Zero to Sixty – the first hundred, from Grace to WorrellDave Wilson |
This feature expands on my previous article, Zero to Sixty – Important Runs in Test Cricket, and highlights the performances of top batsmen throughout Test history when their team’s win expectation was 60% or less when he came into bat. Below are the details of the earliest hundred batsmen, the first of four such player reviews.
The tables below are basically split chronologically into groups of five batsmen, showing the Player name, peak ICC rating, Average of important innings, total number of important hundreds and fifties, Average of regular innings, total number of regular hundreds and fifties, the differential between important and regular averages 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. An asterisk shows a new high in the particular category of important hundreds.
Readers may have their own subjective opinions of what constitutes ‘important runs’ in Test cricket, however please note that ‘important’ is used here in the context of this objective study, i.e. runs made when the batting team’s win probability was less than 60% when he came into bat. A regular innings is one which was played when the batting team’s win probability was 60% or higher.
Also a note on the ICC Player Ratings; as I understand it, a player’s full rating is not achieved until he has played in 40 Tests, and I can’t confirm whether or not this is adjusted for early Test cricket when far fewer Tests were played. This issue is not addressed in the website’s FAQs explaining how the ratings are derived.
Grace enjoyed the highest important average for a while and was the first to notch two centuries in important innings, later being joined in that regard by Steel, Shrewsbury and Stoddart. Grace fittingly held the best performances for Important Average, most 100s/50s and Average Differential.
One of the famous Gregory dynasty, Syd Gregory was the first with three important hundreds and set a new high with nine important innings over fifty. Stanley Jackson was first with four tons and equalled Gregory’s number of important fifties, while also achieving the highest important average and average differential so far, overtaking the Grand Old Man in those categories. Jack Brown’s ICC rating may be impacted by the 40-Test threshold discussed above (Brown appeared in eight matches). Joe Darling also equalled the highest number of fifties so far.
Archie MacLaren becomes the first with five important tons while also achieving the most important scores over fifty. I wrote a couple of pieces on Fry some time ago, basing my comments regarding his Test career on his traditional statistics, which showed a relatively low average as compared to his First-Class performances. However, it is clear that I was wrong about him and that he was indeed successful in Tests when it most mattered – Fry had a pretty high average differential. Tom Hayward equalled Maclaren’s total of important fifties while setting a new high of %iDiff, i.e. the largest difference between percentage of innings which were classified as important and the percentage of runs so classified.
More surprises – Clem Hill with a significant negative average differential, combined with a low conversion rate in important innings, though he did enjoy the highest number of important fifties to date. Ranji was the first to maintain an average of over 40 for both categories. Monty Noble also produced a high number of important fifties.
The great Victor Trumper becomes the first to achieve more than five important centuries, finishing with seven, and with a very good conversion rate also – he was also very close to averaging over 40 in both categories. In addition, he surpassed his compatriot Clem Hill’s highest number of important fifties with 16. Despite that famous fourth innings knock in a dead-rubber match in 1902, Gilbert Jessop had a pretty low average overall, but as might be expected by a hitter of such repute his differential is high, actually the highest so far.
The Big Ship had a much better conversion rate in regular innings, while ‘Tip’ Foster, who enjoyed one of the great debuts of all-time, could still not maintain an iAverage higher than his rAverage in a career which lasted only 15 Test innings, however his massive debut innings of 287 means that his %iDiff is still positive. ‘Dave’ Nourse fashioned a high number of important fifties.
|J Hardstaff Sr||396||43.67||0/3||+13.67||0/0||+30.00||+19.8%|
Aubrey Faulkner was one of the finest all-rounders to ever play the game and his batting is very consistent regardless of the situation. Charlie Macartney had a very good conversion rate in important innings. Joe Hardstaff Sr has one of the highest %iDiff numbers, though he appeared in only five Tests.
Hobbs passes Trumper’s record of seven important tons and increases it to eleven. He was also the first to maintain both averages over 50 (actually both are over 55). In addition, he surpasses Trumper’s maximum of 16 important fifties, with 28. Warren Bardsley enjoyed a very good conversion rate in important innings, while Frank Woolley had 20 important scores over fifty.
As far as the ICC player ratings are concerned Herbie Taylor is the class of this group, and his differential numbers are high, though Phil Mead tops even him, albeit with a much shorter career – Mead achieves the first ever important average over 60, and indeed he wasn’t far short of 70, though only around a third of his innings were played from a position of less than 60% win probability.
