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Q. When did Australia abolish the eight-ball over in cricket? Why were they different to the rest of the world in the first place?

A. In the early days of cricket, the five-ball over was by no means universal. For example, in 1895 Alfred Shaw bowled a then record 100.1 five-ball overs in a single first-class innings. As for Australia and the six-ball over, the Australian Board of Control reintroduced this into the Sheffield Shield in the late 1970s after a break of 33 years, coinciding with the board reaching peace with Kerry Packer's World Series of Cricket. It was presumably thought that more bowling changes and a quicker rotation of ends would lead to brighter cricket. The cynic in me, however, believes that the more breaks between overs you have, the more adverts can be incorporated into TV coverage. Incidentally eight- ball overs are still allowed under the rules of cricket.



Answers please

Q. Why does a darts board have an irregular pattern of numbering - 20 at the top and then, rotating clockwise, 1, 18, 4, 13, 6, 10, 15, 2, 17, 3, 19, 7, 16, 8, 11, 14, 9, 12 and 5 - who devised such a strange system? And why must games consist of odd numbers (such as 501 down), always finishing on a double and sometimes starting on one too?


London SE17

Q. Last season, Nottingham's two football clubs both won promotion from their respective football league divisions - Nottingham Forest to the Premiership and Notts County to the Second Division. This term, they both seemed doomed to relegation. Have the fortunes and misfortunes of one city's clubs ever been so closely mirrored?



Q. Tottenham Hotspur recently recorded six Premiership draws in a row. Is this a record?


London N10

Q. When William Webb Ellis picked up a football and ran with it, thus historically inventing the game of rugby, I presume that the ball, being a football, was spherical. When and why did rugby adopt an oval ball? Did other oval ball sports (Aussie rules and American football principally) derive from rugby or did they evolve separately?



Q. It is often reckoned down in this part of the world that Poole, in Dorset, is the largest town in England which has never had a team in the Football League (Poole Town at present play in the Hampshire League First Division and have never been higher than non-League level). Can anyone confirm or deny the truth behind this urban myth?


Poole, Dorset