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Ask Steven

How many bowlers have taken wickets with the first ball of both innings of a Test?

And is Joe Root's 5 for 8 the best bowling performance by an England captain?

Steven Lynch
Steven Lynch
Zaheer Khan dismissed Javed Omar off the first ball in both innings of the Mirpur Test in 2007  •  Santosh Harhare/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

Zaheer Khan dismissed Javed Omar off the first ball in both innings of the Mirpur Test in 2007  •  Santosh Harhare/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

Was last week's two-day Test at Ahmedabad the shortest of all? asked Baskar Raghavan from India
The third Test in Ahmedabad lasted just 140.2 overs - or 842 balls - in all. That puts it seventh on the list of the briefest completed Test matches: it's the shortest since 1934-35, when England beat West Indies on a rain-affected pitch in Bridgetown, in a match that lasted only 112 overs (672 balls).
Three years earlier, on a similarly spiteful track in Melbourne, Australia beat South Africa in the shortest completed Test of all. It lasted just 109.2 overs (656 balls): South Africa were bowled out for 36 (left-arm spinner Bert Ironmonger, who was two months short of his 50th birthday, took 5 for 6) and 45 (Ironmonger 6 for 18).
For the list of the shortest Tests of all, click here. (Note that this table includes drawn games; to see the shortest matches with a positive result, look down the fifth column to see the winners.)
Overall, as this list shows, the Ahmedabad Test was the 22nd to be finished inside two days. A lot of those were early matches played on uncovered pitches - there have been only eight two-day finishes in more than 2000 Tests since 1946. The last time England lost inside two days was almost 100 years ago, in May 1921, when Australia won by ten wickets at Trent Bridge.
Axar Patel took a wicket with the first ball he bowled in both innings of the third Test. Has anyone ever done this before? asked Mithun Pandey from India
Rather surprisingly perhaps, that feat by India's Axar Patel, who took a wicket with his first delivery in both innings of the recent two-day Test in Ahmedabad, appears to have happened only once before (full details are not available for all Tests, but there don't seem to be many other candidates). The other man known to have done it was also an Indian left-arm bowler: Zaheer Khan dismissed the Bangladesh opener Javed Omar for a king pair in Mirpur in May 2007, striking with the first ball of both the first innings and the follow-on.
Axar Patel has 18 wickets after two Tests. What's the record? And with another Test at Ahmedabad coming up, what's the best for three? asked Jeremy King from England
Axar Patel is one of five bowlers who took 18 wickets in their first two Tests: the others were John Ferris and Clarrie Grimmett of Australia, Alf Valentine of West Indies, and Ajantha Mendis of Sri Lanka. Five others took more: Sydney Barnes of England and Bangladesh's Mehidy Hasan had 19, Bob Massie of Australia 21 and England's Alec Bedser 22, while the Indian legspinner Narendra Hirwani led the way with 24 wickets after two Tests.
The number for Patel to shoot at in the final Test is 31, by Hirwani again - so he needs the little matter of 14 wickets to beat that. Charles "Terror" Turner of Australia had 29 wickets after three Tests, and a more recent Aussie, Rodney Hogg, had 27. Then come Mendis and Australian legspinner Herbert "Ranji" Hordern with 26, and Bedser, Ferris, the South African seamer Vernon Philander, and England's Fred Trueman with 24.
Where does Joe Root's 5 for 8 rank on the list of best bowling figures by an England captain? asked John Lynch from Vanuatu
There have been only three statistically better bowling analyses by England captains in Tests than Joe Root's 5 for 8 in Ahmedabad last week. Bob Willis claimed 6 for 101 against India at Lord's in 1982, while Sussex's Arthur Gilligan had phenomenal figures of 6 for 7 as South Africa were bowled out for 30 at Edgbaston in 1924. But the best bowling figures of all by an England captain remain Gubby Allen's 7 for 80 against India at The Oval in 1936.
It's an indication of the scarcity of bowling captains, especially for England, that there have been only 15 five-fors by their skippers in Tests.
Ishant Sharma hit the first six of his career in his 100th Test. Has anyone taken longer to hit their first six? asked Sanjit Srivastava from Canada
There is only one player who waited longer for his first Test six than Ishant Sharma, who celebrated his 100th cap in Ahmedabad by finally clearing the ropes: Glenn McGrath of Australia collected his first (and only) six in his 102nd Test. The most matches in a complete career without a single six is 86, by England's Derek Underwood, and the most Test runs without one is 3835, by another England player, Jonathan Trott. For that list, click here.
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Steven Lynch is the editor of the updated edition of Wisden on the Ashes