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Ask Steven

How many batters have scored more than Ben Stokes' 155 in the fourth innings of a Test?

And what's the lowest number of bowlers who took all 20 wickets in a Test between them?

Steven Lynch
Steven Lynch
04-Jul-2023
Stuart Broad and James Anderson have a chat, England vs Australia, 1st Ashes Test, 4th day, Edgbaston, June 19, 2023

James Anderson and Stuart Broad, with a combined age of 78, are the oldest pair of bowlers to take the new ball since 1951  •  Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

In the Lord's Test England's new-ball pair had a combined age of more than 78 years. Was this a record? asked Jeremy Lambton from England
England's opening bowlers in the gripping second Ashes Test at Lord's were Jimmy Anderson, who's nearly 41, and 37-year-old Stuart Broad. In terms of combined age they were the oldest pair to take the new ball in a Test since 1951, when the South Africans Eric Rowan (41) and Dudley Nourse (40) did it in the second innings at Lord's. Rowan and Nourse were really batters - neither ever took a Test wicket - who had a trundle because England needed just 16 to win.
The only England new-ball pair with a higher combined age was Gubby Allen (45) and Harold Butler (34) against West Indies in Port-of-Spain in 1947-48. This is actually the highest instance of all with two supposedly fast bowlers: there are two older new-ball pairs, both involving the venerable Australia left-arm spinner Bert Ironmonger. "Dainty" was 46 when he made his debut against England in Brisbane in 1928-29; in the second innings he took the new ball with fellow spinner Clarrie Grimmett (36). Two years later, against West Indies in Sydney in 1930-31, Ironmonger - by now 48 - opened in the second innings with medium-pacer Ron Oxenham, who was 39; their combined age was around 88½ years.
These instances are taken from ESPNcricinfo's database. But Charles Davis, the distinguished Australian statistician who has re-scored many early Test matches from the original scorebooks, warns: "There are many cases of incorrect second-innings bowling order in the 'received' scorecards for older Tests. Both the instances mentioned about Ironmonger are actually incorrect: in the fifth Test of 1930-31, Oxenham opened with Stan McCabe in the second innings, while in Brisbane in 1928-29, Grimmett and Stork Hendry opened in the second innings. Ironmonger and Oxenham did open the bowling in Melbourne in 1930-31, but in different innings.
Where does Ben Stokes fit in the list of the highest scores in the fourth innings of a Test? asked Martin Steele from England
Ben Stokes's valiant 155 at Lord's was the 27th time a batter has reached 150 in the fourth innings of a Test.
Only 21 of those innings were higher than 155, and just four were for England, whose highest remains Bill Edrich's 219 in the timeless Test against South Africa in Durban in 1938-39. Highest of all is George Headley's 223 for West Indies against England in another drawn timeless Test, in Kingston in 1929-30. (Both these games had to be left unfinished as the England teams needed to catch their boat home.)
Of those 27 scores of 150 or more, 13 came in wins (the highest was Gordon Greenidge's 214 not out for West Indies vs England at Lord's in 1984), nine in draws, and five (including Stokes') could not prevent defeat - the highest in vain was Nathan Astle's 222 for New Zealand vs England in Christchurch in 2001-02.
Stokes was the first to score 150 in the fourth innings of a Test from as low as No. 6 in the batting order. Adam Gilchrist hit 149 not out from No. 7 for Australia against Pakistan, in Hobart in 1999-2000. The previous-best from No. 6, before Stokes' innings, was Asad Shafiq's 137 for Pakistan vs Australia in Brisbane in 2016-17.
Six Australian bowlers took wickets in England's first innings at Lord's. How unusual is this? asked Kasey Anderson from Australia
England's first innings at Lord's provided the seventh instance in the Ashes of six different Australian bowlers taking at least a wicket each. It was, however, their first such instance in the Ashes for more than 60 years, since Sydney 1962-63.
England have done it eight times, and also have the only case of seven men taking a wicket in an Ashes innings, in Melbourne in 1897-98. In all Tests, there are three further instances of seven, and over 100 cases of six.
What's the lowest number of players involved in taking all 20 wickets of an opposition in a Test? I am guessing one answer at least involves Jim Laker. And what's the number for an entire Test match? asked Ashwin from India (not that one, I don't think!)
The Old Trafford Ashes Test of 1956 - when Jim Laker took 19 wickets and Tony Lock one - is one of six Tests in which just two bowlers shared all 20 opposition wickets. It happened to Australia again a few months later, in Karachi, when Fazal Mahmood took 13 wickets for Pakistan and Khan Mohammad seven.
The only instance since then was at Lord's in 1972, when the Australian debutant Bob Massie took 16 of England's wickets, and Dennis Lillee claimed the other four. The earlier instances were by Australia against England in Melbourne in 1901-02 (Monty Noble took 13 and Hugh Trumble seven), England vs Australia at Edgbaston in 1909 (Colin Blythe 11, George Hirst nine), and South Africa against England in Johannesburg in 1909-10 (Bert Vogler 12, Aubrey Faulkner eight).
There are two Tests in which just six bowlers shared all 40 wickets: England vs South Africa at Headingley in 1998, and Sri Lanka vs Australia in Kandy in 2003-04. Only five bowlers took wickets in the 1901-02 Melbourne match mentioned above, but one batter was run-out.
Who was the first man to score 42 in the second innings of his 24th Test? asked Sudarshan Narayanan Poondi via Facebook
This one made me smile, as I think it's a variation on those old jokes about cricket statisticians pointing out things that had never happened before at Lord's on a wet Tuesday afternoon. But it did make me wonder whether anyone had ever done this - and it turns out four people have.
The first to score 42 in the second innings of his 24th Test match was the allrounder Charles Kelleway, in the course of Australia's innings defeat against England in Melbourne in 1924-25. He was followed in 1971-72 by Bruce Taylor, who made 42 not out to help New Zealand force a draw against West Indies in Port-of-Spain.
This exclusive band was boosted in the current century by Chris Gayle, for West Indies against India in Mumbai in 2002-03, and Martin Guptill, for New Zealand vs West Indies in Kingston in 2012.
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