Big leads, and lefties galore
Was South Africa's lead at the end of the first day of the first Test against New Zealand the largest ever by the side batting second? asked Kesh Govinder from South Africa
After bowling New Zealand out for 45 before lunch on the first day of last week's Test in Cape Town, South Africa had motored to 252 for 3, a lead of 207, by the end of the first day. This turns out to be third on the list - and it's one already headed by South Africa, who demolished Zimbabwe for 54 in Cape Town in 2004-05, then zoomed to 340 for 3 by stumps, a lead of 286. The other instance of a lead of 200 or more for the team batting second on the first day came at Lord's in 1896, when Australia were shot out for 53 before England made 286 for 8.
Australia included seven left-hand batsmen in the Sydney Test - is this a record? asked Susan Betts via Facebook
The inclusion of seven left-hand batsmen was a new record for Australia - they had had 20 previous instances of six, the first coming in the home series against Pakistan in 1983-84. There were also six in the first two Tests of the recent Sri Lankan series, and the return of Mitchell Starc for the third Test in Sydney took the number of lefties to seven, the others being Ed Cowan, Phillip Hughes, Mike Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Matthew Wade and David Warner. There have been 11 other instances of a Test side including seven left-handers, all fairly recently by Sri Lanka and West Indies - but the overall record is eight, by West Indies in two Tests in 2000, against Pakistan in Georgetown (Jimmy Adams, Curtly Ambrose, Chris Gayle, Adrian Griffith, Wavell Hinds, Ridley Jacobs, Brian Lara and Nixon McLean) and England at The Oval (when Mahendra Nagamootoo played instead of Gayle).
What is the highest score ever made by a Test player in his retirement match? asked Nirmal from India
Five players have scored 200 or more in what turned out to be their last Test match. The highest score by someone who never played again was 325 - Test cricket's first triple-century - by Andy Sandham for England against West Indies in Kingston in 1929-30. Then comes Bill Ponsford's 266 for Australia against England at The Oval in 1934. But if you mean the highest score by someone who had already announced he would be retiring, then I think the answer is 258, by Seymour Nurse for West Indies against New Zealand in Christchurch in 1968-69. Sandham played on for Surrey for a few years, and never officially retired from Test cricket. Ponsford might have known it was his last match, but didn't actually announce his retirement until early in the 1934-35 Australian season, saying: "Test cricket has become too serious. It is not a game anymore but a battle." Aravinda de Silva (206 for Sri Lanka v Bangladesh in Colombo in 2002) and Jason Gillespie (201 not out for Australia v Bangladesh in Chittagong in 2005-06) are the others to end their Test careers in grand style with the bat.
I believe England hold the record for the most successive Test matches with the same team. Is that right, and who holds the equivalent ODI record? asked Alex Baxter from London
You're right, England do hold the record for the most consecutive Tests with an unchanged team - the same 11 players made up the side in six successive matches in 2008. That beat the previous record of five Tests, which had happened nine times in all - the first such instance was by England in the 1884-85 Ashes series Down Under. The record for fielding an unchanged side in one-day internationals belongs to Pakistan, who put out the same XI in seven successive matches early in 2002. South Africa have managed two different runs of six matches unchanged (in mid-1999 and early 2004).
Michael Slater once scored 123 out of a total of 184. Is this the highest percentage score by a batsman when his team has been all out? asked Mohit Garg from India
That solo effort by Australia's Michael Slater came against England in Sydney in 1998-99, and his 123 out of 184 constituted 66.84% of the innings total. That remains the closest approach yet to a record actually set in the very first Test of all, in Melbourne in 1876-77, when another Australian, Charles Bannerman, made 165 (retired hurt) in a total of 245 against England, or 67.34%. For the full list, click here.
Paul Harris, who's just retired, played his first and last Tests against the same opposition, on the same ground, on the same days of the year. Surely this must be unique? asked Ethan Rocky
Paul Harris made his Test debut for South Africa against India in Cape Town, in a match that stretched from January 2-6, 2007, and four years later played what turned out to be his final Test, against India, in Cape Town, in a match that lasted from January 2-6. I've learned over the years to assume that almost every oddity in cricket has actually happened before, however unlikely it seems, and Aslam Siddiqui, an ardent Facebooker, came up with another example, saving me a lot of legwork! Ghulam Ahmed, the offspinner who occasionally captained India, made his Test debut against West Indies in Kolkata in a match that started on December 31, 1948, and ended on January 4, 1949 - and his last Test was against West Indies, in Kolkata, from December 31, 1958, to January 4, 1959.
Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2013