Zero to Sixty – the Final Hundred, from Langer to BairstowDave Wilson |
This feature expands on my previous articles, Zero to Sixty – Important Runs in Test Cricket, Zero to Sixty – the First Hundred from Grace to Worrell, Zero to Sixty – the Second Hundred, May to Gavaskar and Zero to Sixty – the Third Hundred, from Richards to Flower. These articles summarise the performances of top batsmen throughout Test history when their team’s win expectation was 60% or less when they came into bat, i.e. behind or in the balance – what I’m defining as “important” innings. Below are the details of the final hundred batsmen under review.
The tables below are basically split chronologically into groups of five batsmen, showing the Player name, peak ICC rating, Average of important innings (iAvg), total number of important hundreds and fifties (i100/i50), Average of regular innings (rAvg), total number of regular hundreds and fifties (r100/r50), the differential between important and regular averages (iDiff) and the difference between the number of important runs scored as a percentage of all runs and the number of important innings as a percentage of all innings – the abbreviations may be used in the text for brevity. There are a number of digressions to discuss the achieving of various milestones, etc.
Justin Langer‘s iAvg did not exceed 40 until his 44th Test, and did not exceed 50 until his 82nd Test, but once there it never dropped below 50 again. Of those with more than 20 important scores over fifty, only Sobers, Hammond and Bradman had a better conversion rate than Langer. Only Bradman, Sutcliffe and Gavaskar have ever exceeded Vinod Kambli‘s performances in important innings through their first seven Tests, although Kambli’s batting average of 99.75 at that stage shaded even the great man’s 99.67. Kambli’s important average was a phenomenal 110.86 at that point. Graham Thorpe‘s iDiff was still positive after 60 Tests but had fallen to around -14 with 90 of his eventual 100 Tests completed, however an iAvg of 101.33 for those final Tests, including three tons, brought his iDiff back up to -4.35.
When Matthew Hayden hit twin centuries against Sri Lanka in 2004 he had twelve i100s and twelve i50s with an iAverage over 62 – he barely missed joining the 50/50 club. Shiv Chanderpaul “enjoyed” a high number of important innings (229), but his ratio of i100s (23 in 229 innings, for 10.0%) to r100s (7 in 52 innings, for 13.5%) and total i50s (76 in 229 innings, for 33.2%) to total r50s (19 in 52 innings, for 36.5%) are comparable.
Habibul Bashar had massive numbers of iInns (93%) and almost all of his runs were classified as important, with the result that he shows a massive iDiff; his first regular innings was not until his 45th. One ton and seven fifties in his first 15 innings saw his iAvg close to 50. Basically the the opposite of Bashar, with far fewer important innings, Shaun Pollock was pretty consistent regardless. His iDiff was still in double figures after 79 Tests, but 42 innings where he hit just one fifty changed that.
I highlighted Ricky Ponting‘s performance in important situations in the opening feature, where he showed as being second only to Bradman. In his first 20 innings he only faced an important situation seven times, but still his iAvg was over 54, his two tons to that point coming in such a scenario. Just to get a feel for how he could turn it on, there was a period of 13 Tests during which he was struggling with 13 scores under 18 – even then, his average in the important innings was 86.33, otherwise it was under 20! After his 73rd Test his iDiff was over 50, and was still at that level 15 Tests later – it didn’t drop below 40 until his 128th Test. Below is a table showing all of the players who achieved an iDiff greater than 50 for at least 10 Tests with an rAvg of at least 20:-
WG Grace also had an iDiff over 50 after 11 Tests, however his iAvg was less than 20. There were other examples of iDiff >50 for Ponting, but the above were the highest per number of Tests. No one else in the list except Bradman managed to maintain an iDiff >50 for more than 14 Tests, and Bradman’s best was 19 Tests – Ponting got to 88! The man was simply immense. (See also below the table on inter-1000 innings.)
