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Topping the ton: Part One

South Africa's Aubrey Faulkner, a study in consistency

When Aubrey Faulkner joined Tip Snooke at the crease during the first match of the 1912 Triangular Test tournament at Old Trafford, South Africa were down three wickets and still 406 runs in arrears, due largely to centuries from Charles Kelleway (114) and Warren Bardsley (121). When the South African innings ended, Faulkner was undefeated on 122 from a total of 265 and, after Syd Gregory enforced the follow on (and despite failing to trouble the scorer) Faulkner had created a piece of history of which neither he, nor any of the watching throng was aware. Yet it was a feat which no one would equal for almost 100 years…

At Sabina Park in April 1976, India’s second innings was closed at 97/5 when five Indians were noted as “absent hurt”. As a result, West Indies required only 13 to win, so that Viv Richards was not called upon to bat a second time. Had Richards batted again, and scored more than 36, he would have gone on to accomplish something which would not ever be even remotely approached…

98 years and 1,728 Tests after Aubrey Faulkner’s triumphs described above, a left-handed Indian batsman was being lauded for just missing out on emulating something only Don Bradman had achieved in Tests; the fact that he did succeed in emulating something only ever accomplished once before in 133 years of Test cricket, by the aforementioned Faulkner at Old Trafford, seems to have been lost on everyone…

Over the past nine years while writing for CW I’ve built up a large database of information, and while recently looking at lists of runs scored I noticed something that I’d previously missed – between 1910 and 1912 South Africa’s great all-rounder Aubrey Faulkner topped 100 total runs in seven straight Test matches. I wondered if that was the best ever (Bradman surely had more?), but I also noticed that Faulkner was top scorer in only two of those matches, whereas I would have expected more than that. So I decided to look at both these issues, i.e. consecutive Tests scoring 100 or more runs and Tests in which a particular batsman was top scorer…is two of seven as top-scorer a good number?


Batsmen have notched up 100 runs in a Test match on no fewer than 4175 occasions (or around two per Test), of which 871 came in consecutive matches. The first to achieve 100 runs in two consecutive Tests was Clem Hill, but this was soon eclipsed by his great contemporary Victor Trumper, who managed three before, in the very next Test, extending that to 100 total runs in four consecutive Tests. Stanley Jackson followed by Jack Hobbs (twice) also achieved three in a row, before Faulkner left them all trailing behind.

In the first match of the seven against England in Cape Town, a second innings 99 took Faulkner over the 100 mark for the match, but Hobbs’ 187 ensured a heavy defeat for South Africa in spite of Faulkner’s play. Next up was Australia at Sydney, with South Africa again losing heavily as Clem Hill this time outshone Faulkner with 191. After Faulkner’s 204 at the MCG South Africa needed just 170 to win, but were unhappily skittled out for just 80 – three matches with Faulkner over 100, three defeats, though Faulkner did outscore Trumper this time, 212 to 193. On to Adelaide and innings of 56 and 115 helped South Africa to a 38-run victory. A second-innings 80, again at the MCG, took Faulkner to exactly 100 for the match, though Australia proved victorious by the small matter of 530 runs – one win, four defeats. Back to Sydney and South Africa were once more required to follow on, Faulkner netting 52 and 92. And finally, that heavy defeat to Australia in England noted above – had Australia batted again it’s unlikely Faulkner would have ended up as top scorer, but as it happens he did for the second time in the sequence of seven, although South Africa had only turned one of those performances into victory.

The first to approach Faulkner’s seven-in-a-row was an Australian, although perhaps surprisingly it was not Bradman, but Jack Fingleton. What’s more, had Fingleton added just 15 more runs to his second innings 73 at Sydney against England in December 1936, his 174 in the following Test would have seen him equal Faulkner’s sequence of seven 100-run Tests. However Bradman did breeze past Fingleton’s five consecutive Tests shortly after with a spate of six consecutive Tests topping the ton. In truth though, Fingleton’s feat was some way short of Bradman’s – Fingleton’s five Tests averaged 108 per match, while Bradman averaged more than 187 over his six. Actually Bradman very nearly achieved six in a row earlier on in his career where, in his third Test, against England at Adelaide, he was out for 58 to give him 98 for the match – in the previous Test he had netted 191 and would go on to notch 160, 139, 255 and 334 in the next four.

