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The Greatest Test Innings: Revised and Updated

Brian Lara Batting
The batting style that produced arguably the finest Test innings.

Three years ago, I released my top 100 test match innings based on my own statistical formula.

The top 10 were as follows:

1. BC Lara 153* vs. Australia at Bridgetown 1999
2. IT Botham 149* vs. Australia at Leeds 1981
3. GA Gooch 154* vs. West Indies at Leeds 1991
4. VVS Laxman 281 vs. Australia at Kolkata 2001
5. C Bannerman 165* vs. England at Melbourne 1877
6. DG Bradman 270 vs. England at Melbourne 1937
7. V Sehwag 201* vs. Sri Lanka at Galle 2008
8. VVS Laxman 167 vs. Australia at Sydney 2000
9. ST Jayasuriya 253 vs. Pakistan at Faisalabad 2004
10. SJ McCabe 232 vs. England at Nottingham 1938

What struck many readers at the time was the presence of VVS Laxmans 167 in the top 10. Whilst the innings was full of grace and memorable shots, it was largely meaningless, with India coming short of making Australia bat again by the margin of 141 runs. I thus set about making adjustments to my formula and Laxmans innings gradually slipped down the rankings.

At no.6 was Don Bradmans 270 against England at Melbourne in the first days of 1937. In his first series as captain, the Don heavily revised the batting order and came in at no.7 with the score at 90/5 in the 3rd innings of the 3rd test with Australia 0-2 down. He went on to add 346 runs for the 6th wicket with Jack Fingleton to put Australia out of sight. Australia went on to win the series 3-2 after the Don scored two more 150+ scores in the final two tests.

However, in Patrick Ferriday and Dave Wilsons excellent study, Masterly Batting: 100 Great Test Centuries, released in 2013, Bradmans 270 was only ranked at no.74. This proves that no two studies on the great test innings of the past will ever produce the same results. In fact, the rankings may differ a great deal. One interesting thing that Ferriday and Wilson did was to incorporate what they termed as “intangibles” into their study. This is something that I, working alone, cannot possibly hope to do. Instead, I have continued to use a purely statistical method and I have carefully selected what I determined were the most important criteria for ranking any test innings.

I have been working on ranking the best batsmen and bowlers in Test cricket for some years now. The career ratings for the Top 100 batsmen were released in July 2013 and can be viewed here.

I am still working on the Top 100 test bowlers but during the summer break I have revised my method for ranking individual test innings.

The latest version of my top 100 test innings was posted on the Cricketweb forum in August of this year. At the time, I stated that it would be the final version. But then something occurred to me. An innings such as BJ Watlings 124 against India at Wellington was rated at 6.50, compared to Brendon McCullums 302 scoring 14.11 points. In a sense, Watling was penalised for McCullum scoring so many runs. Watling thus scored a relatively low percentage of his teams total and his knock compared to other innings in the same match did not stand out a great deal in terms of runs scored. However, it is almost a near certainty that McCullum would have got nowhere near his triple century without the initial dogged support from Watling.

The core problem with the formula up to a month ago was that it favoured batsmen scoring big in low scoring matches too much over batsmen who scored tons in favourable conditions and/or when another batsman in the same match played a substantial innings.

In the earlier version, the formula included a base rating for factors such as:

1. Base runs scored.
2. Peer and Opponent Comparison. Runs scored divided by average score of other batsmen in the same match (the innings in which the batsmans runs were scored is given a weighting three times greater than that of the other innings in the match).
3. Percentage of team runs scored.
4. Pressure. Team score at the fall of wickets. For example, being at the crease when the score was 20/3, as opposed to 190/3.
5. Runs added with the lower order.

Of course, the base rating for the batsman who scores 150 out of match total of 800 runs for 40 wickets should be higher than an innings played on a featherbed. However, the problem lay in the fact that the base ratings were then multiplied by factors such as match result, quality of opposition, and match situation. For example, an innings scored out of a total of 300/9 (e.g. Laras 153*) in a 4th innings run chase might get a base rating of 11.00 and be multiplied by as much as 1.5, thus leaving a final rating of 16.50. In contrast, another innings out of a score of 380/4 in a successful run chase (e.g. Tendulkars ton against England at Mumbai) may fetch a low base rating of 6.00. If this is multiplied by the same amount it will get a final rating of 9.00. In essence, Tendulkar was penalised for receiving a lot of support from his fellow top order batsmen. Almost anyone who watched both innings though would not say that the worth of Laras knock was almost double that of Tendulkars.

