Q & A: Cricket's highest innings . . . and some sinister batsmen

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In 1899 A E J Collins scored 628 not out in a match at Clifton College. I believe the rest of the team managed little more than 200 runs between them. Are the circumstances of this innings recorded? Was Collins' batting career in any way remarkable before the innings? What was his record for the season, and subsequently?

The highest innings on record was scored in a junior house match between Clark's House and North Town in June 1899. Collins, born in India, the son of a civil servant, was 13.

Collins scored his runs out of an innings total of 836 over four afternoons, the next highest score being 42. He batted for six hours 50 minutes and the 1900 Wisden (which devotes a page to the game) records that 'his hits included a six, four fives, 31 fours, 33 threes and 146 twos'. With Redfern he put on 183 for the last wicket.

As the innings progressed, news of it began to spread and the Bristol Evening News had a reporter on the ground for the final stages, and he helped to spread news of this achievement nationwide. North Town House were bowled out for 87 and 61, Collins taking 11 wickets.

Collins did not play for the Clifton first team until 1901, and then again in 1902. That year his form deserted him, for he was eighth in the Clifton batting averages with 13.90.

On leaving school he joined the Royal Engineers. He was gazetted Second Lieutenant in 1904 and Lieutenant in 1907. He did play at Lord's and his best performance was 58 and 36 for the Royal Engineers v Royal Artillery in 1913.

Like so many of his generation he was killed in war, as were his two brothers. He died during the first battle of Ypres on 11 November 1914, aged 29. - His Honour Judge Anthony Bradbury, Buckhurst Hill, Sussex.

A booklet, A Season's Fame, has been published on the subject by the Bristol branch of the Historical Association. Priced pounds 1.50 plus 28p postage, it can be purchased from 74 Bell Barn Road, Stoke Bishop, Bristol BS9 2DG. - J M Mackie, Fife.

What is the highest number of left- handed batsmen to have played for England in a Test match? And what is the biggest partnership for England by two left-handed batsmen?

Left-handed batsmen have never comprised more than half of any England side. On seven occasions (six in the 1950s) there have been five in the team. The first instance was in 1951 v South Africa (second Test) at Lord's (J T Ikin, W Watson, J H Wardle, J B Statham and R Tattersall). There were then three occasions on the 1951-52 India tour at Calcutta, Kanpur and Madras (third, fourth and fifth Tests). The players in all three matches: R T Spooner, A J Watkins, C J Poole, Statham and Tattersall. The fifth instance was in 1955 v South Africa (fifth Test) at The Oval (Ikin, D B Close, Watson, R T Spooner and Statham). The sixth took place at Lord's in the second Test of 1957 against West Indies (P E Richardson, D V Smith, Close, Wardle and Statham).

The most recent occurrence was the fourth Test of 1961 in the infamous Old Trafford match when England, requiring 256 to win the game which would ultimately decide the Ashes series, collapsed from 150-1 to 201 all out. The players on that occasion were G Pullar, R Subba Row, Close, Statham and J A Flavell.

The highest partnership between two left-handers occurred in the second Test of the 1961-62 Pakistan series at Dacca (now in Bangladesh), when Pullar (165) and R W Barber (86) put on 198 for the first wicket. - Neale Smith, Luton.

This season Tottenham have played Manchester City four times and won every time. Is this a unique achievement? Have any English League teams met five or more times in a season, not including cup replays?

In 1973-74 Newcastle met Birmingham seven times, including one League Cup replay. They had six meetings in 48 days, and met three times in the quickly forgotten Texaco Cup. - Ian Ferguson, Dunfermline.

Last season, 1991-92, Stockport County played Stoke City on five occasions, two in the League, two legs of the promotion play-off semi-final and the Autoglass Cup Final at Wembley. In the previous season County played Burnley six times: twice in the League, two legs of the Rumbelows Cup and two legs of the Leyland DAF Cup. - Stuart A Hill, Stockport.

