Ask The Spider #12

What are the best averages in Tests which had results? Taking a minimum of 30 result games?

One familiar face stands out here, unsurprisingly: Sir Donald Bradman averaged 97.71 excluding drawn games in which he was involved. As always, he towers over any pretenders to his throne: Kumar Sangakkara (59.98); Herbert Sutcliffe (59.62); Ricky Ponting (58.56); Sir Leonard Hutton (58.37); Sir Jack Hobbs (56.90); Stephen Waugh (56.66); and Jacques Kallis (52.71).

What was the fastest century scored in a first-class match in terms of minutes and balls?

In terms of real records, made in uncontrived circumstances, the fastest century in a First-Class match in terms of minutes in the middle was scored by Percy Fender. His 113* for Surrey against Northamptonshire in 1920 took only 35 minutes. In terms of balls faced, no record can be regarded as definite, as it is only fairly recently that this has come to be regarded as the fairest way to make comparisons. Since the number of balls a batsman has faced in his innings has been recorded, the fastest un-contrived First-Class century was scored by the late David Hookes, who smashed 107 for South Australia against Victoria in the Australian domestic season of 1982/83. Hookes took only 34 balls to reach the three-figure mark. Fender’s record in terms of minutes was matched in 1983 by Steve O’Shaughnessy, a Lancashire all-rounder, against joke bowling sent down in the final match of a County Championship season by Leicestershire.

Graeme Smith is South Africa’s youngest Test captain isn’t he? I wondered who the youngest was for the other teams.

Smith is indeed (at 22 years 82 days) the youngest captain to lead a South African Test side onto the field, and until Tatenda Taibu was given Zimbabwe’s captaincy in the chaos of 2004 he was the second-youngest of all, with India’s Mansur Ali Khan (Nawab of) Pataudi (Jnr.) being the only younger one at 21 years 77 days. Pakistan’s youngest is Javed Miandad, at 22 years 260 days; Sri Lanka’s, Aravinda de Silva (25 years 2309 days); Australia’s, Ian Craig (22 years 194 days); New Zealand’s, Stephen Fleming (23 years 319 days); England’s, Monty Bowden at 23 years 144 days (this was in 1888/89, against South Africa – in less haphazard times, Ian Botham at 24 years 194 days is England’s youngest); West Indies’, Jackie Grant (23 years 217 days); and Bangladesh’s, Mohammad Ashraful at 22 years, 353 days (which was still almost 6 years after his Test debut). Of these, only Mansur Ali Khan, Fleming and Smith (so far) have settled in for long and profitable spells of captaincy.

In the unlikely event of a player misfielding and throwing the ball over the boundary without it hitting the ground would it be six overthrows?

It is indeed a very unlikely event that a player could throw the ball over the boundary without it hitting the ground. There is no specific rule that says whether, if this happens, it should be given as a four or a six. Law 19.6 only describes how the runs should be awarded in case of an overthrow. However, in the law, the term “boundary” has been used instead of “four”, which could very well mean that in such an event as mentioned above, a six in overthrow would indeed be awarded.

How many 700-plus totals have been scored in Test history? And how many of these came in timeless Tests?

There have been 14 instances of this in Test history, and there are many patterns amongst them. The first four came in the 1930s, a time of prolific scoring: England (in a match not recognised as a Test at the time) flayed West Indies for 849 at Sabina Park, Kingston in 1930; less than three months later Australia scored 729 for 6 at Lord’s; they repeated the trick at The Oval in 1934, scoring 701; and England returned the favour with 903 for 7 at the same ground in 1938 (at the time the highest score ever made). Three of these four games were timeless Tests (the only such ones in the 700-plus list), though surprisingly the one which did not have a result was indeed one of these timeless games, that being the first (which was abandoned as a draw as the England team had to catch the boat home).

There were then two further instances in the 1950s, both once more at Sabina Park: Australia scored 758 for 8 in 1955 and West Indies 790 for 3 against Pakistan in 1958. Both these matches were six-day games and had a result. But there were just two further scores over 700 before the turn of the 21st-century: Pakistan made 708 against England (again at The Oval) in 1987, and Sri Lanka gained the highest Test score yet made in 1997 when they made 952 for 6 in a silly game against India at the Premadasa Stadium, Colombo.

There have been six further instances since 2003, though only two are of great note: Australia (735 for 6 at the WACA, Perth) and Sri Lanka (713 for 3 at Queen’s, Bulawayo) flayed hapless Zimbabwe sides which (in 2003/04, when both scores were made) had little left to recommend them to Test status; and West Indies piled-up 751 for 5 and 747 in consecutive Tests in 2004 and 2005 at the ARG against England and South Africa. The Zimbabwe games resulted in flattenings; the ARG ones barely had so much as a hint of a result. More evenly-matched teams and less supine pitches were in the offing when in 2003/04 India scored 705 for 7 at the SCG and in 2006 Sri Lanka 756 for 5 against South Africa at Sinhalese Sports Club, Colombo. Australia salvaged a draw in the former; South Africa could not in the latter.

Thus, excluding the two instances involving Zimbabwe, 700+ totals have been made at: The Oval (3), Sabina Park (3), The ARG (2), Colombo (2), Lord’s (1), The SCG (1).

What’s the biggest first-innings lead ever taken in a Test?

This came in the Test mentioned above: the timeless game at The Oval in 1938, after England had racked-up 903 for 7, Australia (who were two men down) collapsed to 201, thus conceding a staggering lead of 702. It is impossible to conceive that this record will ever be broken as long as Tests remain 5-day affairs.




Has there ever been an instance where all 10 wickets of an innings been run out or stumped? If not, what has been the most of either?

Comment by William Rice | 12:00am BST 20 April 2008

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