Going back to Bradman’s actual six in a row, it’s arguable that we should really consider this as a sequence of nine consecutive 100-run matches, two more than Faulkner’s record. Just before the 5th Test against South Africa at the MCG in February 1932, Bradman was injured in the dressing room while ‘skylarking’, as the <i>The Australian Cricketer</i> put it and so was listed as “absent”. As Bradman subsequently went on to score 187, 234 and 128 in his next three Tests, that could be considered to represent nine in a row, as he didn’t play at the MCG. It is amazing to consider that in Bradman’s Test career of 52 matches, he only once went as many as three Tests without exceeding 100 in a match – and of course he ended that stretch with consecutive scores over 300!

Shortly after Bradman’s six, South African Dudley Nourse notched up a run of six of his own through 1947. However Bradman had top-scored in four of his six Tests, whereas Nourse didn’t achieve that honour in any of his six 100-run matches. England’s Ken Barrington was the next great model of consistency, notching up five in a row in 1961. Three years later, Barrington became the first to achieve a five-Test sequence of 100-plus runs for a second time, while also giving him nine Tests out of 11 with more than 100, a feat previously achieved by Nourse.

Next up, the mighty Viv Richards came to the fore. Richards topped 100 for five Tests in a row before the controversial Sabina Park Test mentioned above. After that he came to England and was so destructive that he included scores of 295 and 291 in his second five – Richards’ averages were 154 for the first five and 191 for the second five. Richards emulated Barrington as the only two players with two sets of five century matches, and but for the destructiveness of his own bowling team mates that might easily have been 11 in a row, though ten of eleven was similarly unprecedented.

Richards’ successor as West Indies captain, Richie Richardson, also succeeded him as the next player with five consecutive 100-run Tests. Future Aussie skipper Mark Taylor was next to top 100 for five straight Tests, followed shortly afterwards by Graham Gooch, with his own sequence of five – both Taylor and Gooch were enjoying runs of nine out of 12. Gooch’s run included the most runs ever scored in a single Test, 456 against India at Lord’s in 1990, pushing his average per match for those five Tests to 212 – and all this while skipper.

Matthew Hayden then Rahul Dravid achieved five in a row, before Jacques Kallis became the first since Dudley Nourse, 57 years and exactly 1,400 Tests earlier, to manage 100 runs in six consecutive Test matches. Kallis netted a healthy average, too, at almost 178 per match, though his opponents (West Indies and New Zealand) were not top-drawer. Matthew Hayden then fashioned another five-Test sequence to emulate Barrington and Richards – this sequence included among his opponents the ICC World XI.

And then, Gautam Gambhir finally equalled Faulkner with a magnificent run of seven consecutive matches scoring one hundred or more. He began with innings of 179 and 97 against England at Mohali, a performance which garnered him the match award. On to New Zealand and India won a Test match there for the first time in 33 years, though Gambhir’s 72 and 30* was overshadowed by the Little Master’s 160. Innings of 16 and 137 followed at Napier, his second innings helping India save the match. Another high second innings total at Wellington helped set New Zealand a big target, and though they rescued the match Gambhir once again took home the match award. Yet another second innings century followed on his return home against Sri Lanka in another high-scoring draw, but his opening 167 at Kanpur helped steer India to an innings victory. Finally, another second innings century against Bangladesh at Chittagong took him to seven ton-up games in a row. But it could so easily have been ten in a row; after 67 and 104 at Mohali followed by 206 and 36 at Delhi, both against Australia, he was just 15 runs short, in the match preceeding the seven-match run, of making it a round ten on the trot.

After Gambhir’s record-equalling feat, there have been three more occurrences of players achieving 100 runs in five consecutive matches, first by Angelo Mathews, then by Chris Rogers, and finally by Mathews once more to join Ken Barrington, Viv Richards and Mathew Hayden as the only players to achieve five Test runs more than once, while giving him 11 of 14.

