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How many times have teams won a Test without any batsman scoring a half-century?

In Ed Barnard's five-for against Lancashire, all five batsmen were dismissed for ducks Getty Images

Jason Holder had the highest score and the best bowling figures in the recent Test against Sri Lanka, but finished on the losing side. How often has this happened? asked Harold Shockness from the West Indies
The unfortunate Jason Holder made 74, and later took 5 for 41, for West Indies in the pink-ball Test in Bridgetown last week - but couldn't prevent Sri Lanka winning by four wickets.

Holder is the fifth person to suffer this fate. The first was England's Allan Steel, with 135 not out and 3 for 34 in vain against Australia in Sydney in 1882-83. It was a long time before Freddie Brown followed suit, with 62 and 4 for 26 for England in the Ashes Test in Melbourne in 1950-51 (Australia's Bill Johnston also took 4 for 26 in this match). Vinoo Mankad scored 184 and took 5 for 196 (from 73 overs) as India lost to England at Lord's in 1952, while more recently, Shakib Al Hasan's 144 and 6 for 82 couldn't prevent a Bangladesh defeat by Pakistan in Mirpur in 2011-12. Brown, like Holder, was captain in the match in question.

Was India's demolition of Ireland last week the biggest margin of victory in an official T20 international? asked Mayukh Patel from India
India crushed Ireland by 143 runs last week in Malahide, bowling the hosts out for 70 after running up 213 for 4 themselves. But there has been one heavier defeat, as this list shows: in the first World T20, in Johannesburg in 2007, Sri Lanka (260 for 6) hammered Kenya (88) by 172 runs. There has been one other 143-run defeat too, in Karachi earlier this year, when Pakistan (203 for 5) overwhelmed a jet-lagged West Indies (60). There have also been 14 ten-wicket victories in T20 internationals.

Sri Lanka managed to win the third Test against West Indies even though none of their batsmen scored a half-century. How unusual is this? asked Savindu Sirimanne from Sri Lanka
That victory in Bridgetown last week - in which Sri Lanka's highest individual score was 42 from Niroshan Dickwella - turns out to be the 29th time a team has won a Test despite none of their batsmen reaching 50. This was the first instance since November 2015, when India defeated South Africa in Nagpur, where M Vijay top-scored with 40. When Australia triumphed on a rain-affected pitch at Lord's in 1888, their highest score was just 22, by the captain, Percy McDonnell, and wicketkeeper Jack Blackham (WG Grace made 24 in vain for England).

Ed Barnard took five Lancashire wickets the other day, and they were all out for nought. How rare is this? asked Phil Smith from England
Worcestershire's Ed Barnard took 5 for 34 in the recent Championship match against Lancashire in Worcester, and his victims - numbers 3 to 6 in the batting order, and No. 8 Jordan Clark - all bagged ducks.

It turns out that dismissing five batsmen for ducks in the same innings isn't that unusual: this was the 155th time in all first-class cricket that it had happened, although that includes several instances where the bowler concerned took more than five wickets in all. The record for a single innings is seven ducks, inflicted by Kent's Colin Blythe on the way to taking all ten wickets for 30 against Northamptonshire at Northampton in 1907. Blythe took 7 for 18 in the second innings to complete amazing match figures, but that included a solitary duck.

Playing in a tour match against Ireland in Dublin in 1937, the New Zealand seamer Jack Cowie took six wickets, all for ducks, and finished with figures of 8-5-3-6.

I recently read that some Test matches had four-ball overs, and I know many Tests in Australia had eight-ball ones. Have there been any other variations? asked Vikram Pai from Singapore
Apart from the now standard six balls, the only other variation found in Tests is overs of five balls, which were used in all Tests in England between 1890 and 1899. Before that, from the first one in 1880, English Tests had four-ball overs; since 1902, all Tests in England have had six-ball overs, apart from a short-lived experiment with eight-ball overs in 1939, in the series against West Indies.

Australia used four-ball overs from the inaugural Test, in Melbourne in 1876-77, to 1887-88. They then had six-ball overs from until 1932-33 (apart from the 1924-25 Ashes series, which had eight-ball overs). Australia returned to eight-ball overs in 1936-37, and stuck with them until 1978-79; they have used six ever since then.

South Africa's first home series, in 1888-89, featured four-ball overs, and they had five-ball ones in the 1890s. From 1902-03 to 1935-36, and from 1961-62 to date, they have had six-ball overs; but South Africa used eight-ball overs from 1938-39 (including the famous timeless Test in Durban) to 1957-58.

New Zealand used eight-ball overs between 1968-79 and 1978-79, and Pakistan between 1974-75 and 1977-78; the rest of their home Tests had six. All Test matches in West Indies, India, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, the UAE and Ireland have had six-ball overs. Note that all ESPNcricinfo's Test scorecards show the number of balls per over (it's at the bottom, just after the names of the umpires).

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