Jacques Kallis‘ iDiff of -8.60 may seem to support criticisms that he didn’t take the match situation into account, but his total of 30 important tons is only one behind Lara. He was the 10th to achieve an average of 50+ regardless of the situation, such that his percentage of important innings and important runs are identical. His iDiff was positive for his first 50 Tests, negative thereafter, although during that period his iAvg rose from 41.36 (6 i100s/9 i50s) to 51.98 – his rAvg meanwhile rose from 40.32 (1 r100/7 r50s) to 60.57. His 100s/50s for each category after 50 Tests were respectively 24/25 and 13/16; his conversion rate was always better when the situation was important. Rahul Dravid‘s iDiff remained positive for the final 138 Tests of his 164-Test career. He is one of only three players to reach 10,000 important runs, with Tendulkar and Lara. He had the third highest total of scores of 50+ ever, after Tendulkar and Chanderpaul and level with Ponting.
Digression #1 – Important Runs Milestones
The next lists show those who were quickest to reach milestones in iRuns, namely 5000, 6000, 7000, 8000, 9000 and 10,000, as well as those who were quickest to progress from each milestone to the next.
Innings to reach 5000 important runs
Bradman was the first to reach 5000 important runs and remains the fastest to achieve that milestone in terms of important innings played.
Innings to reach 6000 important runs
Boycott was the first to reach 6000 important runs, with Ponting well ahead overall. Many of those in the 6000 list don’t appear in the 5000 list for several reasons, partly because many of the players in the 5000 list retired before reaching 6000, but also because some of those in the 6000 list went from 5000 to 6000 very quickly – the latter are included in the table below:-
Innings to move from 5000 to 6000 important runs
Miandad’s progress is astonishing – those nine innings included six tons, two of them doubles. He needed just 99 runs from his final four Test innings to reach 7000 but fell seven runs short. Sehwag is not far behind. Waugh and Gayle shook off slow starts (121 and 124 innings respectively to reach 5000) to surge to 6000 important runs.
Innings to reach 7000 important runs
Gasvakar got there first, but again Ponting was miles quicker than anyone else, taking fewer innings to reach 7000 important runs than Kallis, Jayawardene, Amla and Younis Khan (plus a host of others) needed to reach 5000 runs. Steve Waugh nailed it with his final innings, needing 28 he scored 80.
Innings to move from 6000 to 7000 important runs
Ponting is also quickest to 8000 and 9000 runs, however only Lara (183 innings), Tendulkar (193) and Dravid (198) reached 10,000 runs. Only Tendulkar went on to reach 11,000 (206) and 12,000 runs (232). Notably Sangakkara (7000-8000) and Lara (8000-9000) achieved those 1000 run transitions in just 11 innings.
Returning to our main review:-
VVS Laxman only hit two tons in his first 55 innings, but what a pair they were – first, the 167 out of 258 at Sydney in 2000, then the 281 which helped turn the Kolkata Test and series the following year. Laxman’s iDiff was positive for 90 consecutive Tests from his 38th Test, only dropping below zero for his final six Tests. Marcus Trescothick‘s iDiff went positive in his third Test and stayed there for the remainder of his career. It’s notable that his rAvg was over 41 but slowly declined over the final dozen or so Tests, while his iAVg remained constant – which is the opposite to what I would have expected, considering the issues which led to his early retirement from the international game.
To a certain extent these numbers are irrelevant for Shahid Afridi as he just whales away whatever. Still, they’re pretty good in any case. After six Tests Adam Gilchrist‘s iAvg stood at 236! It was still above 60 after 70 Tests and his iDiff never went negative, and though he was fortunate to face an important situation in less than 50% of his innings he really made the most of them. Matt Elliott always struck me as looking more like a night shift security guard than a cricketer; in direct contrast to Gilchrist, Elliott’s iDiff never went positive.
