Ask Steven

The quickest ODI chases, and wobbly Test openers

Plus: South Africans carrying their bat, and the best figures by a bowler in his final Test

Steven Lynch
Steven Lynch
New Zealand's frenetic chase in Christchurch was actually the seventh-fastest by the yardstick of most balls remaining at the end  •  Getty Images

New Zealand's frenetic chase in Christchurch was actually the seventh-fastest by the yardstick of most balls remaining at the end  •  Getty Images

Two batsmen made 49 in the Durban Test. Has this ever happened before? asked Lisa Picardo from India
The first Test between South Africa and England in Durban, in which both Nick Compton and AB de Villiers were out one short of their respective half-centuries, turns out to be the 22nd occasion that a Test has included two scores of 49 (that includes three matches where one of the batsmen was not out). The first time it happened was in the second Test match ever played, in Melbourne in 1876-77, when the England pair of Andrew Greenwood and Allen Hill both fell one short of their fifties. There was a unique instance in Sydney in 2009-10, when Pakistan's Umar Akmal was out for 49 in both innings.
Michael Holding bowled nine batsmen in the 1976 Oval Test - was this a record? asked Anand Sankar from India
In that match at The Oval in 1976, West Indies' Michael Holding produced one of the best-remembered spells of fast bowling ever seen. He took 8 for 92 in the first innings - in which Dennis Amiss scored 203 - and 6 for 57 in the second. Nine of his victims were bowled (including Chris Balderstone, Tony Greig and Alan Knott in both innings). That was the most in any Test innings since 1896, when Tom Richardson also bowled nine Australians at Lord's. There were two higher returns even earlier, both by English bowlers against callow South African teams: in Port Elizabeth in 1895-96 George Lohmann's match figures of 15 for 45 included 12 bowled victims, while in Cape Town in 1888-89, in just South Africa's second official Test, Johnny Briggs took 15 for 28, including 14 men out bowled (and one lbw).
Dean Elgar carried his bat in Durban. How many other South Africans have done this? asked Savo Ceprnich from South Africa
Dean Elgar, with his undefeated 118 out of 214 in the first Test against England in Durban, became only the sixth South African opener to carry his bat through a Test innings - and the first since 1997-98, when Gary Kirsten did it with a round 100 against Pakistan in Faisalabad. The previous one to do that was as long ago as 1961-62, when Jackie McGlew carried his bat against New Zealand in Durban. The other South Africans to achieve the feat in a Test are Trevor Goddard (against Australia in Cape Town in 1957-58), Billy Zulch (v England in Cape Town in 1909-10) and Bernard Tancred (with 26 not out in an innings of 47, in South Africa's second-ever Test, against England in Cape Town in 1888-89). For the full list, click here.
How often have both openers in a Test innings been out for a duck? asked Pabitra Narayan Nayak from India
I was surprised to discover that this has now happened as often as 51 different times in Tests, most recently when Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva both made ducks for Sri Lanka against India in Galle in August 2015. The first occasion was at Old Trafford in 1888, when Australia's openers Alec Bannerman and Percy McDonnell were both out for 0 (in fact the top four all made ducks). It didn't happen again for 40 years, when George Challenor and Clifford Roach were both out for 0 when West Indies played England at Old Trafford in 1928, but it has become a more regular occurrence since. For the full list, click here.
What are the best bowling figures by a player in his last Test? asked AK Srivastava from India
The best innings return by a player in what turned out to be his final Test match are 8 for 98, by the Surrey and England fast bowler Tom Richardson, against Australia in Sydney in 1897-98. By the time of England's next series, the Ashes at home in 1899, Richardson had put on weight and was not selected. Ten other players have taken seven wickets in an innings in their final Test, most recently Andrew Caddick, who claimed 7 for 94 to set up England's victory over Australia in Sydney in 2002-03. The legendary SF Barnes actually took seven in both innings of his final Test, for England against South Africa in Durban in 1913-14. For the full list of the best figures in a player's final Test, click here. Barnes, with 14 for 144, leads the way with the best match figures in a player's final Test; Caddick is one of eight other bowlers to have signed off with a ten-for.
New Zealand beat Sri Lanka in Christchurch with 250 balls to spare. Is this the largest margin of victory for a team batting second in an ODI? asked Margareth Schipper from Belgium
New Zealand's thumping victory in Christchurch last week - when they overhauled Sri Lanka's modest 117 in just 8.2 overs - was actually the seventh-fastest by the yardstick of most balls remaining at the end. Top of the list is England's victory over Canada at Old Trafford during the 1979 World Cup, which was achieved with no fewer than 277 balls to spare - but that was a 60-over match. The record for a 50-overs international is 274, by Sri Lanka after dismissing Zimbabwe for 38 in Colombo in 2001-02. New Zealand's margin, however, was the biggest for a team chasing more than 100 in the second innings of the match. For the full list, click here.
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Steven Lynch is the editor of the updated edition of Wisden on the Ashes