February 12, 2013

Bowler-captains, and bowling records

Also: near quadruples, most top-order dismissals, hundreds in each innings, and an allrounder nicknamed Popeye

When was the last Test match in which both teams were captained by bowlers? That's defining a bowler as someone with no all-round pretensions, batting at No. 8 or lower asked Philip Collins
That's quite a difficult one to be precise about, because of the "no all-round pretensions" stipulation. The last Test in which both captains were frontline bowlers and batted at No. 8 or lower was in Cape Town in January 2003 (and in the match that preceded it in Durban) when South Africa were captained by Shaun Pollock and Pakistan by Waqar Younis. Pollock was a handy batsman, though - although he rarely batted above No. 8, he had already scored two Test centuries. If you discount him, you have to go back to Karachi in December 1997 (and the preceding match in Rawalpindi) when Pakistan were led by Wasim Akram and West Indies by Courtney Walsh. But Wasim also scored centuries in Tests - including one memorable double - and if you also discount him then it's a long way back to January 1960 (skipping 1982, when Bob Willis opposed Imran Khan, as Imran was undoubtedly a better bat than Wasim), when the captains in Calcutta (now Kolkata) were GS Ramchand of India and Australia's Richie Benaud. And Richie himself scored three Test centuries... if we exclude anyone who reached three figures then it's back to November 1955, when the captains in the first Test in Hyderabad were India's Ghulam Ahmed (Test-best 50, but listed at No. 11 here) and Harry Cave of New Zealand (HS 22 not out; came in at No. 9).

Who was the youngest man to take 100 wickets in Tests, and also in one-day internationals? asked Mahesh Samanth
The youngest man to reach 100 Test wickets is Kapil Dev, who was 25 days past his 21st birthday when he got there during India's match against Pakistan in Calcutta in January 1980. Kapil reached the mark three weeks quicker than New Zealand's Daniel Vettori, who reached 100 in March 2000. The only other man to take 100 Test wickets before his 22nd birthday is Harbhajan Singh (who reached three figures in May 2002). Kapil also remains the fastest to 100 in terms of time - he got there in 473 days, with Mitchell Johnson and Graeme Swann (both 617 days) the only others to reach 100 in less than two years. The youngest man to 100 wickets in one-day internationals is Saqlain Mushtaq, at 20 years 134 days in May 1997; next comes his Pakistan team-mate Abdul Razzaq (21 years 333 days), while Irfan Pathan and Shahid Afridi also got there before turning 22. Saqlain was also the quickest to 100 ODI wickets - it took him just 592 days, well clear of Pathan (832) and Zaheer Khan (893).

The South African Stephen Cook was out for 390 a couple of years ago. Has anyone ever got closer to 400 without making it? asked Colin Chadwick
That innings of 390 by Stephen Cook - the son of the prolific opener Jimmy, who also scored a first-class triple-century - came for Lions against Warriors in East London in 2009-10. Cook batted for 838 minutes - the fourth-longest innings on record - and hit 53 fours and a six in the highest individual score ever made in first-class cricket in South Africa. But there is one nearer approach to a quadruple-century: in Gujranwala in November 2000 Naved Latif reached 394 for Sargodha before being caught. Naved, who won a solitary Test cap 14 months later, put on 145 for the first wicket with Mohammad Hafeez (now Pakistan's Twenty20 captain), and 242 for the second with Misbah-ul-Haq (their current Test skipper). To date there have been ten individual scores of 400 or more in first-class cricket, two of them by Brian Lara, and two by the Australian Bill Ponsford.

Which bowler has dismissed the most top-order batsmen in Tests? I'm guessing that Glenn McGrath will feature high on the list... asked Anay Ghotikar from India
Well, Test cricket's overall top wicket-taker Muttiah Muralitharan still leads the way, as 439 of his 800 wickets were men who came in from No. 1 to 6 in the batting order. Shane Warne comes next with 380 (out of 708), just ahead of Glenn McGrath with 377 (out of 563). As you probably suspected, though, McGrath's percentage of top-order batsmen (66.96%) is much higher than the two men above him. The best for anyone taking more than 200 Test wickets is 71.27%, by Chaminda Vaas (253 top-six victims out of 355), just ahead of Zaheer Khan (210 out of 295, or 71.19%).

Have two batsmen ever scored centuries in each innings of the same Test match? asked Rawal Afzal from Germany
This has happened three times in Test cricket to date. The first instance came in 1946-47, when Arthur Morris and Denis Compton each made twin centuries in the Adelaide Ashes Test. In Wellington in 1973-74 both Ian and Greg Chappell hit two tons for Australia against New Zealand (indeed Greg amassed 247 not out and 133). And in Hamilton in 1990-91, Andrew Jones made two hundreds for New Zealand, and Asanka Gurusinha replied with two for Sri Lanka. For the full list of batsmen scoring two centuries in the same Test, click here.

Which cricketer is nicknamed "Popeye"? asked Martin Robinson from Sheffield
This was a nickname bestowed on the Pakistan allrounder Abdul Razzaq, who some years ago was advised to eat lots of spinach, because it was healthy, and liked it so much he insisted on it being provided at almost every meal. His team-mates teasingly called him "Popeye", after the cartoon hero whose muscles improve whenever he gulps down a tin of the green stuff. During the 2004-05 Australian tour Razzaq had a bout of sickness that was initially blamed on eating too much spinach, although it's more likely that he had picked up a virus. "You can't get sick from eating safe and healthy food," he told the pakpassion website in 2008. "What happened was that I got a bit of food poisoning and that made me sick, that's all there is to it."

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2013