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Ask Steven

Is Anderson the oldest seamer to take a Test five-for?

And how many players took a wicket with their first ball in Tests but none after that?

Steven Lynch
Steven Lynch
20-Feb-2023
James Anderson takes a wicket in the Mount Maunganui Test. He is currently the third oldest non-spinner to take a Test five-for  •  AFP/Getty Images

James Anderson takes a wicket in the Mount Maunganui Test. He is currently the third oldest non-spinner to take a Test five-for  •  AFP/Getty Images

Jimmy Anderson narrowly missed out on a five-for against New Zealand the other day. If he gets one soon, will he be the oldest seamer to take five in a Test innings? asked Phillip Baker from England
Jimmy Anderson finished England's crushing victory in Mount Maunganui at the weekend with 4 for 18 in the second innings. He's already the third oldest non-spinner to take a Test five-for - he was about a month short of his 40th birthday when he claimed 5 for 60 against India at Edgbaston last July. Ahead of him lie the South African medium-pacer Geoff Chubb, who marked his only series - in England in 1951 when he was 40 - with 6 for 51 in the third Test at Old Trafford, and the legendary England bowler Sydney Barnes, who was around two months short of his 41st birthday when he took 7 for 56 and 7 for 88 against South Africa in Durban in 1913-14. Anderson will be older than Barnes if he can conjure a five-for in this summer's Ashes series.
Even the seemingly ageless Anderson will be hard pressed to take the overall record: the Australian slow left-armer Bert Ironmonger was almost 50 when he took 5 for 6 and 6 for 18 against South Africa in Melbourne in 1931-32. Here's the full list of the oldest men to take five wickets in an innings in a Test.
In a recent women's T20 international against Australia, both New Zealand openers were dismissed for golden ducks. How often has this happened in international cricket? asked Siddhartha Bhattacharya from Chile
The match you're talking about was last week's T20 World Cup match in Paarl: New Zealand's chase got off to a disastrous start when both Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine fell to the first ball they faced, in Megan Schutt's opening over. We don't have balls-faced data for all matches, but this looks like the second such instance in women's T20Is: both Mexican openers were run-out for ducks after facing one ball against Brazil in Lima in October 2019. I suppose some might not consider being run-out first ball as a golden duck.
There are six women's ODIs where we do not have full details - all of them involving Netherlands - in which both openers were out for ducks, and two in early women's Ashes Tests (neither looks like two first-ball ducks, but we can't be sure).
Moving to the men, and again remembering the lack of data in some cases, there have been at least five instances of this in Tests. The first came at Old Trafford in 1888, when Australia's Alec Bannerman was dismissed by the first ball of the second innings, from Bobby Peel, and Percy McDonnell went to the first delivery of the next over, bowled by George Lohmann. Australia were soon 7 for 6.
There was a sensational start in Christchurch in 1932-33, when England's Herbert Sutcliffe fell to the first ball of the match, and Eddie Paynter to the opening delivery of the second over. That was as good as it got for New Zealand: Wally Hammond helped himself to 227, and England reached 560.
At Headingley in 1982, Bob Willis dismissed Mohsin Khan and Mudassar Nazar for golden ducks in the first over of Pakistan's second innings. Sri Lanka's openers Marvan Atapattu and Sanath Jayasuriya both fell first ball in the second innings against South Africa in Kandy in 2000; on the first morning of the match, both South Africa's openers had bagged five-ball ducks. And in Centurion in 2016, Dale Steyn reprised Willis' feat by removing both New Zealand openers, Tom Latham and Martin Guptill, in the first over.
There have been three instances in men's ODIs: by Zimbabwe against West Indies in Georgetown in May 2006, by Sri Lanka vs Afghanistan in Dunedin in the 2015 World Cup, and by New Zealand against West Indies at Old Trafford in the 2019 World Cup. There are also two cases in T20Is, by Bangladesh against West Indies in St Kitts in July 2018, and by Malaysia vs Nepal in Singapore in July 2019.
Is it right that Gudakesh Motie now has the best bowling figures by any West Indian spinner in a Test? asked Brijesh Malalasekeran from Guyana
The Guyanese slow left-armer Gudakesh Motie had match figures of 13 for 99 (7 for 37 and 6 for 62) in only his third Test - West Indies' innings victory over Zimbabwe in Bulawayo last week. These were indeed the best by a West Indian spinner, beating Sonny Ramadhin's 11 for 152 against England in a famous match at Lord's in 1950.
Only two bowlers, both pacemen, have ever recorded better match figures for West Indies. Michael Holding took 14 for 149 against England at The Oval in 1976, while Courtney Walsh reaped 13 for 55 against New Zealand in Wellington in 1994-95. Here is the full list of West Indies bowlers to take ten or more wickets in a Test.
Is there anyone who took a wicket with his first ball in a Test, and then never took another one? asked Nick Smith from England
There are now 20 men who are known to have taken a wicket with the first ball they bowled in a Test. Two of them never took another one. The New Zealander Dennis Smith took the wicket of Eddie Paynter with his first ball in the match mentioned in the first question above, in Christchurch in 1932-33, but finished with 1 for 113 and was never selected again. Much later, in 2015-16, South Africa's Hardus Viljoen dismissed Alastair Cook with his first ball in a Test, in Johannesburg. He also hit his first ball for four when he batted, but never played again.
Three of the others never played another Test, but did take at least one more wicket in the one they played: Australia's Arthur Coningham (1894-95), Matt Henderson (in New Zealand's first Test, in 1929-30), and the West Indian Tyrell Johnson (in the last Test before the Second World War, at The Oval in 1939). Here's the full list of players who took a wicket with their first ball in a Test.
I think I heard that Raipur recently became the 50th Indian ground to stage an international match. Is that the most of any country? asked Lalchand from India
The Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh International Stadium in Raipur was the venue for the second one-day international against New Zealand in January. It was actually the 50th different Indian ground to stage a men's one-day international, or the 53rd if you lump in Tests and T20 internationals as well. At the moment, Raipur is one of five Indian grounds to have held a solitary men's international, after the Bombay Gymkhana (a Test in 1933-34), the University Ground in Lucknow (a Test in 1952-53), Ahmedabad's Sardar Vallabhai Patel Stadium (an ODI in 1981-82), and the Indira Gandhi Stadium at Vijayawada (an ODI in 2002-03). Eden Gardens in Kolkata comfortably leads the way with 84.
India has had by far the most international grounds (men's matches only): England and Australia have both used 23, Pakistan 21 (including one now in Bangladesh), West Indies 17, South Africa and New Zealand 16, Sri Lanka ten, Bangladesh eight, the UAE six, Zimbabwe five and Ireland four.
Shiva Jayaraman of ESPNcricinfo's stats team helped with some of the above answers.
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Steven Lynch is the editor of the updated edition of Wisden on the Ashes