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Ask the Spider: Ask The Spider #92
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Q: You've often referred in your articles to Tests which were only recognised as such retrospectively - is there any chance you could tell us just what that involves and when the first time people actually started to consider the idea of Test cricket was?

A :Well there were a lot of private tours conducted by English cricketing gentlemen in the 1870s and 1880s particularly - tours by teams not remotely thought to be being sent by the host country to represent them. Yet on occasions (as in what is now recognised as the very first Test series) the sides had enough competition from Australian teams (who mostly lined-up against odds - e.g., thirteen players vs. eleven) for the challenge to be issued to play eleven-vs.-eleven matches. On some such occasions, later authorities deemed that these matches were to be Test matches. The logic of this is questionable to say the least, but it is extremely unlikely that the decisions will ever be reversed as the early Tests are now in many respects quite revered. The most ludicrous of all is the application of status to games in South Africa in the 19th-century, as their teams were not remotely good enough to merit it. Pretty much all early Tests in England - including the very first in 1880 - however, did involve the suggestion of the best Australia had to offer being sent over and the best England could put out (though selectors were not used until the early 20th-century) being drawn to compete. As the 20th-century dawned and MCC took control of English cricket in its entirety (previously they had just been a body who oversaw the rules), then soon international cricket - the creation of the ICC in 1907 being an example of this establishment of control - organisation became much better and the idea of MCC picking and sending the best team available, especially to Australia, to compete in pre-scheduled Test series' was implemented. But there were still occasional matches which were ruled Test retrospectively, some as late as the 1930s.
Q: The question last week about Ewen Chatfield (who had a really late blooming and consequently his career average doesn't give an accurate indication of his effectiveness) prompts me to ask the same of Dayle Hadlee, whose career record is also surprisingly modest. Was he similar?

A: Hadlee Snr. was actually the other way around - his first 11 Tests brought him an excellent 35 wickets at 24.02. But his next 13 brought him 33 at 40.69, and he was eventually dropped from the side. He returned for a couple of even less successful matches on a one-off basis.
Q: Did Dickie Bird Umpire more ODIs in England in the 1970s than anyone else?

A: Yes, he did - 15 matches. Though David Constant with 14 almost matched him.
Q: I've often heard you refer to West Indies' invincibility between 1976 and 1986 - what exactly was their record in that decade?

A: Quite remarkable, nothing short of. They were involved in 15 Test series' over that time (excluding the ludicrous ones which their effective A-team played against Australia A in 1978 and India in 1978/79 when Kerry Packer had temporarily decimated World cricket), featuring 71 Tests of which they lost just 5 (1 of these was a very-dead match and another is widely accepted to have been influenced by diabolical Umpiring - that being the one-wicket defeat in New Zealand in 1979/80 which cost them their only series defeat of the period). Only once, in Australia in 1981/82, would it be fair to say they were taken on and matched as equals; the ultimate example of their supremacy came when they went to India in 1983/84 and won a six-match rubber three-nil, almost exclusively on the back of the bowling of their seamers.
Q: What is the biggest partnership in a Youth Test?

A: The record-holders here currently hold it by a considerable margin - Gautam Gambhir and Vinayak Mane put-on 391 against England under-19 (whose bowling attack featured Monty Panesar), to stave-off defeat after they had been asked to follow-on at Chepauk Stadium, Chennai in the Second Youth Test in 2000/01. The next-best is a "mere" 287, put on by Daniel Redfern and Greg Smith against New Zealand under-19 in England under-19's first-innings of the First Youth Test of 2008.
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