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Ask the Spider: Ask The Spider #98
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Q: And, on that matter, how many times anywhere in Australia has the visiting team won the toss, fielded and gone on to win the match?

A :This has happened a mere 6 times, 4 of which came between 1984/85 and 1986/87, midway through the darkest hour of Australian cricket. The first instance came way back in 1911/12 when England stuck them in at the MCG and triumphed by an innings and 225, but it did not happen again for 70 years, until 1981/82 when West Indies won the toss, fielded and came out triumphant by five wickets at Adelaide Oval. The next four instances (West Indies at The 'Gabba in 1984/85, New Zealand at 'Gabba and WACA in 1985/86 and England at MCG in 1986/87) came during the aforementioned period. By-and-large, Australia have been difficult to beat at home and you have tended to have a marginally better chance if you bat first upon winning the toss.
Q: What is the longest time that's elapsed without the elevation to Test status of a new team?

A: It's difficult to say that, because some teams were never "elevated" to Test status as such - their first games were recognised retrospectively only. As things currently stand, teams' first officially recognised Tests came thus:

Australia and England: 1876/77
South Africa: 1888/89
West Indies: 1928
New Zealand: 1929/30
India: 1932
Pakistan: 1952/53
Sri Lanka: 1981/82
Zimbabwe: 1992/93
Bangladesh: 2000/01

So the lengthiest period between two Test-playing sides' maiden Tests is South Africa and West Indies, but perhaps in reality the lengthiest time is India to Sri Lanka (in that Pakistan was not a new elevation to Test status as such, merely a new political entity carved out of old "All India" which thus gained its own team), which took almost 50 years.
Q: Last week you mentioned the first Test after WW1, and I noticed that England's top three batsmen in that match were all called Jack! Is this a unique occurrence?

A: Well, strictly speaking they weren't actually all called Jack - in fact none of them were. "Jack" Russell presumably earned the nickname from the same place that the more recent "Jack" Russell did, that being the dog - he was christened Charles Albert George. The legendary "Jack" Hobbs was actually John Berry Hobbs, while "Young Jack" Hearne was John William Hearne. I must admit I have not perused every single scorecard in Test history, but I have never yet come across an instance of all of one, two and three batsmen in a Test innings sharing the same formermost name. If any readers know of any, it'd be very interesting to hear them!
Q: England's recent record in Ashes Tests at the 'Gabba, WACA and Adelaide Oval must be absolutely awful because I can't remember the last time they won at either ground, but what is it?

A: Well if we say "recent" as since the 1974/75 series (and excluding the 1978/79 series gives a truer picture, as that was played against Australia A), England's record at those three grounds is dismal indeed - they have played 24 Ashes Tests there (they also played once in 1979/80 in the ad-hoc, Kerry Packer-devised series where there was no Ashes at stake) and their record is won 2, drawn 5, lost 17. One of the couple of victories came at Adelaide in 1994/95 in one of the great against-the-odds triumphs - they were playing with the only eleven fit players they had left in the country. The other came in the game mentioned above at The 'Gabba in 1986/87.
Q: And in contrast it doesn't seem too bad at the Melbourne and Sydney Cricket Grounds?

A: England certainly haven't enjoyed a brilliant time at either ground in the same timeframe with the same exclusions, but they've certainly done far less badly. Aside from 1978/79 they've played 17 Ashes Tests there since 1974/75, winning 5, drawing 4 and losing 8. A variety of explanations can be suggested for this: MCG and SCG Tests are traditionally the festive-season ones where England supporters are most likely to be travelling in large numbers; they have, especially recently, tended to come towards the end of the series where Australia have often already triumphed, and Australia have often suffered from dead-rubber syndrome; conditions at the MCG especially have tended to resemble those at many English grounds more than elsewhere in Australia; and, simply, coincidence - there have generally been more Tests at the 'Gs than elsewhere, so Australia have had more chance to lose there.
Q: How long was Frank Woolley's First-Class career in days - that is, not merely matches played but how many days did it span?

A: Woolley made his First-Class debut on the 7th of June 1906; his last appearance came on the 7th of September 1938. This amounts to 11781 days on which Woolley could accurately have stated "I am an active First-Class cricketer".
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