I therefore thought it would be much fairer to add on points to the base rating instead of multiplying the base rating. To return to the example above, the innings with the base rating of 11.00 may get 7 points added to it. If the innings with the base rating of 6.00 gets the same amount of points added to it, then the two innings will have final ratings of 18.00 and 13.00 respectively. The gap between the two innings has closed substantially. Thus, an innings such as Tendulkars 103* at Mumbai gets a lot more credit now than it did before.

Another key change was in assessing the importance of an innings. Before, Laxmans 167 and Stan McCabes 232 were rated much higher than innings such as Sutcliffes 161 at Lords in the deciding test of the 1926 Ashes. McCabe is one of my favourite players in the history of the game, but in the end I had to admit that his glorious innings still left Australia a massive 247 runs behind England at the conclusion of the first innings. Sutcliffes innings contrasts with McCabe in that it was scored at a much slower pace and with substantial support from the top order. However, Sutcliffe and Hobbs strode out to the wicket to begin Englands 3rd innings with their side 22 in arrears. The match hung in the balance. At the end of their innings, England were 414 ahead. Sutcliffes innings was thus a massive factor in England ultimately prevailing.

In the previous formula, McCabes innings was rated above Sutcliffes by a substantial margin. Now they are rated exactly equal at 13.45 points but both are outside the top 100. They are still great innings (I have recognised any innings with a rating above 10.00 as “great”). VVS Laxmans 167 is now rated at 12.73 and BJ Watlings effort at Wellington is rated at 11.56. The formula now feels more complete, able to give credit to innings played in a variety of match situations.

The base rating is now made up of (with weightings in brackets):

1. Base runs scored (15%).
2. Highest partnership involved in. This greatly benefits Watlings effort, along with Jack Hobbs contribution with Sutcliffe in 1926 (5%).
3. Strike-rate (7.5%).
4. Peer and Opponent Comparison. Explained above (30%).
5. Percentage of team runs scored (20%).
6. Pressure 1. Team score at the fall of wickets. For example, being at the crease when the score was 20/3, as opposed to 190/3 (7.5%).
7. Pressure 2. Total fall of wickets whilst the batsman was at the crease. Goochs 154 and Sehwags 201* benefit here (7.5%).
8. Runs added with the lower order and tail order, with more weighting given to runs added with the tail (7.5%).

Points are then added on to the base rating. They consist of:

1. Match result and closeness of result (max 3.98 points for a 1 run victory)
2. Series impact (max 1.00 points for a win in the deciding match of a 5 or 6 match series)
3. Quality of opposition bowling attack (rating each bowling attack based on career records of individual bowlers and their performance in the series in question was a study worthy of its own feature article) (max 4.00 points/min -2.00 points).
4. Innings impact or significance. In essence, what was the positon of the batsmans team at the beginning and close of his teams innings and how important was his innings to the teams position. Batsmen gain substantial points by scoring runs in large 4th innings chases, in backs to the wall 3rd innings comebacks, or in the teams first innings when the margin between the two teams at the end of the first innings is small. Runs scored in the first or second innings of the match when the team ultimately finished with a large first innings lead or deficit along with runs scored in the 3rd or 4th innings when the team ultimately lost by a large margin lose points. The exception is runs scored in the 1st or 2nd innings in losses. If the team had a first innings lead in a match they ultimately lost, then the batsman scores points, since he put his team in a good position, which they subsequently failed to capitalise on. Michael Clarkes 151 at Cape Town is a prime example (max 5.00 points/min -2.50 points).

Below is the top 100 test innings of all time based on the revised formula. I will not add any portraits on the innings listed as most are already well known. I refer you once again to Patrick Ferriday and Dave Wilsons Masterly Batting: 100 Great Test Centuries for further reading on a number of these innings. Brian Laras majestic 153* remains at the top, followed by Goochs unbeaten 154. Bradmans 270 beats Hill and Bannerman for the best innings played by an Australian whilst Brendon McCullums 300 is the latest entry to the top 100 and also the best ever innings by a New Zealander. New Zealand also takes the (somewhat undesirable) honour for the highest rated innings in a losing cause.

This work was produced only by using Microsoft Excel and making use of scorecards from Cricinfo along with some valuable balls faced information from noted cricket statistician Charles Davis. The formula is not automated in any way and is purely the result of statistical analysis. There may be some innings over the history of the game that I have missed. Please post any queries about other innings of note, along with any feedback, to the comments section.

