For sportstats home page, and info in Test Cricket in Australia 1877-2002, click here


Z-score’s Cricket Stats Blog Archive –

Nov 2004 to Jun 2005


Who are the Fastest-Scoring (and Most Tenacious) Batsmen in Test Cricket? Click Here.




For sportstats home page, and info in Test Cricket in Australia 1877-2002, click here



The partnership of 22 between MacGill and Bracken to win the Sheffield Shield (PC) final was the highest last-wicket stand to win a first-class match in Australia since 1972, when South Australia’s tailenders put on 51 to beat NSW, with 17 minutes to spare.




Shaun Tait of South Australia and Andy Bichel of Queensland have taken over 50 wickets in the Australian domestic season, the first players to do so in 5 years.




When the Flower brothers added 269 runs against Pakistan in 1994-95, it was the highest ever partner-ship between a left-handed batsman who bowled right-handed, and a right-handed batsman who bowled left-handed.



Mark Boucher once kept wickets through 2346 Test runs without conceding a bye, over 11 consecutive innings.




The longest gap between Test centuries for any player is 13.95 years by Australian Warren Bardsley (1912-1926). The longest gap for a career not interrupted by war is 9.96 years by Bob Simpson (Jan 1968 to Dec 1977).




Kevin Pietersen (England) has set a record for highest ODI average. His average peaked at 267.0 before his dismissal for 33 in the Port Elizabeth ODI. Previous record-holder was MJ Clarke, who briefly boasted an average of 209.




Saleem Altaf has been appointed Pakistan’s director of cricket. He is a former Test player, mostly unnoteworthy, but he did set a “record” of sorts. In Melbourne in 1976/77, he made a pair of ducks and took 0 wickets for 145 (including 21 off one over), arguably the worst all-round performance by any player in a Test. He didn’t take any catches either.




Adam Gilchrist has scored his eleven Test centuries at eleven different grounds. His slowest Test century took only 143 balls.




In contrast to the 382 run last day in the Port Elizabethh Test, Bangladesh scored only 187 on their last day of the drawn Test against Zimbabwe, including just 37 runs off 30 overs in the pre-lunch session.




IN 1948 in Adelaide, Neil Harvey went from 95 to 100 (his 1st Test century) with an all-run five, without overthrows. In 1976 at Leeds, Allan Knott reached 100 with a hit for seven.




In Tests that they have played together, Stuart MacGill has more wickets (44 at 23.6) than Shane Warne (38 at 31.9).




Bangladesh’s 262 v New Zealand in October 2004 was the lowest total ever to conatin two “bowler’s centuries” (Vettori 6/100 and Wiseman 2/106).




The first day crowd of over 37,000 in Sydney was the highest for any Australia/Pakistan Test at that ground.




In the Melbourne Test of 2004, Australia’s first eight batsmen hailed from seven different states and territories.




Bangladesh bowled no wides or no-balls in 526 runs against India, the highest score without such extras since Pakistan scored 708 in 1987.





In 32 consecutive Tests from January 2000 to December 2002, Australia introduced only one debutant to Test cricket (Martin Love).




Back in 1881-82, George Giffen took more than 60 balls (55 minutes) to get of the mark on his Test debut.




Andrew Hall’s century for South Africa v India at Kanpur took 325 balls, the slowest for South Africa since Hansie Cronje took 339 balls in 1992-93 (v India at Port Elizabeth).




Glenn McGrath took 102 Test to score his first Test 50, far and away the record for Test semi-centurions (previously: Muralitharan, 63 Tests)




Michael Clarke still hasn’t been given a bowl since taking 6 for 9 at Mumbai. This has no precedent in Tests.




The McGrath/Gillespie last wicket stand in Brisbane outscored the entire Kiwi team’s 71 all out. This has happened only a handful of times, inlcuding:


Edgbaston 1902, when Australia was bowled out for 36 after England’s tailenders put on 81 and,


Durban 1996, where McMillan and Donald put on 74 and India were bowled out for 66.




The late great Keith Miller bowled more than 10,000 balls and took 170 wickets in Test cricket, yet he was never hit for six by any batsman.




In their last 44 Tests, the Australians have lost six times, but only one of these losses has come while a series still up for grabs. That was at Adelaide in 2003-04.


24 June 2005


A Long Week for Australian Cricket


There are precedents for most things in cricket, but if there ever has been a week quite like this past one for Australian cricket, it is hard to find.


Most freakish event of the week goes to Bangladesh’s five-wicket win over Australia in the NatWest one-dayer. Beaten by a team with an ODI record so miserable that it is yet to beat Canada, and has beaten Kenya only once in seven attempts! There had been only one individual one-day century by a Bangladeshi batsman in 108 matches. Excepting matches against Zimbabwe, Bangladesh had never successfully chased down a score of 250 or more, until Saturday. Only two days earlier, England had effortlessly smoked their way to 0/192, at almost eight runs per over, against them. No wonder some questions (perhaps tongue-in-cheek) were being raised in the subcontinent about Australia’s performance.


Yet there have been signs of life in Bangladeshi cricket recently, at least on the ODI front. They have reached 200 in nine of their last ten matches; up from a feeble 20% for most of their history. And there was a little-noticed win against India last Christmas to consider.


Still, one struggles for precedents; it is greatest upset in ODI history. Perhaps the nearest parallel is a one-day match (though not played under ODI conditions) that Australia played against Holland at The Hague in 1964, between tours of England and the subcontinent. Australia was bowled out for 197, in 50.1 overs as it happened, and then the Dutch stunned everyone by scoring seven for 201.


Undoubtedly encouraged by Bangladesh’s success, and that of Somerset a few days before, England on Sunday fulfilled a 252-run contract total with overs to spare, thanks to Kevin Pietersen (91n.o. off 65 balls). Pietersen now boasts a batting average in ODIs of 162.5 at a strike rate of 105 runs/100 balls. Talk about unprecedented: Ian Bell, the batsman Pietersen may replace, has a Test average of almost 300. When was the last time England selectors had a choice like this?


With the Twenty20 result thrown in, the Australians have now lost four on the trot. If you are looking for another example of an Australian Ashes touring team losing four in a row, it takes some finding, but it did happen, just the once, over a century ago. The year was 1890, and the Aussies lost four first-class matches consecutively in June of that year. And even that team did not have the burden of two scandals to throw into the mix.


The 1886-1890 era was the all-time low point in Australian cricket history, which only makes the current sequence all the more shocking. Ricky Ponting now faces an unforeseen challenge. Suddenly Australia, accustomed to winning on autopilot, need discipline and leadership. No time to panic: recent Ashes tours, especially 1997, have started with problems on the one-day front. But preventing this aberration from turning into a disaster will be the greatest challenge to Ponting’s career so far.


Some balance has now returned to the cricketing universe, with Bangladesh conceding 391 to England on Tuesday – the highest ODI total ever conceded by a Test-ranked team – and on Thursday the Australian bowlers returning to form in a 57-run win. The only minor embarrassment was the 50-run last wicket stand by Gough and Harmison, the highest last-wicket stand against Australia in one-dayers (equalling one by Bond and Mills for New Zealand in 2002). There have been only six greater stands between Number 10 and 11 batsmen in ODIs, the highest being 72 between Abdul Razzaq and Waqar Younis for Pakistan vs South Africa in 1998.



17 June 2005


Another article has been posted in the “Longer Articles” Section. This is a reconstruction of the great Test match of 1880 at the Oval.


16 June 2005


Blitzkrieg in Doubt?


A couple of early setbacks on the Ashes tour have called into question the potential strategy of the Australian team, and suggests that the tour is not going to be the steamrolling affair that most recent England tours have turned into.


If Australia’s batting in the Twenty20 International at Southampton is anything to go by, there is certainly real potential for team self-destruction in this format of the sport. It’s like a high-wire act – pushing the envelope too far can lead to spectacular failure. With no time for re-grouping, teams that press on aggressively, regardless of losses, may suffer remarkable collapses like the Australians’ from time to time.


That top-order collapse is actually one of the most extreme in international cricket history. The Australians at one stage were 7 for 31: to find an instance of Australia losing so many wickets for fewer runs, in any full international match, one has to go back to the last day of a Test at the Oval in 1896, when Australia lost 7 for 14 on an unplayable wicket.


It is even worse when we consider that Australia at one stage had been 0 for 23, so losing its first 7 wickets in the space of 8 runs and 20 balls. No team, in Test, ODI, or Twenty20, has ever given up its first seven wickets in so short a span. The previous worst was the West Indies, who went from 0/16 to 7/25 in 36 balls in an ODI against Zimbabwe (of all teams) in 2000-01.


The collapse could have an effect on Australian strategy. Some might be expecting a blitzkrieg approach to the first Test, to wrest the initiative in the series from England the first day, as happened in 2002-03 when Australia scored 2 for 364 at Brisbane. The risks of this approach are now more apparent.


Now the Australians have been rocked again, this time the bowlers, who could not defend a massive total of 342 at Taunton. Somerset’s 6 for 345 in only 46.5 overs is the biggest total ever conceded by an Australian team in limited-over cricket, edging past the 343 made by Sri Lanka at the SCG in 2003. It was good to see Somerset fielding a full-strength side for the match; for decades now, we have become accustomed to seeing the counties resting top players for such games, which I believe has been to the long-term detriment of English cricket. By demonstrating that the Australians are beatable when not firing on all cylinders, Somerset have done a real service to England’s hopes in the Ashes.


But don’t panic, Australia. Every Australian touring team dating back to 1981 has lost one limited-over match to a county team, so nothing unusual about that. The manner of the defeat was worrying, though. And in how many teams have batsmen voluntarily “retired out” and ended up on the losing side? I can’t find any previous instances involving Australia.



9 June 2005


Two-Tests: Too Much or Not Enough?


The two-Test series is one of cricket’s modern afflictions. Two Tests seems to be an insufficient number to prove anything for individuals, and for teams, the second Test is usually either redundant (in one-sided contests) or leaves matters unresolved (in close contests). We have seen perfect examples of both in the last few weeks.


