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Starc's 100, and Alzarri's spectacles

In 2004-05, India defended a target of 106 against Australia, eventually winning by 13 runs. Was this the lowest target successfully defended in any Test match? asked Lakshmi Narayanan from India
Australia's target on that turning track in Mumbai in November 2004 was actually 107, but they were all out for 93, so lost by 13 runs. There have been two lower targets in Tests that were not reached by the team batting fourth. In Port-of-Spain in 1999-2000, Zimbabwe needed just 99 to defeat West Indies for the first time - but were skittled for 63, with Curtly Ambrose taking 3 for 8 and Franklyn Rose 4 for 19. They have still never beaten West Indies in a Test. But the lowest of all came in the famous match at The Oval in 1882, which spawned the Ashes. England needed just 85 to beat Australia - but, with Fred "The Demon" Spofforth taking 7 for 44, England collapsed for 77 to lose by seven runs.

I heard that Mitchell Starc was the fastest to reach 100 wickets in ODIs. Whose record did he beat? asked Jared Homerton from Australia
Mitchell Starc took his 100th wicket - Dhananjaya de Silva of Sri Lanka - in his 52nd one-day international, at the SSC in Colombo last week. He was one game quicker to the landmark than the Pakistan offspinner Saqlain Mushtaq, who reached 100 in May 1997. The New Zealander Shane Bond took 54 matches, and Brett Lee of Australia 55. Next comes Imran Tahir of South Africa (58 matches), just ahead of Morne Morkel, Irfan Pathan and Waqar Younis (all 59). The slowest to 100 ODI wickets were Sourav Ganguly and Tillakaratne Dilshan, who both got there in their 311th games.

Mitchell Starc took 24 wickets in the three Tests in Sri Lanka - but Australia lost the lot. Was this the record for a losing three-Test series? asked Tushar Mukherjee from the United States
The record in this regard was set in an earlier Sri Lanka-Australia series. Back in March 2004, Muttiah Muralitharan took 28 wickets - but Australia, in their first series under new captain Ricky Ponting, won all three Tests, despite conceding a first-innings lead in all of them. Charles "Buck" Llewellyn took 25 wickets for South Africa in the three-Test home series against Australia in 1902-03, but the Aussies won that one 2-0, with one draw.

Was Alzarri Joseph the first debutant to bag a pair in Tests? asked Neeraj Nayak from India
West Indies' promising 19-year-old fast bowler Alzarri Joseph was indeed dismissed without scoring in both innings of his first Test, against India in St Lucia earlier this month. But he's in good company: Joseph was actually the 41st debutant to suffer this fate in a Test. The previous one was another West Indian, opener Rajendra Chandrika (who played in the first two matches of this series against India, but missed Joseph's debut). Chandrika made nought in each innings of his first match, against Australia in Kingston last year. The list includes some famous names, notably Graham Gooch (1975), Ken Rutherford (1985-86), Marvan Atapattu and Saeed Anwar (both 1990-91).

Was the aggregate record for runs set in the Leeds Test of 1948? asked AK Srivastava from India
There were 1723 runs scored (for the loss of 31 wickets) in the Test you are talking about - the fourth one of the 1948 Ashes series at Headingley, won by Don Bradman's Invincibles, who famously scored 404 for 3 on the final day. That was a record for a five-day Test at the time, but it was overhauled in Adelaide in 1968-69, when Australia and West Indies shared 1764 runs. There have been two higher aggregates in timeless Test matches. In Kingston in 1929-30, West Indies and England amassed 1815 runs, but the overall record was set in the ten-day Test in Durban in 1938-39, when South Africa and England piled up 1981 runs between them (England were 654 for 5, chasing 696, when the match had to be abandoned). For the full list of the highest Test run aggregates, click here.

Have South Africa ever staged Test matches in August before? asked Danie Strydom from South Africa
The opening encounter against New Zealand in Durban, which started on August 19, was easily the earliest that a Test match had been played in the South African "summer". There have never been any Tests in South Africa in September either. The previous earliest was the first Test of the 1902-03 series against Australia - who were on the way back from an England tour - which started in Johannesburg on October 11, 1902. At the other end of their summer South Africa have played only one home Test in May - the third one against New Zealand in Johannesburg in 2006. That match was over in three days, and finished on May 7. The previous Test, in Cape Town, ended on May 1.

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