Question: How many times in Tests has a second-innings declaration with more than a single wicket remaining resulted in defeat?
Spider says: There are 8 instances of this in Test history, plus another 2 when the declaring side was 9 down. The most recent was Graeme Smith's at The SCG, as he forlornly looked to beat the rain and salvage a 1-0 deficit in the series against Australia. In 2001, Adam Gilchrist, standing-in for Stephen Waugh at Headingley with the Ashes already in the bag and a whitewash eminently possible, was coerced by damp weather into setting England what would normally have been an out-of-reach 315. Mark Butcher's sensational 173*, however, sealed an easy win for his side, and averted the whitewash. Clive Lloyd famously set India a seemingly impossible 403 (only once had 400 been chased successfully in a Test, that too after a declaration) at Queen's Park Oval, Port-of-Spain in 1976, saw his three specialist spinners fail to defend it, and turned shortly afterwards to 4-man seam attacks. In 1968\69, Lloyd had been part of a West Indies side that made Graham Dowling's target-setting look extremely unwise at Eden Park, Auckland by easily chasing 345. And once again he was present when Sir Garfield Sobers reportedly became so frustrated with England's slow over-rates in the deciding Test of the series in 1968 at Port-of-Spain that he declared on 92 for 2, giving them a simple chase of 215. 47 years before Smith, another South African captain, Dudley Nourse, found himself in a similar position, and set England 172 to win at Port Elizabeth, to which England blasted their way, though not without alarm, finishing 7 wickets down. Australia truly were invincible in England in 1948, and even managed to score 404 for 3 after Norman Yardley had thought he might have been in with an outside chance of an upset. As in 2001, this game was played at Headingley. The earliest instance was an absurd match at Kensington Oval, Bridgetown in 1935 (until 1993, West Indies' only Test defeat at the ground) when a sticky wicket made batting almost impossible. Just 112 overs were bowled all game, the scores reading: West Indies 102 all out, England 81 for 7 declared, West Indies 51 for 6 declared, England 75 for 6. Rarely has the backfiring declaration come under routine circumstances.
Q: For each of the Test playing nations which ground do they enjoy playing at most (win:loss ratio) and which ground do they have the least success at?
A :Taking a minimum of 5 Tests at a ground, Australia's best ground, by a considerable distance, is Newlands in Cape Town, South Africa. They have won an astounding 9 out of their 10 Tests there, and lost the other. England's best ground is the Jade Stadium, Christchurch in New Zealand, where they have won 8, lost 1 and drawn 6. India's favourite ground, not surprisingly, is a home one: Sardar Patel Stadium, Motera, Ahmedabad, though with a game coming-up and just 4 results this may change soon. As of this column, they have won 3, lost 1 and drawn 4. Remarkably, India's top 8 grounds are all home ones; their best away is the decidedly subcontinental Queen's Park Oval, Trinidad, where they have won 3, lost 3 and drawn 6. New Zealand, too, enjoy best a home ground: Seddon Park, Hamilton, where they have just beaten England to take their record to 6 wins, 2 defeats and 6 draws. Pakistan's best ground is so by an even more remarkable margin than Australia's: at National Stadium, Karachi they have won 21 times, lost just twice and drawn 17. Until December 2000, Pakistan had not lost once in the 34 Tests on the ground, but recently have been defeated by England and South Africa. South Africa's record at SuperSport Park, Centurion is sensational, too, with 10 victories, 1 defeat and 2 draws. Each of these 3 failures has occurred against England, and each time the match has been rain-affected, including the infamous fixed match in 1999\2000. Sri Lanka's best ground is Galle, with 6 victories, 2 defeats and 4 draws. West Indies' best ground is the WACA in Perth, where they have won 5 and lost 1, and until December 2000 it had been 5 out of 5. Better still until May 2003 was Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, where they had 19 victories, 15 draws and just 3 losses (none of which occurred between 1936 and 1992). Before their team crashed and burned following the 2003 World Cup (after which they have avoided defeat against teams other than Bangladesh just once in 14 games), Zimbabwe's best ground had been Harare Sports Club, though not quite so impressive as any of the previous teams, with 4 wins, 10 defeats and 7 draws. At no other ground had they won more than a single Test. Bangladesh, of course, have won just a single game themselves, against a Zimbabwe rabble at MA Aziz Stadium, Chittagong.
Q: After Ryan Sidebottom's 10-wicket haul in the loss against New Zealand, I wondered how many other bowlers have taken 10-fors yet still tasted defeat?
A: Sidebottom's case was the 63rd such in Test history, involving 55 different players. Wasim Akram has been unfortunate enough to take 10 in a match yet lose on 3 separate occasions, at The Recreation Ground, St.John's, Antigua in 2000; at The MCG in 1989\90; and in just his 2nd game at Carisbrook, Dunedin in 1984\85. Tom Richardson, Hugh Trumble, Shane Warne, Daniel Vettori and Muttiah Muralitharan have also had this misfortune twice. The best figures in defeat were achieved by Javagal Srinath, who took an astounding 13-132 against Pakistan at Eden Gardens, Kolkata in 1998\99 but saw his team lose. SF Barnes, Merv Hughes and Richardson also took 13 wickets in defeat.
Q: We all know Glenn McGrath's 19 dismissals of Michael Atherton is a record, but which bowler comes next in the most dismissals of a single batsman stakes?
A: Before Atherton came along, Alec Bedser was clear of the field here. He dismissed Australian opener Arthur Morris 18 times between 1946 and 1954\55. Not surprisingly, the top five on this list is all composed of opening bowlers and opening batsmen. Third and fourth is also Atherton, who fell to Curtley Ambrose and Courtney Walsh 17 times each, while Malcolm Marshall picked-up Graham Gooch's wicket on 16 occasions. In a roundabout way, it's possible to view Atherton's common dismissals as a strength, in that he rarely fell to lesser bowlers. Ambrose, McGrath and Walsh also feature prominently with other batsmen: they dismissed Mark Waugh, Brian Lara and Ian Healy 15 times each.
Q: Which batsman has the highest career runs before their first dismissal in Test matches?
A: Jacques Rudolph, who scored 293 (222* and 71) in his first two Test innings, both against Bangladesh in 2002\03, holds this record, just beating RE Foster, who scored 287 in his first innings 99 years before, against Australia at The SCG.
Q: Who has scored the most runs outside their home country?
A: Three out of the four batsmen on this list made England suffer with their batting. Unsurprisingly, Donald Bradman leads the way, scoring 2674 runs in England. Unlike other records, he is followed closely: by Jack Hobbs, with 2493 runs in Australia; by Allan Border, with 2082; and Vivian Richards, with 2057, both in England.
Q: What is the least number of runs a chasing side has fallen short by to draw, rather than lose, a Test?
A: England missed victory by just a single run in Bulawayo in 1996\97 (and their coach David Lloyd was sufficiently dissatisfied by the Zimbabwean bowlers' tactics to opine that "we flippin' murdered 'em" after the game, earning himself an official censure), the only instance of a Test being drawn with the scores level. England required a single to win off the last ball, but lost their 6th wicket when Nick Knight was run out. Other instances of teams falling just short without losing are India (by 6 runs) against West Indies at the Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai in 1947\48; England (by the same margin against the same opposition) at Lord's in 1963; Australia (8 runs) against England at The MCG in 1974\75; and India (9 runs) against England at The Oval in 1979. All of these teams, however, were 8 or 9 wickets down, and almost as likely to lose as win.