The England-Bangladesh series was, if anything, even more embarrassingly one-sided than expected. England set new records for domination of a multi-Test series. England’s overall batting average of 162.5 is far and away the highest by a team in any Test series. Only one team (South Africa in 2002-03) had previously averaged over 100, and that was against Bangladesh also.


Even worse, England’s batting average was over 9.4 times greater than their opponents, again an unrivalled gulf between two teams. No other country has ever recorded a ratio even half as bad as this in all Test cricket. If it wasn’t for the current Zimbabwe team, we could make a strong case that Bangladesh is the worst team in Test history. While countries like New Zealand and India have gone through extended bad patches over the years, they never plumbed these depths.


England, for good measure, set a record for the fastest scoring in a Test series, 85.53 runs per 100 balls. This was just a smidgin faster than South Africa’s recent rate against Zimbabwe, 85.51. England were the first team to secure a first-innings lead on the first day of two consecutive Test matches. Marcus Trescothick scored 151 on the first day at Chester-le-Street, a record first-day output for a batsman in a team batting second.


Mashrafe Mortaza was the only Bangladeshi bowler to take more than one wicket. On the downside, his 4 wickets at 49.5 was balanced by his batting average of 0.25. The other five bowlers average 325.0 in the two Tests.


What can be done with Bangladesh? It would be a backward step to exclude them from Tests altogether, but until they show signs of competitiveness, they should be quarantined, that is limited to home Tests only, and then in very limited numbers. A promotion/relegation system might be possible, say with the two bottom Test teams (Zimbabwe and Bangladesh at the moment) playing a round robin tournament with  Kenya (initially) every two years, with the bottom team losing Test privileges, and the other two winning limited Test status.


Meanwhile in the Caribbean, the West Indies showed surprising resilience in drawing the two Test series 1-1 with Pakistan, so it is a great shame that no deciding match could be scheduled. Pakistan came from behind on the first innings to win the second Test, after batting first. This is not a common mode of winning in recent times; only three Tests in the previous 66 followed this pattern.


For the third time in this Caribbean season alone, Brian Lara made a score over 150 and ended up on the losing side. Lara is now unchallenged in his ability to do this – seven times over his whole career, while no one else has done it more than thrice (Tendulkar). I wrote earlier that the West Indies batsmen seem to do a bit better when Lara is not in the side; perhaps this only applies to occasions when Lara is on song and hitting fast runs.

Lara has scored over 150 for the winning side only four times. Since 1999, he has scored 150s for losing teams seven times, but only once for a winning side, and that was against Zimbabwe.

The Ashes series will be a particular challenge for Matthew Hayden. Although he has been on two Tests tours of England, he has scored only 234 Test runs there, with a top score of 68. He has not been in top form this year (his last Test centuries were in Cairns in July 2004), and quite a lot may depend on his early form in the Ashes Tests.





Random Stat of the Day


The partnership of 22 between MacGill and Bracken to win the Sheffield Shield (PC) final was the highest last-wicket stand to win a first-class match in Australia since 1972, when South Australia’s tailenders put on 51 to beat NSW, with 17 minutes to spare.




Shaun Tait of South Australia and Andy Bichel of Queensland have taken over 50 wickets in the Australian domestic season, the first players to do so in 5 years.




When the Flower brothers added 269 runs against Pakistan in 1994-95, it was the highest ever partner-ship between a left-handed batsman who bowled right-handed, and a right-handed batsman who bowled left-handed.




Mark Boucher once kept wickets through 2346 Test runs without conceding a bye, over 11 consecutive innings.




The longest gap between Test centuries for any player is 13.95 years by Australian Warren Bardsley (1912-1926). The longest gap for a career not interrupted by war is 9.96 years by Bob Simpson (Jan 1968 to Dec 1977).




Kevin Pietersen (England) has set a record for highest ODI average. His average peaked at 267.0 before his dismissal for 33 in the Port Elizabeth ODI. Previous record-holder was MJ Clarke, who briefly boasted an average of 209.




Saleem Altaf has been appointed Pakistan’s director of cricket. He is a former Test player, mostly unnoteworthy, but he did set a “record” of sorts. In Melbourne in 1976/77, he made a pair of ducks and took 0 wickets for 145 (including 21 off one over), arguably the worst all-round performance by any player in a Test. He didn’t take any catches either.




Adam Gilchrist has scored his eleven Test centuries at eleven different grounds. His slowest Test century took only 143 balls.




In contrast to the 382 run last day in the Port Elizabethh Test, Bangladesh scored only 187 on their last day of the drawn Test against Zimbabwe, including just 37 runs off 30 overs in the pre-lunch session.




IN 1948 in Adelaide, Neil Harvey went from 95 to 100 (his 1st Test century) with an all-run five, without overthrows. In 1976 at Leeds, Allan Knott reached 100 with a hit for seven.




In Tests that they have played together, Stuart MacGill has more wickets (44 at 23.6) than Shane Warne (38 at 31.9).




Bangladesh’s 262 v New Zealand in October 2004 was the lowest total ever to conatin two “bowler’s centuries” (Vettori 6/100 and Wiseman 2/106).




The first day crowd of over 37,000 in Sydney was the highest for any Australia/Pakistan Test at that ground.




In the Melbourne Test of 2004, Australia’s first eight batsmen hailed from seven different states and territories.




Bangladesh bowled no wides or no-balls in 526 runs against India, the highest score without such extras since Pakistan scored 708 in 1987.





In 32 consecutive Tests from January 2000 to December 2002, Australia introduced only one debutant to Test cricket (Martin Love).




Back in 1881-82, George Giffen took more than 60 balls (55 minutes) to get of the mark on his Test debut.




Andrew Hall’s century for South Africa v India at Kanpur took 325 balls, the slowest for South Africa since Hansie Cronje took 339 balls in 1992-93 (v India at Port Elizabeth).




Glenn McGrath took 102 Test to score his first Test 50, far and away the record for Test semi-centurions (previously: Muralitharan, 63 Tests)




Michael Clarke still hasn’t been given a bowl since taking 6 for 9 at Mumbai. This has no precedent in Tests.




The McGrath/Gillespie last wicket stand in Brisbane outscored the entire Kiwi team’s 71 all out. This has happened only a handful of times, inlcuding:


Edgbaston 1902, when Australia was bowled out for 36 after England’s tailenders put on 81 and,


Durban 1996, where McMillan and Donald put on 74 and India were bowled out for 66.




The late great Keith Miller bowled more than 10,000 balls and took 170 wickets in Test cricket, yet he was never hit for six by any batsman.




In their last 44 Tests, the Australians have lost six times, but only one of these losses has come while a series still up for grabs. That was at Adelaide in 2003-04.


26 May 2005


West Indies Reach Rock Bottom, Keep Digging.


Pakistan begins a short Test series today in the West Indies. They are the eighth team to tour the Caribbean in just over three years, a complete set with the exception of Zimbabwe. For the West Indians, it is one more forlorn chance to reverse a dismal recent home record. As recently as ten years ago, a tour of the West Indies was a great challenge, even something to be feared.


Not so in the last three years. Since beating India in 2002, The West Indies, against six opponents, have lost nine home Tests and won only three, one of those wins coming against Bangladesh. Even Bangladesh managed to draw one match, by batting for over 15 hours in their two innings.


Away from home it is even worse. Since their win at Edgbaston in June 2000, the West Indians’ only away victories in five years have been against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. They have lost 22 away Tests in that time.


Until this year, the results in ODIs were more encouraging. The West Indies held their own in ODIs in 2004, more or less, but they have just lost eight in a row, all of them at home. They have only one win in 14 outings so far in 2005.


After a five-year break, the West Indies are undertaking a Test tour to Australia in 2005-06, but the scheduling reflects the fact that they are only a shadow of their former selves. They have been relegated to the supporting act (to South Africa), and for the first time ever they will be playing a series in Australia without playing at either Sydney or Melbourne. Compare that to the 1980s, when the MCG hosted no fewer than four Windies Tests. On current trends, it is hard to predict when the West Indies will play their next Test at Melbourne. A gap of more than a decade is on the cards.


How the mighty have fallen.


Looking at the scheduling for the 2005-06 Australian summer, it is evident that much faith remains in the ODIs. Thanks to the new “Super” series, up to 18 will be played during the summer, the most for quite a number of years. Is the faith misplaced? ODI popularity in Australia has been fading a little in the last few years, while Tests have remained strong. Opportunities to try more 20/20 novelty games, or to give Tests more prominence during the January core of the season, have been passed up. It is a shame, although part of the reason could be that we have to share a cricket season with the touring South Africans, who will be hosting a reciprocal Australian tour in February.


Just one international 20/20 game is being trialled – against South Africa – while the real test-driving of the concept will come in an interstate competition in January. Here’s hoping for a strong public response.


Meanwhile, England has started the match (I hesitate to use the word “Test”) against Bangladesh at bookmakers odds of 50 to 1 on to win. These are stunning odds in a two-horse race where the elements could always interefere. One wonders if such extreme odds would be offered against most of the world’s first-class sides. Australians can only hope, however, that England do not fail to win. For the sake of the Ashes contest.


