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The cheapest ten-fors, and the longest gap between Tests

Bert Sutcliffe (left), one of New Zealand's finest batsmen, played 42 Tests but none of them were victories for his side Getty Images

Has any England bowler managed a cheaper ten-for in a Test than James Anderson's 10 for 45? asked Malcolm Roberts from England
James Anderson's 10 for 45 against Sri Lanka at Headingley last week comes in sixth overall on this particular list. The table is headed by Australian left-arm spinner Bert Ironmonger, who was nearly 50 when he took 11 for 24 on a helpful pitch against South Africa in Melbourne in 1931-32. In second place, with scarcely credible match figures of 33-21-27-10, comes Glenn McGrath, against West Indies in Brisbane in 2000-01. The only cheaper ten-fors for England both came against South Africa, in some of their earliest Tests: Johnny Briggs took 15 for 28, with no help from a fielder, in Cape Town in 1888-89, while George Lohmann scalped 15 for 45, with 8 for 7 in the second innings, in Port Elizabeth in 1895-96.

There were nearly three Test-free months before England's series against Sri Lanka. Was this a record for recent years? asked Daniel Gerrard from England
The last Test before England and Sri Lanka got under way at Headingley last week was the one between New Zealand and Australia in Christchurch, which finished on February 24. That gap of 84 days, caused mainly by the World T20, was the longest sinceā€¦ last year, when there were 93 days without a Test between early January and mid-April, thanks to the 2015 World Cup. There have been some other gaps longer than the recent one during the build-up to and playing of World Cups and World T20s.

In the last 50 years, the longest period without a Test somewhere was in 1970, when the cancellation of South Africa's tour of England (and its replacement with an unofficial series against the Rest of the World) meant there were no official Test matches between mid-March and the end of November, a total of 262 days. The next-biggest gap soon followed: there were 176 days between the last Test in England in 1971 (India's historic win at The Oval) and the first match of New Zealand's tour of the West Indies, in February 1972.

There have been two long barren spells caused by world wars: there were no Tests for nearly seven years between March 1914 and December 1920, and another long gap between September 1939 and March 1946. Apart from that, the longest gap between matches since Test cricket began in 1877 is 849 days - about two years and four months - between the end of the Ashes series in England in August 1899 and the start of the next one Down Under in December 1901.

Who has played the most matches in each of the three international formats without ever winning? asked George Richardson from New Zealand
A New Zealander leads the way here in Test matches: Bert Sutcliffe, one of their greatest batsmen, played 42 Tests between 1949 and 1965 without ever finishing on the winning side. New Zealand did win the odd match during his time, but he always managed to miss those games. The Zimbabwean left-arm seamer Bryan Strang comes next - he played 26 Tests without ever winning one. Three Bangladeshis head this sorry list in one-day internationals: Al Sahariar played 27 ODIs without winning one, Sanwar Hossain 27 and Hannan Sarkar 20. Next comes Bermuda's Malachi Jones (12), then three players on 11 - Travis Dowlin (West Indies), Alester Maregwede (Zimbabwe) and Roland Lefebvre (Netherlands). The (non) record-holder in T20Is is Zimbabwe fast bowler Kyle Jarvis, who played nine T20Is without winning one; Jeffrey Vandersay has so far taken part in six for Sri Lanka without tasting victory.

Mohammad Azharuddin scored a century in his first and last Tests - has anyone else done this? asked Krishnan from India
Mohammad Azharuddin made 110 in his first Test, against England in Calcutta in 1984-85, and 102 in his 99th and last match, against South Africa in Bangalore in 1999-2000. Only three other batsmen have done this, all of them Australians: Reggie Duff scored 104 on debut in Melbourne in 1901-02, and 146 in his final Test, also against England, at The Oval in 1905; Bill Ponsford made 110 in his first Test, in Sydney in 1924-24, and 266 in his last, also against England, at The Oval in 1934; and Greg Chappell started with 108 against England in Perth in 1970-71, and finished with 182 against Pakistan in Sydney in 1983-84. Another Aussie, Shaun Marsh, is also on this list, probably temporarily - although he has not appeared since being dropped after hitting 182 against West Indies in Hobart last December (he made 141 on debut, against Sri Lanka in Pallekele in 2011-12). This excludes the unfortunate pair of Andy Ganteaume (West Indies) and Rodney Redmond (New Zealand), who scored centuries in their only Test appearances.

I was marvelling at the Sri Lankan players' initials, and wondered if any bowler ever had the initials LBW? asked Henry Porter from England
There hasn't (yet) been an international bowler with these promising initials. The huge Cricket Archive database - which includes many minor games - does throw up two: LBW Taylor, who played for Otago's youth teams in New Zealand, and LBW de Grooth from the Hague CC in the Netherlands. Taylor didn't do any bowling in the matches that have made it into their records, but happily Luwe de Grooth did. And in the Flamingo Juniors tournament final in Deventer in August 2000, the equally splendidly named S Wolf was lbw LBW de Grooth for 5.

In connection with last week's question about Test debutants sharing the same birthdate, how often has it happened in any Test? asked Michael Sutcliffe from England
Apart from the debut one mentioned last time - Nat Thomson and Ned Gregory in the very first Test of all in Melbourne in 1876-77 - there have been only nine other instances of two players in the same Test side sharing the same date of birth. There are no prizes for guessing that the Waugh twins head the list: they played 108 Tests together after Mark's debut in 1990-91. Men's Test cricket's other twins - Hamish and James Marshall from New Zealand - played five matches together in 2005. The unrelated same-day pairings, with the number of matches they played together in brackets, are David Boon and Dave Gilbert (eight for Australia), Greg Blewett and Matthew Hayden (six for Australia), Patsy Hendren and Ernest Tyldesley (five for England), Naved-ul-Hasan and Yasir Hameed (five for Pakistan), Jack Crapp and Jack Young (four for England), Ashok Malhotra and Shivlal Yadav (three for India), Al-Amin Hossain and Rubel Hossain (three for Bangladesh), and Bobjee Narasimha Rao and Yashpal Sharma (two for India). The one that caused the question in the first place - Jake Ball and James Vince - didn't happen last week, after Ball was left out of the 12 for the first Test against Sri Lanka at Headingley.

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