Below are the 15 players who have achieved 100-plus runs in at least five consecutive Tests, along with their averages per match:-

7 Faulkner (avg. 137.5)
Gambhir (avg. 163.1)
6 Bradman (avg. 187.3)
Nourse (avg. 124.8)
Kallis (avg. 177.5)
5 Fingleton (avg. 108.0)
Barrington (avg. 158.0)
Barrington (avg. 148.0)
Richards, V (avg. 154.2)
Richards, V (avg. 190.6)
Richardson (avg. 149.4)
Taylor, M (avg. 138.8)
Gooch (avg. 211.6)
Hayden (avg. 142.0)
Dravid (avg. 140.4)
Hayden (avg. 154.2)
Mathews (avg. 132.8)
Rogers (avg. 142.8)
Mathews (avg. 116.8)


Moving on to aggregates, below is the list of players who have exceeded 100 in a match on at least 40 occasions:-

64 Tendulkar (32.00%)
56 Kallis (33.73%)
51 Ponting (30.36%)
50 Sangakkara (37.31%)
49 Cook (35.00%)
48 Lara (36.64%)
47 Dravid (28.66%)
46 Chanderpaul (28.05%)
45 Younis Khan (40.38%)
44 Jayawardene (29.53%)
40 SR Waugh (23.81%)

Incidentally Tendulkar’s best consecutive run was four in a row, achieved as late as his 168th Test against South Africa at Kolkata in February 2010, but that could so easily have been nine in a row, as he ended up just eight runs short at Galle and five runs short at Colombo. Younis Khan stands out in the above list as the only one to achieve both 40 total Tests with 100-plus runs and with that amounting to at least 40% of his total Tests. Bradman totalled 32, albeit in far fewer Tests than those listed above – below is the list of those with the highest percentage of Tests with at least 100 runs in a match, minimum 20 Tests:-

65.38% Bradman (52)
43.75% Weekes (48)
41.18% AD Nourse (34)
41.07% Katich (56)
40.98% Hobbs (61)
40.91% Headley (22)
39.13% RG Pollock (23)
37.40% BC Lara (131)
37.31% KC Sangakkara (134)
36.71% L Hutton (79)
36.67% EJ Barlow (30)
36.59% KF Barrrington (82)
36.36% AM Rahane (22)
36.00% GA Faulkner (25)
36.00% CJL Rogers (25)
35.87% HM Amla (92)
35.85% SPD Smith (53)
35.71% B Mitchell (42)
35.44% RN Harvey 79)

The astonishing Bradman made 100 runs or more in almost two-thirds of the Tests in which he appeared – incredible. Five more players have exceeded 40%, though I must admit I didn’t expect to see Simon Katich flanked by the likes of Everton Weekes, Dudley Nourse, Jack Hobbs and George Headley. Actually Kat was just 18 total runs away from a run of ten consecutive 100-run matches. South African Eddie Barlow managed eight in his first 18 Tests. The aforementioned Rogers was one for the big occasion – five of his nine ton-up matches came in Ashes Tests.


Let’s turn now to average match score – here are the highest per-match averages attained, again with a 20-Test minimum:-

134.54 Bradman
99.55 Headley
98.09 Pollock
92.81 Weekes
92.54 Sangakkara

91.24 Lara
89.66 SPD Smith
88.24 Hutton
87.68 DA Warner
86.76 Younis Khan

87.06 AD Nourse
87.00 SM Nurse
86.68 Root
86.37 Sobers
86.32 Walcott

85.28 Hammond
84.35 Sutcliffe
83.87 EJ Barlow
83.74 Hayden
83.00 Barrington

Barry Richards averaged 127.00, but in only four Tests. Once more Bradman is streets ahead of everyone else (when is he not?), and Headley is tantalisingly less than half a run short of averaging 100 per match. The above really is quite some list of quality batsmen. Monimul Haque just misses out on qualifying with 85.65 in 17 Tests.

Finally, here is a list of those who have most often achieved 100-plus runs in multiple sequences of consecutive matches (two or more):-

14 SR Tendulkar (4,3,3,2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2)
13 AN Cook (4,3,3,2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2)
12 R Dravid (5,3,2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2)
11 BC Lara (3,3,3,2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2)
11 MJ Clarke (3,2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2)
11 KC Sangakkara (4,4,4,3,2,2,2,2,2,2,2)
11 GC Smith (3,2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2)
11 Younis Khan (4,3,2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2)
10 SR Waugh (2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2)
10 S Chanderpaul (4,4,3,3,2,2,2,2,2,2)
10 RT Ponting (4,3,3,3,3,3,2,2,2,2)

Chanderpaul of the above has four separate runs of at least three consecutive 100-run tests, while Ponting was the first to achieve six such runs. And we are here reminded of the greatness of retired England captain Alastair Cook.

In the second part we’ll look at those who top-scored in a test most often.

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