The International section of the Australian summer schedule is as follows:


Johnnie Walker Super Series

Wednesday, October 5 - 1st ODI @ Telstra Dome

Friday, October 7 - 2nd ODI @ Telstra Dome

Sunday, October 9 - 3rd ODI @ Telstra Dome

Friday-Wednesday, October 14-19 - Super Test @ SCG


3 Test Series - Australia v West Indies

Thursday-Sunday, October 27-30 - 4 day Tour Match v Queensland @ Gabba

Thursday-Monday, November 3-7 - 1st Test @ Gabba

Friday-Sunday, November 11-13 - 3 day Tour Match v Victoria @ Junction

Thursday-Monday, November 17-21 - 2nd Test @ Bellerive

Friday-Tuesday, November 25-29 - 3rd Test @ Adelaide


3 Test Series - Australia v South Africa

Sunday-Wednesday, December 11-13 - 3 day Tour Match v Western Australia @ WACA

Friday-Tuesday, December 16-20 - 1st Test @ WACA

Monday-Friday, December 26-30 - 2nd Test @ MCG

Monday-Friday, January 2-6 - 3rd Test @ SCG


Twenty20 Match

Monday, January 9 - Australia v South Africa @ Gabba


VB Series - Australia v South Africa v Sri Lanka

Tuesday, January 10 - Tour Match: Queensland v South Africa @ Gabba

Wednesday, January 11 - Tour Match: Victoria v Sri Lanka @ Junction Oval

Friday, January 13 - Tour Match: Queensland Academy of Sport v South Africa @ Allan Border Field

Friday, January 13 - Game 1: Australia v Sri Lanka @ Telstra Dome

Sunday, January 15 - Game 2: Australia v South Africa @ Gabba

Tuesday, January 17 - Game 3: South Africa v Sri Lanka @ Gabba

Friday, January 20 - Game 4: Australia v South Africa @ Telstra Dome

Sunday, January 22 - Game 5: Australia v Sri Lanka @ SCG

Tuesday, January 24 - Game 6: South Africa v Sri Lanka @ Adelaide

Thursday, January 26 - Game 7: Australia v Sri Lanka @ Adelaide

Friday, January 27 - Tour Match: Prime Minister's XI v Sri Lanka @ Manuka

Sunday, January 29 - Game 8: Australia v Sri Lanka @ WACA

Tuesday, January 31 - Game 9: South Africa v Sri Lanka @ WACA

Friday, February 3 - Game 10: Australia v South Africa @ Telstra Dome

Sunday, February 5 - Game 11: Australia v South Africa @ SCG

Tuesday, February 7 - Game 12: South Africa v Sri Lanka @ Bellerive

Friday, February 10 - 1st Final @ Adelaide

Sunday, February 12 - 2nd Final @ SCG

Tuesday, February 14 - 3rd Final @ Gabba (if required)


18 May 2005


Boundaries: Too Much Reward?


The increasing domination by batsmen in the modern game has been obliquely addressed in a recent ICC meeting, where guidelines were issued on the construction and materials of bats. There are various factors behind the increasing success of bat over ball, but certainly improving bats and smaller fields (due to boundary ropes) must be having an effect.


Not only do these factors increase scoring, but they make it easier to score quickly without risk, i.e. batsmen can play with extra care over their shots and still score well. Errors are penalised less; mishits can still go for six, and when shots go to hand, the ball is travelling faster and more likely to be missed.


Watching some old tapes of Tests in 1975, there did appear to have been some subtle changes in batsmanship. I was struck by the effort players like Ian Chappell appeared to be putting into their big shots. There didn’t seem to be quite the same reward for heavy contact with the ball.


It’s tough to analyse this statistically, but one area where change can be measured is in the scoring of boundaries. Boundary hitting is currently at an historical high, and the change is relatively recent. Here are some figures of the percentage of runs scored as 4s and 6s over Test history:


19th century: 46%

1900-1920: 46%

1921-1945: 42%

1946-65: 46%

1966-75: 48%

1975-84: 48%

1985-89: 49%

1990-94: 50%

1995-2000: 52%

2001-2005: 55.4%


A graph of more detailed figures shows a virtually flat trend from the 1950s to the late 80s, followed by a clear and steady rise starting then, continuing to the present day. Most recently the percentage has risen to over 56%. Now, part of this is the change in the mix of locations of matches, which may be a factor in increasing boundaries, but this change was going on for decades before 1990.


Is the increase in boundary-hitting a bad thing? Well, no one wants to return to the slow scoring and dull draws of the 50s and 60s. Boundaries are, after all, good to watch, and it is interesting that the only period before today with over 50% boundaries was the peak of the “Golden Age” from 1895 to 1905. On the other hand, the pendulum may have swung too far. If scoring levels change permanently, the game loses contact with its traditional standards, and that would be a real loss. The place in history of our leading players will become uncertain.


These figures are based on scores of 50 or more only, in order to minimise gaps in the data and compare like with like.


11 May 2005


Whirlwind Half-Centuries


I have preparedsome material on the subject of the fastest Test match half-centuries. This is a record that has changed hands recently, at least in terms of balls faced. It is hard to find sources that offer complete lists of these records, so this is my offering. This data recently appeared in Wisden Cricket Monthly.


JT Brown’s great innings at Melbourne in 1895 still leads the list in terms of time batted. The time is uncertain, because the very detailed accounts which survive (there is no surviving scorebook) unfortunately don’t always agree: for the first 50 runs, times of 23, 25, 28, 30, and 38 minutes can be found in various original sources. The consensus, which seems to be 28 minutes, is consistent with the number of overs bowled.


The Top Ten half-centuries, in the first list, is dominated by older records, from the days when over rates were much higher than today. Note a couple of corrections of published statistics:


  • A time of 22 minutes for a 50 by Victor Trumper in South Africa in 1902 is incorrect. This appears to be a confusion between the team innings time (50 in 22 minutes) with Trumper’s individual time (50 in 45-50 minutes).


  • A published time of 35 minutes for Johnny Sinclair in the same series also does not stand up to close scrutiny. It should be 55 minutes.


Fastest Test 50s (minutes batted)









JT Brown (Eng)


Aus v Eng

 Melbourne 1894-95



SA Durani (Ind)


Ind v Eng

 Kanpur 1963-64



EAV Williams (WI)


WI v Eng

 Barbados 1947-48



BR Taylor (NZ)



 Auckland 1968-69



WJ O'Reilly (Aus)


SA v Aus

 Johannesburg 1935-36



WJ Cronje (SA)



 Pretoria 1997-98



CA Roach (WI)


Eng v WI

 Oval 1933



CR Browne (WI)


WI v Eng

 Georgetown 1929-30



JW Hitch (Eng)


Eng v Aus

 Oval 1921



CG Macartney (Aus)


Aus v SA

 Sydney 1910-11


A footnote for this list is the innings by England captain FG Mann against New Zealand at Leeds in 1949. Mann scored 49 not out off 24 balls in 24 minutes, declaring the innings closed when on the cusp of a record.



In terms of balls faced, a different list emerges, with a far more modern look. Once again, there is some departure from published sources. Ian Botham’s 50 at Delhi in 1981-82  is often given as 26 balls. Careful examination of the scorebook, however, reveals 28 deliveries, including two no-balls, which may be the source of the confusion.


Fastest Test 50s (balls faced)









JH Kallis (SA)


SA v Ban

 Cape Town 2004-05



Shahid Afridi


Pak v Ind

 Bangalore 2004-05



Yousuf Youhana (Pak)


SA v Pak

 Cape Town 2002-03



EAV Williams (WI)


WI v Eng

 Barbados 1947-48



IT Botham (Eng)


Ind v Eng

 Delhi 1981-82

29 (or 30)


B Yardley (Aus)


WI v Aus

 Barbados 1977-78



N Kapil Dev (Ind)


Pak v Ind

 Karachi 1982-83



WJ Cronje (SA)



 Pretoria 1997-98



IVA Richards (WI)


WI v Ind

 Kingston 1982-83



IT Botham (Eng)


Eng v NZ

 Oval 1986


The Yardley innings is an interesting case. The uncertainty arises because one of his scoring shots, as recorded by the scorebook, really should have been credited to his batting partner. Either way, it is arguably the most remarkable innings in these lists. Yardley hit two sixes and five fours in three overs by Joel Garner, who was perhaps the most formidable bowler of the day. He went on to hit nine fours and two sixes in his first 53 runs.


The innings of Williams is unique for its explosive start. Williams reached 20 off four balls and 30 off eight: 66440442.


Apart from Williams, only one innings (Cronje) is on both lists. The 56 by Clifford Roach at the Oval in 1933 may well belong on both, but there is really not enough known about this one to be sure.


A feature of the second list is that none of the batsmen advanced past a score of 82, a clear sign of how difficult it is to sustain scoring like this under Test conditions.


The competitive circumstances of the Kallis innings and a few others, such as Durani’s innings in 1964, are dubious. Most of the other innings, though, can be regarded as authentic performances. Shahid Afridi’s 50 off 26 balls in Bangalore can be regarded as the fastest 50 under competitive conditions.




4 May 2005


The Unlevel Playing Field


The Test “match” at St John’s has finally ended. It was the sort of match that critics sometimes say was “only of interest to statisticians”. As a working statistician I just want to say that I don’t enjoy cricket like this either. But at least it gives me something to talk about within my expertise.


There were any number of records broken to no good purpose, including most centuries in a Test match (eight). Whatever. A more interesting feature, though, is the disconnect between West Indies performances on this ground and their efforts elsewhere. They have now topped 700 in their last two innings at the ground. This is in an era where the only wins the West Indies have enjoyed in their last 20 Tests have been against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, and their 12 losses in that time have all been by heavy margins.


The most striking thing to me about the two 700s is that the West Indies made no serious attempt to win either match. Last year against England, Brian Lara took over 180 balls to go from 300 to 400, at a time when fast runs and a declaration were needed. This year, when Gayle was out at 512 for 4, the rest of team then scored at just 2.8 runs per over until they were all out for 747. It was tacit acceptance of the futility of cricket under those conditions.


Can anything be done about such conditions? I think so. After all, it was only two years ago that St. John’s produced one of the great matches, with the West Indies scoring 418 in the 4th innings to win, after the teams’ first innings were tied. It is hard to “dial up” the perfect pitch for cricket, but couldn’t the ICC look into some ways of standardisation, so that extreme wickets like the ones since then are avoided?


