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Ask Steven

Is Wanindu Hasaranga's 4 for 9 the best birthday performance by a bowler?

Also: who has collected the most golden ducks in Tests?

Steven Lynch
Steven Lynch
Wanindu Hasaranga's 4 for 9 is the best performance by a bowler in T20Is on his birthday  •  Ishara S.Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images

Wanindu Hasaranga's 4 for 9 is the best performance by a bowler in T20Is on his birthday  •  Ishara S.Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images

Wanindu Hasaranga took four wickets in a T20I on his 24th birthday recently. Was this the best birthday bowling performance? asked Anura de Silva from Sri Lanka
The Sri Lankan legspinner Wanindu Hasaranga's 4 for 9 against India in Colombo last week was indeed the best performance in a T20I by a player on his birthday. The only other man to take four was another legspinner, Imran Tahir, who claimed 4 for 21 for South Africa against Netherlands in the World T20 in Chittagong, on his 35th birthday in March 2014. Next comes Francis Damiao Couana, with 3 for 10 for Mozambique against Malawi in Blantyre, on his 23rd birthday in November 2019, and Yuvraj Singh, who took 3 for 23 for India against Sri Lanka in Mohali on his 28th birthday in December 2009.
The one-day international record is held by Vernon Philander, who took 4 for 12 for South Africa against Ireland in Belfast on his 22nd birthday in June 2007; it was also his international debut. England's Stuart Broad claimed 4 for 44 against Australia in Cardiff on his 24th birthday in June 2010.
I noticed that Neil Wagner has now played more than 50 Tests without ever appearing in a one-day international. Is this a record for the ODI era? asked Sanket Singh from India
The World Test Championship final in Southampton in June was the 54th Test match for New Zealand's Neil Wagner - and you're right, he has not appeared in a one-day international (or a T20I) in that time. The record (since ODIs started in 1970-71) is 71 Tests but no ODIs, by England's Mark Butcher, which always struck me as rather odd, since he was an attacking player who had a pretty good county one-day record.
Two Sri Lankans are next on the list: Kaushal Silva has so far played 39 Tests but no ODIs, while Tharanga Paranavitana won 32 Test caps without cracking the white-ball team. The great offspinner Erapalli Prasanna played 27 of his 49 Tests after the first ODI in 1970-71, and never did appear in a one-day game for India.
The Pakistan batter Azhar Ali has so far played 87 Tests without appearing in a T20I while Cheteshwar Pujara is just behind with 86 Test caps before the series against England. VVS Laxman played 73 of his 134 Tests after T20Is started in 2004-05, while current batters Dimuth Karunaratne and Kraigg Brathwaite have played 72 and 70 Tests respectively, but no T20Is. Brathwaite, indeed, has never played a professional T20 match of any description.
Who has collected the most golden ducks in Tests? asked Kerry Canning from Australia
There's a Sri Lankan flavour to the top of this particular list: Muthiah Muralidaran was out first ball on 14 occasions in Tests, three more than his successor as the side's No. 1 spinner, Rangana Herath. The only other man in double figures is Courtney Walsh, with ten, although he might yet be joined by Stuart Broad, who's currently level with Steve Harmison and New Zealand's Chris Martin on nine.
Overall, Walsh leads the way with 43 Test ducks (not just first-ballers), six ahead of Broad, with Martin (36), Glenn McGrath (35), Shane Warne (34), Ishant Sharma (33) and Murali (33) all over 30.
I remember hearing a story about someone who didn't actually see any of the only first-class match he ever played, after a late call-up - does this ring any bells? asked Frank McDonald from England
I think the man you're referring to is Percy Herbert, who is in the record books as having played one first-class game, for the Gentlemen of the South against Players of the South at The Oval in 1920. This was a benefit match for Surrey's pavilion attendant, and as such seems to have been quite a relaxed affair. Percy Fender was the captain of the Gents' team, and on the first day, a Saturday, he discovered he was a man short - so he sent a message to his uncle, a decent club cricketer, asking him to make up the numbers. The other Percy, who was nearly 42 at the time, couldn't make it on the first day, on which the Players racked up 551, with Jack Hobbs scoring 115. Herbert was ready to go on the Monday - but rain prevented any play on that day or the next, so he didn't actually see any of the action.
Uncle Percy is not alone. An entertaining book by Keith Walmsley, called Brief Candles - about those who made just one first-class appearance - was published by the Association of Cricket Statisticians in 2012. It lists a dozen people who never set foot on the field of play, and a couple of them (in addition to Herbert) were probably not at the ground for any of the play that was possible.
Regarding last week's question about players who scored fifties on their one-day and T20 international debuts, shouldn't Robin Uthappa be on the list? asked Atul Kumar Yadav from India
Robin Uthappa hit 86 in his first one-day international, against England in Indore back in April 2006, but he didn't bat on his T20I debut, against Scotland in Durban during the inaugural World T20 in 2007. Uthappa was particularly unlucky, as that match was abandoned - but because the toss had been made, it counts in the records, thanks to an ICC decision from 2004. Uthappa did score 50 in his next match, against Pakistan in Durban the following day. We seem to have this conversation every other week, but that was his second match, not his debut. It's admittedly unfortunate for Uthappa, but if there was a list of such things he'd have to be a footnote rather than an entry on the main list.
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Steven Lynch is the editor of the updated edition of Wisden on the Ashes