Vernon's best, and Rahul's record
As you wrote in a recent column, Ravichandran Ashwin stands to become the fastest Indian to 50 Test wickets in terms of matches. But who was fastest to the mark by balls bowled? asked Sai Sundar via Facebook
This is a rather tricky one to work out, as we don't always know exactly when a bowler's wickets came during his overall analysis for an innings. But it's clear that the fastest bowler to 50 Test wickets, in terms of balls bowled, is the current South African sensation Vernon Philander: at the end of the match in which he took his 50th wicket (against New Zealand in Wellington in March 2012, his seventh Test overall), he had sent down 1254 deliveries. The 50th one actually came from his 1128th ball in Tests. Next, a long way behind, comes the 19th-century England spinner Johnny Briggs, who had 1549 balls (for 55 wickets) at the end of the match in which he took his 50th. After that come two more 19th-century demons, Charles "The Terror" Turner (1727) and George Lohmann (1748), and then the next of the moderns in Brett Lee (1858). After eight Tests R Ashwin had delivered 2564 balls for 49 wickets, which means he won't quite break into the top 50 on this measurement. The fastest Indian, Karsan Ghavri, had bowled 2606 balls by the end of the Test in which he took his 50th wicket, in January 1979 - he ended that match with 52, and it looks as if the 50th came after around 2550 deliveries.
I read somewhere that Rahul Dravid had the most innings without a duck in one-day internationals. Is that right? asked Azweer from India
The record that Rahul Dravid holds is for the most consecutive innings without a duck in one-day internationals - he had 120 between August 1999 (when he was out for 0 against Australia in Colombo) and February 2004 (run out without scoring against Australia in Sydney). His run just beat that of the New Zealander Martin Crowe, who went 119 ODI innings without a duck between February 1984 and March 1993. The record for an entire career is 105 duckless innings, by Kepler Wessels (51 for Australia and 54 for South Africa).
When was the last time an international team lined up with no left-hand batsmen? asked Jim Morrison via Facebook
The last Test team made up of 11 right-hand batsmen was Zimbabwe's against New Zealand in Bulawayo in November 2011. Before that, India's side against South Africa in Durban in December 2010 was entirely composed of right-handers too. In one-day internationals the last all-right-hand combination was Afghanistan's against Netherlands in Sharjah in March 2012, and the last by a Test-playing team was again by Zimbabwe against New Zealand, in Whangarei earlier this year. There is a peculiar anomaly in ODIs, in that during the brief period when Supersubs were allowed to be pitchforked into a game, Kenya twice (against Zimbabwe in March 2006) fielded a side containing 12 right-hand batsmen. The most recent team of right-handers in a T20 international was fielded by the Netherlands against Bangladesh in Voorburg in July 2012. England's XI against India in Kolkata in October 2011 also consisted entirely of right-handers.
What are the best bowling figures by someone in their first Test as captain? asked Siddhartha from India
Two Pakistanis head this list, for an innings on captaincy debut: Imran Khan took 7 for 52 against England at Edgbaston in 1982, and Waqar Younis 7 for 91 against Zimbabwe in Karachi in 1993-94. Next come perhaps the most eye-catching figures, Arthur Gilligan's 6 for 7 for England against South Africa (who were bowled out for 30) at Edgbaston in 1924. Gilligan also took 5 for 83 in the second innings, but Waqar bettered his match figures by taking 6 for 44 (13 for 135 overall). Buster Nupen (5 for 63 and 6 for 87 for South Africa against England in Johannesburg in 1930-31) and Gubby Allen (5 for 35 and 5 for 43 for England v India at Lord's in 1936) also took ten wickets in their first Test as captain.
Which Test player was known as the "Peshawar Rickshaw"? asked Peter Money from Australia
This was a nickname briefly bestowed on the Pakistan fast bowler Umar Gul, who hails from Peshawar. It was meant as a disparaging reference to Gul's pace, in comparison to that of Pakistan's leading fast bowler of the time, Shoaib Akhtar, who was often known as the Rawalpindi Express. But Umar Gul has had the last laugh, outlasting Shoaib in a career which has now brought him 158 wickets each in Tests and one-day internationals (and a further 62 in T20 matches).
Who has had the most Test innings without ever being out stumped? asked Bipin Mendis from Sri Lanka
The leader on this particular table is the West Indian Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who has so far batted 246 times in Tests without ever being out stumped. Forty of those innings were not-outs, though, meaning he has been out 206 times - and Mahela Jayawardene has so far been dismissed 209 times without being stumped (from 223 innings all told). Allan Border holds the record for being stumped most often in Tests - nine times in 265 innings - while Clyde Walcott, the aggressive West Indian batsman, was stumped eight times in 74 innings.