Q&A: Red mist over filched blue

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Q. Other than Italy is there a country whose national football strip has a predominant colour that is not included in its national flag?

A. There are several nations whose football strip does not mirror their national flag's predominant colour scheme. They include Northern Ireland (green shirts as against white and red flag) and Holland (orange v red, white and blue).

We can also add Cyprus (blue v white and yellow) and further afield the recent England opponents, Japan (blue v white and red), Australia (gold and green v red, white and blue) and New Zealand (white v predominantly blue and red). - Martin Fisher, Reading

A. It has long been a source of irritation to those north of the border (both Scots and English) that the England football and rugby teams include blue in their strips. There is, of course, no blue in the flag of St George.

I note that the English women's rugby team have no blue in their strip. - Peter Moss, Glasgow

Q. Can anyone tell me when the custom of presenting a small bouquet of flowers to the winners at major athletics events began? And why do many competitors throw the bouquet almost immediately to the spectators?

A. Interflora first started presenting a small bouquet of flowers to the winners of major athletic events in 1989 at Crystal Palace, as part of an innovative sponsorship package developed by David Bedford, reviving an ancient custom. The custom began when winners of the Grecian Olympic games received laurel crowns as a "trophy" for winning their event - no money or valuable prize was offered, as the achievement of winning was considered to be valuable enough.

Some competitors complete their lap of honour with the flowers held aloft, while others throw the bouquet almost immediately to the spectators so that they can share in their own triumph and jubilation. - Ginny Bacon, Interflora Headquarters (British Unit), Sleaford

Q. Can anyone provide further information about S F Barnes, an England bowler before the First World War who, according to his Test record, seemed to take wickets when he pleased? I am led to believe he was one of a small handful of cricketers who played for England while playing for a minor county (Staffordshire).

A. Sydney Francis Barnes had a very long playing career (1893-1936), even though he played very little first-class cricket. Originally he played for Warwickshire as a fast bowler without much success. After his Test debut, he played two seasons for Lancashire (1902 and 1903) and after this no further first-class cricket except representative matches. He played for Staffordshire for 22 seasons and took 1,432 wickets at an average of 8.03 runs and in 38 seasons of league cricket he took 3,741 wickets at an average of 6.68 runs.

Barnes's Test career is virtually unparalleled, even though he played only nine Test Matches on home soil, bowling 377 overs and taking 63 wickets at an average of 13.38. In his Test career he took 189 wickets at an average of 16.43.

Barnes could also bat, but often threw his wicket away. When C B Fry asked why he did not try and make runs, the phlegmatic Barnes replied: "If I make a century and take no wickets, would the selectors pick me for my batting?"

In spite of his successes, Barnes was never a popular idol. He was too reserved and stubborn, and he did not play enough first-class cricket, but he still enjoyed a very distinguished career. - Julian V Messenger, Broadstairs


Q. Is Arnold Palmer, who has just played in his last Open Championship, the main reason why today's tournament golf professionals enjoy millionaire lifestyles and play for vast prize funds? - James Addington, Halesowen

Q. In the mid-1980s New Zealand fielded a Test side containing 10 players who had scored Test centuries. Has any country a side of which all 11 players have scored Test centuries? - David Coleman, Welford

Q. Last season, the Diadora League and, I believe, the Second Division of the Belgian League experimented with throw-in rules. Players were allowed to kick the ball into play, as opposed to taking a conventional throw. What were the principal effects? Did more goals come? Was the game speeded up? And were players given offside under the new regulations? Is the experiment to be continued? - Len Griffiths, London SW13

Q. Is there any convention that male tennis players should serve more softly to women in mixed doubles? Has this ever been an issue in professional tennis? - Adam Lavorda, Cairo

Q. What is the closest a Briton has come to winning the Tour de France? And what about King of the Mountains and the points classification green jersey? Also, what were the other jerseys that were dropped a few years ago to simplify the race? - Lumia Kempis, Todmorden

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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