August 13, 2013

Third-innings heroes, and Aussie zeroes

Also, the most hundreds in an innings, Harvey's six, and the most Ashes Tests in a year
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Graeme Smith has said the third innings of a Test is the trickiest situation to bat in. Who has the best average - and most hundreds - in the third innings? asked Abhimanyu Kashyap from India
The highest average of any batsman in the third innings of Test matches (given a minimum of 15 innings) is the lofty 130.41 of the one and only Don Bradman. Next is Herbert Sutcliffe of England, with 74.75, then the first man with more than 20 innings - another Englishman, Peter May, with 68.05. Next come two current players - the South Africans Hashim Amla (67.00) and Jacques Kallis (66.54). Bradman had only 15 innings, and hit seven hundreds: the only people to score more centuries than him in the third innings batted far more often - Kumar Sangakkara leads the way with 11 hundreds from 56 third-innings attempts, while Matthew Hayden (42 innings), Alastair Cook (45), Kallis (66) and Sachin Tendulkar (72) all have ten.

When was the last time Australia failed to win a Test in an Ashes series? asked Enos on Ask Steven Live
As you've probably realised, it doesn't happen very often (and of course it hasn't happened yet this year). There have been only three Ashes series since the Second World War in which Australia failed to win at least one match: in 1953, when England won 1-0 with a victory in the final Test that returned the urn to England's grasp for the first time after a record gap of 19 years; in 1970-71, when Ray Illingworth's side won a six-match series 2-0; and in 1977, when an Australian side probably distracted by the announcement of Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket early in the tour lost 3-0. The only other five-match rubbers in which Australia failed to get on the scoreboard were 1926 (England won 1-0) and 1905 (England won 2-0). Australia also did not win a match in the three-Test series of 1884, 1886, 1893 and 1912.

Five Pakistan batsmen scored hundreds in the same innings against Bangladesh in 2001 - was this a record? asked Philip Meadows from London
That Pakistan innings, in the Asian Test Championship in Multan in August 2001, equalled the record for Test matches: five Australians also reached three figures against West Indies in Kingston in 1955. In other first-class cricket there were also five centuries in New South Wales' 918 against South Australia in Sydney in 1900-01, but the overall record is six hundreds - scored by Holkar batsmen in the course of running up 912 for 8 declared in the semi-final of the Ranji Trophy in Indore in 1945-46.

Neil Harvey only hit one six in Test cricket - who was the bowler? asked Geoff Wynn from Australia
I think it's true to say that Neil Harvey hit only one six in Test cricket, although there are quite a few innings in the ESPNcricinfo database for which we don't have full details. Harvey scored 6149 runs in 79 Tests in all, and that solitary six came during his 204 against West Indies in Kingston in 1955, one of the five centuries in the innings referred to above. Pat Landsberg's tour account reveals that the bowler concerned was Collie Smith, the Jamaican offspinner: "Smith… kept such a fine length that only two runs came off his first four overs. Then Harvey hit him for two towards midwicket, thumped him into the seats of the grand stand at the north end of the ground for six, and took a four next ball as good measure."

There will be nine Ashes Tests this year. Has this ever happened before? asked Ahson Atif from India
The only year that comes close is 1921, which also featured nine Ashes Tests - minus one day, because the second Test of the 1920-21 series in Australia started on New Year's Eve in 1920. There were also back-to back series in 1974-75 and 1975, but three of the six matches in Australia took place in 1974. There will be ten Ashes Tests in the space of six months between July 10, 2013 and January 7, 2014, which is the most congested period the urn has ever known: there were ten Tests between December 17, 1920 and August 16, 1921 (five in both countries), and ten between November 29, 1974 and September 3, 1975 (six in Australia and four in England).

Who is the only player to figure in more than 1000 first-class matches? asked Shanthy Noronha from the West Indies
The only man to reach this landmark is the old Yorkshire and England allrounder Wilfred Rhodes, who played in no fewer than 1110 first-class matches in a career that stretched from 1898 to 1930, when he was nearly 53. Next on the list is the graceful Kent batsman Frank Woolley, who took part in 978 first-class games. Then comes WG Grace with 870. Given the smaller amount of first-class cricket played these days, it's unthinkable that anyone will ever get near such a number again - for example, after nearly 25 years Sachin Tendulkar has played 307 first-class matches, a record 198 of them being Tests.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2013. Ask Steven is now on Facebook