Opponent

Venue

Year

Result

Base Rating

Final Rating

1

BC Lara

153*

Australia

Bridgetown

1999

Won

10.97

20.95

2

GA Gooch

154*

West Indies

Leeds

1991

Won

13.87

20.13

3

VVS Laxman

281

Australia

Kolkata

2001

Won

10.24

19.52

4

IT Botham

149*

Australia

Leeds

1981

Won

11.91

19.49

5

DG Bradman

270

England

Melbourne

1937

Won

14.11

19.44

6

C Hill

188

England

Melbourne

1898

Won

14.85

18.91

7

C Bannerman

165*

England

Melbourne

1877

Won

15.25

18.89

8

V Sehwag

201*

Sri Lanka

Galle

2008

Won

13.22

18.82

9

Hanif Mohammad

337

West Indies

Bridgetown

1958

Draw

10.87

18.50

10

Azhar Mahmood

132

South Africa

Durban

1998

Won

11.65

18.27

11

KJ Hughes

100*

West Indies

Melbourne

1981

Won

11.33

18.26

12

ST Jayasuriya

253

Pakistan

Faisalabad

2004

Won

13.48

18.23

13

AC Gilchrist

149*

Pakistan

Hobart

1999

Won

9.33

18.21

14

Saeed Anwar

188

India

Kolkata

1999

Won

12.40

18.13

15

CG Greenidge

214*

England

Lord’s

1984

Won

9.67

17.93

16

GL Jessop

104

Australia

The Oval

1902

Won

9.82

17.79

17

MA Butcher

173*

Australia

Leeds

2001

Won

8.30

17.66

18

DPMD Jayawardene

180

England

Galle

2012

Won

13.48

17.66

19

CL Walcott

220

England

Bridgetown

1954

Won

12.67

17.62

20

R Dravid

233

Australia

Adelaide

2003

Won

11.33

17.49

21

Younis Khan

200*

Zimbabwe

Harare

2013

Won

12.43

17.48

22

BB McCullum

302

India

Wellington

2014

Draw

12.61

17.37

23

G Kirsten

100*

Pakistan

Faisalabad

1997

Won

12.04

17.34

24

Mohammad Wasim

192

Zimbabwe

Harare

1998

Won

13.16

17.27

25

BC Lara

213

Australia

Kingston

1999

Won

12.07

17.27

26

DL Amiss

262*

West Indies

Kingston

1974

Draw

12.72

17.22

27

J Ryder

201*

England

Adelaide

1925

Won

11.28

17.22

28

G.C. Smith

154*

England

Birmingham

2008

Won

9.74

17.18

29

I.J.L. Trott

184

Pakistan

Lord’s

2010

Won

14.65

17.17

30

GS Chappell

182*

West Indies

Sydney

1976

Won

11.17

17.13

31

L Klusener

118

Sri Lanka

Kandy

2000

Won

11.67

17.05

32

JL Langer

127

Pakistan

Hobart

1999

Won

8.16

17.04

33

JV Coney

111*

Pakistan

Dunedin

1985

Won

9.33

16.99

34

ME Trescothick

180

South Africa

Johannesburg

2005

Won

10.63

16.91

35

SM Gavaskar

236*

West Indies

Chennai

1983

Draw

13.44

16.89

36

GP Thorpe

113*

Sri Lanka

Colombo (SSC)

