Ask The Spider #43

Which team has declared the most times in Test cricket?

In Tests completed by the publication of this column, the figures stood at:
England – 210
Australia – 178
India – 112
Pakistan – 101
South Africa – 93
West Indies – 91
New Zealand – 70
Sri Lanka – 49
Zimbabwe – 17
Bangladesh – 3

Also, in the recent Test series in India against Australia, India declared in the second-innings of the Second Test and both innings’ of the Third Test. Is that a record against Australia or any other sort with declarations in back to back Test Matches?

It is indeed the first time anyone has declared three consecutive innings’ against Australia (indeed, the first time Australia have been declared against three innings’ in a row). It’s only the 9th time in Test history that anyone has declared twice in the same game against Australia (and 3 of these have come since 2001/02). On 2 other occasions besides this the team concerned declared once more in the same series, but never in the previous or following innings. Bizarrely, in the series in Sri Lanka in 1992, the home team declared in all three Tests, but the last two came in rain-affected matches with nine wickets down and totals of less than 300.

After seeing Brett Dorey take five wickets in Victoria’s run-chase against WA and still see the team batting second get home earlier this week I was reminded of Nathan Bracken doing the same in the famous Wanderers game in 2005/06. Is Bracken the only bowler to do this at international level or have there been others?

Bracken was the third to do this, and there has been one other case since. Kyle Mills appeared for all money to have secured New Zealand victory over South Africa at Kingsmead last season with 10-25-5 but the home team stole the game at the denouement. In 1991/92 at Eden Gardens, in South Africa’s very first ever ODI, Allan Donald grabbed 5 (in 8.4 overs) for 29 but India still won fairly comfortably. Remarkably, in 2004/05, Bangladesh batsman Aftab Ahmed of all people knocked-over 5 for 31 in 10 overs but his haul never seriously threatened to trouble New Zealand.

What’s the most overs bowled in an all-out first-innings (that is, first of the game) in Test cricket in a non-timeless match?

In a six-day game at Kensington Oval in 1955, Australia (in scoring 668) kept West Indies in the field for 235.5 overs before they were dismissed.

How many First-Class teams did WG Grace play for?

According to records currently accepted, 28. These fall into two broad categories: regular teams and random sides which, in this day and age, would never be classed as First-Class.

The latter category, not surprisingly, is the most common: 16 sides, comprising just 61 games, which were either randomly split such as “South of Thames”, or an eleven in the name of their captain (these include one for himself), or combined county sides.

Grace’s main teams were Gloucestershire (360 matches), The South (79, plus another 23 for amateur-only teams), his own London County XI (63), amateurs (Gentlemen) (85) and England-representative teams. 28 of these were for amateur-only sides (Gentlemen of England or of MCC), and another 163 for either MCC or England. 22 of these 163 were recognised as Tests. The strength of opposition in these England-representative sides varied hugely and were not necessarily equable with modern England-representative First-Class games.

Grace also represented other regular teams (Kent and Orleans Club) once each as a guest.

The most remarkable thing about The Doctor, however, is that the first of these games came before his 17th birthday and the last not long before his 65th.

What’s the best and worst result – in terms of total restricted to – having lost the toss and been sent in?

Zimbabwe’s Heath Streak elected to field first at the WACA in 2003/04 when Australia scored 735 for 6 declared, but their team had already fallen to a deplorably weak standard below that expected of Test teams. The best between two serious Test-playing countries was England’s 653 for 4 declared at Lord’s in 1990 after India rather unwisely sent them in. Remarkably, of the top nine scores after being sent in, eight of the teams went on to win the game (though two – India against Bangladesh at Dhaka in 2006/07 being the other – were playing against sides they’d be expected to beat under any circumstances)

The most successful field-first decision came from Australia in 1886/87 when they sent England in at The SCG. The tourists were dismissed for 45, and after Australia made 119 they appeared to have the match in the bag. But incredibly, England stormed back, and ended-up winning by 13 runs. Pakistan managed to convert their bowling Sri Lanka out for 71 after choosing to field in 1994 into victory

What’s the biggest first-innings lead each Test team has taken when batting second?

Sri Lanka lead the way, taking a flabbergasting lead of 587 over South Africa at SSC in 2006. South Africa themselves are next, leading England by 509 at Lord’s in 2003. West Indies’ best was 462 over Pakistan at Sabina Park in 1958; Pakistan themselves come next again with 419 over Sri Lanka at Galle in 2000. The teams already mentioned have the next 6 biggest leads, then Australia come in with 404 over a war-ravaged England at the SCG in 1946/47. England’s best against a serious team, 401, came against Pakistan in 1954 at Trent Bridge. India took a lead of 400 over Australia at Eden Gardens in 1997/98. New Zealand’s best was 374 over Australia at the ‘Gabba in 1985/86. The best Zimbabwe managed before their team fell apart was 83 over Pakistan at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore in 1993/94. Everyone except Zimbabwe could easily have extended their lead as they were not bowled-out, but elected to declare in a bid (successfully, in all eight cases) to win the game.

As a footnote: South Africa, remarkably, took first-innings leads of 418 and 417 within three months of each other earlier this year, against India at Motera and West Indies at Kingsmead. Both these, too, could have been higher had Graeme Smith so desired. And his early declarations were entirely unnecessary as South Africa won with copious time to spare in both games. He could easily have threatened the record he set against England in 2003 and that Sri Lanka had set against his team in 2006.

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