One reason that run-scoring has become easier in recent years are those ubiquitous boundary ropes. This has reduced ground size, which can have an increased effect on already-tiny grounds like St. John’s; a 5-metre rope will reduce the area of a 160m x 160m ground by 12%, but will have an 18% effect on a 110m ground. I don’t know the dimensions of St John’s, but it looks very small, and this is amplified by the fact the ground slopes away from the pitch quite noticeably. Now, anyone who has putted on a really fast golf green knows that even a very gentle slope can have a huge effect on how far the ball rolls. In cricket, batting on a superfast, sloping outfield makes run-scoring relatively risk-free.


At St John’s, there is too much reward for half-baked shots. An interesting indicator is the ratio of 4s to 3s, where a high ratio would indicate that it is very easy, perhaps too easy, to hit boundaries. At St John’s last year the ratio was over 7 to 1. In Australia it ranges from 2.5:1 to a bit over 5:1.


Perhaps we could we have guidelines for groundsmen which control the speed of outfields. Small grounds should be prepared with longer outfield grass. This would be easier to measure and control than pitch quality.


Another suggestion would be to literally level the playing fields, to make it a bit harder to hit boundaries. Pitches are slightly elevated at many grounds for drainage reasons, but modern technology should be able to get around this. Where space is so acutely limited, such as at St. John’s, we could even turn grounds into “bowls”, with the pitches a bit lower than the boundaries.


This would cost, of course, but perhaps it would be worth the authorities while to subsidise such changes, if the result is more meaningful and competitive cricket.


UPDATE. The ratio of 4s to 3s in the St John’s Test just completed was 8.47 to 1 (161 fours, 19 threes). This is an extreme ratio. There were also 10 sixes.







29 April 2005


Shame about the ABC Cricket Forum, which has been abruptly shut down after years of operation. The Forum had been nearly strangled a year or two back by the introduction of pre-moderation, but had made a comeback in recent times. There was plenty of interest to read, in spite of the presence of monomaniacs (thinking of the chucking issue here).


The Forum, along with a bunch of other Sports Forums, was closed with only one day’s notice. There was, of course, no other warning or consultation, or even a reason to speak of.


I guess that is the nature of the Internet. When something is provided for free, it can be withdrawn or disappear without warning, and the consumers can twist in the wind.


Another nature of the Internet is that there is plenty of choice. Other cricket forums can easily be found. Welcome to any readers from the Victor Trumper Cricket Board.


27 April 2005


Lara the Jinx?


The West Indies have just suffered their heaviest-ever home defeat, losing by an innings and 86 runs against South Africa at Bridgetown. They have lost the last two Tests (and the series) by large margins in spite of Brian Lara scoring 196 (out of 347) at Port-of-Spain and 176 (out of 296) at Bridgetown. In both Tests, Lara scored over 50% of his team’s runs in one innings; he is the first batsman to do this in consecutive Tests since Len Hutton in 1950.


Lara also equalled Hutton in scoring 50% or more for the fourth time; only Bradman (five occasions) is ahead of him now. Lara is a specialist at making big scores in a losing cause, and once scored over 350 runs (221 and 130) for a losing side. His 176 is the highest individual score for any team beaten by such a huge margin.


At Port-of-Spain, Lara combined with Sarwan in another rare occurrence. Both batsmen topped 50% of the team’s runs in an innings (Sarwan 107 out of 194 in the second innings); this has happened only once before in Tests, when Azhar Mahmood and Saeed Anwar did it in the same Test for Pakistan against South Africa in 1998.


All this came after a Lara-free West Indies scored 543 for 5 and enforced the follow-on at Georgetown. This sequence brings to light an extraordinary effect: Lara’s teammates tend to perform more poorly when he is in the team than when he is absent. It is worth highlighting. Since 2000, Lara’s teammates have:


-         averaged 35.8 when Lara does not bat.

-         averaged 26.1 when Lara bats.


Lara himself has averaged over 56 in this period.


Now it is true that some of Lara’s absences have been in Tests against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. But even if such Tests are ignored, the effect is striking. One would expect that Lara’s success would have a flow-on effect, making it easier for his colleagues to score runs. The opposite is the case, and without delving into the psychology of the situation, it is hard to explain. As a complete non-expert in psychology, I will leave it to readers to go down that road.


UPDATE. In the very next innings with Lara in the team, his teammates rack up 701 runs between tham. Typical.



20 Apr 2005


A longer post today, on a seminar on chucking I attended last week, but first, a curiosity from the archive….


Bruce Mitchell’s 58 for South Africa v Australia at the Gabba in 1931 was hardly an earth-shaking event. However, it may well hold two world records. Mitchell started on Saturday, 28th November 1931, and at stumps was 45 in 2.5 hours. Sunday was a rest day, and the next two days were washed out. On Wednesday, play did not start until 4:00 pm; Mitchell moved to 53 in the two hour session, failing to score for the first 90 minutes. On Thursday, he was out for 58 in 291 minutes.


The total elapsed time for the innings was about 4 days, 21 hours, which is the longest time, between first ball and last, ever played for any Test, and possibly first-class, innings.


Secondly, the 90 minute scoreless gap in his innings encompassed at least 35 overs. We don’t know how many balls Mitchell faced, but he almost certainly faced over 100, making it the longest scoreless gap known in any Test. The most balls faced in a scoreless spell, that I know of for sure, is the 80 balls faced by JT Murray before he scored in Sydney in 1962-63. Murray was batting with a serious shoulder injury in a defensive situation.


UPDATE. Three world records? Mitchell’s 8 runs in 2 hours is the fewest runs I know of in a full 2-hour session of play. By the way, if anyone knows of any greater extremes than these records, drop me a line.


UPDATE 2. A fuller analysis of Mitchell’s innings gives a reasonably firm figure of 95 balls faced without scoring on the fifth day. He first scored in the 34th over. This may have been exceeded by Trevor Bailey at Leeds in 1955. Unsure at this stage.


Steve Pittard has pointed out other instances of 8 runs in a session. He writes:


‘Jack’ Russell & Graham Gooch have also scored 8 whilst batting through a complete session. Russells effort was  at Johannesberg for England against South Africa 1995/96 (the famous Atherton & Russell rearguard)  going  from 9  at lunch to 17 . Graham Gooch went from 38 to 46 during the 3rd day morning session in the Oval Test 1988 versus West Indies. During this (24 over) session  Gooch only faced 49 balls compared to 102 by his batting partners. In the  1958 Headingley Test New Zealands W.R. Playle went into bat on the last day  after Sutcliffe had been dismissed the second ball of the morning and at lunch was only 2 not out! At leeds 1955 Trevor Bailey scored 8 runs from Lunch until being dismissed last man out after  a two hour and five minutes session, presumably the session was extended to finish the match.


There are probably instances of fewer runs in a session out there somewhere. Martin Crowe at Colombo in 1984 may be a candidate.


UPDATE 3. Steve Pittard has found an example. Arshad Khan, the Pakistan tailender, scored only 5 runs between lunch and tea on Day 3 at Colombo in 2000. There were 27 overs bowled in the two hours (for 68 runs); compare that to the 46 bowled by Australians in the same time during Mitchell’s stonewall. Arshad finished with 9* off 95 balls in 184 minutes.


Chucking Seminar


The Australian Cricket Society staged a seminar last week on the subject of “Chucking”, and lined up an interesting set of speakers for the occasion.


Bernard Whimpress, who has written a book on chucking, gave some historical perspective, and listed over 30 bowlers who have been called over the last century or more.


Gideon Haigh, one of the world’s leading cricket writers, added to this, and showed how slowly the authorities have reacted in the past to bowling controversies, taking up to 20 years to legalise types of bowling such as roundarm and overarm. He made a somewhat provocative conjecture, that we may be seeing a transition to a new type of bowling, that in the future bowling may look different, with a considerable degree of chucking allowed.


Dr David Young, the surgeon who has operated on Murali several times and is close to him, gave a talk on some of the medical and biomechanical aspects of Murali’s bowling. He pointed out interesting aspects of Murali’s physiology, such as his hypermobile wrist. Murali can touch his right forearm with his right thumb – try it! He also has a hypermobile shoulder joint, which from the video shown seems to add to the impression (illusion?) that he is “extending” his arm during delivery. The video shown was the one where Murali’s bowling was compared wearing and not wearing an elbow brace. Dr Young is a passionate defender of Murali, including the doosra. He feels that Murali can bowl the doosra without chucking because of his hypermobile shoulder, something that Harbhajan and others have great trouble imitating.


Neville Young (former President of ACS) gave some legal background, pointed out the Laws on chucking and many other things have been very poorly worded in the past, and are little better today. There is a major problem in that the MCC still writes the laws but the ICC keeps issuing its own regulations and guidelines, which often come into conflict with the Laws.


Darrell Holt, an experienced umpire not to be confused with Darrell Hair, extended Young’s remarks by pointing out that the new chucking regulations, with x degrees of tolerance, were useless for cricket below first-class level. He mentioned that it is far easier to judge chucking from the bowler’s end (standing back a little) rather than from square leg, even though one must sacrifice observation of the front foot to do so.


Tim Lane, the ABC broadcaster, also made some remarks. He was less sympathetic to Murali than most of the other speakers, although his remarks were more directed to defending Hair and Emerson than to attacking Murali. He pointed out, correctly, that Murali was in technical breach of the Law as it stood in 1995, therefore the call was correct, although he glossed over the fact that nearly all bowlers contravene the 1995 version of the Law.


During the discussion and questions, some points:


- Did Hair call Murali in collusion with the Australian authorities? If so, this is an important issue, but not resolved last night. There was evidence that the calling of Meckiff in 1964 came as a result of just such a conspiracy.


- The 5, 10 , 15 degree rules for different bowling types issued by the ICC in 2000 were totally contrary to the advice of biomechanical experts at the time. The change to 15 degrees for everyone should have been made then, and has been made now.


- Just about everyone, including Tim Lane, was agreed that branding Murali a “cheat” is worse than useless. Anyone making such a claim should be ignored, and there is no point discussing the issue with them.


