Ask The Spider #125

Who are Sri Lanka’s most successful Test bowlers apart from Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas?

No other Lankan with more than 28 Test wickets currently averages under 30 – excluding Tests against Bangladesh, there are a mere 7 other bowlers (plus Marvan Atapattu, a specialist batsman who played 84 Tests against serious opposition in his career, and bowled in a few in 1996/97 and 1997/98, somehow managing to filch a wicket for just 24 runs) who average under 30 even without qualification. Most are strange cases, those who appear for all money as though they should have played more: Vinod John appeared in 6 Tests between 1982/83 and 1984, but took 28 wickets at 21.92; despite consistently a stunning domestic record, all-rounder Hasantha Fernando has still played just the couple of Tests on the 2002/03 tour of South Africa; left-arm fingerspinner Dinuk Hettiarachchi, now 34 years old, enjoyed a relatively impressive debut against England at SSC in 2000/01 but has not played since; Saliya Ahangama suffered cruelly with injuries which prevented him playing more than the three-Test series against India in 1985, in which he enjoyed fine success; Kosala Kuruppuarachchi, who coincidentally turns 46 today, played a single Test in each of 1985/86 and 1986/87, taking 7-85 on debut but being denied by injury and abandonments from playing more than one other Test, a rather farcical affair; and Kaushik Amalean too played a single one-off in each of 1985/86 and 1987/88, enjoying some success in both. Aside from these, the seamers Nuwan Zoysa, Nuwan Kulasekara, Rumesh Ratnayake, Ravi Ratnayeke, Lasith Malinga, Asantha de Mel, Ravindra Pushpakumara, Pramodya Wickremasinghe, Champaka Ramanayake and Dilhara Fernando have all enjoyed occasional modicum success alongside much ineffectiveness (Kulasekara, Malinga and Fernando are all still playing and indeed some may have many years ahead). Spinners Ajantha Mendis, Don Anurasiri, Rangana Herath and Kumara Dharmasena have all enjoyed some modicum of success too; for Mendis, there is genuine hope that much more lies ahead; for Herath, a stop-start international career also appears far from over.

Is Nathan Astle’s 222 the only fourth-innings double-century to finish in defeat?

It certainly is. In fact, it is the only double-century of the 14 which have so far occurred in losses to come in the match’s second-innings. There has, perhaps not too surprisingly, never been a third-innings double-century which resulted in defeat – and about the only conceivable circumstance under which one might happen would be in a follow-on situation.

Which specialist batsman has the lowest Test average against Bangladesh?

Whether Shoaib Malik qualifies as a specialist batsman is debatable – but he was out for a duck in his only innings against them back in 2003, so he has the lowest average of those whose batting ability is considered notable. Ryan Hinds, albeit not representing West Indies’ first team, scored a brace of braces in his sole Test against them in 2009; and the most unqualified (and unalterable) low average is from Damien Martyn, who played against the Bangladeshis once in 2005/06 and scored 7 and 4, for an average of 5.5. New Zealand’s Bradley-John Watling and Grant Elliott also had unsuccessful times in their single Tests, and Faisal Iqbal likewise in his sole game back in 2001/02. They are the only specialists representing a genuine pick for their Test team who currently average in single-figures against the Bangladeshis.

Who are Zimbabwe’s leading batsmen in ODIs against top sides since the 2002/03 World Cup?

Only 7 average over 30 in that time, though remarkably the top man, Heath Streak (principally a seam bowler) averaged 43.26 in the last throes of his career before throwing in the towel in disgust. Grant Flower, who recently made an extraordinarily unexpected return after joining the mass-departures of 2003 and 2004, currently averages 33 and may yet still play again. Only the Ervine brothers, Sean (who last played in 2003/04) and Craig, plus Stuart Carlisle (whose career finished at the time Flower Jnr’s appeared to have) and Tatenda Taibu, also presently average 30+.

And bowlers?

The only bowlers to have bowled any significant amount for any remote success are Raymond Price, Streak and Prosper Utseya. Price has maintained an outstanding record in his disjointed career – currently, he has 47 games against ODI-standard sides for a remarkable economy-rate of just 4.07-an-over. Streak, before departure, conceded 4.36-an-over, and Utseya has played constantly and, while he has proven impossible to get away for fellow ODI low-gliders, and often for most top sides as well, his poor performances against his most frequent opponents South Africa dilutes his record – it currently reads 64 games, economy-rate 4.74-an-over. Still just 25, Utseya should be around for many more years; Price’s time is unlikely to be quite so lengthy, though his record to date is sufficiently outstanding as to render hope that he may be around for a while yet too. Ed Rainsford’s 16 ODIs against serious opposition have produced respectable results – he has conceded just 4.4-an-over and it must be regarded as disappointing that he has not played more.

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