Question: In terms of seasons (i.e., 1989, 1989/90, 1990), which has seen the quickest scoring in ODIs? Discounting substandard teams.
Spider says: 2008/09 currently tops this pile; in the 52 ODIs played that season, the average scoring-rate was a massive 5.47-an-over. Not surprisingly, the 9 quickest-scoring seasons (excluding 1972/73 where a whole 2 ODIs were played) have come in the last 6 years, and of the top 15 (again excluding '72/73) all bar one (1997) have come in the last 7 years - including 2009/10, which is not yet even halfway through but is surely likely to remain in that top 15 come its conclusion. This can overwhelmingly be put down to a "standardisation" of the lifeless deck, increased Powerplay overs, boundaries being brought further and further in, and several other general changes in rules and conventions which are designed to increase run-scoring. Yet, it should be noted, the records of bowlers who played in earlier times of overall slower scoring (Glenn McGrath and Shaun Pollock the principal examples) remained untainted as this rise took place, showing that a simple deterioration in quality of bowling has also clearly played its part.
Q: I read somewhere - it might have been on your forum - that Mushtaq Ahmed and Mike Gatting had careers split into two-thirds of being very poor with one-third excellence in the middle. Is this true?
A :Pretty much, yes; the divide in both cases is not into absolutely exact thirds, but there were certainly three distinct periods, of not far from equal length, in the careers of each, with the former and latter being most unsuccessful and the middle being hugely so. Gatting averaged 23.83 in his first 30 Tests; 62.05 in his next 28; and 22.86 in his final 21 (11 of which came after a perhaps ill-advised recall following a three-year ban for captaining the South African Rebel tour in 1989/90). Mushtaq averaged 36.47 in his first 18; 23.40 in his next 18; and 63.23 in his final 16 (a couple of which, like Gatting, came after a recall following a lengthy absence).
Q: How many seasons did Damien Fleming's Test career encompass?
A: Remarkably, little more than 3 - he made a highly successful first appearance in 1994/95 (4 Tests, averaging 25.58); then disappeared completely (in no small part due to injuries) until 1998/99 (where he played 6 more, averaging 28.60); then appeared with more success than ever in 1999/2000 (9 Tests, averaging 22.59). But one final appearance in 2000/01 (where he took 1-99) and that was it.
Q: What is the record so far for wicketkeeping dismissals in an innings in Twenty20 Internationals?
A: Four - as of this column shared by Matthew Prior, Adam Gilchrist (who did it twice), Kamran Akmal and Niall O'Brien.
Q: How many Kiwi bowlers have taken ODI five-wicket hauls?
A: 18 so far - Richard Collinge was the first and joined the not-inexclusive club of doing it just once; 12 of the 18 including Collinge took or have so far taken just the single five-for. The only bowlers to take more than two are, not altogether surprisingly, Richard Hadlee and Shane Bond.