- Unfortunately there was no mention of the possibility of real-world, as opposed to laboratory, testing of bowling actions, which, if you were looking for a scientific solution, would seem to be the way forward. Murali feels that he bowls exactly the same in the lab as on the field, and says he would lose accuracy if he changed his action when things got tough in a real Test. Personally, I have doubts about this.


Some of the speakers seemed to pine for the days when chucking was entirely up to the umpire’s opinion, that all he needed to do was judge whether the delivery was “absolutely fair” or not, without defining the meaning of “fair”. My own view is that the technological genie is out of the bottle. Now that it has been shown that all bowlers are in technical contravention of the law as it stood until recently, we can’t go back to that law.


The ideal way forward is technological. We need a practical method of measuring straightening under real match conditions. It doesn’t have to be real-time, only real-world. Until then, the possibility that bowlers, unwittingly or otherwise, may bowl differently in small-t “tests”, as opposed to capital –T “Tests”, will cloud any judgement over the legality of bowling actions.


There is an interesting, and highly technical article, on bowling and throwing at


It appears to suggest that the difference between bowlers whose actions are not challenged and suspected chuckers is not so much in the total amount of straightening (extension) that occurs, but the fact that, with the “chuckers”, the straightening occurs largely at the exact point of release. In the future, this may be the basis for a better way of distinguishing illegal actions than the raw figure for degrees of straightening.


13 Apr 2005


“Dad’s Army” on the March


The Australian cricket team continues to get older. For the English cricketing press this is a cause for hope; however, the ageing of the Australian team may well be a sign of its strength rather than weakness.


It is a relatively recent phenomenon, where few if any players retire voluntarily unless cut down by serious injury. All of the Ashes teams from 1972 to 1997 had average ages in the range 27 to 28.3 years; it is now above 31 years.


The 2005 Ashes team is the oldest since 1926, and is the oldest team unaffected by wartime disruption ever to leave these shores. Here is the list of oldest Australian Ashes touring teams


1926        34.14 years, average age at 1st Test

1921        32.75 years.

2005        31.18 years.

1909        31.09

1905        30.77

1948        30.49

1893        30.16

2001        30.09

1884        29.99


(Youngest, 24.68 years in 1880, and 26.34 years in 1968.)


Those 1921 and ’26 teams were heavily affected by the suspension of cricket during World War I and the subsequent flu pandemic, which cut off the supply of younger players. WWI affected Australian society very deeply, more so than WWII, the effects of which can be seen in the 1948 team.


The 2005 team has only five players who have not toured England before - the same as in 2001 – the lowest number since four-year intervals between tours were instituted in 1909. There are eleven players over 30, a number only exceeded by the 1926 team, and this will go to twelve when Simon Katich celebrates his birthday in August. It is quite conceivable that if Michael Clarke loses form, Australia may play a Test team entirely consisting of players in their 30s, for the first time in its history.


Is this a strength or a weakness? The West Indian team of the early 1990s showed a similar ageing trend, and we know what happened to them. Time will tell, but the most obvious cause of the Australian team ageing is the outstanding performances of the current players. Few players are showing the sort of form that traditionally would lead to omission. To achieve team turnover, new standards would have to be demanded by selectors, and they are understandably loath to do this while the team is winning.


The main worry is that the next generation of bowlers may not be able to match the achievements of Warne and McGrath. We had a taste of this when those two were absent during the Indian tour of Australia. At the moment, though, both bowlers look like they will be producing the goods for a few years yet.



6 Apr 2005


The Perils of Batting First?


I have been doing some research into the effects of batting first or second on Test results. It is an interesting yet neglected area which produces some surprising results. A detailed study would take a little long to prepare at this stage, but one interesting sidelight came from looking very recent results, such as the excellent and competitive matches of the India/Pakistan series, which was drawn 1-1 (shame it wasn’t a longer series).


All of the Tests won by a runs margin since Christmas have taken five days; in fact, all of them required over 40 overs on the fifth day, the last three all going into the final session of play. By contrast, all of the Tests won by a wickets margin were over in four days.


This highlights a little-recognised problem in winning cricket matches. It can actually be more difficult to win batting first. This is because teams batting first must usually score an excess of runs to secure victory, which uses up precious time. When time constraints come into play, most captains will delay second-innings declarations until the probability of defeat is minimal. Quite often, this presents the team batting last with the chance to escape with a draw.


Pakistan’s achievement in bowling out India for 214 with six overs to spare in Banglaore was surprising, and will probably be regarded as a rarity. India had not been bowled out for less than 400 in its previous seven Tests, first or second innings.


A second problem with batting first was illustrated by the draw secured by South Africa in Georgetown. When the West Indies applied the follow-on, the wickets dried up. We have seen in Australia how enforcing the follow-on can backfire as bowlers wear out. The effect can last more than one match when back-to-back Tests are played. The follow-on is a tool that should be used only in exceptional circumstances.


In Georgetown, Kallis was able to force a stalemate by taking over 300 balls to reach a century. Looking over the records of slow centuries, the last Australian to take more than 300 balls to reach 100 was Allan Border at Manchester in 1981. Since then, there have been 38 of these super-slow centuries around the world, but not one of them has been played by an Australian batsman!





29 Mar 2005


Tactics Stifle Gilchrist’s Record Attempt


Unfortunately, the tactic of using nightwatchmen in Tests, once jettisoned by Steve Waugh, has returned to the Australian team. Deep analysis of past use of the tactic has revealed that it is counterproductive (worse than useless), but batting captains persist in complete absence of any evidence that it actually works. The reasons it so often fails were clearly demonstrated in the Australia-New Zealand Test at Auckland.


Jason Gillespie was promoted up the order when Martyn was out at 4 for 215 shortly before stumps. This demoted Adam Gilchrist to #8 in the order. Has any batsman, with three consecutive centuries under his belt, ever been bumped down so low in the order? Of course not.


The predictable happened. Gilchrist, in spite of his best efforts, ran out of partners when he was 60 not out in only 62 balls. Earlier, Gillespie had batted two and a half hours. Had be been left in his rightful place in the order, he would in all probability have helped Gilchrist to a much larger score.


Cricketing resources were wasted. A potential run-scoring opportunity was wasted. A chance for Gilchrist to equal the 70-year-old Australian record for consecutive tons was wasted.


It’s almost a shame that Australia have so many resources that the team probably won’t suffer for such wastefulness. They will probably win anyway



Indian Appetites

The current Indian batting team has developed a remarkable appetite for big centuries in Test matches. There are some records in the offing:


- Virender Sehwag has reached 150 in each of his last six Tests centuries (195, 309, 155, 164, 173, 201). With one more he will equal the record of seven by Gary Kirsten (275, 180, 150, 220, 153, 150, 160). Don Bradman also made it seven in a row between 1931 and 1937, if you ignore his unbeaten 103 at Sydney in 1932-33.


- Sachin Tendulkar has passed 175 in each of his last five Test centuries (193, 176, 241*, 194*, 248*). This is an all-time record, and Tendulkar may yet extend the run.


- Rahul Dravid once converted four consecutive centuries into 200s, if you leave aside a score of 100 retired hurt vs West Indies at Mumbai in 2002.


- In his seven Test centuries, VVS Laxman has been dismissed only once between 100 and 148 (out for 130 vs West Indies, Antigua 2002).


Since October 2002, these four batsmen have scored a combined 21 Test centuries, but have been out only four times between 100 and 150.



22 Mar 2005


More Gilchrist


Adam Gilchrist seems to attract a lot of statistical attention in Test cricket these days. His 162 at Wellington was one of his most dazzling innings, and his third Test century in a row. This is a feat that has eluded all Australian batsmen since Bradman in 1948, although recently Damien Martyn narrowly missed out with 104, 114, and 97 in India.


Gilchrist reached his hundred off 86 balls and his 150 off 136 balls. For Australians, the 150 speed is the fastest, or second-fastest, in all Test cricket. The reason for the uncertainty is that we don’t know how many balls Joe Darling received in his 160 in Sydney in 1897-98. However, close analysis of match reports suggests he reached 150 from around 130 balls in 135 minutes.


Darling’s innings aside, Gilchrist also held the previous record for fastest 150 in balls faced by an Australian, 141 balls against England in Birmingham in 2001. Where do Gilchrist’s innings stand in the all-time list? As best as can be reconstructed, the list is as follows:


Fastest 150s in Tests (Balls Faced)

113b (170min)  RC Fredricks(169)  WI v A  Perth   1975-76

115b (180m)  DPMD Jayawardene(150) SL V BD  Colombo 2001-02

118b (201min)  IDS Smith(173)  NZ v I   Auckland   1989-90

130b (est.) 135m J Darling (160) A v E Melbourne 1897-98

135b N Astle (222) NZ v E Christchurch 2002

135b (est.) CH Lloyd (163) WI v I Bangalore 1974-75

136b AC Gilchrist (162) A v NZ Wellington 2005

140b ST Jayasuriya SL v Zim Harare 2004

141b AC Gilchrist A v E Birmingham 2001


It is good to see that Roy Fredericks 169 at Perth, one of the greatest innings ever played, is still at the top of the list, ahead of the Jayawardene innings from a nonsensical match against Bangladesh. That was one of ther Bangladeshis’ worst performances, and that is really saying something.




14 Mar 2005


Gilchrist Maintains the Rage


Adam Gilchrist’s century in 105 balls at Christchurch was another impressive entry on his cricketing CV. His ability to sustain a batting average over 50 while scoring at “wicket-sacrificing” speeds is unprecedented. In his fourteen Test centuries, Gilchrist has never taken more than 143 balls to reach 100. It begs the question: has anyone, over a whole career, been faster than Gilchrist in reaching the century mark?


