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Series Points – A New Way of Ranking Test Players – the 1950s

Series Points - A New Way of Ranking Test Players - the 1950s

Series Points – A New Way of Ranking Test Players
The 1950s

This article is the latest in a series which introduces Series Points, a new ranking method for Test players which directly compares all players together (i.e. batsmen and bowlers as well as fielding ability), whilst also awarding more points to players who performed well against stronger opposition (the original article has a more detailed description of series points for teams and individuals, suffice to say here that we divide up the team series points [TSPs] into individual series points [ISPs] based on their performances with bat, ball and in the field).

I also covered in the original article the Test Player of the Decade for the 1930s, following which we have looked at the 1920s, 1940s, the 19th century and the Golden Age.

Player of The Decade – the 1950s

At this point, we’re finally getting to the point where we’re seeing cricketers featured whom some of us may admit to having seen play (although they would have to have still been playing in the ’70s for me to have seen them). The top players are presented using two variations on ISPs, total ISPs and ISPs per 5-game series (basically points-per-match, but multiplied by five to make the variations easier to see).

Player of the Series – the Golden Age

Nowadays a Player of the Series is awarded for Test series’, so for interest here is a list of the Test series’ played during the years 1950-1959, with the Player of the Series identified for each multi-Test series based on ISPs. The post-WWII period saw a dramatic increase in the number of series and Tests played – there were 40 series/169 Tests played during the 1950s, as against only 23/89 during the 1930s (obviously the number of Tests played during the 1940s was severely reduced by the war), so there are several players who achieved multiple Player of the Series awards:-

Year Tourists Host Result Player(s) of the Series ISPs TSPs %age
1950 West Indies England 3-0-1 FMM Worrell (WI) 110 609 18.1%
1950-1 England Australia 1-0-4 KR Miller (Aus) 124 737 16.8%
1950-1 England New Zealand 1-1-0 TE Bailey (Eng) 84 303 21.9%
1951 South Africa England 1-1-3 AV Bedser (Eng) 91 582 15.6%
1951-2 England India 1-3-1 MH Mankad (Ind) 93 472 19.7%
1951-2 West Indies Australia 1-0-4 KR Miller (Aus) [2] 133 850 15.6%
1951-2 West Indies New Zealand 1-1-0 FMM Worrell (WI) [2] 64 328 19.5%
1952 India England 0-1-3 L Hutton (Eng) 91 521 17.5%
1952-3 India West Indies 0-4-1 ED Weekes (WI) 112 483 23.2%
1952-3 Pakistan India 1-2-2 Fazal Mahmood (Pak)* 88 302 29.1%
1952-3 South Africa Australia 2-1-2 HJ Tayfield (SA) 90 540 16.7%
1952-3 South Africa New Zealand 1-1-0 DJ McGlew (SA) 67 320 20.9%
1953 Australia England 0-4-1 AV Bedser (Eng) [2] 155 832 18.6%
1953-4 England West Indies 2-1-2 CL Walcott (WI) 90 507 17.8%
1953-4 New Zealand South Africa 0-1-4 HJ Tayfield (SA) [2] 91 653 13.9%
1954 Pakistan England 1-2-1 Fazal Mahmood (Pak) [2] 108 361 29.9%
1954-5 Australia West Indies 3-2-0 KR Miller (Aus) [3] 127 870 14.6%
1954-5 India Pakistan 0-5-0 PR Umrigar (Ind) 62 446 13.9%
1954-5 England Australia 3-1-1 FH Tyson (Eng) 128 865 14.8%
1954-5 England New Zealand 2-0-0 FH Tyson (Eng) [2] 67 376 17.8%
1955 South Africa England 2-0-3 PBH May (Eng) 110 728 15.1%
1955-6 New Zealand Pakistan 0-1-2 Imtiaz Ahmed (Pak) 65 377 17.2%
1955-6 New Zealand India 0-3-2 MH Mankad (Ind) [2] 74 487 15.2%
1955-6 West Indies New Zealand 3-0-1 ED Weekes (WI) [2] 80 452 17.7%
1956 Australia England 1-2-2 JC Laker (Eng) 136 776 17.5%
1956-7 Australia India 2-1-0 RN Harvey (Aus) 81 495 16.4%
1956-7 England South Africa 2-1-2 HJ Tayfield (SA) [3] 118 628 18.8%
1957 West Indies England 0-2-3 PBH May (Eng) [2] 107 795 13.5%
1957-8 Australia South Africa 3-2-0 R Benaud (Aus) 181 892 20.3%
1957-8 Pakistan West Indies 1-1-3 GS Sobers (WI) 128 724 17.7%
1958 New Zealand England 0-1-4 GAR Lock (Eng) 119 748 15.9%
1958-9 England Australia 0-1-4 R Benaud (Aus) [2] 170 986 17.2%
1958-9 England New Zealand 1-1-0 PBH May (Eng) [3] 69 326 21.2%
1958-9 West Indies India 3-2-0 GS Sobers (WI) [2] 109 707 15.4%
1958-9 West Indies Pakistan 1-0-2 Fazal Mahmood (Pak) [3] 102 517 19.7%
1959 India England 0-0-5 KF Barrington (Eng) 95 750 12.7%
1959-60 Australia Pakistan 2-1-0 R Benaud (Aus) [3] 90 528 17.0%
1959-60 Australia India 2-2-1 RN Harvey (Aus) [2] 92 675** 13.6%
1959-60 England West Indies 1-4-0 GS Sobers (WI)* [3] 129 598 21.6%

