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Ask Steven

Who has played the most Test matches without ever playing one at home?

And who has bowled the first over most often in Tests?

Steven Lynch
Steven Lynch
No other batter has yet gone past Don Bradman's 1223 runs in their final ten Tests  •  Hulton Archive/Getty Images

No other batter has yet gone past Don Bradman's 1223 runs in their final ten Tests  •  Hulton Archive/Getty Images

What's the most runs that a batter has scored in his last ten Test matches? How about ODIs and T20Is? asked Vijay K Singh from India
It's probably no great surprise that the answer to this interesting question, in Tests anyway, is Don Bradman. His last ten Tests, most of them in 1948, brought him 1223 runs at an average of 111.18 - not too bad considering he was 39 at the time. The Don's nearest challengers are the powerful West Indian Seymour Nurse (1117) and the great South African left-hander Graeme Pollock (1100). Another South African, Bruce Mitchell, made 1072 runs in his last ten Tests, while Mahela Jayawardene and Gary Kirsten both had 1003. Two current players are in the mix, although their numbers will surely change: Jonny Bairstow has scored 1061 runs in his last ten Test matches, and Usman Khawaja 1010.
The leader in ODIs is another current player, Pakistan's captain Babar Azam, with 837. He will have to do well to stay ahead of Kumar Sangakkara, whose last ten ODIs produced 744 runs and five centuries - four of them in succession at the 2015 World Cup. Scotland's Calum MacLeod has scored 616 in his last ten ODIs to date, three more than Ryan ten Doeschate managed in his final ten for Netherlands, up to the end of the 2011 World Cup.
In T20Is, Devon Conway has scored 432 runs in his last ten matches, but that number will fluctuate during the current World Cup. Of players who have not appeared in 2022, the leader is AB de Villiers, whose last ten matches (to September 2017) brought him 398 runs.
How often has a T20I been won or lost off the very last ball? asked Michael McCrae from Scotland
By last weekend, there had been around 1850 T20Is, of which 573 reached the last ball of the 20th over of the chase - but we only have ball-by-ball details for around two-thirds of these. Of the 1262 non-reduced matches in the database, we have full details of 441 - and of those, 149 reached the final ball still undecided (with six or fewer runs required).
What happened when the fearsome David Harris bowled Richard Toomer? asked Michael Williams from Hampshire
David Harris was one of the earliest specialist bowlers. Born in Hampshire in 1755, he was able to make his brisk underarm deliveries lift unpleasantly off the rough and ready pitches in use at the time, leaving a trail of smashed fingers "ground to dust against bat, his bones pulverised, and his blood scattered over the field", according to the chronicler John Nyren. Helped by Harris' effective form of attack, the put-upon opponents realised the deficiencies of their crooked bats, which were more like hockey sticks, and straighter bats - resembling the modern-day shape - began to be used.
I haven't been able to pin down exactly when it was, but legend has it that one Richard Toomer was so upset after being bowled by Harris that he stomped off and loaded his gun. He took aim and fired - and hit the target 12 times in a row. Luckily for Harris, Toomer had decided to take it out on the ball, rather than the bowler.
Who has bowled the first over most often in Tests? asked TR Ramaswami from India
As might be expected, the fast bowler with the most caps leads the way here: Jimmy Anderson has so far bowled the first over of an innings no fewer than 274 times in his 175 Tests. Kapil Dev did it 210 times, Glenn McGrath 199, Chaminda Vaas 180, and Richard Hadlee 138.
At the other end of the scale, Steve Waugh played in 168 Tests, and bowled in 108 of them (150 innings) without ever delivering the opening over. His twin brother, Mark Waugh, never sent down the first over either, although he bowled in 128 innings during his 128 Tests. They are the top two, among players who bowled in at least 50% of the Tests they played.
Who has played the most Test matches without ever playing one at home? asked Francis Vernon from England
This is a more complicated one than it sounds, as several recent Pakistan players featured in a lot of Test matches without playing any in their native country - although they did appear in "home" Tests for Pakistan in the UAE and elsewhere. After the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus, there were no Test matches in Pakistan between March 2009 and December 2019. The former captain Sarfaraz Ahmed actually won 49 Test caps, without ever playing a Test in Pakistan, Mohammad Amir 36 and Saeed Ajmal 35. The more genuine answer to this question, however, is the old Yorkshire and England allrounder Billy Bates, whose 15 Test matches all came in Australia, during four tours in the 1880s.
And finally, thanks to all those readers who sent messages about last week's column, about the late Travis Basevi
In case it wasn't clear, the answers were reproduced as they were written at the time, with the date underneath - so some of the information might have been superseded. For example, since the second answer was written back in April 2013, West Indies' Shai Hope (against England at Headingley in 2017) and Imam-ul-Haq of Pakistan (against Australia in Rawalpindi in 2021-22) have also scored their first two centuries in the same Test. Neither has yet made another hundred.
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