Q: With Neil McKenzie and Graeme Smith's recent 415 opening partnership against Bangladesh, how does this compare to other big opening partnerships?
A :McKenzie and Smith beat the previous Test record by 2 runs; it had been held by Vinoo Mankad and Pankaj Roy, whose 413 set-up a massive Indian victory over New Zealand at Chennai (then Madras) in 1955\56. There was one other opening partnership over 400, again from two Indians, and just 3 shy of Mankad and Roy's record, from Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid in the farcical First Test at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore in 2005\06. There have been 9 opening partnerships between 300 and 400, one third of which have been posted by Smith and Herschelle Gibbs. Evidently something about the South African captain that when he stays there long, his opening partner often does too.
Q: Statistically, who have been New Zealand's two best Test openers over the past 15 years?
A: Since John Wright's retirement at the end of the 1992\93 season, something of a black-hole has often existed at the top of the Kiwi Test order. Such luminaries as Blair Pocock, Darrin Murray, Craig Spearman, Gary Stead (though just 5 times), Matthew Bell, Michael Papps, Craig Cumming and Jamie How have been tried, and none have averaged over 30, though last four have decent to excellent chances of playing again. Middle-order batsmen such as Roger Twose, Lou Vincent, Stephen Fleming, Peter Fulton and Hamish Marshall have also been tried there, predictably without much success. One man who did achieve something was of course Mark Richardson, who famously batted at nine at the start of his First-Class career, but suffered from the yips in 1992\93 and was rarely able to bowl his left-arm fingerspin thereafter. He returned to First-Class cricket in 1994\95 and 6 years later was given a Test opening berth. For the next 4 years he did a fine job, averaging 44.67 in his 64 innings going in first. The next best after Richardson in the time in question was Bryan Young, who opened in Tests 67 times, scoring 2024 runs at 32.12. For a brief time, too, Matthew Horne did a fine job (1038 runs at 45.13 in his first 24 innings at the top of the order) but his form dropped-off horribly, his last 30 knocks as an opener fetching him just 487 runs at 16.79.
Q: How many players have played their first First-Class game as a Test and their first List-A one-day game as a ODI?
A: There are 33 players who have made their First-Class debut in a Test, though this is hardly an even list: 13 of them are from the same match, South Africa vs. England at Port Elizabeth in 1888\89, and 13 more from other Tests in the country between the same teams over the following decade. A further 2 come from the inaugural Test between England and Australia in 1876\77, and just 1 between 1899 and 1992, New Zealand's Graham Vivian at Eden Gardens in 1964\65. There was finally another addition in 1992\93 with Zimbabwe's Ujesh Ranchod who made his debuts at New Delhi, and there have been 3 more since: 2 Bangladeshis in Mashrafe bin Mortaza and Nazmul Hossain, and a Pakistani against Bangladesh, Yasir Ali. No player has ever made his ODI debut without playing a lower grade List-A one-day match first.
Q: Who have been the most successful opening pairs in ODI and Test cricket?
A: The ODI mark is held by Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar, who have so far amassed 6609 runs together when walking out first. Twice this partnership appears to have been terminated, and once before now it has been reunited. With the amount of success the two have had, it seems more than a trifle odd that they have ever been split since they first teamed-up in 1996\97. Had they opened in every one, or at the very least most, of India's 384 ODIs between then and this column, the number they might have by now is truly mind-boggling. In Tests, the mark is held by Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes, the famous West Indian opening partnership. Between 1978 and 1991, they compiled 6482 runs as a partnership. Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden, in just 5-and-a-half years, were not too far behind them, putting on a total of 5655 at the top of the order. Should a partnership between two openers last 13 years again in this day and age, they would be likely to walk out considerably more than the 148 times the Barbadian pair did. But the mark would still take plenty of time to go past.
Has a wicket-keeper ever had a bowl and taken a wicket in international cricket?
Yes, a fair few times. The most recent occasion is Mark Boucher, who dismissed Dwayne Bravo at the end of West Indies' innings in a mind-numbing Test at St.John's, Antigua
Q: We all know Sachin Tendulkar was the youngest ever international player, but who is the second youngest player to have ever represented their country?
A: Tendulkar (who played his first Test in 1989\90 aged 16 years, 205 days) is indeed the youngest player for whom an officially recorded date-of-birth is known, though there are several with assumed dates who are listed as being younger (the most outrageous being Hasan Raza, supposedly not even two-thirds of the way through his 15th year when he first took the field). The next certified youngest is Alexei Kervezee, the Dutch boy who played his first ODI at 16 years, 296 days in 2006.