ISP: Individual Series Points
TSP: Team Series Points
%age: percentage of total team points contributed by the individual

* Player of the Series on a losing team
** One of the most balanced teams ever; also NCL O’Neill 91, R Benaud 87, AK Davidson 86

No fewer than six players achieved three Player of the Series awards during the period:- Keith Miller, Hugh Tayfield, Peter May, Fazal Mahmood, Richie Benaud and Gary Sobers. Possibly no player was more valuable to his team during the fifties than Fazal Mahmood, the Hero of the Oval, taking honours in India, England and against the West Indies; in the first two series, he was personally responsible for nearly 30% of Pakistan’s team points, taking the series award against India in 1952-3 in what was Pakistan’s first ever Test series, despite finishing on the losing side. South African off-spinner Hugh Tayfield enjoyed a great deal of success against strong Australian and English sides in the mid-’50s. Keith Miller took series awards in three of the first five Test series played by Australia during the decade, and was also top-scoring Aussie during the 1956 Ashes. Peter May scored more than 100 points in four series’, although interestingly none of his series awards were in Ashes series’. Richie Benaud began a run of sparkling form from 1957 onwards, this brilliant all-rounder compiling huge scores against South Africa and England. Gary Sobers started relatively slowly, but the Pakistan series (in which he compiled the then-world record score of 365 not out) saw him really begin his rise to the top, claiming top player awards in three out of the last four West Indies series’ of the decade. The following players achieved two series awards:- Frank Worrell, Alec Bedser, Frank Tyson, Vinoo Mankad, Everton Weekes and Neil Harvey.

(Players generally score more points if a series has more Tests, e.g. top-rated players in a 5-Test series will have substantially more points than top players in a 3-Test series.)

Test Player Of The Decade – the 1950s

Turning our attention to individual performance throughout the period, here is a list of the top-ranked players in terms of total ISPs for all of the Tests played in the period 1950-59:-

Total ISPs Player Series Matches
898 PBH May (Eng) 16 62
888 R Benaud (Aus) 12 45
818 RN Harvey (Aus) 13 59
759 TE Bailey (Eng) 15 57
647 KR Miller (Aus) 8 37
625 MC Cowdrey (Eng) 11 44
612 R R Lindwall (Aus) 12 44
604 TG Evans (Eng) 17 64
599 L Hutton (Eng) 10 38
596 JB Statham (Eng) 16 50
592 FMM Worrell (WI) 8 33
563 FS Trueman (Eng) 11 36
556 TW Graveney (Eng) 14 48
549 ED Weekes (WI) 9 39
546 JC Laker (Eng) 12 38
531 AK Davidson (Aus) 9 30
531 GS Sobers (WI) 8 32
528 AV Bedser (Eng) 9 28
512 CC McDonald (Aus) 11 39
509 CL Walcott (WI) 7 35

Peter May is just ahead of Richie Benaud, but Benaud played in 17 fewer Tests. Actually England, as usual, played far more Tests (88 in 19 series’) than the other nations – next was Australia with 57/13, then West Indies (53/12), India (47/10), New Zealand (32/10), South Africa (32/7), then Pakistan with 29 Tests in 8 series’. Godfrey Evans played most often during the period, with 64 Tests in 17 series. Neil Harvey played in all but one of the Australian matches, and John Reid (NZ) and Imtiaz Ahmed (Pak) played in every one of their sides’ Tests. Though their era was drawing to a close, the three Ws (Worrell, Weekes and Walcott) still figure in the top 20. Trevor Bailey is best remembered for his four-hour innings of 71 in the 1953 Lord’s Test which saved the match and helped England regain the Ashes after 19 years, but we can see from this table that he was a vital member of the England team of the 1950s.