Though Mark Butcher‘s overall numbers are not great, all his tons were made in important situations, one of course being more memorable than the others. Michael Vaughan‘s iAvg was above 50 until about half way through his Test career (nine i100s/six i50s), then 33.13 (four i100s/seven i50s) after that. Vaughan had a penchant for ‘daddy’ hundreds, as his thirteen i100s averaged over 150 despite never logging a double century.
After 20 Tests Michael Hussey‘s iAvg was 86.18 and his rAVg 83.71, remarkable figures. He was never going to maintain that level, but still retired with his iAvg over 50 and a healthy iDiff. Though his conversion rate isn’t particularly impressive, Simon Katich did maintain an iAvg above 50 until his last three Tests, over which he averaged just 26. Mahela Jayawardene has a reputation of being a home-loving man, is that shown in his important numbers? See below:
There’s a huge difference between his iDiffs at home and away, however most of the difference comes from his performance in regular innings rather than in important innings.
Mohammad Yousuf is the 11th player to average over 50 regardless of the situation. Clearly he steeled his batting later in his career, as his iAvg did not exceed 50 until three-quarters of the way through his career; at the mid-point his iDiff was as low as -14. Andrew Strauss had a positive iDiff right up until his 88th Test. When he hit 161 at Lord’s in the 2009 Ashes his overall conversion rate was 18/14, after which he went 3/13 in 60 innings. Overall though his performance is pretty consistent.
Tillakaratne Dilshan‘s first 100 was against Zimbabwe and was followed by a run of low scores in important situations, such that his iDiff was less than -60 after 12 Tests. But six tons in 17 innings during 2009 saw that differential reduced to -3.21. After just five Tests, thanks to two not out centuries Thlan Samaraweera‘s iAvg was 258.00! Though it ended a little lower than 50, his iAvg was above 50 for 88 of his Test innings.
The big-hitting Chris Gayle has been a very consistent performer in important innings, of which he has faced a lot. 44 important innings of 50+ puts him in the top 20 of all-time to that point. His career breakdown is interesting:-
|36-50||5||7||0||0||only one regular innings|
|51-75||0||11||0||1||no tons, four regular innings|
|76-90||7||2||0||2||three regular innings|
|91-103||1||2||1||3||nine regular innings|
Quite the purple patch between the 76th and 90th Tests, which included his 165* at Adelaide and his second triple century, at Galle.
A massive iDiff for one of the greatest run-scorers in history, Virender Sehwag has the highest number of total centuries which were all were made in important innings. He eased himself in slowly, but from the time of his first triple century, 309 against Pakistan, his next twelve hundreds from that point averaged 212. Ian Bell of course began with a famously high average, and his final situation averages were very consistent. In a 19-Test period in the middle of his Test career, during which he faced South Africa, Australia and India all while at or around the top of the Test team rankings, Bell averaged a shade under 90, with eight tons (4 i100s/4 r100s) and seven fifties (4 i50s/3 r50s). Like Bell, KP has very level career averages. His iAvg only dropped below 50 for his final eight Tests, but his Test career was basically split down the middle:-
Though his average in regular innings was similar, there was a large reduction in his iAvg in the second half of his Test career; his conversion rate was far superior in the first 45 Tests.
Between his innings’ of 329* and 230 Michael Clarke maintained an iAvg of 197.50 over eight inns, his career iAvg being 61.08 at that point with an iDiff of 21.02; his career iAvg was still over 60 after his 95th Test. Fantastic conversion rate in important innings, too, the best since Bradman. Kumar Sangakkara‘s total number of important fifties (64) is seventh all time. He has an iAvg which is 3.25 runs higher than Clarke’s, however Sanga’s rAvg is almost 20 runs higher. However, Clarke’s conversion rate in important innings is far higher than Sanga’s. When he fashioned two consecutive double centuries against Bangladesh after the earlier 287 against South Africa, all made when Sri Lanka was already ahead, Sanga’s iDiff was at that point -27.49. The second half of his Test career was much different:-
Quite a turnaround after he gave up the keeper’s gloves. By averaging more than 55 regardless of the match situation, Sangakkara joins the elite group of Hobbs, Bradman, Hammond, Sid Barnes, Graeme Pollock and Steve Smith as the only players to have achieved that feat. Hashim Amla has a pretty good conversion rate in important innings, around the same as in regular situations, and in fact both of his averages are quite close. He still had a positive iDiff after his 100th Test. In 32 innings from his 253 to his 311* he averaged more than 85 in important innings, 57 otherwise.
