Pankaj's luck, and Anderson's toil
Is it true that Pankaj Singh's figures were the worst by any bowler on Test debut? asked Mohan Acharya from India
The unfortunate Pankaj Singh conceded 179 runs in the third Test against England in Southampton, the most by any bowler on debut without getting a wicket. The previous record was held by Sohail Khan, who took 0 for 164 in his first Test for Pakistan, against Sri Lanka in Karachi in February 2009. He's played one further Test (so far) and did manage a wicket in that one. In all, 37 bowlers have conceded 100 or more runs without taking a wicket on Test debut. Pankaj Singh could perhaps take inspiration from one of the other four Indians on that particular list - left-arm spinner Bapu Nadkarni had figures of 0 for 142 in his first Test, against New Zealand in Delhi in 1955-56, but went on to take 88 wickets at less than 30 apiece in a distinguished career. If you missed it, there was a charming article on Pankaj's plight on ESPNcricinfo during the Southampton Test.
Has anyone scored a century and a duck in the same Test more often than Mahela Jayawardene? asked Bipin Mendis from Sri Lanka
Mahela Jayawardene achieved this bittersweet double in the recent Test against South Africa in Colombo, following 165 in the first innings with 0 in the second. This was the 151st time a batsman had made a century and a duck in the same Test. Jayawardene also did it against Australia in Hobart in November 2007 (104 and a golden duck). He's one of 19 players who have done it twice - a distinguished line-up also including Don Bradman, Viv Richards and Sachin Tendulkar - but two men have achieved the feat on three occasions: Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Andrew Strauss. For the full list, click here.
A colleague has pointed out that Gary Ballance had three Test centuries but only 590 runs after his 156 at Southampton. Azharuddin had three hundreds and 385 runs, but has anyone else bettered Ballance? asked Jean-Pierre Desrosnay from England
You're right to say that Gary Ballance had 590 runs after his first-innings 156 in the third Test against India in Southampton. Mohammad Azharuddin does indeed top this list - his first four innings in Tests were 110; 48, 105; and 122 (385 runs). Rather surprisingly, perhaps, there are no fewer than 21 other players who had fewer than Ballance's 590 runs at the end of the innings that produced their third century. Next to Azharuddin come Ravi Bopara (397 runs), Arthur Morris (429) and Ian Botham (445), just ahead of George Headley (470). Ballance is only the fifth man to score three centuries in his first six Tests for England, following AC "Jack" Russell, Les Ames, Len Hutton and the aforementioned (and half-forgotten) Bopara. Thirteen batsmen from other countries achieved the feat, including Don Bradman, George Headley and Sunil Gavaskar, who all scored four centuries in their first six Tests.
I heard that James Anderson was the second bowler to bowl more than 500 overs in Test cricket in successive years. Who was the first? asked Shubh Aggarwal from India
James Anderson sent down 566.2 overs in 2012, and 531.5 in 2013, so did achieve the feat in successive years. I think what you heard must have been referring to fast bowlers, since three spinners have also done it: Shane Warne in 1993, 1994, 1995 (and seven times in all), Muttiah Muralitharan in 1997, 1998 and also 2000, 2001, and Danish Kaneria in 2006, 2007. But the only other paceman to manage it was Mitchell Johnson, with 585 overs in 2008 and 502.5 the following year. Glenn McGrath delivered more than 500 overs in four different calendar years - but never successive ones.
Among specialist bowlers who have played 50 or more Tests, how many have a worse average than Ishant Sharma? asked Makarand Deshpande from Canada
After his career-best 7 for 74 against England at Lord's last month, Ishant Sharma had 174 wickets to his name in 57 Tests. The only specialist bowlers with a higher average, having played at least 50 Tests, are Ravi Shastri (151 wickets at 40.96 in 80 matches), Ashley Giles (143 at 40.60 in 54), John Emburey (147 at 38.40 in 64) and Fidel Edwards (165 at 37.87 in 55). Carl Hooper is top overall, with 114 wickets at 49.42 from 102 matches, but he wasn't a specialist bowler (you might argue that Shastri, who often opened the batting, wasn't really a specialist bowler by the end of his career either). For the full list, click here (qualification: 50 wickets in 50 Tests).
Which cricketer's autobiography was called "Run-Digger"? asked Chris Lee from England
Run-Digger was the early autobiography produced by the Australian batsman Bill Lawry, which came out in 1966. It's a pretty slim volume - only 128 pages - and covers only about half of Lawry's eventual 67 Tests, and doesn't include the fairly stormy period of his captaincy, which started a couple of years after the book was published. So maybe there's a gap in the market for the updated story of arguably Australia's most famous pigeon-fancier!
Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2014. Ask Steven is now on Facebook