To be fair, this group does not represent the cream of Test playing batsmen, and Jack Gregory is better known as a fearsome fast bowler along with Ted McDonald, but Gregory was a more than useful batsman. ‘Jack’ Russell did manage to achieve an average of over 50 for both categories and ‘Patsy’ Hendren was very consistent. Percy Holmes was never going to displace Jack Hobbs as England’s first choice opener with Herbert Sutcliffe – though his numbers reflect that he didn’t shine for the national team, he was only given seven Tests to prove himself. Holmes doesn’t actually meet my thresholds for inclusion in this piece, but I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for him, especially with his world record opening partnership of 555 for Yorkshire with Sutcliffe (in one of those weird coincidences, he also appeared in 555 First-Class matches).
Percy Chapman enjoyed a very high average differential, as well as a high iDiff. Herbert Sutcliffe becomes just the second to average above 60 in important innings after Phil Mead, but in far more Tests. Sutcliffe also exceeds his opening partner Jack Hobbs in important tons as well as the highest number of fifties to date with 33.
Walter Hammond emulated his countryman Sutcliffe’s achievement of 15 important tons, and with an excellent conversion rate – he also averaged over 50 for both categories. Bill Ponsford, certainly in First-Class cricket, was a Bradman-like run machine, with two quadruple hundreds to his name, and his numbers here are also impressive, as are those of the other Bradman contemporary in this group, Bill Woodfull.
And now we come to Bradman who, as he is in every other study, is in a class apart. New records in important average with a scarcely believable 111.60 (compared to the previous highest set by Phil Mead with 68.63), most important tons with 23 (compared to Sutcliffe and Hammond with 15), an astonishing conversion rate in important innings, and the highest average differential for those with the minimum qualifications. Fertang favourites Maurice Leyland, who also has an excellent conversion rate in important innings, and Douglas Jardine, who averaged over 45 in both categories, both fare well. Learie Constantine was more of a bowling all-rounder, but I liked him so he goes in.
Duleep managed higher than 50 in both categories. Les Ames had a very good conversion rate, as did the great George Headley who sparkles under the spotlight of this measure, with an average second only to Bradman (thugh admittedly a very distant second), a 70% conversion rate and a very high differential. Stewie Dempster is an anomaly, as in his day New Zealand was decidedly a minnow in Tests, so that only one of his innings began when his team was ahead with at least 60% win probability, and that was a not out fifty.
Stan McCabe is only the fifth with an important average over 60, and has a very high average differential, higher even than Bradman, with all of his six centuries coming in important innings. Eddie Paynter maintained an average of over 50 in both categories, while Cyril Walters has a huge negative differential, though like Holmes he didn’t play in many Tests – Walters began only five innings when his team was ahead, but he scored a ton and two fifties with two not outs.
|J Hardstaff Jr||736||48.80||3/5||44.00||1/5||+4.80||+4.4%|
Vijay Merchant has a highly negative differential, but again he played in few Tests. Conversely, Dudley Nourse has a highly positive differential, all of his hundreds and fifties being made in what we are defining here as important innings.
Len Hutton joins Sutcliffe and Hammond with 15 important tons, all three a distant second to Bradman, however Hutton takes first place with the most scores of fifty or more in important innings (40) and also averages over 60. Another all-time great, certainly by the ICC rating measure, Compton also looks good by this method and heads his Middlesex compatriot Bill Edrich by a significant margin.
Lindsay Hassett maintained an excellent conversion rate in important innings. Sid Barnes managed to keep both averages over 58, while all-rounder Keith Miller, who as an ex-fighter pilot had a reputation for not really caring if there wasn’t anything on the line in a cricket match, has a much higher conversion rate with important fifties (57%) than for regular fifties (23%). Vijay Hazare, like Dempster, was not out in his non-important innings so that average differential is not really valid.
Both ‘Vinoo’ Mankad and Arthur Morris enjoyed excellent conversion rates in important innings, while interestingly Jack Robertson, the underrated ‘poor relation’ to Middlesex teammates Compton and Edrich, has a much higher average differential than either of them, and though most of his innings were not played while England was ahead, he did a lot with those innings as his iDiff number shows. Considering that most of the time his side was playing from behind, Bert Sutcliffe made his important innings count, too.
What a fine group here to finish on, with three players rated at 900+. Clyde Walcott maintained an average of over 55 for both categories with an excellent conversion rate, while Everton Weekes averaged over 50, though he could not match his teammate’s conversion rate. Neil Harvey ranks somewhere between those two all-time greats, and while Frank Worrell enjoyed more success when standing on the shoulders of giants, he did maintain a better conversion rate when West Indies was not ahead than otherwise.
In summary, of these 100 players:-
6 players had an important average over 60 (highest Bradman with 111.60)
27 players had an important average over 50
4 players had at least 15 important tons (highest Bradman with 23)
13 players had at least 20 important fifties (highest Hutton with 40)
12 players had an average differential over 20 (highest McCabe with +36.56)
So that’s the first 100 batsmen covered; in the following feature we’ll look at the next group of 100, from Peter May to Sunil Gavaskar.