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Ask Steven

Is Babar Azam's 196 in Karachi a record for the fourth innings of a Test?

And what is the biggest lead in a Test in which a follow-on was not enforced?

Steven Lynch
Steven Lynch
Cameron Green congratulates Babar Azam after his 196, Pakistan vs Australia, 2nd Test, Karachi, March 16, 2022

Babar Azam's 196 is the highest fourth-innings score for Pakistan, and seventh overall  •  AFP/Getty Images

Was Babar Azam's 196 in Karachi a record for the fourth innings of a Test? asked Khaled Ahmed from Pakistan
There have been six higher fourth-innings scores than Babar Azam's epic 196 against Australia in Karachi last week. All of them were over 200, the highest being George Headley's 223 for West Indies against England in Kingston in 1929-30 (that match was also drawn).
Babar's 196 was the highest in the fourth innings for Pakistan, previously Younis Khan's unbeaten 171 in a victory over Sri Lanka in Pallekele in 2015.
Babar batted for 603 minutes in all; the only longer knock in the fourth innings of a Test was Mike Atherton's unbeaten 643-minute 185 for England against South Africa in Johannesburg in 1995-96. Babar lasted 425 balls, behind only Atherton (492) and Sunil Gavaskar, who faced 443 during his 221 for India vs England at The Oval in 1979. (That's according to ESPNcricinfo's database; there may be one or two longer innings in matches for which we do not have the details.)
Australia led by 408 in Karachi, but did not enforce the follow-on. Was this the biggest lead in a Test where the follow-on was spurned? asked Mahesh Singhia from India
Pat Cummins declined make Pakistan bat again despite Australia's lead of 408 in Karachi last week. The highest lead of all which did not result in the follow-on being enforced remains 563, by England (849) against West Indies (286) in Kingston in 1929-30; England's captain Freddie Calthorpe eventually set West Indies 836 to win. There was some excuse for this, as it was a timeless match - although it was left drawn in the end after nine days (the last two were rained off) since England had to catch the boat home!
The only other match with a higher lead but no follow-on - and the highest in a time-limited game - was in the first Ashes Test in Brisbane in 2006-07. Australia declared at 602 for 9 then bowled England out for 157, so led by 445 - but Ricky Ponting batted again, going on to win by 277 runs.
In the first Test in Mohali, every one of India's top eight scored 27 or more. Was this the highest score to be achieved by every member of the top eight in a Test? asked Patrick Moran from Australia
India's consistent effort in their innings of 574 for 8 in Mohali - when the lowest score from the top eight was Shreyas Iyer's 27 - comes in third on this particular list. When Australia made 695 against England at The Oval in 1930, the lowest score among the top eight was Alan Kippax's 28. But when India amassed 664 against England at The Oval in 2007, the lowest was Wasim Jaffer's 35 (No. 8 Anil Kumble made 110 not out - his only century, in his 118th Test).
The highest score made by all of the top nine in a Test innings is 25, by West Indies against India in Delhi in 1958-59; the best by all of the top ten is 23, by West Indies against Australia in Adelaide in 1968-69. And there are three instances of all 11 batters scoring at least 12: by India against New Zealand in Dunedin in 1967-68, South Africa vs England in Johannesburg in 2015-16 (no one reached 50, and the total was only 313), and Bangladesh vs West Indies in Mirpur in 2018-19.
In a recent Ranji Trophy match, Jharkhand ended up 1008 runs in front of Nagaland. Have there been any bigger leads in first-class cricket? asked KV Venkatesh from India, among others
In that strange run-soaked match in Kolkata last week, Jharkhand made 880 in their first innings - when the biggest partnership was 191 for the tenth wicket - and, after dismissing Nagaland for 289, batted again and had reached 417 for 6 by the end of the match. That meant they were leading by 1008 - and they were the first team to lead by a four-figure amount in any first-class match. The previous record was 958, by Bombay (651 and 714 for 8 declared) in their Ranji semi-final against Maharashtra (407 and 604) in Poona (now Pune) in 1948-49.
In both instances of a team making a total of over 1000, it was the second innings of the match at the MCG: Victoria made 1059 against Tasmania (217) in 1922-23, and 1107 against New South Wales (221) in 1926-27. Bill Ponsford made 429 in the first match, and 352 in the second.
Only seven batsmen reached 1000 first-class runs in the 2021 English season. What's the most runs scored since the number of Championship matches was reduced? asked Phillip Johnson from England
You're right that only seven men reached four figures in first-class matches last year in England: Tom Haines of Sussex led the way with 1176 (and Derbyshire's Matt Critchley scored exactly 1000). Two of the others, Jake Libby (1104 runs) and Rory Burns (1038) played 15 matches: in 2006, Mark Ramprakash played 15 first-class games and piled up 2278 runs at an average of 103.54. In 1990, Graham Gooch scored 2746 runs in 18 first-class matches, averaging 101.70. The most in a season overall since 1968 - when the number of County Championship games began to be reduced - is 2755, by Jimmy Cook in 24 matches for Somerset in 1991.
Shiva Jayaraman of ESPNcricinfo's stats team helped with some of this week's answers.
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Steven Lynch is the editor of the updated edition of Wisden on the Ashes