To answer this one, the average number of balls to reach 100 has been calculated for every major batsman. The Top 15, in terms of fastest centuries, is as follows (number of centuries in brackets):


India - N Kapil Dev (8)                           104 balls

Australia - AC Gilchrist (14)                  109

Australia - C Hill (7)                              131

England - IT Botham (14)                      135

Sri Lanka - ST Jayasuriya (14)              139

Australia - VT Trumper (8)                     141

India - V Sehwag (9)                             144

West Indies - CH Gayle (5)                   145

West Indies - CH Lloyd (19)                  145

South Africa - GC Smith (8)                  147

West Indies - BC Lara (26)                   149

West Indies - IVA Richards (24)            149

Australia - SJ McCabe (6)                     149

England - FE Woolley (5)                     150

South Africa - RG Pollock (7)                150

[Minimum 5 Test Centuries]


So Gilchrist has to take second place to Kapil, although it is worth noting that Gilchrist reaches 100 more than three times more frequently than Kapil did (14 out of 95 innings vs 8 out of 184). No other batsman is close to these two, and only five players have an average speed faster than Gilchrist’s slowest ever.



Records for Bevan


Michael Bevan scored 115 and 44 in his last match for the Australian season, giving him 1,464 for the Pura Cup. This is a new record for an Australian domestic season, and Bevan did it without Tasmania reaching the final. His average was 97.6.


Bevan scored eight centuries, equalling Bradman’s record for an Australian first-class season, set in 1947-48. Bradman scored four of his centuries that season in Tests.


Bevan can add to his achievements over 500 runs in the ING one-day Cup at an average of 86, giving him close to 2,000 runs in senior cricket for the season at an average well over 94. I don’t know what the Australian season record is for combined FC and one-day runs, but this must be close.


And yet, Tasmania lost nine out of ten Pura Cup matches, eight of them outright. It’s a pity for Michael that he didn’t get a chance to bat against the wooden-spoon Tasmanian bowling.



7 Mar 2005


Cruelty to Minnows


The first day of the South Africa – Zimbabwe Test at Cape Town set some new records for one-sidedness. By finishing 284 runs ahead on the first day (3 for 340 after Zimbabwe were out for 54) the South Africans set a new mark for Test cricket. A few of the records are worth commenting on:


- Graeme Smith made the second-highest individual score on the first day of a Test, for a team batting second, scoring 121. The only player to exceed this was Everton Weeks back in 1956, when he finished the first day of a Dunedin Test on 123 not out, after New Zealand were bowled out for 74.


- South Africa’s 340 off 309 deliveries is the fastest Test innings ever (of more than 200 runs). At 110 runs per 100 balls, it is streets ahead of any previous record, although some innings of less than 200 runs have been faster. The nearest any team had previously come to a run-a-ball was Australia’s 296 at Johannesburg against South Africa in 1902, off 306 deliveries.


- It has been commented elsewhere that Jacques Kallis reached 50 off 24 balls, the fastest known half-century in all Test cricket. However, reports that Ian Botham held the previous record are incorrect. Botham faced 28 deliveries, not 26, for his 50 at New Delhi in 1981, which can be confirmed by careful checking of the scorebook (Botham faced two no-balls, which may have been overlooked at the time). So the previous record was actually held by Yousuf Youhana, with his 27-ball 50 in Cape Town in 2002-03. Incidentally, FG Mann scored 49 not out off 24 balls for England vs New Zealand in 1949.


Just how “authentic” the records from this match will one day be viewed is a vexed question. There are some records in the books which were established in matches that never should have been given Test status, such as Johnny Briggs 15 wickets for 28 runs against South Africa in 1889. Perhaps there should be a class of records which have asterisks against them, in matches of dubious authenticity.


Bevan Update


In an earlier column (31 January) I commented on how the extraordinary run of success of Michael Bevan in State cricket has never amounted to a Test recall. Since then Bevan’s scores have been 144, 86, 170 not out and 26. He now has 1305 runs at 100.4 for the season. His seven centuries is already a record for a Sheffield Shield/Pura Cup season, indeed it equals Bradman’s best for an Australian first-class season. Another 76 runs will get him Matthew Elliot’s formidable record for most runs in a State domestic season, set only last year.


For all that, Tasmania (Bevan’s team) has lost seven of its nine matches outright this season. Bevan’s season is all the more impressive given that he has not had opportunity to feast on the weak Tasmanian bowling.


A correspondent from India has pointed out that Ajay Sharma had a similar, or perhaps better, run to Bevan without being called up for Tests. Between 1988 and 1999 he scored over 8000 runs in Indian domestic cricket at an average of 78.



25 February 2005


Tuckered Out?


You would think from reading about the game that today’s international cricketers are playing more than ever, and that the workload is getting too much for some senior players. But how does the amount of cricket played by today’s players compare to earlier eras?


For comparison, I have prepared a list. Top players at the peaks of their careers have been selected and the number of days of senior cricket has been calculated. Senior cricket here means first-class and “List A” one-day matches (i.e. one-dayers between first-class teams). The list for Australians looks like this


C Hill 1899-05 54 days per year

DG Bradman 1929-33 60 days per year

RN Harvey 1953-57    80

WM Lawry 1961-66    75

GS Chappell 1972-77  86

AR Border 1986-91     108

ME Waugh 1995-99    114

ML Hayden 2001-04   101

JL Langer 2001-04      96

AC Gilchrist 2001-04   100

RT Ponting 2001-04     100

GD McGrath 2001-04 79

JN Gillespie 2001-04   83


In short, cricket workload has increased, but only over the long term, and not as much as you might think. None of today’s senior players play as much cricket as Mark Waugh ten years ago, or Allan Border almost 20 years ago.


Mark Waugh actually played 173 days of cricket in one calendar year, 1995. He was able to combine his international duties with a full season of county cricket for Essex. The fact that, even in recent years, Australian players have chosen to play county cricket whenever there was a break in the international program, tends to undermine their claims that they are being overloaded.


The workloads are only about 20% higher than they were 50 years ago (Harvey). And note that players like Harvey, Hill and even Bradman, probably played a lot more minor cricket than today’s stars, including probably at least 10 days a year in District grade competition, which are not included in the above figures.


If you look at the English professional game, high workloads extend even further back. As early as the 1890s, Tom Hayward of Surrey was playing more than 100 days a year. Mind you, he complained about his workload too (Hayward was a top-order batsman who bowled a bit). In the 1940s, Dennis Compton averaged almost 120 days per year.


Perhaps the “intensity” back then was lower. Rather hard to measure, but on the other hand, teams got through a lot more overs in each day’s play. In Hayward and Compton’s time, a day’s cricket in England usually meant more than 130 overs, often more than 140. Today, anything more than 90 is unusual, except of course in one-dayers, which average around 96 overs.


If you want to critically examine workload, perhaps we should be looking at training, which has undoubtedly increased. And perhaps we should be looking at the number of breakdowns and injuries, which occur at training. If they could be tallied up, it would probably be shocking.



18 Feb 2005


The Best Ever but not the Best This Week?


A fellow cricket-hound remarked to me recently that Glenn McGrath had taken arguably the most impressive innings return of any Australian bowler in Test history with his 8 for 24 against Pakistan in Perth, yet he had not won the Man of the Match. The best in history but not the best of the match? How often does this sort of thing happen?


A survey of Tests since 1999 reveals that batsmen are routinely favoured when it comes to MOM gongs, and wicketkeeping, for most, must remain its own reward. Of the last 282 MOM awards, 60% have gone to batsmen and only 32% to bowlers. About 7% went to players impressing with both bat and ball, although these were usually predominantly batting feats.


In only 5 cases, or 2%, did wicketkeeping seem to contribute substantially, and in all those cases good runs were required as well. Some wicketkeepers, such as Gilchrist, win awards based on their batting, but even so, keepers have picked up only 5% of awards.


If a bowler takes the best bowling figures in a match, he only has a 26% chance of the award, whereas scoring the most runs in the match gives you a 47% chance.


Taking a 7-for or better in an innings only gives you a 40% shot at the MOM award. This is in spite of the fact that it happens only once in every 8 Test matches or so. In terms of its rarity, McGrath’s 8 for 24 is equivalent to a batsman scoring a triple century, taking into account the extremely low cost of the wickets. Yet the award went to Justin Langer, who scored 191 and 97. I’m sure the judge could justify his choice; its just that these justifications too often seem to work in the favour of batsmen, over bowlers and keepers.


Another aspect worth considering is that there are more batsmen than bowlers. So batsmen should win more awards, right? Well not exactly; because there are fewer bowlers, they should have, as individuals, more intrinsic value to a team. Just as you will have a much better chance of MVP in American Football if you are a quarterback rather than a linebacker, perhaps the lower numbers of bowlers should actually favour them.


Perhaps it comes down to the fact that batting is a more variable pastime than bowling. Because a batsman must stop batting when he gets out, which can happen at any time, there is a greater range of outcomes for a batsman. This means there are more failures for batsmen, but also more extreme performances. This is not to justify giving them more awards; it should be factored in, but actually to cut the bowlers more slack.


Curiously, as performances even out over a full series, bowlers seem to get more reward. They win about 45% of “Man of the Series” awards, a far better return than the 32% figure for “Man of the Match”.



11 Feb 2005


Fortune Favours the Strong?


The issue of umpiring bias in Australia’s matches has arisen again. This is an issue that would require a lengthy analysis, but in the absence of that, lets look at just one peculiar fact: Adam Gilchrist has never been given out lbw in a Test in Australia. And he has fallen lbw only twice in ODIs at home.


Two dismissals lbw in a total of 121 dismissals (45 Test, 76 ODI). That is a remarkable departure from the normal figures. In Tests (since 2000), about 16% of left-handers get out lbw, and about 17.4% for right-handers. The slightly lower figure for lefties illustrates that they have better protection from the lbw law when facing right-handed bowling. In ODIs, the incidence of lbws is surprisingly low; only about 8% of dismissals in recent years. (The reason for the disparity in lbws between Tests and ODIs would itself be an interesting topic for investigation.)


Away from home, Gilchrist is much more likely to be lbw, in 21% of his Test dismisals, and 8% of his ODI dismissals. Nothing unusual about those figures, but they do highlight the home game anomaly. Another unusual feature is that most of his lbws occur at low scores. He has never been given out lbw in double figures in a Test innings. When Gilchrist gets going, he is incredibly dominant. Could it be that umpires are influenced by this dominance?