2001

Won

10.47

16.86

37

OG Smith

168

England

Nottingham

1957

Draw

9.65

16.75

38

RN Harvey

167

England

Melbourne

1959

Won

10.02

16.69

39

DG Bradman

299*

South Africa

Adelaide

1932

Won

14.18

16.50

40

B Mitchell

164*

England

Lord’s

1935

Won

11.34

16.50

41

CH Lloyd

161*

India

Kolkata

1983

Won

12.57

16.46

42

NJ Astle

222

England

Christchurch

2002

Lost

11.92

16.43

43

CG Greenidge

134

England

Manchester

1976

Won

12.64

16.42

44

DR Martyn

161

Sri Lanka

Kandy

2004

Won

8.77

16.40

45

Inzamam-ul-Haq

138*

Bangladesh

Multan

2003

Won

12.02

16.39

46

JL Langer

191

Pakistan

Perth

2004

Won

13.75

16.37

47

WW Armstrong

159*

South Africa

Johannesburg

1902

Won

12.18

16.35

48

DG Bradman

212

England

Adelaide

1937

Won

9.67

16.34

49

Hanif Mohammad

187

England

Lord’s

1967

Draw

12.99

16.34

50

RT Simpson

156*

Australia

Melbourne

1951

Won

10.74

16.33

51

SM Gavaskar

221

England

The Oval

1979

Draw

9.59

16.31

52

ME Waugh

116

South Africa

Port Elizabeth

1997

Won

7.75

16.31

53

AMJ Hilditch

113

West Indies

Melbourne

1984

Draw

9.36

16.28

54

MJ Clarke

151

South Africa

Cape Town

2011

Lost

12.72

16.26

55

MJ Slater

123

England

Sydney

1999

Won

12.08

16.24

56

GR Viswanath

97*

West Indies

Chennai

1975

Won

11.13

16.21

57

R Dravid

180

Australia

Kolkata

2001

Won

6.87

16.15

58

KC Sangakkara

156*

New Zealand

Wellington

2006

Won

12.37

16.13

59

GJ Bonnor

128

England

Sydney

1885

Won

10.95

16.10

60

PF Warner

132*

South Africa

Johannesburg

1899

Won

12.15

16.04

61

MC Cowdrey

102

Australia

Melbourne

1954

Won

9.94

16.01

62

AW Nourse

93*

England

Johannesburg

1906

Won

8.19

15.98

63

RE Foster

287

Australia

Sydney

1903

Won

12.70

15.97

64

RN Harvey

151*

South Africa

Durban

1950

Won

8.92

15.97

65

JL Langer

166

Sri Lanka

Colombo (SSC)

2004

Won

10.37

15.96

66

DG Bradman

103*

England

Melbourne

1933

Won

10.98

15.95

67

GP Thorpe

119*

West Indies

Bridgetown

2004

Won

11.98

15.94

68

AD Nourse

231

Australia

Johannesburg

1935

Draw

10.45

15.93

69

AR Morris

182

England

Leeds

1948

Won

7.14

15.83

70

MN Samuels

123

New Zealand

Kingston

2012

Won

11.95

15.82

71

Younis Khan

267

India

Bangalore

2005

Won

10.97

15.80

72

DG Bradman

173*

England

Leeds

1948

Won

7.10

15.80

73

RR Sarwan

105

Australia

St. John’s

2003

Won

5.53

15.80

74

GS Chappell

176

New Zealand

Christchurch

1982

Won

11.70

15.71

75

CG Greenidge

226

Australia

Bridgetown

1991

Won

9.64

15.69

76

BF Butcher

209*

England

Nottingham

1966

Won

8.27

15.63

77

GA Faulkner

123

England

Johannesburg

1910

Won

8.81

15.62

78

PHB May

285

West Indies

Birmingham

1957

Draw

10.07

15.59

79

DM Jones

184*

England

Sydney

1987

Won

11.78

15.58

80

DL Amiss

179

India

Delhi

1976

Won

12.20

15.57

81

JP Duminy

166

Australia

Melbourne

2008

Won

10.06

15.57

82

GP Thorpe

200*

New Zealand

Christchurch

2002

Won

11.21

15.55

83

PS McDonnell

147

England

Sydney

1882

Won

11.75

15.54

84

C Hill

160

England

Adelaide

1908

Won

9.61

15.53

85

Kamran Akmal

113

India

Karachi

2006

Won

10.41

15.53

86

GA Headley

270*

England

Kingston

1935

Won

11.46

15.51

87

IR Redpath

159*

New Zealand

Auckland

1974

Won

11.83

15.48

88

J Darling

160

England

Sydney

1898

Won

9.10

15.48

89

RT Ponting

156

England

Manchester

2005

Draw

8.87

15.45

90

DG Bradman

334

England

Leeds

1930

Draw

13.28

15.44

91

DA Warner

123*

New Zealand

Hobart

2011

Lost

11.51

15.44

92

S Chanderpaul

104

Australia

St. John’s

2003

Won

5.16

15.42

93

GM Turner

110*

Australia

Christchurch

1974

Won

7.77

15.39

94

KS Williamson

161*

West Indies

Bridgetown

2014

Won

9.58

15.37

95

BC Lara

226

Australia

Adelaide

2005

Lost

12.07

15.36

96

MA Atherton

185*

South Africa

Johannesburg

1995

Draw

9.12

15.35

97

DPMD Jayawardene

123

South Africa

Columbo (PSS)

2006

Won

6.68

15.32

98

MA Butcher

116

South Africa

Leeds

1998

Won

7.93

15.26

99

AR Border

163

India

Melbourne

1985

Draw

11.39

15.26

100

SR Tendulkar

136

Pakistan

Chennai

1999

Lost

10.82

15.25

Batsmen with 3 or more innings in the top 100:

DG Bradman 6
CG Greenidge 3
JL Langer 3
GP Thorpe 3
BC Lara 3

Top 100 innings by era/decade:

1877-1899: 6
1900-1914: 6
1920-1939: 9
1946-1959: 10
1960-1969: 2
1970-1979: 8
1980-1989: 10
1990-1999: 15
2000-2009: 26
2010s: 8

Comments

what a guy you are!!!!

thanks so much for all the effort, mate.

just skimmed through the list and loved it.

will study it in depth and ask whatever questions that may arise.

congrats.

