Blockathons, and wobbly openers

In Pallekele, Australia didn't score a run for 25.4 overs, a record AFP

At the end of the first Test against Sri Lanka, Australia faced something like 25 successive maidens. Was this a record? asked Brian Gladwin from Australia
Steve O'Keefe hit a four from the fifth delivery of the 63rd over of the final innings in Pallekele - his only scoring shot in 98 balls - to take Australia to 161 for 8, after which they faced 154 further deliveries (25.4 overs) without scoring a single run. O'Keefe and Peter Nevill faced 138 of those (including the ball that dismissed Nevill), then O'Keefe and last man Josh Hazlewood had 16 more. Such a scoreless sequence is easily a Test record - England went 92 balls without scoring, largely against Sonny Ramadhin and Alf Valentine, as they slipped to defeat against West Indies at Lord's in 1950. Charles Davis, the assiduous Australian statistician, has pinpointed another possible similar barren run: on the first day of the first Test in Melbourne in 1882-83, Alec Bannerman and Billy Murdoch patted back 22 successive four-ball maidens from Billy Barnes, Dick Barlow and Willie Bates. That's 88 deliveries without a run, and it's possible it was as many as 92 in all.

The four opening partnerships in the second Test in Sri Lanka managed just eight runs. Is this a record low? asked Stephen Anderson from Australia
The openers certainly struggled in the second Test in Galle. Dimuth Karunaratne of Sri Lanka was dismissed by the first ball of the match, then Joe Burns fell to the second ball of Australia's reply. In the second innings, Kaushal Silva fell in the second over with the score on 5, then Burns was again out in the first over, with three runs on the board. There have been two other instances of four opening partnerships adding up to eight runs in a Test: by England (5 and 3) and New Zealand (0 and 0, with Roger Twose bagging a pair) at Edgbaston in 1999, swiftly followed by West Indies (4 and 0) and Zimbabwe (0 and 4) in Port-of-Spain in 1999-2000. But the clear winner comes from another Caribbean Test. In Kingston in 2006, the opening partnerships for West Indies (0 and 0, with a pair for Chris Gayle) and India (1 and 1) amounted to just two runs.

At Edgbaston England trailed by 103 runs on first innings, yet won by 141. Is this the biggest turnaround by runs in a Test? asked Richard Shavei-Tzion from Israel
Well, there have been three Tests which were won by a team which followed-on - by England against Australia at Sydney in 1894-95 and at Headingley in 1981, and by India against Australia in Kolkata in 2000-01, so I suppose those would be the biggest turnarounds of all. But England at Edgbaston last week provided only the eighth instance of a team winning by more than 100 runs after being more than 100 behind on first innings - and England were also the last to do it, against New Zealand at Lord's last year. It happened twice in the 12 months before that, as well: Sri Lanka beat England by 100 runs at Headingley in 2014 after being 108 behind on first innings, while New Zealand beat Sri Lanka by 193 in Wellington in 2014-15 after trailing by 135. The first instance was in 1931-32, when Australia (160 behind on first innings) beat South Africa by 169 runs in Melbourne; South Africa turned the tables in Johannesburg in 1966-67, defeating Australia by 233 runs after trailing by 126. India in Kolkata in 2000-01 trailed by a whopping 274 runs, but won by 171 after the heroics of VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid, and finally Australia beat Sri Lanka by 197 runs in Galle in 2003-04, after starting their second innings 161 adrift.

Yasir Shah now has 90 wickets from 15 Tests. Is this a record? asked Nigel Cooke from Jamaica
Despite his relative lack of success in the second and third Tests of the current series - he struck only once at Old Trafford, and three times at Edgbaston - Yasir Shah still has more wickets after 15 Tests than anyone else in history. The 19th-century England pace bowler George Lohmann had 89, while his contemporary Tom Richardson totalled 88 from just 14 Tests in all. Sydney Barnes, Clarrie Grimmett and Vernon Philander all had 87 wickets after 15 Tests. Lohmann took 12 wickets in his 16th match, against South Africa in Johannesburg in 1895-96, so Yasir has his work cut out in the final Test at The Oval if he is to stay ahead - and equal Lohmann's record for the fewest matches required to reach 100 wickets.

New Zealand's 582 for 4 in Bulawayo was apparently their highest total against Zimbabwe. But was it also their highest total away from home? asked Joan Fernandes from the UAE
New Zealand's 582 for 4 in the second Test in Bulawayo at the weekend improved their highest total against Zimbabwe, which was set all of a week earlier - 576 for 6, also in Bulawayo. Before that their highest against Zimbabwe was 495 for 7, in Napier in 2011-12, which also led to an innings victory. New Zealand have made 11 higher totals in all Tests, four of them away from home, including their highest of all - 690 against Pakistan in Sharjah in 2014-15. They also amassed 630 for 6 against India in Mohali in 2003-04, 624 v Australia in Perth in 2015-16, and 593 for 8 against South Africa in Cape Town in 2005-06. For the full list of New Zealand's highest Test totals, click here.

Who took five wickets from the last 17 balls he bowled in Test cricket? asked Brian Murdoch from Australia
The man who produced this stunning finish was the Australian medium-pacer Gervys "Gerry" Hazlitt, in the last match of the one and only Triangular Tournament, in England in 1912. Bowling cutters to good effect on a rain-affected track at The Oval, Hazlitt took 5 for 1 in his last 17 balls to finish with career-best figures of 7 for 25 in 21.4 overs. His success, though, enabled England's bowlers to get at the Australian batsmen before the conditions improved: "Subsequent events proved that his astounding success was for England a blessing in disguise," reported Wisden, "as it led to victory before the end of the day." Australia were skittled for 65, and England won by 244 runs to take the triangular series, that also included South Africa. Australia didn't play another Test until after the First World War, by which time the unfortunate Hazlitt had died. He succumbed to a heart condition in 1915, aged just 27.

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