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Ask Steven

Has anyone played in more Ashes series than Jimmy Anderson?

And when was the last time three batters from the same team topped the ICC Test batting rankings?

Steven Lynch
Steven Lynch
20-Jun-2023
The Australian team in England, 1893. Back row (left to right): Carpenter (umpire), V Cohen (manager), Affie Jarvis, Walter Giffen, William Bruce, Alec Bannerman and umpire Thoms. Middle row: Harry Trott, Hugh Trumble, George Giffen, Jack Blackham (captain), JJ Lyons, Bob McLeod and Charlie Turner. Front row: Harry Graham, Arthur Coningham and Syd Gregory

Jack Blackham (middle row, centre) featured in 17 Australia-England series of which 11 were officially designated Ashes  •  Getty Images

At Edgbaston Jimmy Anderson embarked on his tenth Ashes series. Has anyone else played in so many? asked Mark Carlisle form England
Jimmy Anderson has played a part in all ten Ashes series since 2006-07, although he might want to forget 2019 in England, when he managed only four overs before suffering an injury that kept him out for the rest of the summer.
There's a complication here in that the Ashes were not officially at stake in several series (including one-off Tests). For a start the Ashes were inaugurated in 1882, after Australia won a Test at The Oval, so were not actually contested until 1882-83. More recently one-off landmark Tests in 1976-77, 1980 and 1987-88 are not official Ashes matches, while the ECB declined to put the urn up for grabs for the three-match series in 1979-80.
And so there are two answers to your question, depending whether you're talking about all England-Australia Tests, or just official Ashes matches. The only other player to have taken part in ten Ashes series since the Second World War is another Englishman, Colin Cowdrey, between 1954-55 and 1974-75, and including six in Australia. Sticking with Ashes-only for now, the English allrounders Johnny Briggs (1884 to 1899) and Wilfred Rhodes (1899 to 1926), took part in 11 Ashes series, while the famed Surrey opener Jack Hobbs featured in ten. Briggs actually almost made it 12 - he was named in England's team for the abandoned 1890 Test at Old Trafford, which does not count in the records. The Ashes-only record is held by another Australian, Syd Gregory, who featured in no fewer than 15 different series between 1890 and 1912; in all, he played 52 Tests against England. His sometime team-mate, wicketkeeper Jack Blackham, took part in 11 Ashes series.
On balance, I think the overall figures for all England-Australia series are more authentic. In all, Blackham played in 17 series against England, to Gregory's 15; another early Australian, Alec Bannerman, took part in 13 (only eight of them official Ashes encounters). Two more Australians, Allan Border and George Giffen, also took part in 11 (three non-Ashes each). Apart from Cowdrey and Hobbs, there are nine further players who have appeared in ten series, including Cowdrey and Hobbs, as well as Geoff Boycott, Graham Gooch, Rod Marsh and Steve Waugh, who all featured in at least one non-Ashes series.
Surrey scored 501 to beat Kent recently. Is this the highest fourth-innings total to win a match in England, or indeed anywhere? asked Chris Harvey from England
Surrey's 501 for 5 to defeat Kent in Canterbury last week was the fourth-highest successful run-chase in English first-class cricket, and second in the County Championship only to Middlesex's 502 for 6 to beat Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge in 1925. At Lord's in 1896, Cambridge University amassed 507 for 7 to beat MCC, while four years later the Players defeated the Gentlemen at Lord's by reaching 502 for 8 in the second innings.
Worldwide, a side has only successfully scored 500 or more to win on five other occasions. The highest is West Zone's 541 for 7 to beat South Zone in the final of India's Duleep Trophy in Hyderabad in 2009-10. The highest fourth-innings total, regardless of result, remains England's 654 for 5 (chasing 696) to draw against South Africa in Durban in 1938-39. For the full list of the highest fourth-innings totals (not just in wins), click here.
The ICC batting rankings going into the Ashes series had Australians in the top three places. When was the last time this happened? asked Jamie Constantine from Australia
The ICC Test batting rankings issued just before the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston last week had Marnus Labuschagne at No. 1, with a ranking of 903. Steve Smith (885) was second, just ahead of Travis Head, whose 163 in the World Test Championship final against India at The Oval boosted his ranking to 884, one more than the New Zealander Kane Williamson.
The last time three batters from the same team topped the rankings was back in December 1984, when the top three were the West Indians Gordon Greenidge (810), Clive Lloyd (787) and Larry Gomes (773). For more details, click here.
I heard that England never lost when Geoff Boycott scored a Test century. Is that true, and is it a record? asked Michael Richmond from England
Geoff Boycott scored 22 Test centuries, and it's true that England did not lose any of those matches. It actually equalled the record at the time, which was held by another famous England batter in Wally Hammond. More recently, Ian Bell also scored 22 Test centuries, and England did not lose any of those matches either. The record, however, is now held by Graeme Smith: he scored 27 Test centuries, and South Africa never lost when he reached three figures. Next on the list is Gordon Greenidge, whose 19 Test centuries all came in West Indian wins or draws, with none in defeat.
At the other end of the spectrum, five batters scored seven Test centuries, but did not win any of the matches in which they reached three figures: Asanka Gurusinha (Sri Lanka), Vijay Manjrekar (India), Lawrence Rowe (West Indies), and the New Zealand pair of Bevan Congdon and Andrew Jones (whose seven hundreds all came in draws).
Louis Kimber was out obstructing the field in a match I was watching last week. How often has this happened in England? asked David Stevenson from Bristol
The Leicestershire batter Louis Kimber was given out obstructing the field against Gloucestershire in Bristol last week, after catching a ball that bounced up against him - he dropped the ball away from the stumps, but was given out on appeal. It's a dismissal that would have been recorded as "handled the ball" until the Laws were revised in 2017.
Kimber's was the seventh obstructing the field dismissal in a first-class match in England (the fifth in the County Championship). The previous instance was by Surrey's Mark Ramprakash, also against Gloucestershire, in Cheltenham in 2011. England's Len Hutton was out obstructing the field - the only such instance in a Test match - against South Africa at The Oval in 1951. Overall, there have now been 35 instances of this type of dismissal in first-class cricket around the world.
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