There may be reasons of technique why Gilchrist avoids the lbw fate (hard to say what reason, though). It is unlikely to be a matter of chance. The odds of a left-hander avoiding lbws for 45 consecutive dismissals (as Gilchrist has done in home Tests), by chance alone, are about 2,500 to one against.


Gilchrist has been bowled in 17% of his Test innings, almost exactly the overall average. So it does not appear that bowlers do not target the stumps when he is batting.


I also looked at catches behind. About 27% of Gilchrist’s dismissals by catches go to the keeper. This is a normal figure. Of course, few of Gilchrist’s caught behind dismissals come through umpiring decisions, because he usually walks.


Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer has claimed that umpires favour Australia, mainly due to home ground pressure and a tendency to favour dominant teams. He specifically mentioned lbw appeals against Gilchrist. Perhaps the most dominant players attract even more favour.


8 Feb 2005


Australia’s Mental Edge Gets Sharper


Australia’s wins in the finals of the VB series, against a spirited but outgunned Pakistan team, has continued an extraordinary run of success for Australia in the pressure of finals cricket. Since the turn of the century, Australia has not been defeated in an ODI listed as a tournament final, winning thirteen times, with one washout. A 0% failure rate.


Their last defeat in a final came in the Aiwa Cup in Sri Lanka in August 1999.


What is especially remarkable is that Australia have lost 28 ODIs since early 2000, about 22% of their non-finals games. Consider also that many lesser ODIs are against weak opponents. In any normal situation, teams should always win a lower percentage of finals than lower-order games, but Australia has now reversed the normal trend for a number of years in a row.


Admittedly, Australia’s success rate is helped by the fact that a majority of their finals are played at home. But there have been a number of tournaments where the team has not reached the final at all. Recently, Australia lost to England in the semi-final of the prestigious ICC Champions Trophy, eventually won by the West Indies.


When they reach the final, Australia is peerless. There must be a psychological component to this. There is both the fear and awe exhibited by opponents in finals, and also the occasional sloppiness shown by the Australians in lesser games. This is mirrored in the results of Tests. Australia has lost six of their last 43 Tests, but only once when the series was up for grabs. The other five were in “dead rubbers”.


Slow Starters


It has not been a vintage season for top-order batsmen in the one-dayers. For Pakistan, the failure of the top-order was the critical factor, which saw them fall short. In the VB series, Pakistan’s opening stands averaged just 15.5, and the second wicket even less. Not that the other teams sparkled in this department. Australia’s opening stands averaged a respectable 42, but there was only one century stand. West Indies openers managed average starts of only 22.


In the last six games of the series, not one opener reached 50, and there was only one half-century from a #3 batsman (87 by Sarwan). That’s one half-century in 36 attempts, batting average 18. Perhaps top-order players need to re-think the slash-and-burn tactics of the first 15 overs. The only opener to really succeed even once against Australia was Wavell Hinds (107 at Brisbane), and he played very cautiously for the first 20 overs.







6 Feb 2005


You would imagine from reading Tim Lane’s article in Saturday’s Fairfax Press that cricket in Australia was in dire straits. But Lane’s article is light on facts and heavy on the rhetorical questions. As it happens, most of these questions have good answers, but perhaps not the ones Lane is thinking of. I have taken the liberty of quoting the article below and offering a few answers of my own…..


[My comments in italics.]


The hunger for exciting cricket

By Tim Lane

February 5, 2005



Until yesterday's at-times more competitive match, can cricket have had such a dismal summer since those seasons long past when we didn't host an international visitor? Even in the depths of Australia's slump of the mid-1980s, there was never a season as depressingly uneventful as this.


1989-90 was at least as dull.


It raises the question as to whether, in terms of the public interest it would generate, a season of Australian defeats would be preferable. At least it would get us griping. I suspect the marketers would say that beats the hell out of indifference.


Indifference? In 1989-90 Pakistan drew a total attendance of 130,000 in three Tests (Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne). In 2004-05 it was over 270,000 (Sydney, Perth, Melbourne).


You even hear old-timers who yearn for those days when the Sheffield Shield competition was the centrepiece of some Australian seasons. The most recent time it happened was 1969-70, when Bill Lawry's team went on a long tour of India and South Africa. Apartheid would be entrenched for 20 more years, an expensive packet of smokes cost 40 cents and 50-overs-a-side cricket hadn't been invented.


Misleading. One-Day cricket was invented in 1963, and a full interstate limited overs competition (The “Vehicle and General Cup”) was played in Australia in 1969-70, using 40 eight-ball overs a side. It was introduced because authorities were deeply concerned about boring Tests and plummetting attendances. It was anything but a Golden Age.



If modern cricket is not in crisis, it's not too many minutes from midnight. Alarmist? Well, what other sports are having to contrive composite opposition for a seemingly unassailable champion?


One (supremely successful) charity match? And one special Test match later this year?Is that the extent of the “contrivance”?


What other sports are having to flirt with progressively less serious versions of their true and traditional selves to maintain attention?


Traditional Tests in Australia, in the last 4 years, have attracted their biggest average crowds since the mid-1970s, and the biggest total attendances ever.


What other sport has felt compelled to invent a world rankings system that no one understands or cares about?


Try golf, tennis, and even international soccer, which has a team ranking system with over 200 teams, even though most teams rarely or never play against one another.



What other sport has as its continuing format contests between national teams, thus ensuring that performance relativities are shaped more by respective national affluence levels and culture than by the fine-tuning of a central administration?


How about the Olympic Games and World Cup soccer for starters. And Rugby Union of course, which is growing happily.


What other sport struggles with the anachronism of a series of five-day contests to determine supremacy between such teams, thereby facing the risk of having a result determined weeks before stumps are finally drawn?


But cricket has always operated this way. You can’t complain on the one hand about “flirting with progressively less serious versions of their true and traditional selves”, and then criticise holding on to traditional formats.



Australia is on top of the world, of course, but is hurting. Fine and proud players deserve the opportunity to perform within world-class contests that test them to the limit and stir the souls of those who watch.


Remember it is barely 12 months ago that India played a very even 1-1 drawn series in Australia, with outstanding scoring rates and attendances. Only 12 months ago, cricket was riding high, and it was the tennis that was “boring and uineventful”.



It's not happening. The pulse has not been set racing. We have had little option but to lie back and think of England.


What’s new? For the greater part of Test cricket history, England has been Australia’s only serious challenge. Being seriously challenged by other countries has been the exception, not the rule.



England later this year, yes, but even England against South Africa on pay television has been an attractive alternative. The tie in Bloemfontein this week at least affirmed that international cricket, even that old-hat 50-overs-per-side game, is still capable of providing great sporting drama and spectacle.


So is one-day cricket “depressing and uneventful” or not?


The International Cricket Council, Cricket Australia and the other national controlling bodies must think hard and quickly about their game. If they can't achieve a system that brings the promise of regular hard-fought contests, cricket could lurch into real trouble, for the giant Safin, Lleyton and Bec, Desperate Housewives and numerous other voracious competitors are lurking.


So perhaps cricket should encourage players to hook up with soapie starlets. Is that the sort of innovation the game needs?





3 Feb 2005


In a recent entry in CricInfo’s “Ask Steven”, they were unable to answer a fairly basic question asking about the slowest-scoring batsmen of Test cricket, saying that there was too little data. Well, I’m here to help. Having written an extensive feature article on the subject of scoring speed for Wisden Australia 2004-05, which alas has not been sighted at CricInfo, I can provide a complete list of Test cricket’s slowest scorers.


I have added such a list to this website, on the Scoring Speeds Page. Click Here.  It is interesting that no current batsmen appear on the list. The slowest-scoring current players are TR Gripper of Zimbabwe, who scores at 32.7 runs/100 balls (rank #420), and Javed Omar of Bangladesh, 33.2 runs/100 balls (rank #413).


31 Jan 2005


Australia’s Forgotten Man


In the current Pura Cup (Sheffield Shield) match in Hobart, Michael Bevan has racked up 190 and 114 not out. It is his second century in each innings this season. It brings into focus his extraordinary run of success in Australian first-class cricket and begs the question: has any player, in any country, in any era, ever performed better, for so long, without being selected to play Tests?


Just consider his record since he played his last Test in 1998. He has scored 4,664 runs in FC matches in Australia at an average of 72.9, a supreme average over such a long period. In the past four seasons (including the current one) he has averaged 84.7; in the past two years, 92.4. This season so far the average is over 87: if his average this season finishes at over 50 (practically guaranteed) he will have averaged over 50 every year for ten consecutive Australian seasons, topping 60 nine times.


These are near-Bradmanesque figures, and there are no signs of his powers fading. Even Sheffield Shield giants like Ponsford and Woodfull, or Bob Simpson, never averaged over 50 every year for ten years.


And yet his return to Tests is practically unthinkable, a subject not even discussed. Selecting him now would probably be too great an embarrassment for selectors, who have ignored his performances for year after year. There is also the “problem” of  Australia’s embarrassment of batting riches; a second-string Australian batting lineup would still win most of its Tests, if the first-string bowlers were still there.


For the record, here are Bevan’s first-class averages for the last 10 Australian seasons:


1995-96:          65.64

1996-97:          62.33

1997-98:          73.8

1998-99:          106.0

1999-00:          66.67

2000-01:          50.64

2001-02:          72.3

2002-03:          76.0

2003-04:          101.8

2004-05(to date):         87.9




23 Jan 2005


How Even-Handed is Duckworth/Lewis?


The Duckworth/Lewis system of re-targeting rain-interrupted One-Day matches was brought into play again in the Australia/West Indies match at the ’Gabba. In the event, rain intervened a second time and prevented any result, but it did pose questions as to how fair the D/L system is.


When Australia was 2 for 12 after 5 overs, they were in trouble. How much trouble? Well the “Looking Glass” calculator on the Sportstats website site gave Australia’s chances at 20%, but then it started raining. When play was re-started, the D/L table adjusted the target to 195 in 28 overs.


