Fast forward to domination

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Q. In the early Fifties, the West Indies cricket team had a spin- force in Ramadhin and Valentine. They have never been replaced and West Indies have relied on a battery of fast bowlers. Why?

A. Clive Lloyd was the West Indies' captain in Australia in 1975-76 when the home side's attack of Lillee, Thomson, Gilmour and Walker (bowlers of pace from quite quick to fearsomely fast) defeated his team 5-1. Three months later, India won the third Test in the Caribbean when the West Indies used three spinners (Padmore, Ali and Jumadeen) who were unable to prevent the visitors scoring 406 for 4, the highest fourth-innings Test victory total.

These two events, coming as they did in rapid succession, soon led to a major change in West Indian selection policy: four fast bowlers became the norm. Victory followed victory. As a price, the balance of the game was to be destroyed for a generation. But that, of course, is another question. - Clive W Porter, Maidstone

Q. Motherwell managed to be runners-up in this year's Scottish Premier with a goal difference of zero. I wonder if any club has achieved the distinction of being runners-up, or indeed champions, with a negative goal difference?

A. I suspect Motherwell are indeed the first team to occupy a second place in any senior English or Scottish League with such a scoring record. Derby County's championship in 1974-75 was achieved with a +18 goal difference, which is the lowest since the 42-game season came into being for the top division. Sunderland's title in 1935-36 was achieved despite conceding 74 goals - scoring 109 was the key to their success.

On the other side of the coin, Sheffield United went down from the Third Division (though in 21st out of 24 places) with a goal difference of +3. The closest a side has come to finishing bottom with a positive goal difference was Small Heath, who were relegated back in 1901-02 with a +2 goal difference. - Joe Deacon, Nottingham

Q. Why are the FA and Scottish Cup finals now on different days?

A. Sky Television has acquired the rights to the Scottish Cup final and is not going to attempt to show it on the same day as the FA Cup final. - Kevin Maguire, Batley

Q. How many of the 22 GM Vauxhall Conference teams would have been eligible for promotion to the Third Division had they won the Conference title? Is the present situation really as daft as it seems?

A. It would make sense for the Football League to insist on allowing only well-run clubs with suitable facilities to be promoted from the Conference. However, the only criterion is that the ground meets certain standards - there are no "management" criteria - probably because the vast majority of League clubs are badly run and routinely experience severe financial problems.

However, it is ludicrous not to allow Macclesfield Town into the League. All League clubs were given two years to comply with the standards laid down for ground facilities.

In fact, Chester City played all their home games at Macclesfield's ground while their own was brought up to standard. Macclesfield have offered to share Chester's ground while their own stadium is improved - and this has been refused.

We are now in the situation that unless one of six Conference teams happens to win that league, no team will ever be promoted to the Third Division. Either that or non-league clubs must find tens of thousands of pounds to get their ground up to standard by 31 December in the season they are trying to gain promotion on the off-chance that five months later they might become champions. What a farce. - Steve Darlington, London SE6

ANSWERS PLEASE

Q. On how many occasions has a rowing eight from another British university or college (such as the University of London, or its Imperial College) been noted to be faster than the crews from Oxford or Cambridge, or both? - Gareth Furby, Wallingford

Q. Throughout his professional career, George Cohen won only one medal - a World Cup winner's medal. Is this true, and does any other player have such a distinction? - Keith Stacey, Wolverhampton

Q. With the Derby being run on Saturday, how do bookmakers arrive at their betting odds, both ante-post and the starting price on the day? And what is the criterion for odds in other sports? - Peter Mitchell, Banstead

Q. Has there ever been such an unsuccessful - and costly - sporting deal as that recently concluded between Nigel Mansell and McLaren? - Tim Mickleburgh, Grimsby

Q. Miguel Indurain, who has won the Tour de France for the last four years, won the Midi Libre race in France on Monday, but why did he not opt for the more prestigious Giro d'Italia, which finishes today, in his preparations for the Tour? - George Turner, Leicester

If you know the answers to any of these questions, or have a sporting question of your own you would like answered, write to:

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