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Ask Steven

Is Mahmudullah's 150 the highest score by an Asian player in their last Test?

Also: who was the oldest wicketkeeper to make their ODI debut for England?

Steven Lynch
Steven Lynch
Mahmudullah made 150 not out in what he has said will be his last Test  •  Zimbabwe Cricket

Mahmudullah made 150 not out in what he has said will be his last Test  •  Zimbabwe Cricket

Who has the most sixes off one bowler in a Test innings? asked Michael Murray from England
The answer here is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the same as the man who hit the most sixes in any Test innings. Wasim Akram clobbered 12 sixes in his 257 not out for Pakistan against Zimbabwe in Sheikhupura in 1996-97, and no fewer than nine of them came off the bowling of the unfortunate Zimbabwe legspinner Paul Strang. It rather ruined Strang's figures: he had 4 for 64 when Wasim strolled in at No. 8, but finished with 5 for 212 (he had, however, made his only Test century earlier in the game). "Two things will stick in my mind," wrote Wasim: "Just how tired I was after batting for more than eight hours, and Waqar Younis being bowled first ball after sitting with his pads on all that time!"
Seven batters are known to have hit six sixes off one bowler in a Test innings (we don't have ball-by-ball data for all matches, but there are not thought to be any additions): Bert Sutcliffe off Hugh Tayfield (New Zealand vs South Africa in Johannesburg in 1953-54), Navjot Singh Sidhu off Muttiah Muralitharan (India vs Sri Lanka in Lucknow in 1993-94), Andy Blignaut off Nicky Boje (Zimbabwe vs South Africa in Cape Town in 2004-05), Shahid Afridi off Harbhajan Singh (Pakistan vs India in Lahore in 2005-06), MS Dhoni off Dave Mohammed (India vs West Indies in Antigua in 2006), Chris Gayle off Suraj Randiv (Sri Lanka vs West Indies in Galle in 2010-11), and Ben Stokes off Dane Piedt (England vs South Africa in Cape Town in 2015-16).
The Sri Lankan slow left-armer Rangana Herath conceded ten sixes in all, finishing with 3 for 240, as India piled up 726 for 9 in Mumbai in 2009; Dhoni hit five, Virender Sehwag four and Rahul Dravid one. (Thanks again to Charles Davis for his help with this one.)
Was Mahmudullah's 150 not out against Zimbabwe the highest score by a player in his 50th Test? And given that he has announced his retirement from Tests, was it the highest by an Asian player in his last match? asked Sunit Kumar from South Africa
That excellent innings by Mahmudullah for Bangladesh against Zimbabwe in Harare last week, much of it compiled with only the tail for company, turns out to be well down the list of scores by players celebrating their 50th Test cap: Chris Gayle marked his with a triple-century - 317 for West Indies against South Africa in Antigua in April 2005 - while Azhar Ali made 302 not out for Pakistan against West Indies in Dubai in 2016-17. There have been four other double-centuries (by Ken Barrington, Sunil Gavaskar, Javed Miandad and Bill Lawry), and in all there have been 17 higher scores than Mahmudullah's 150 by players in their 50th Test match.
Assuming he carries out his threat to retire, Mahmudullah will sit in tenth place on the list of the highest scores in a farewell Test (this excludes four current players who made higher scores in their most recent match). England's Andy Sandham is on top with 325 in his final game, in 1929-30; among Asian players, Aravinda de Silva made 206 in his last Test, for Sri Lanka against Bangladesh in Colombo in 2002, and Vijay Merchant signed off with 154 for India against England in Delhi in 1951-52.
Was John Simpson the oldest wicketkeeper to make his ODI debut for England? asked David Collins from England
Middlesex's John Simpson was a few days short of his 33rd birthday when he played his first one-day international for England, against Pakistan in Cardiff last week. He was a few months older than Leicestershire's Roger Tolchard in 1978-79. But England have had one older debutant keeper in ODIs, and he's another Leicestershire man - Paul Nixon, who's now their coach. He was 36 years 113 days old when he played his first such match, in Melbourne in 2006-07.
In all, 22 players have played their first ODI for England when older than Simpson. Oldest of all was slow left-armer Norman Gifford, who was nearly 45 when he captained against Australia in Sharjah in 1984-85.
Why isn't Shahid Afridi's name on the list of people who scored a century in their first ODI? asked Azhar Siddiqui from Pakistan
The answer here is very simple - he isn't on the list because he didn't make a century on his one-day international debut! Shahid Afridi played his first match for Pakistan against Kenya in Nairobi in October 1996, and did not bat, even though Pakistan lost six wickets overhauling a modest target. Two days later, in his second ODI, against Sri Lanka on a different ground in Nairobi, Afridi was pushed up to No. 3. He showed that Pakistan had missed a trick before, by blasting 102 from just 40 balls. He reached three figures in 37, the fastest in an ODI at the time (and still, nearly 25 years later, the third-fastest).
Afridi therefore misses out on the list of those who scored a century on ODI debut, since his hundred came in his first innings but not his first match. It has to be said that this is rather hard luck on Afridi, and I think he should at least be mentioned on that records page; I've suggested that ESPNcricinfo add a footnote, if that is possible on what is an automatically generated table.
I read that you have loads of cricket books - which one is your favourite? asked Michael Lewis from Australia
I'm aware that I'm very lucky to be able to work from home in a study surrounded by hundreds of cricket books (plus a few on tennis for good measure). That means it's very hard to choose an absolute favourite, and the top ten would probably change every day. That said, a new contender did emerge last year, when Jonathan Rice - in his Notes by the Editors, a look at what the editors have written in Wisden over the years - kindly described me as "the man who quite possibly knows more about cricket than anybody who ever lived". I'm sure he's a long way wide of the mark, but it has to be said the quote could come in handy the next time I want a pay rise!
Even given that description, I don't think my No. 1 book has changed since I was last asked this question. My desert island cricket book would still be On Top Down Under, the study of Australian Test captains by the superb Melbourne cricket writer Ray Robinson. It was first published in 1975, and contains beautifully written fact-filled chapters on all the skippers. The book was sympathetically updated by Gideon Haigh around 20 years later (Robinson himself died in 1982).
I wrote a little more about the book, and my reasons for liking it, in this article a few years ago. And while we're tripping down memory lane, you might also like this one, about book collecting.
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Steven Lynch is the editor of the updated edition of Wisden on the Ashes