Record lows and riding high

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Q. Has any team ever won a Test match by an innings with a score lower than the 300 runs made by West Indies in the recent international against England?

A. England have inflicted this same indignity on the West Indies twice (at Lord's in 1933 and at Leeds in 1957) and did so in successive Test matches against New Zealand in 1958 (again, at Lord's and Leeds). The lowest total to win a Test match by an innings was 153 - achieved by Australia against South Africa (36 and 45) at Melbourne in 1931-32. - M G Taylor, Brockenhurst, Hants

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

A. Spain and England wear blue shorts, yet neither have the colour in their national flags (the English flag is white with a red cross, not the Union Jack). - Martin Nicholson, Betrange, Luxembourg

Q. In the County Championship, which ground is the nearest to the sea? Does this benefit the batsmen or the bowlers?

A. I claim Southend's Southchurch Park as the nearest to the sea as it is only a stone's throw away from the sea. Though it is only the odd game or two which Essex play there, it is nearer to the sea than Hove. - Ace Frehmen, Hockley, Essex

Q. Can anybody provide further information about S F Barnes, an England bowler from 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 players who played for England while playing for a minor county (Staffordshire?).

A. The excellent summary by D T Balcombe of Northwood, of the achievements of S F Barnes, probably falls short of giving full weight to his performances. When Barnes returned to the Test scene, in the years just before the first World War, he played in four of the five matches in the series between South Africa and England in 1913-14 and took 49 wickets, at an average of 10.93. That tally is actually greater than Laker's in the 1956 series against Australia, when he took 46 wickets in five matches (including his 19 in one match, at Old Trafford).

In the seven Test matches in all in which Barnes played for England against South Africa, he took a total of 83 wickets, at an average of 9.85 (an average of over 10 per match).

When first selected for England, which was in the 1901-02 series in Australia, as a virtual unknown, he took five for 65 in Australia's first innings in the first Test; then 13 wickets for 163 in the second Test. After bowling just seven overs in the third Test, he was injured, and took no further part in the series. - J M Smith, West Kirby

Q. What is the closest a Briton has come closest to winning the Tour de France?

A. No Briton has ever come close to winning. Our highest-placed rider, and best-ever overall Tour performer, was Robert Milla. He finished fourth in 1984, when he also won the Mountains Prize, the latter a unique achievement for any English-speaking rider. But Laurent Fignon was unbeatable that year, as was Jacques Anquetil in 1962 when Tom Simpson finished sixth overall and led the race for one day, the only time a Briton has worn the yellow jersey. Millar also won three stages. No Briton has won the points race. With regards to the British Isles, of course, it is different. Stephen Roche won the 1987 Tour, Sean Kelly has finished fourth, fifth, seventh and ninth and won the points a record four times. - Ramin Minovi, Moseley, Birmingham


Q. I understand that handling the ball was quite common in football before the rules were codified. If this is true, what is the true story behind William Webb Ellis at Rugby School? - Chris Westwood, Leeds

Q. Why do men run the 110m hurdles, but women the 100m hurdles? - Richard Shipley, Otley, West Yorkshire

Q. When did the practice of having a tape across the finish line on an athletics track cease? - Noel Paris, Strood, Kent

Q. What became of the French soccer club Stade de Reims, who contested the European Champions' Cup final in 1956 and 1959 but are no longer in the French First or Second Division? When did they drop out of the First Division, do they still exist and, if so, what level are they playing at now? - Tim Adams, Liverpool

Q. At the end of the 1975-76 season Alan Moody scored from penalties in four consecutive matches for Southend United. Has anyone bettered the feat?

- Orestes Townbar, Nottingham

Q. Why does tennis have such a strange scoring system - 0, 15, 30, 40, game. Are the first two points more important than the last? - Tim Bailey, Hove, Sussex

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