The rail tunnel in Baluchistan which appeared on a currency note

The Khojak tunnel on the way from Quetta to Chaman on the Afghan border was one of the earlier marvels of railway engineering in British India. Opened in 1892, it was 12,870 feet long (2.44 miles/3.92 km) and was the longest rail tunnel in South Asia until the Konkan Railway came along over a century later.

The location of most lines in Baluchistan can be seen here: (Kandahar is a little beyond the border at Chaman).


The story of the alternative routes to Quetta is a long and complicated one and will have to wait till another day. Suffice to say that that the Bolan route involved gradients of 1:25 for several miles which was far more severe than any BG or MG main line anywhere else in undivided India. And double tracks were also used because of the slow speeds although there was little passenger traffic north of Quetta.

You may note a station called Hindubagh on the NG line to Fort Sandeman. As you may guess, it became Muslimbagh while the terminus became Zhob before the line closed around 1990.

You can also see the long lonely line to Zahidan in Iran starting off from Spezand. With luck, it has been running passenger trains twice a month for the last few years.

The southern end of the Khojak tunnel started near Shelabagh station. Note the double line though the tunnel.


And this scene appeared on earlier Pakistani currency notes:

Pak note Khojak

(This note was in circulation from 1976 to 2005.)

A longer article about this tunnel can be seen here:

This site (which became inactive in 2011) contains a number of other articles about Pakistan’s railways by Owais Mughal.

Axar Patel’s feat: 4 wickets for none

With Hardik Patel grabbing the limelight, it is good to see another Patel doing something more constructive such as helping India A to win an unofficial Test against South Africa A – even if it was a ground deep in the forests of Kerala far from any city.

Until now he has been considered more of a fringe player despite having played over 20 ODIs and T20Is without doing anything memorable, though he is remembered more for the X in his first name.

His 4 wickets for none helped reduce his opponents to 76 all out, giving India A an innings victory as well as a series victory. He had earlier taken 5-92 and scored 69 not out in the same match.

Four wickets for none gives him a share in the world record for the best 4-wicket record, which was also achieved by 8 others including Lala Amarnath (who was 47 years old at the time).

4 for 0

It is also interesting to see the best 4-wicket hauls in Tests, especially when the record is held by a relatively unknown player from one of the minor Test teams. The second and the third on the list had reasonable Test careers but are forgotten now. And Appleyard’s 4-7 was the key to New Zealand’s unwanted record of 26 all out, while Dilshan added centuries in both innings to his 4-10.

4wi Tests

A summary of Ashes Tests in England from 1880 to 2015

The first test between England and Australia in England was played in 1880. The Ashes are said to have come into being after 1882, but we shall avoid that quibble and summarize the results of all such Tests since 1880.

England lead 51-49 with 66 draws in these Tests.

The leading batsmen are:


Among those who have scored over 1000 runs, Clarke is the highest among current players with 1296 followed by Bell with 1088. Pietersen might surpass this if he makes an unlikely comeback. Atherton is the only one without a century.

Batting averages (for those who scored above 1000 runs):

Ashes-batting avg

In this case Clarke and Bell are in consecutive places while Pietersen is a little ahead.

Now for bowling:


The cutoff here is 50 wickets. Broad with 61 is the only current player. McGrath is in third place but without a ten-for.

Looking at the averages for those who took over 50 wickets:

Ashes-bowling avg

This table is headed by Briggs (of long ago) and Laker, while Broad is in the lower middle. Underwood has the best economy rate and Briggs the best strike rate.



Haddin has probably finished his Ashes career with 49 dismissals. Border and Grace lead among the non-keepers. The older keepers have the most stumpings, with Blackham leading with 12. Somewhat unusually he has around the same number of catches and stumpings.

Seeing the averages for the above, who made 25 or more dismissals:

Ashes-fielding avg

Haddin surprisingly has the highest rate of dismissals per innings, while Hammond tops the handful of non-keepers.

And finally the all-round performances. As you can see, this requires a some adjustments to identify those who would be generally considered as all-rounders:


Rhodes expectedly tops this list but Flintoff surprisingly comes second. Broad again is the only current player in sight.

Poor performers in the fourth innings

Following up on our earlier piece

we now look at those who have generally performed badly in the fourth innings.

