there in 1970 as part of an American initiative. He said: "The admiral bowled the first ball to me. I hit it straight at the South Pole and, as far as I know, it's still there. It was a shot that went around the world."
Since readmission South Africa have had only three wicketkeepers in 194 Tests - is this a record? asked Charles Silverstone
Actually South Africa have had four designated wicketkeepers since they returned to Test cricket in 1991-92 - David Richardson (42 Tests), Mark Boucher (146), Thami Tsolekile (three) and AB de Villiers (three) - but it's still an impressive record. I suspect the only run that beats it would be by Australia between Ian Healy's debut in 1988-89 and Adam Gilchrist's last match in 2007-08. In that time Australia played 216 Tests and used only three keepers - Healy (119 Tests), Gilchrist (96) and Phil Emery (one, against Pakistan in Lahore in November 1994, when Healy was injured).
Thami Tsolekile took eight catches in an innings in a recent A team Test. Is this a first-class record? asked Sugan Naidoo from South Africa
Thami Tsolekile's fine performance came in the first innings of the second A team Test for South Africa against Sri Lanka in Durban last week (Kushal Perera, his opposite number, was one of the two batsmen to escape his clutches). Tsolekile's performance equalled the South African record, set by Athenkosi Dyili for Eastern Province v Free State in Port Elizabeth in 2009-10, and matched by Rudi Second for Free State v North West in Bloemfontein in 2011-12. But the overall first-class record is nine dismissals in an innings. The first to achieve this was Tahir Rashid (the brother of the former Pakistan Test batsman Haroon), with eight catches and a stumping in an innings for Habib Bank v PACO in Gujranwala in 1992-93. That was equalled by Wayne James (seven caught, two stumped) for Matabeleland against Mashonaland Country Districts in Zimbabwe's Logan Cup final in Bulawayo in 1995-96; James made 13 dismissals in all, to set a new record for a match (since beaten), and for good measure made scores of 99 and 99 not out.