February 25, 2014

Baz's Basin feats, and Ireland the giant slayer

Also, centurion No. 8s, cricketers nicknamed "Stumpy", and youngest List A players

Was Brendon McCullum the first batsman to score a triple-century in the second innings of a Test? asked Carl Jameson from New Zealand
Brendon McCullum's gutsy 302 against India in Wellington earlier this month was actually the second Test triple-century scored in a side's second innings. The other one came in another epic rear guard, in Bridgetown in 1957-58: Hanif Mohammad made 337 in 970 minutes to save the match for Pakistan, who had followed on after collapsing to 106 all out in reply to West Indies' towering 579. There was a near-miss in 1990-91, also in Wellington, when Martin Crowe was out for 299 in the second innings against Sri Lanka: that was New Zealand's previous-highest individual Test score. There have now been 28 triple-centuries in Test cricket, and 26 of them have been scored in a team's first innings of the match.

Brendon McCullum followed up his 8 in the first innings at Wellington with 302 in the second. Is this difference of 294 the biggest between a player's two innings scores in a Test? asked Priya Chopra from Hungary
Rather surprisingly perhaps, the difference between Brendon McCullum's two innings against India in Wellington wasn't a record. In the 1957-58 match against West Indies in Bridgetown mentioned above, Pakistan's Hanif Mohammad scored 17 in the first innings before his 337 in the second, a difference of 320. And at Old Trafford in 1964, Australia's Bob Simpson followed 311 in the first innings with 4 not out in the second.

Jimmy Neesham scored a century on Test debut from No. 8 last week. Is this unique? asked Tam Morrison from New Zealand
Jimmy Neesham, against India in Wellington earlier this month, was the seventh No. 8 to score a century on Test debut, although his unbeaten 137 was the highest of all of them. Two of the others were also from New Zealand: by Bruce Taylor, against India in Calcutta (now Kolkata) in 1964-65, and Scott Styris, against West Indies in St George's, Grenada, in 2002. The first to do it was Australia's Roger Hartigan, against England in Adelaide in 1907-08, and he was followed by Deepak Shodhan (India v Pakistan in Calcutta in 1952-53), Azhar Mahmood (Pakistan v South Africa in Rawalpindi in 1997-98) and Thilan Samaraweera (Sri Lanka v India in Colombo, 2001-02). There have been two other debut centuries from even lower in the batting order: Reggie Duff (Australia v England in Melbourne in 1901-02) and Abul Hasan (Bangladesh v West Indies in Khulna in 2012-13) both came in at No. 10 (although Duff was a batsman - he usually opened - who was sent in late for tactical reasons). There have been no debut centuries from No. 9 or No. 11, although Ashton Agar came agonisingly close for Australia at Trent Bridge last year before finally falling for 98. The highest score by a No. 9 on debut is Balwinder Singh Sandhu's 71 for India against Pakistan in Hyderabad (Sind) in 1982-83.

Ireland beat West Indies in a Twenty20 match last week. Was this their first international win against a Test-playing country? asked Michael Seymour from Barbados
That victory in Kingston earlier this month was Ireland's second against a Test-playing nation in Twenty20 internationals, following their defeat of Bangladesh at Trent Bridge during the World Twenty20 in 2009. Ireland have also won five 50-over one-day internationals against Test opposition, including famous victories over Pakistan in the 2007 World Cup (also in Kingston) and England in the 2011 one (when they chased down a target of 328 in Bangalore). Ireland have also beaten Bangladesh twice - in the 2007 World Cup in Bridgetown, and in Belfast in 2010 - and Zimbabwe once (in Harare in September 2010).

Which international cricketer was known as "Stumpy"? asked Jeremy Arnold from England
I played for years alongside a wicketkeeper whose nickname was "Stumps", but sadly he never quite made it to international cricket. "Stumpy" was also the name of the elephant mascot for the 2011 World Cup. I suspect quite a few players may have had this moniker bestowed upon them over the years, but the one I heard it applied to most often was Bruce Laird, the Western Australian opener who played 21 Tests between 1979-80 and 1982-83. He never quite managed a Test century, although he had scored three in the tough World Series Cricket "Supertests" before he won his first official cap. I think the nickname was also sometimes applied to David Boon, another stocky Australian batsman (and glowering short leg). He was more usually known as "Boonie", but was occasionally called Stumpy because of his short stature. It meant that for a while, when he went in first with Geoff Marsh, Australia's batting was opened by Stumpy and Swampy.

Matthew Fisher played for Yorkshire in last season's YB40 aged only 15. Is he the youngest List A cricketer ever? asked Kirk Norrington from Sheffield
Matthew Fisher - who has just done well for England in the Under-19 World Cup - was only 15 years 212 days old when he played for Yorkshire against Leicestershire in the YB40 (the English counties' 40-over competition) in Scarborough last June. He became the youngest to appear for a county in a List A (senior one-day) match - but not quite the youngest in English cricket overall, as Peter Wilshaw - a batsman who later played for Oxford UCCE - was only 15 years 45 days old when he played for the Nottinghamshire Cricket Board against Cumberland in the C&G Trophy in Keswick in August 2002. This was during a brief period when the county 50-over competition was broadened to include recreational Board XIs as well as the first-class and minor counties: five of the seven youngest players in English List A matches represented the Nottinghamshire Cricket Board in that competition between 2000 and 2003. Two of them went on to bigger things, in the form of good county careers - batsman Bilal Shafayat and fast bowler Mark Footitt.

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