After 81 Tests Brendon McCullum had seven Test tons to his name, three of them in important innings, with just one over 150. From that point on he went on a tear, with three doubles, one of them a triple, followed immediately by a 195 which saw his clutch average rise from 36 to over 40, and his iDiff to more than +10. In 12 Tests with three double centuries his iAvg was over 80. Graeme Smith fashioned some famous knocks in important innings, none more so than the 154* at Birmingham in 2008, however he was very consistent, averaging over 48 regardless of the situation, maintaining a positive iDiff up to his 109th Test. His conversion rate in important innings is excellent and far superior to that in regular innings. Jonathan Trott‘s mental issues have been well documented, but in his pomp he starred in two Ashes series victories. Ater 16 Tests both his iAvg and rAvg were over 65 and though he competed his career with a positive iDiff, as late as his 34th Test that iDiff was over +11. Trott was the quickest to reach 1000 important runs (17 innings) since Andrew Strauss five years earlier.
Though lauded as ‘the kind of man who responds best in adversity’, Younis Khan is the 12th player to manage to average 50 regardless of the situation – he was great no matter what the circumstances. His conversion rate was awesome, even in important innings. From his third Test, Younis’ iDiff was negative for 112 Tests until his retirement, and as late as his 92nd Test was lower than -11. Cheteshwar Pujara became the joint-fastest Indian to 1000 Test runs – how does he rate as regards the quickest to 1000 important runs?
Digression #2 – quickest to 1000 important runs
|12||H Sutcliffe, Hutton|
|17||KD Walters, Kara, Ganguly, IJL Trott|
|18||Gavaskar, RB Richardson|
|19||Ponsford, WA Brown, AR Morris, ED Weekes, GM Turner, Kallicharran (19 players below 20 inns)|
|20||FS Jackson, Woodfull, Paynter, WJ Edrich, Worrell, Rowe, Dujon, Azharuddin, Slater, Collingwood, AC Gilchrist, MEK Hussey, GC Smith (32)|
|21||TW Hayward, Bardsley, GA HEadley, DCS Compton, McGlew, CC McDonald, SM Nurse, RG Pollock, Sadiq Mohammad, Houghton, KP Pietersen, Sangakkara, MH Richardson (45)|
|22||Faulkner, McCabe, AD Nourse, JB Stollmeyer, CL Walcott, RN Harvey, Barrington, NC O’Neill, KC Bland, Nawab of Pataudi Jr, Cowper, IVA Richards, Mohsin Khan, SV Manjrekar, Ponting, SR Watson (61)|
|23||B Sutcliffe, Graveney, Hunte, Barlow, Miandad, Haynes, Gower, DM Jones, AH Jones, AJ Stewart, Thorpe, Dravid, Samaraweera, Styris, Pujara, M Vijay (77)|
So there are no fewer than 61 players sitting atop Pujara in terms of innings needed to reach 1000 important runs, including five Indians. Vinod Kambli did not reach 1000 important runs, falling just shy with 963 in 14 innings, but it’s reasonable to assume he could have achieved that feat in 15 innings. With 496 runs in his first 10 important innings, Gary Ballance was on pace for 1000 in 20 or 21 innings, however his form fell off so badly afterwards that he never reached that milestone, stalling at 862 runs in 29 important innings at an iAvg of 29.72.