Comment by bagapath | 12:00am GMT 26 September 2014

Broad is at no.107 with a rating of 15.06. The main difference is that 8 wickets fell whilst Trott was at the crease but none whilst Broad was at the crease. I could give less weight to wickets falling whilst at the crease, but in turn I might have to give more weight to runs scored with the lower order and that gives too much of an advantage to lower order batsmen.

Anyway, the thing to remember is that there is only just over two points difference between the two innings, which equates to 80 or so positions only due to the large number of innings played over the history of the game.

Likewise, people who question the absence of this innings or that innings should remember that only 100 innings can actually fit into the top 100! And that the innings they are wondering about are probably only 1 point away from the top 100 at most.

Comment by Steve Ferrier | 12:00am GMT 26 September 2014

The methodology has changed a lot over the last three years, and sadly McCabe’s knock has dropped out of the top 100. It has a base rating of 11.87, which is the 53rd highest (The base rating is the innings in isolation, without taking into account result of match, opposition bowlers or match situation).

Laxman’s 167 has a base rating of 11.95.

The base rating is worth about double that of the qualifiers (result, series result, opposition strength, match situation).

Comment by Steve Ferrier | 12:00am GMT 26 September 2014

Amazing piece of work, though I have to say I don’t really understand how refining the approach can result in Stan McCabe’s 1938 knock dropping from 10 to nowhere

Comment by fredfertang | 12:00am GMT 26 September 2014

Uh, maybe he had more than one great 167 but I can see a 167 by Laxman at #8

Comment by Spark | 12:00am GMT 26 September 2014

While Laxman’s 167 probably should not be in the top 7 innings, it’s peculiar to see a list where it’s not in the top 30 let alone top 200. It was a scary good knock simply based on domination of ATG quality of bowling though India didn’t have a chance of winning. Of the knocks in the last few years, I’d say it’s better than say, Clarke in Capetown, Matthews’s match-winning knock in England and Sachin in Durban, for instance. Can’t think of a recent knock as good as it, tbh. Winning is really overrated while determining what innings was better though ‘greater’/’top’ is a more subjective term.

Great work though.

Comment by Teja. | 12:00am GMT 26 September 2014

Graham Thorpe was such a gun.

Comment by ImpatientLime | 12:00am GMT 26 September 2014

Great list and fascinating methodology. Ponting’s Machester ton being in the top 100 and the complete absence of Kallis tons means this is a pretty accurate list.

Only one thing bothered me a bit. Trott’s hundred in that infamous Oval test was rated all the way up atno.29, while Broad’s 169 wasn’t anywhere in the 100. What’s it rated btw? I presume it’s lower because Trott was at the crease for the entire collapse, but it looks like Broad’s knock got a bit underrated there.

Comment by OverratedSanity | 12:00am GMT 26 September 2014

It’s not about winning, but when the innings came. The game was virtually dead and that probably contributed to Laxman opening up and playing freely. Still took an extraordinary amount of skill to hit around an attack of that calibre. But it was meaningless.

Disagree massively that its better than Clarke at Capetown too. That’s top 5 among the ones I’ve seen.

Comment by OverratedSanity | 12:00am GMT 26 September 2014

Hey DoG,
Could you please share the rating for

Laxman\’s 96 vs SA 2010
SR Waugh\’s 200 vs WI 1995
Gavaskar\’s 96 vs Pak 1987
Pietersen\’s 158 vs Aus 2005

Additionally, what were the highest rated knocks for some of the greats who missed out – Hobbs,
Hutton, Barrington, Pollock, Kallis, Miandad, Richards(!) etc? Thanks.

Comment by JC | 12:00am GMT 27 September 2014

Solid list, really surprised Dean Jones’ 210 isn’t anywhere on there, especially given Williamson’s 161 is on there.

Comment by Gnske | 12:00am GMT 21 October 2014

Botham’s 149 was a farmyard slog with nothing to lose. Even Sir Ian himself didn’t rate it.

Comment by John | 12:00am GMT 21 October 2014

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