Was Alastair Cook's innings in the Boxing Day Test England's highest score in Australia? asked George Robinson from England
Alastair Cook's unbeaten 244 in the fourth Ashes Test in Melbourne was the third-highest score for England in Australia, behind only Reginald "Tip" Foster's 287 on debut in Sydney in 1903-04, and Wally Hammond's 251 in Sydney in 1928-29. Cook now occupies third and fourth places on this rarefied list, as he also made 235 not out in Brisbane in 2010-11. Only five batsmen have ever scored double-centuries for England in Australia: apart from those mentioned above, Hammond also hit 231 not out in Sydney in 1936-37 and 200 in Melbourne in 1928-29, while Paul Collingwood made 206 in Adelaide in 2006-07 and Kevin Pietersen 227 there four years later.
Cook's innings was the highest by any visiting batsman at the MCG, beating Viv Richards' 208 for West Indies in 1984-85 (England's previous highest was Hammond's 200 in 1928-29). This was one of the landmarks featured in the Percy Beames Bar in the members' pavilion in Melbourne, and the fast-working MCG staff had updated the record wall before the end of the Test.
Has anyone made a higher score while carrying their bat in a Test than Alastair Cook in Melbourne? asked Savo Cerpnich from South Africa
Cook's 244 not out against Australia in Melbourne was indeed the highest score made by an opener carrying his bat through a completed Test innings: the previous best was Glenn Turner's unbeaten 223 for New Zealand against West Indies in Kingston in 1971-72. Four others have reached double-centuries while carrying the bat: Marvan Atapattu made 216 for Sri Lanka against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo in 1999-2000, Bill Brown 206 for Australia v England at Lord's in 1938, Len Hutton 202 for England against West Indies at The Oval in 1950, and Virender Sehwag 201 for India v Sri Lanka in Galle in 2008. England's total of 491 in Melbourne was also the highest through which an opener has carried his bat in a Test: this record was previously held by Atapattu, as Sri Lanka scored 428 in Bulawayo, six more than Australia managed during Brown's effort at Lord's in 1938.
Steve Smith made 445 runs between dismissals at Melbourne. Was this a record for the ground - or indeed any ground? asked Jeremy Davidson from England
Steven Smith had scored 134, 70 and 165 - all not out - at the MCG before his first innings in the Boxing Day Test against England. That tally of 369 runs between dismissals was already the ground record, and Smith extended that to 445 before he rather unluckily played on for 76. There have been only five higher sequences at other grounds: the list is headed by Javed Miandad, who made 533 runs - 88 not out, 61 not out, 280 not out and 104 - between dismissals at the Arbab Niaz Stadium in Hyderabad in Pakistan. That edged out a rather more famous sequence: Garry Sobers made 512 runs - 365 not out and 147 - between dismissals at Sabina Park in Kingston. Next come Sachin Tendulkar, with 467 runs between dismissals in Sydney (241 not out, 60 not out, 154 not out and 12), Marvan Atapattu (465 runs - 216 not out and 249 - in Bulawayo), and Hashan Tillakaratne, with 446 runs (136 not out, 10 not out, 204 not out and 96) at the SSC ground in Colombo.
Steve Smith now has eight Test centuries against England. How many people have made more? asked Richard Daniels from South Africa
Only four batsmen have exceeded Smith's eight centuries in Tests against England, which came in only 22 games (the Sydney Test was his 23rd Ashes match). Greg Chappell made nine (in 35 games), and Garry Sobers and Steve Waugh ten, from 36 and 46 matches respectively. Way out in front is, inevitably, Don Bradman, who amassed 19 centuries against England, in 37 Tests.
Smith is one of eight batsmen to have scored eight Test tons against England, although only George Headley did it in fewer matches (16). Mahela Jayawardene played 23 matches against England, Arthur Morris 24, Jacques Kallis 31, Ricky Ponting 35, Viv Richards 36 and Allan Border 47.
Smith was only the fourth captain to score three centuries in an Ashes series, after Warwick Armstrong (1920-21), Don Bradman (1936-37 and 1938) and David Gower (1985). The only captains to score four centuries in the same series were Bradman (against India in 1947-48) and Sunil Gavaskar (in a six-Test rubber for India against West Indies in 1978-79).
South Africa's Test against Zimbabwe lasted only 907 deliveries. Was this the shortest completed Test match by balls bowled? asked Richard Ward from England
South Africa's embarrassingly easy victory by an innings and 120 runs in Port Elizabeth lasted only 151.1 overs in all. There have been only nine shorter completed Test matches in terms of balls bowled: the shortest of all lasted just 656 balls - 109.2 overs - as Australia (153) crushed South Africa (36 and 45) in Melbourne in 1931-32. That, though, was on a spiteful rain-affected pitch, on which the 49-year-old slow left-armer Bert Ironmonger had match figures of 11 for 24. Four of the other shorter games were in the 19th century: the briefest one since the Second World War came in Wellington in 1945-46, when New Zealand's inaugural Test against Australia lasted only 872 deliveries. The only shorter Test in the current century (excluding the controversial innings-forfeit match in Centurion in 1999-2000) came in Sharjah in 2002-03, when Australia demolished Pakistan in a game that lasted just 893 deliveries in all. For the full list of the shortest Tests, click here (this includes all matches, not just those with a positive result).
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