These figures are all up to and including the Tests at the Oval and Colombo (PSS), and do not include the ICC-Aus Test of 2005.

First, batting. We look at those who have played at least 10 innings in the fourth innings for the losing side.




As one may guess, it starts with renowned batsmen such as CS Martin. But there are some batsmen with a generally good record who have done quite badly in this group, starting with HP Tillakaratne, IM Chappell, Kamran Akmal, SR Waugh, JC Adams and SP Fleming who averaged less than 20. In contrast, those who did best in this situation were GA Gooch, JB Hobbs and Mushfiqur Rahim who are the only ones with an average of over 40.

Now for bowling, where at least 10 innings were bowled in the fourth innings for a losing side. This list is relatively shorter with only 22 entries compared to over 100 for batting.


FH Edwards has a particularly bad average here, followed by part-timer MN Samuels. Botham. Harbhajan and Vettori are among others with averages above 50.

Walsh, Akram and Willis have done best under these conditions.

Finally, fielding. We consider wicket-keepers who have fielded in at least 10 innings for the losing side in the fourth innings:


While Mushfiqur Rahim has the worst figures here, better-known keepers such as IDS Smith, TG Evans and IA Healy also did not do well. RD Jacobs, MV Boucher and RC Russell did best under these conditions.

The shortest flights in India and elsewhere

As we have seen in the previous article, there are many international flights which cover over 10,000 km non-stop. The ultimate aim would be to have an aircraft which has a range of about 20,000 km (being half the circumference of the earth) which could travel between any two points on the globe without stopping. It would, of course, be useful to have such a missile and probably the US, Russia and even North Korea must have done something towards this end.

Now we look at short flights in India at present. This would appear to be Mumbai-Pune, operated by a 737-800 of Jet Airways. The point-to point distance is 123 km but distance flown may be as much as 211 km (which can be seen from sites such as ) Quite wasteful for a 737. Other flights under 200 km include Kolkata-Durgapur (164 km), Diu-Porbandar (167 km), and Kochi-Thiruvanthapuram (195 km, actual distance flown 237 km). Some of these sectors are covered by ATR turboprops, others by 737s or A320s which probably doesn’t do much for fuel efficiency.

In the last decade, there have been flights linking Kanpur and Lucknow (63 km) and Jorhat and Lilabari (also 63 km). In the former case the airports are quite far from the city centre so even ordinary buses may turn out to be faster. However, IIT Kanpur now has a helicopter service linking its campus to Lucknow airport. In the latter case there is no satisfactory land route, and it involves crossing the Brahmaputra where, until recently, there was no bridge for hundreds of km.

The real record was held by the Tripura hopper operated by the then IAC in the early 70s, which linked Calcutta with Agartala, Khowai, Kamalpur and Kailashahr with a DC-3.

The distances were:

Agartala-Khowai: 42 km

Khowai-Kamalpur: 23

Kamalpur-Kailashahr: 28

And there are Pawan Hans helicopter services in Arunachal Pradesh which may have similar sector lengths.

Here is an article which mentions the shortest international flights: Kinshasa-Brazzaville (20 km) and Vienna-Bratislava (30 km):

But the clear champion for the world’s shortest flight goes to Loganair’s flight between Westray and Papa Westray in Scotland’s Orkney Islands. This has been appearing in the Guinness Book since at least the 80s, and many articles and videos can be found on the net. This flight is timetabled at 2 minutes but can cover the distance of less than 3 km in 47 seconds in favorable winds. The present fare appears to be about USD 30. Here is a typical description along with a video:

Longest non-stop flights within India

(Revised and updated in February 2017).

In 2015 Emirates announced the advent of what would be the world’s longest non-stop flight between their Dubai hub and Panama City with an estimated flight time of over 17 hours.  That service has not started yet. The current longest service (in km) is the Qatar Airways flight between Doha and Auckland, which is 14,534 km.It is scheuled at 17 hours 40 minutes. Details of these and other long hauls are given here:

Note that the Delhi-San Francisco flight over the Pacific may turn out to be somewhat longer than 14500 km although the time taken is less than 15 hours due to tailwinds. It has once flown 16980 km in 14 hours 5 minutes.

