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Ask Steven

Which Test team had the most players with 100 caps?

And what is the highest partnership by a pair of debutants in all formats?

Steven Lynch
Steven Lynch
15-Dec-2020
The West Indies players line up before start of play, New Zealand vs West Indies, 2nd Test, Wellington, 1st day, December 11, 2020

The last names of West Indies' XI for the second Test in New Zealand fit neatly into the first ten letters of the alphabet  •  Getty Images

The West Indies team for the second Test appeared to have been selected using a Scrabble set - the batsmen's surnames all begin with B or C, the wicketkeeper with D, and the bowlers with G, H or J! Has there ever been a Test XI with no one beyond J in the alphabet before? asked Anthony Pritchard from England
The West Indies team against New Zealand in Wellington, with no one's surname starting later than the tenth letter of the alphabet - Alzarri Joseph comes last in alphabetical order - is unusual. But it's always dangerous to say that something has never happened before in cricket, and it turns out this has: when West Indies played Pakistan in Sharjah in 2001-02, their last surname in alphabetical order was wicketkeeper Ridley Jacobs.
But England had already gone better still: against Pakistan in Karachi in 1987-88, all their players' surnames came from the first seven letters of the alphabet, with Graham Gooch bringing up the rear.
This set off a discussion in ESPNcricinfo Towers about the player whose surname would score you the most points in Scrabble. It's complicated by some subcontinental names - which part do you use? - but Shiva Jayaraman of the stats team was last seen scurrying into a darkened room, coffee in hand, to work it out. My money's on Rizwan-uz-Zaman!
When I tuned in to the Wellington Test, Joshua Da Silva and Chemar Holder were batting together - which made me wonder: what is the highest partnership by a pair of debutants in all formats? asked Roger Sawh from Canada
There have so far been 12 partnerships of 100 or more (plus one of 99) by two Test debutants. Top of the list, by quite a distance, is the opening stand of 249 by Billy Ibadulla (166) and Abdul Kadir (95) for Pakistan against Australia in Karachi in 1964-65. Next comes a sixth-wicket partnership of 165, by Dave Houghton (121) and Andy Flower (59) in Zimbabwe's first Test, against India in Harare in 1992-93.
There has been only one century stand by a pair of debutants in one-day internationals - 118 for the fifth wicket (after being 20 for 4) by Ryan Watson and Neil McCallum for Scotland against Pakistan in Edinburgh in 2006.
And the highest stand by debutants in a T20I is an unbroken one of 90, for Mozambique's sixth wicket against Malawi, by Damiao Couana and Filipe Cossa in Lilongwe in November 2019.
How many times has a team scored the highest total of a Test in the fourth innings and still lost? asked Francis Curro from Australia
There have now been 47 Tests in which the fourth-innings total was the highest of the match. Of those, 16 have not been enough to stave off defeat. The highest fourth-innings total that still resulted in a loss was Pakistan's 450, after being set 490 to win by Australia in Brisbane in 2016-17.
Of the rest, 24 have produced wins: the highest such total is West Indies' 418 for 7 against Australia (who had scored 417 in their second innings) in St John's, Antigua in 2003-04. And seven times such a score has forced a draw, most notably when England amassed 654 for 5 in the timeless Test in Durban in 1938-39.
Which Test team contained the most players who had 100 caps? asked Rajiv Radhakrishnan from England
During 2006-07, Australia played five matches with four players who had 100 or more caps to their name. India equalled this late in 2007, and over the next couple of years played several Tests with four centurions in their ranks. In one of these, against Australia in Delhi in 2008-09, they came very close to fielding five, as VVS Laxman was winning his 99th cap. He made it to 100 in the next game. Anil Kumble retired after that Delhi match - his 132nd Test - leaving Laxman alongside Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar.
On 13 occasions in the 1990s, Australia fielded a team containing eight players who finished their careers with 100 or more Test caps, although they had not all reached three figures at the time. The World XI that took on Australia in the Super Series Test in Sydney in 2005-06 had nine players who would finish with more than 100 caps.
I just noticed that all of the Australian team from the first ODI are still living. What's the earliest Test side in which all the players are still alive? asked Gary Reid from Australia
I'm always a little nervous about this sort of question, but it's true to say that as I write all 11 members of Australia's side in the first official one-day international, in Melbourne in January 1971, are still alive nearly 50 years on. Three of the England players - Colin Cowdrey, Basil D'Oliveira and John Hampshire - have sadly passed away.
The oldest Test team from which all 11 members currently survive dates from around 14 months earlier: all 11 of Pakistan's players who took on New Zealand in Lahore in October 1969 are still alive. They are all over 70 now: the oldest, Intikhab Alam, will be 79 in two weeks' time.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the updated edition of Wisden on the Ashes