In 1986-87 Liverpool played Everton five times, twice in the League, once in the League Cup and over two legs in the Screensport Super Cup. In 1985-86 they played Southampton five times, in the League, FA Cup and twice in the Screensport Super Cup. In 1979-80 they played Nottingham Forest five times (League, FA Cup, and twice in the League Cup) and in 1972-73 they played Tottenham five times (six including a replay), in the League, Uefa Cup and League Cup.

In the seasons 1985-86 and 1986-87 Liverpool met Southampton nine times (losing just once). But the record must be that from 1985-86 to 1988-89 they met Everton on 15 occasions in four different competitions, losing only three times. - R Quigley, Keighley.

In 1984-85 Wigan Athletic played Wrexham on five occasions of which no games were league fixtures, as they were Third and Fourth Division clubs respectively. - S P Weston, Bolton.

In 1990-91 Oldham Athletic played Notts County five times; twice in the League, twice in the League Cup (second round, first and second legs), and in the fourth round of the FA Cup. - Ian Bradbury, Oldham.

Has an Oxbridge football Blue ever played professionally?

Maurice Cox, who played for Cambridge in the 1979 match against Oxford and scored after only 20 seconds (Oxford eventually won 3-1), was a professional with Torquay United. He played 49 league games for the club plus 13 appearances as substitute, scoring 13 goals. - David P Toole, Liverpool L14.

Has a passing bird ever been hit by a conversion or drop-goal attempt in rugby union, preventing the ball passing between the posts and depriving the kicker of his score? Have any other creatures had a bearing on the results of any important sporting occasion?

Simon Wood's contribution (4 April) triggered a memory regarding a bird strike I witnessed at the Adelaide Oval in 1984.

I cannot now remember details of the match concerned but a batsman hammered a cover drive which crashed into a seagull on its way to the boundary. The unfortunate bird was pole-axed and to all intents and purposes dead. After a remarkably short while, however, it began to twitch and slowly, to the cheers of the crowd - this was being broadcast throughout the nation and on big screens at the ground - it came round and after a rather jerky run-up and take-off took flight. This spectacle was covered by the match commentator, and the piece de resistance was when the outside broadcast director super-imposed a caption as the bird flew into the South Australian sky. Needless to say this was C Gull, which got another cheer from the crowd. - Adam Browne, Twickenham.

Why have at least two players in the Scottish rugby union team, Tony Stanger and Paul Burnell, taken to wearing thin strips of black tape around the top and bottom of one thigh, connected by a single vertical strip of tape?

Both have weakened knee ligaments, which means that their knees could over-stretch in certain positions. The vertical tape is acting as an additional ligament supporting the knee, ensuring the joint doesn't move into positions that could cause injury. - David Bowen, London SW17.

ANSWERS PLEASE

Why, where and how did that peculiar rolling hand signal, used when players or physios summon the stretcher, originate? - Peter McIlduff, Solihull.

Why are almost all football managers former players? Surely playing ability has little effect on one's understanding of the dynamics of a team. Wouldn't a sports scientist or psychologist be better equipped? - Ben Kaplinsky, Barcombe Mills, Sussex.

If Norwich City were to win the league, which now looks unlikely, would their 7-1 defeat to Blackburn Rovers earlier in the season be the heaviest defeat suffered by a team that went on to win the championship? - David Jones, Ayr.

Wisden's Book of Cricketers' Lives carries obituaries for most of the cricketers killed in the Great War. Is there any comparable record for footballers and rugby players? Colin McIntyre, London SW3.

Why is it that the lower the camera angle, the worse the football seems to be? - Jake Simpson, Stoke Poges.

Every football team seems to have local rivals their fans love to hate. Do rivalries vary in intensity across the country? And are most rivalries mutual? Newport used to have Cardiff as their main rivals, while Cardiff fans considered Swansea their most loathed opposition. Are there cases where a team has supplanted another as a third team's main rival? - Jim Stewart, Gwent.

Last year (4 October) Q & A stated that Derrick Rostagno, the tennis player, had once been refused permission to smoke during a changeover. I have also heard of another player who was fined for smoking on court. How many tennis players smoke? - Kimiko Sano, Bracknell, Herts.

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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