Misbah has a much better conversion rate in regular innings than in important ones. After his epic 290 against the Australians at Perth in 2015, Ross Taylor‘s iDiff was +11.16, but just one of his next five tons came in important innings. Jesse Ryder came in to bat on only two occasions when his team was on top. He is the only player whose iAvg, rAvg and batting average are all identical. Alastair Cook‘s 26 important centuries has him in seventh place all time, while his 69 scores of fifty or more has him one place higher, in sixth. After 21 Tests Cook’s iDiff was still massively negative, at -11.50, and did not go positive until he made 189 at Sydney in his 64th Test. It was still negative after 153 Tests. Between his 110 vs Pakistan at the Oval and his 294 against India a year later he averaged 103 in 15 important innings.
|AB de Villiers||935||49.03||12/34||49.19||8/11||-0.16||-0.3%|
|Shakib Al Hasan||694||41.38||5/23||24.80||0/1||+16.58||+3.2%|
An iDiff of -0.16 suggests a very consistent performer, though a closer inspection of AB de Villiers‘ figures suggests a Test career of fits and starts. After consecutive tons in his first ten Tests his conversion rate was 3/4 (iDiff +13.31), following which he hit nine consecutive fifties without converting any of them. A similar streak bookended his career, going seven fifties in a row with no hundreds. After his 278 against Pakistan his iDiff was positive, but after that he hit four tons in 50 important innings and 5 in 31 regular innings to send it very slightly negative by the close. Shaqib Al Hasan shows a massive iDiff with all but one of his 29 innings of 50-plus being made in important innings. His first 22 innings were all played without his side enjoying a lead – how does that compare with other consecutive streaks? See Digression #3 below. After 27 Tests David Warner‘s iAvg and rAvg were 36.89 and 39.26 respectively; his next 11 innings saw him net six tons and two more fifties, adding almost ten runs to each of those. His 253 against NZ at Perth, though insufficient to garner him the match award thanks to Ross Taylor’s own heroics, took his iAvg above 50 thanks to nine tons in 30 innings.
Digression #3 – longest streak of consecutive important innings
|36||H Sutcliffe, Hutton|
|29||Gavaskar, Ramdin, Hossain|
|28||L Amarnath, PA de Silva|
|27||JG Wright, Kapil Dev|
|26||TA Ward, Botham, Gatting, Flynn|
I’ve left out some other Bangladesh players as otherwise the list would be dominated by them. Hasan’s compatriot, Habibul Bashar, has by far the longest streak of consecutive important innings ever.
Murali Vijay shows as being a massively impactful player in important innings, with a huge iDiff and an excellent conversion rate, considering that all of his tons were made in important innings. Virat Kohli is one of that select group to average over 50 no matter what the circumstances. After 15 Tests his iDiff was +17 and, despite that dropping all the way to +2 approaching his 30th Test, a run of four tons in seven consecutive important innings brought it back up to +13. By the time he knocked up his 235 vs England it was +22 after 50 Tests. The reason his iDiff is slightly negative now is that, like Jayawardene, he has found a way to raise his game for regular innings as well as important innings – while his iAvg has remained unchanged since then, his rAvg has rocketed up from just over 35 to more than 56. Kohli’s conversion rate of 60.00% in important innings only just trails Steve Smith (60.71%) as the best since Bradman. Smith took 23 innings before registering his first Test hundred, at which point his iDiff was -12, however he had batted in important situations more than 80% of the time. Of course he took off after that to such an extent that his iDiff just ten innings later was +24 (45.62/21.65). After 40 Tests he had batted in just 55% important circumstances and his iDiff was back to -14 (52.79/66.52). After his Ashes masterclass it was back to +6.95 (63.85/56.90), Smith is just 0.03 from being the first to average at least 60 regardless of match situation since Bradman – no one else has achieved that mark. Now that he’s back in the international fold he may reach that landmark soon. Kane Williamson also joins the group who average above 50 regardless of the match situation. After 31 Tests both averages were below 40, however by the time he hit 242* vs Sri Lanka at Wellington his iAvg was over 50, though his rAvg did not exceed 50 until his 200* against Bangladesh last February.