This made one wonder which would be the longest non-stop flights within India. There are numerous websites where the great-circle distance can be found merely by feeding in the airport codes, such as:

This site also gives details of the actual distance flown which will be more than the great-circle distance which is the theoretical minimum:

We get these as the four longest non-stop flights wholly within India:

(This has been updated with the inauguration of the Delhi-Thiruvananthapuram non-stop service by Indigo in January 2016)

Delhi-Thiruvananthapuram (DEL-TRV): 2224 km great circle, actual 2301 km, time 3 hr 20 minute (scheduled)-one pair of flights by Indigo daily.

Mumbai-Guwahati (BOM-GAU): 2073 km great circle, actual 2207 km, time 2 hr 55 minute (scheduled)-two pairs of flights by Indigo daily.

Delhi-Kochi (DEL-COK): 2040, 2112,3:10

Bengaluru-Guwahati (BLR-GAU): 2036, 2113,2:45

As you can see, scheduled timings depend on wind and other factors so the DEL-COK flight ends up taking slightly longer than the BOM-GAU flight.

There are various multi-leg flights which are longer: Delhi-Kolkata-Port Blair (1315 + 1301 = 2616) and Dehradun-Delhi-Bengaluru-Thiruvananthapuram (207 + 1703 + 529 =2439 km). A single-leg flight on these routes would be 2480 and 2407 km respectively, which should be technically feasible but would not attract enough traffic to be economic.

The same article also gives details of the longest flights for different aircraft models as well as airlines (though it does not include Spicejet and Indigo):

You can also look up the shortest flights, in which tells us that the shortest scheduled airline flight is 93 km between Mumbai and Pune, operated by Jet. There are scheduled helicopter flights in the North-East operated by Pawan Hans which may be shorter.

In the Dakota age, there were some legs operated by Indian Airlines which were less than 50 km, as summarized in:

which mentioned one sector in Tripura which was 21 km long.

Here is a news item about the DEL-TRV flight:

Catching records in Tests

Fielding statistics do not get as much prominence as batting and bowling statistics. Even then, usually the wicketkeeper’s figures are usually given more prominence than that of ordinary fielders.

The present record for catches in the field in an innings is 5 (shared by several, starting with VY Richardson) and in a match it is 8 (where AM Rahane stands alone, followed by several with 7).

Here is a chronological list of all those who have taken 5 catches in an innings:


And a chronological list of all those who have taken 7 or more catches in a match:


VY Richardson had  reasonable success at a batsman for Australia in the 1920s and 1930s, including the Bodyline series. He became the first of several to take 5 catches in an innings in his final Test at Durban. He took one catch in the first innings and 5 in the second.

Later generations would know him better as the maternal grandfather of the Chappell brothers. When he passed away in 1969, he had seen Ian well set in the Australian team although Greg and Trevor were yet to play for their country.

In 1974, Greg Chappell became the first to take 7 catches in a match. This came in the series which some called “Reverse Bodyline” where Lillee and Thomson swept all before them in a 4-1 win. He took 3 catches in the first innings and 4 in the second.

Thus both the records remained within the family until early 1977, when Yajuvendra Singh made his debut.

It had been a traumatic series for India with England winning three Tests in a row, thus sealing the fate of the series before the 4th Test started. India batted first, but YS did not do much, scoring 8 and 15 in the match. He equalled the innings record in the first innings with 5 catches, and added 2 more in the second to equal the record. India won this Test and the final result was an England win at 3-1.

After this, the feat of taking 5 in an innings and 7 in a match became common. But Yajurvindra Singh remains the only one to achieve these on his debut, a small consolation for a disappointing 4-Test career though he did well enough in first-class cricket. He was distantly related to Ranjitsinhji and Duleepsinhji.

We finally move on to the anti-climactic Test at Galle in 2015 where India failed to chase 176-but this was on a ground where the highest winning fourth-innings chase was 99. AM Rahane took 3 catches in the first innings an 5 in the second, thus getting a share in the innings record and becoming the only one to take 8 catches as a fielder in Tests.

(His own page has not been updated at the time of writing).

In all first-class cricket, the record is 7 catches in an innings. There are several with 6 catches:


While the record for a match is 10 by Hammond. Rahane just gets into the top part of the first-class record: