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Ask the Spider: Ask The Spider #110
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Q: Please tell me how many Test matches West Indies has played at The Oval, London & National Cricket Stadium, Karachi, Pakistan?

A :They have so far played 16 at The Oval, the first in 1928 and the most recent in 2004. They have enjoyed mixed fortunes: they did not win until 1950 (whereupon they claimed their first-ever series victory in England) but after defeat in 1957 lost just once again (1966) until 1991; this, combined with the high Caribbean-migrant population in Kennington, led to the ground becoming regarded as almost a home from home in the 1970s and 1980s. But their last victory came in 1988, the number of Maroon-cap supporters at the ground in recent years has declined markedly, and England have somewhat reclaimed their fortress.

At National Stadium, meanwhile, they have so far played 7, the first in 1958/59 and the most recent in 2006/07. Here, they (like almost everyone) have enjoyed no success at all - losing in those first and most recent games, they were also defeated in 1990/91 and 1997/98 (where they suffered a series whitewash). It is fair, however, to say that they could very easily have won each of the three draws, in 1974/75, 1980/81 and 1986/87. In the formermost they were denied by the loss of 2-and-a-half hours' playing time due to a pitch invasion and the heroic batting of the injured Sadiq Mohammed; in the middle game, either side would have had a plausible shot at victory had more than 230 overs been bowled; and in the lattermost, another last-ditch final-day rearguard kept them at bay, but had more than 371 overs been bowled the tourists would almost certainly have been able to claim victory. In Pakistan's 41 Tests at National Stadium, they have still been beaten just twice, by England in 2000/01 and South Africa in 2007/08, though there have been several other close scrapes besides those against the men from the Caribbean.
Q: In 1956, who top-scored in the first-innings for Lancashire against Warwickshire?

A: In the game at Old Trafford early in the season, fingerspinning all-rounder Roy Collins was the leading scorer, making 45 out of the home team's 270. In the game at Edgbaston in late June, captain Cyril Washbrook (by now batting at four at the age of 41) made 78, the standout innings in a total of 172.
Q: Is there any data that shows average runs by batting position in First-Class cricket? I'm interested in the relative value of wickets taken.

A: Unfortunately there isn't - not, at least, of an easily-attainable nature. The most comprehensive source of domestic cricket statistics, CricketArchive.com, has only a relatively limited interactive interface. The only way to discover this would be to search it out manually - and, clearly, the larger the dataset the longer this would take. If you only want it for a short period over a small-scale distribution, it'd not take too long; but with any longevity it would be a project requiring phenomenal dedication. Maybe someday someone will indeed undertake it - until such a time, all the rest of us wait!
Q: Apart from Wilfred Rhodes and Ian Botham, have there been any other England all-rounders to take 50 Test wickets, score 1,000 runs and average the right sides of 30 (i.e., over with bat and under with ball)?

A: No, there haven't, not quite. The only ones who come terribly close are Trevor Bailey (who was within a whisker - he averaged 29.74 with bat and 29.21 with ball) and Tony Greig (40.43 with bat, 32.20 with ball). There are a few others a little further back - top-class batsmen Walter Hammond, Ted Dexter and Frank Woolley (58.45, 47.89 and 36.07 respectively) also happened to bowl pretty well (37.80, 34.93 and 33.91), and exceptional spinner-turned-seamer Maurice Tate (Test bowling average 26.16) could also most certainly hold the willow (Test batting average 25.48). There is also, of course, Andrew Flintoff, whose eventual Test bowling average of 33.34 must be considered a substantial disappointment even though he did about as well as could have been expected as a batsman, finishing with an average of 31.89. 7 others have managed the 1,000-run\50-wicket double: the solid and very unspectacular Geoff Miller; the multi-skilled Raymond Illingworth and Fred Titmus; the eventually-rather-overdone John Emburey; the ultimately highly disappointing Craig White and Chris Lewis; and the long-suffering Ashley Giles.
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