Joe Root has a decent iDiff but a fairly low conversion rate – when he notched his fifth important ton he had seven fifties to go with them, but his next five important tons were mired among a further 25 fifties. When Root scored 190 against South Africa both averages were above 50, though he has maintained his important average at that level. Despite the low conversion rate, Root’s total number of i50s (44, which represents 40.37% of his important innings) does compare favourably with, for example, Steve Smith (28, 40.58%) and David Warner (36, 41.38%). Moeen Ali has a great conversion rate in important innings, all of his tons coming in such circumstances.
Dean Elgar has a fantastic conversion rate in important innings, while Jonny Bairstow‘s highest iAvg value was 44.34 after 36 Tests.
In summary, of these 102 players:-
– three players had an important average over 60 (Vinod Kambli, Ricky Ponting, Steve Smith – 0 last time)
– 20 players had an important average over 50 (9 last time)
– 19 players scored at least 15 important hundreds (highest Ponting, 37 – 5 last time)
– 58 players scored at least 20 important fifties, more than half (highest Ponting, 74 – 45 last time)
– 5 players had an average differential over 20 (highest Habibul Bashar +27.45, 2 last time)
Expanding the above to all of the players reviewed:-
|Parameter||1st 100||2nd 100||3rd 100||4th 100||Overall|
|20+ i100s + 150s||13||29||45||58||145|
So what have we seen?
This study has reviewed the performance of 402 batsmen in important innings. We can see a gradual decline in numbers of players achieving the average thresholds of 60+ and 50+ up to the era encompassed by Viv Richards and Andy Flower, but an increase in the 21st century. Naturally, the aggregate thresholds have continued to rise with the increasing number of Tests played.
I included the ICC ratings as I wanted to see how the batsmen’s iAvg stacked up against those ratings. If we look at any of the groups of five players it’s apparent that, though there is a correlation based on high quality, the ranking of each group based on ICC rating is not equivalent to the iAvg ranking. I feel therefore that the important runs average can show how a batsmen raises his game when it counts, in a way that the ICC rating, or the batting average for that matter, can not.
The best performance for i100s has progressed as follows:-
Ricky Ponting (37), Brian Lara (31) and Jacques Kallis (30) also achieved more than 30 important centuries. Others to notch 20 such hundreds include Garry Sobers, Javed Miandad, Allan Border, Steve Waugh, Shiv Chanderpaul, Rahul Dravid, Mahela Jayawardene, Virender Sehwag, Michael Clarke, Kumar Sangakkara, Graeme Smith, Younis Khan and Alastair Cook. Of current players, Virat Kohli, Steve Smith and Kane Williamson should join their ranks before too long.
I have been personally impressed by how the following have shown up in this study:- CB Fry, whom I had previously discounted but whose high iDiff has made me realise the error of those ways; Dudley Nourse who, though he didn’t make the cut based on my thresholds, had a higher iDiff than Bradman; George Headley, who at a shade under 70 has the highest iAvg after Bradman; Tom Graveney, whom I had also previously disparaged in comparison to Hanif specifically, but who clearly was a batsman to fear when his team was still in it; Andy Flower, who was the only player with an iAvg over 50 that also had more than 90% of his career runs made in important innings.
But the most impressive is Ricky Ponting who, as mentioned above and in the first feature, was absolutely massive in the clutch.
Here are the final records as they stand for each parameter studied:-
|Most i100s||42 SR Tendulkar|
|Most i50s||92 SR Tendulkar|
|iAvg||111.60 DG Bradman|
|iDiff||+34.32 DG Bradman|
So Sachin Tendulkar owns the records based on longevity, Don Bradman owns those based on averages.
Nothing changes, does it?