Levelling the field

Now, let’s look at each player’s points per five-Test series (PP5), i.e. the average number of points the player would have scored in a five-Test series, based on his average points per match multiplied by five (as we did in the previous articles). This gives us a better idea of each player’s level of performance, as it is not based on the number of Tests played – for example, the top 20 based on total ISPs does not include any players from South Africa, even though they were ranked as high as second in 1957.

Below is the revised list based on points per five-Test series (PP5), with a minimum qualifying number of Tests applied which is different for each country based on their total number of Tests played during the period in question:-

PP5 Player Matches
98.7 R Benaud (Aus) 45
95.7 Fazal Mahmood (Pak) 26
95.3 TL Goddard (SA) 15
94.3 AV Bedser (Eng) 28
91.5 FH Tyson (Eng) 17
89.7 FMM Worrell (WI) 33
88.5 AK Davidson (Aus) 30
87.4 KR Miller (Aus) 37
83.0 GS Sobers (WI) 32
82.3 HJ Tayfield (SA) 30
80.0 GAR Lock (Eng) 31
78.8 L Hutton (Eng) 38
78.2 FS Trueman (Eng) 36
77.6 MH Mankad (Ind) 31
76.4 Saeed Ahmed (Pak) 11
75.4 JH Wardle (Eng) 27
75.3 RG Archer (Aus) 19
72.7 CL Walcott (WI) 35
72.4 PBH May (Aus) 62
71.8 JC Laker (Eng) 38

The overall level of performance has continued to rise over time – during this period, the average PP5 score for the top 20 players was 83, higher than in any previous decade. This is partly due to the improved level of competition of all of the sides (with the exception at this time of New Zealand), thus leading to more TSPs scored – at the close of the decade the average ICC rating of the top six teams was over 100; the average of the four Test-playing nations at the beginning of the 1930s was only 87.

Richie Benaud, who finished second in total ISPs as well as having the best PP5 average, is unquestionably the Player of the 1950s. Some of his all-round performances were stupefying; in 1957-8 against South Africa, he scored 329 runs and took 30 wickets; the following winter he went one better in the Ashes Tests, with 31 wickets (to go with 132 runs and eight catches). As mentioned earlier, Fazal Mahmood was by far Pakistan’s top player of this period – Saeed Ahmed was next best with 76.4, and that was in 11 Tests; Mahmood maintained a much higher average over 26 Tests. He was Pakistan’s top-scoring player in four of the eight series’ in which they played in the ?50s.

Trevor Goddard is not often mentioned when the world’s greatest all-rounders are discussed, however his play was of a high level right from the start. In his debut series, in England in 1955, he scored 235 runs and took 25 wickets, falling just two points short of Peter May as Player of the Series. In the winter of 1956-7 against England he was even closer, scoring just one point fewer than Hugh Tayfield. Alec Bedser always seemed to rise to the occasion, as his two scores of over 100 were both achieved against Australia (112 in 1950-1 and 155 in 1953, when he took 39 wickets).

Frank Tyson featured in only half of the total Tests played in the series in which he was selected, but made the most of his opportunities, most notably during the winter tour of 1954-5 when he took 39 wickets in 7 Tests against Australia and New Zealand. Frank Worrell started the decade very well, taking the series award in England in 1950. The tour of Australia in 1951-2 was also quite successful, although the author of his obituary in Wisden considered this tour a disappointment for him, as he scored fewer runs – however, he did take 17 wickets. He was also the top points scored for West Indies in England in 1957.

Allan Davidson made his debut in England in 1953, but really started to shine during the 1957-8 series against South Africa. He was even better when England toured in 1958-9, finishing second only to Benaud with 152 ISPs. He averaged more than five wickets per Test during the last four series of the decade. Keith Miller, a terrific all-round player, scored at least 116 ISPs in four of the eight series’ he played in, three of them resulting in series awards.

Gary Sobers was more prolific with the bat than the ball at the beginning of his Test career, scoring more than 700 runs in a series on two occasions, and making more than 550 runs during the occasion of his other series award. Hugh Tayfield took more than 30 wickets during two of the series for which he was top-ranked, against Australia in 1952-3 and England in 1955.

It’s interesting to note that the top 10 in the PP5 list is composed of bowlers and all-rounders; the highest ranked batsman is Len Hutton at number 12.

Next time?…

We’ll take a look at the 1960s.

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