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Ask Steven

Ashes comebacks, and other unlikely events

The column where we answer your questions

08-Aug-2005
The regular Monday column in which Steven Lynch answers your questions about (almost) any aspect of cricket:


Shane Warne: equal with Ian Botham and has only Dennis Lillie to catch in the Ashes wicket-takers' list © Getty Images
How often has a side come from one down to win an Ashes series? asked a worried Peter James from Hull
It's not quite as rare as you might think - it's happened 11 times now. The most recent instance was in 1997, when England won the first Test at Edgbaston, but Australia won the series 3-2. The first time it happened was in England in 1888, when Australia won the first Test but England, led by WG Grace, won the next two to take the series 2-1. Australia turned the tables at home in 1897-98, losing the first Test but winning the remaining four, and they repeated that feat exactly in 1901-02. In 1909 England won the first Test but Australia took the next two, and the five-match series 2-1, but in 1911-12 England turned the tables in a big way, winning the last four Tests after losing the first one. In 1930 England won the first Test, but Australia, with Don Bradman in record-breaking form, won two of the remaining four, while in 1936-37 Australia uniquely came from 0-2 down to win the five-match rubber 3-2 in Bradman's first series as captain. In 1954-55, spearheaded by Frank Tyson, England lost the first Test but won the next three, and in the next series, in 1956, Australia won the second Test but lost the series 2-1 as Jim Laker did his stuff. Probably the most famous occasion was in 1981, when Australia won the first Test but England, inspired by Ian Botham, took the series 3-1.
I was looking at a list of scores and saw a match in which England declared at 60 for 7 then Australia declared at 32 for 7 - what was going on? asked John Budd from Weymouth
That was the first Test of the 1950-51 Ashes series at Brisbane, and what was going on was that a thunderstorm had flooded the ground and made the pitch almost unplayable after Australia had scored 228 in their first innings. England struggled to 60 for 7, then declared to make Australia bat on the untrustworthy surface, which was known as a "sticky dog". The Aussies stumbled to 32 for 7, then they declared with a lead of 200, hoping to make further inroads before the pitch dried out. It worked: England were 30 for 6 at the close of a shortened day on which 20 wickets fell for 130 runs, and despite a defiant innings from Len Hutton next morning England fell 70 runs short. The Wisden match report says: "The pitch was the game's villain. Medium-paced bowling of good length presented a well-nigh insoluble problem. Sometimes the ball reared head high, at other times it kept horribly low. Both captains placed nearly all their fieldsmen in a circle a few yards from the bat, and 12 of the wickets resulted from catches close to the wicket."
What's the highest score in an Ashes Test? asked Mukuvan Patel from Stanmore
The highest individual and team totals both came in the same match, at the Oval in 1938. Len Hutton scored 364, and England made 903 for 7 before declaring and bowling Australia out for 201 and 123 to win by the little matter of an innings and 579 runs. England's captain Wally Hammond is said to have declared only when he was assured that Don Bradman - who had broken his ankle while having a rare bowl - would be unable to bat. Bradman remains the only man to score two triple-centuries in Ashes Tests, with 334 at Headingley in 1930 and 304, also at Headingley, in 1934.
Who has taken the most wickets in England-Australia Tests? Is it Shane Warne? asked Danny Cunningham from Melbourne
After the second Test at Edgbaston, where he took a ten-wicket match haul, Shane Warne equalled Ian Botham's tally of 148 wickets to be placed joint second on the list. Warne currently has 148 wickets from 28 Tests against England and will now chase Dennis Lillee (167 in 29 matches), the current leader. Glenn McGrath was sixth with 126 before the second Test, just behind Bob Willis (128). For a full list, click here.
Did Steve Waugh play in more Ashes encounters than anyone else? asked Brad Misson from Sydney
Steve Waugh played 46 Tests against England - but two people just edge him out at the top of that particular list. Waugh's first Test captain Allan Border played 47 times against England, but the record stretches back to the turn of the 20th century, and yet another New South Welshman in Syd Gregory, who was actually born on the site of what is now the SCG (his father was the curator there). He played 52 times against England between 1890 and 1912, and made eight Test-playing tours of England. The England record is held by Colin Cowdrey, who played 43 Tests against Australia.
How many hat-tricks have there been in England-Australia matches? asked Graham Smeaton
There have now been eight, and they were rather oddly spaced. Six of them came between 1878-79, when Australia's Fred Spofforth took the first one in any Test, at Melbourne, and 1903-04 when another Aussie, Hugh Trumble, took his second one, also at the MCG: then there wasn't a hat-trick in an Ashes Test for 91 years, until Shane Warne took one at Melbourne in 1994-95. Four years later Darren Gough did the hat-trick for England at Sydney. For a full list of Test hat-tricks, click here.

Steven Lynch is the deputy editor of The Wisden Group. For some of these answers he was helped by Travis Basevi, the man who built Stats Guru and the Wisden Wizard. If you want to Ask Steven a question, contact him through our feedback form. The most interesting questions will be answered each week in this column. Unfortunately, we can't usually enter into correspondence about individual queries