The effect of this was to cut Australia’s winning chance (in the Looking Glass) from 20% to 6%. Now D/L should be an even-handed system, which doesn’t change the odds either way; the Looking Glass, based on a different type of calculation, says that the odds did in fact change.


It is hard to say which is the better system for a single case, but when we look at all the cases where D/L has applied, a trend emerges. There have been 32 matches decided by D/L since its introduction in early 2001. Of these, one has been tied, 23 won by the team batting first, and eight won by the team batting second. This strongly suggests an imbalance; in uninterrupted 50-over matches, the team batting second wins 50.3% of the time. In other words, ODI results are very even when no interruptions occur, but D/L favours the team batting first by a ratio of almost three to one!


The effect on Australia’s chances, caused by the interruption in the Brisbane game, is consistent with this apparent imbalance.


It is possible that this imbalance is a statistical fluke, which will even out over time. However, the binomial theorem suggests that the probability, of getting a 23 to 8 imbalance by chance alone, is 1% or less. It is hard to say what could be wrong with the D/L method, which is based on sound principles, but if the imbalance continues, then the method may need to be evaluated.


19 Jan 2005


Afridi’s Flash of Brilliance


The Australian juggernaut eventually overwhelmed Pakistan in front of a good one-day crowd in Hobart, but not before we were diverted in a wonderful late-order cameo from Shahid Afridi, who hit 56 off 26 balls.


There have been at least 15 half-centuries in ODIs faster than Afridi’s 50 off 23 balls, including several by Afridi himself. Sanath Jayasuriya holds the record, 17 balls against Pakistan in Singapore in 1996. However, few of the faster ones were obtained against quality opposition. Only once has a faster half-century been recorded against Australia, and that was a 21-ball effort by Lance Cairns more than 20 years ago. Coincidentally, I discussed this innings in a recent post.


Afridi helped Pakistan add 97 runs in their last 10 overs. Again, this is a rare quantity of runs for Australia to be conceding. In recent years, Australia has only once conceded more runs in the last 10 overs. That was by South Africa, adding 102 in their last 10 at Port Elizabeth in 2002. Like Pakistan, South Africa ended up losing that match, more proof, if that was needed, of Australia’s depth and power. The most runs by any team in the last overs of an ODI is uncertain: the most I know of is 145 runs for Pakistan v Zimbabwe at Multan in 2004.


Spectacular Last Day


The last day of the Port Elizabeth Test gives more evidence that the Test game is changing. There were 382 runs on the last day of the match, off just 87 overs. This is the highest 5th-day output for any Test involving England (or South Africa for that matter) since Bradman’s Invincibles scored 404 at Leeds, and Bradman and co. had the luxury of facing 116 overs.


South African old-timers like Jackie McGlew would be amazed at the sight of South Africa scoring at over 4 runs per over, yet being unable to bat out 67 overs for the draw. The latter would have been a walk in the park for Jackie, who once took 9 hours (and 480 balls) to score a Test century.


Other last days in recent times have been even more spectacular. In Brisbane in 2001/02, Australia and New Zealand combined to produce 459 runs on the last day, off 103 overs.


Compare that to Richie Benaud’s Australians, who once (in 1963) were set 241 to win off the equivalent of 80 or more overs, but from the start declined the challenge as being too risky, with Bill Lawry batting through for 45 not out off 294 balls. Times have indeed changed.



14 Jan 2005


The “Hot 50” fastest-scoring batsmen page has been updated. Adam Gilchrist retains his Number One all-time ranking by a small margin over Kapil Dev. Remarkably, Gilchrist’s scoring rate has hardly changed over his last 10 Tests.


13 Jan 2005


The Tsunami Charity match at the MCG last night was a high point for cricket in the modern era, in both symbolic and practical terms. Good spirits and big money – a perfect combination.


The match has been given official ODI status. Some have doubted whether this is appropriate, on the grounds that the cricket was not played with full international intensity. Having been at the match, I don’t think it is fair to denigrate its on these grounds: the standard was very high, and there have been very many “real” ODIs played with less intensity. The status is just a minor complication for us statisticians, that’s all.


A problem will arise as the success of the match leads to similar enterprises. Will they all be ODIs? Or none of them?


There was plenty of entertainment, if not much tension over the outcome. The ROW total of 344 was the second-highest in any ODI in Australia (Australia scored 359 against India in Sydney last year), and although the Asian XI kept up with the run rate, they had to burn too many wickets to do so. They had no late-innings hitter the equivalent of Chris Cairns. The ROW scored 143 in their last 15 overs, a finishing output only seen in about 2% of all ODIs. So the 70,000 crowd certainly got value on that score.


Easy Sixes


One striking aspect of modern ODIs is the use of ropes to dramatically reduce to playing area. In some places, the ropes were more than 20 metres from the fence. This had the happy result of increasing the returns in the Charity match. There were seven sixes in the match, ranking third for an ODI at the MCG, but only four of them were “traditional” in the sense that they were hit over the fence. A couple of them came from Chris Cairns. Looking through the records of six-hitting at the MCG revealed that Chris’ father, Lance, played one of the most remarkable ODI innings there.


Way back in 1983, Cairns snr came to the wicket at 6 for 44 in a match against Australia. He hit just 52 runs, but made a real impression by taking only 25 balls and hitting 6 sixes. In those days there were no fielding ropes, so all of them were ‘real’ hits into the crowd. WK Lees was out for 3 off 9 balls, but added 48 runs with Cairns.




6 Jan 2005


Double the Fun for Ponting


When it comes to making centuries, it has been feast or famine for Ricky Ponting. After making 242 and 257 in his last two Tests of 2003, Ponting failed to reach 100 during 2004, in either Tests or ODIs, only to make 207 in his first dig of 2005.


In fact, Ponting has four double-hundreds in the last 2 years. A remarkable number, but not unique: Rahul Dravid has done the same. These feats are emblematic of a curious recent trend – the number of 200s in Tests has soared. There have been 54 double-tons since the turn of the century. The trend is clearest if you look at the percentage of centuries being converted into doubles over the last 50 years:


1950s       11.3%

1960s       7.4%

1970s       7.2%

1980s       7.4%

1990s       7.9%

2000s       11.4%


The percentage is still rising: the last two years have seen over 12% of centuries turned into doubles. Part of the reason is the introduction of Bangledesh and the decline of Zimbabwe, but even without these countries as whipping boys, the rate since 2000 is still over 10%. All this is suggestive of the thinning of talents in bowling ranks. Batting averages have risen, perhaps 5% since the 1990s, but the number of 200s has risen much faster, suggesting that once bowling attacks are beaten down, there is less capacity for comeback.


The triumphant progress of the Australians is nowhere more evident than at the top of the batting order. The trio of Hayden, Langer and Ponting is the most prolific top three in the history of the game. In Tests where they have batted at 1, 2 and 3, they have scored 7792 runs in partnership, with the partnerships averaging 68.4. The next highest run total by this measure is Haynes/Greenidge/Richardson of the West Indies, 6772 runs at 45.2.


The Australian trio’s partnership average has been exceeded, however. Among top order trios with over 1000 runs in partnership, the best averages are:


CC Hunte/RB Kanhai/GStA Sobers;    1119 runs at 111.9

FE Woolley/JB Hobbs/H Sutcliffe;        1792 @ 99.6

JHW Fingleton/WA Brown/SJ McCabe;          1174 @ 90.3

G Gunn/W Rhodes/JB Hobbs; 1047 @ 87.3

G Kirsten/HH Gibbs/GC Smith;            2809 @ 82.6

DG Bradman/WM Woodfull/WH Ponsford;     1876 @ 78.2

ER Dexter/MC Cowdrey/G Pullar;       1066 @ 76.1







3 Jan 2005


2004’s Mountain of Runs


For the modern Test batsman, scoring a thousand runs in a calendar year is now one of the most often-used benchmarks to judge success. But how much historical relevance does it have?


The Australians who passed the figures in 2004 were Justin Langer (1481), Damien Martyn (1353), and Matthew Hayden (1123). It is curious, though, that the best Australian average was Martyn’s 56.4, a fine average, but hardly startling. Batsmen with better 2004 averages include Kallis, Strauss, Thorpe, Dravid, Tendulkar, Sehwag, Lara, and Jayasuriya. (Curiously, topping the Aussie averages overall was a final appearance for Steve Waugh, averaging 60 in his one Test)


Australia’s great success in 2204 lies more in team consistency than individual brilliance. One thousand runs in a year is more often a reflection of the much higher frequency of Tests, especially for Australians, than in earlier periods. Australia played 14 Tests during the year, more than any other country (England 13, India & West Indies 12, South Africa & Sri Lanka 11).


In his last four consecutive “thousand-plus” years, Matthew Hayden has played 51 Tests. It took Don Bradman almost 20 years to play this number of Tests, and 51 Tests exceeds the entire careers of all Australian pre-War players except for Syd Gregory. No wonder that no one had a thousand-run year before 1947, except for Clem Hill in 1902.


Mention has been made that Justin Langer just missed Ricky Ponting’s (Australian) annual record of 1503 set in 2003. An interesting follow-up question might be: what is the greatest number of runs in any 365-day (or 366 days in a leap year) period? For Australians, Ponting holds that record, too, with 1755 runs from 27 March 2003 to 26 Mar 2004. A few other batsman have exceeded this:


Viv Richards 1811 runs from 14 Aug 1975 to 13 Aug 1976

Brian Lara, 1972 runs, from 12 Apr 2003 to 11 Apr 2004.

Sunil Gavaskar 1984 runs, 14 Oct 1978 to 13 Oct 1979.


Given the ever-increasing number of Tests, it is remarkable that Gavaskar has now held this record for over 25 years. In part, Sunny was the beneficiary of an extraordinary, and temporary, explosion in Test-playing in India in the late 70s, just before One-Day internationals took hold on the subcontinent.




29 Dec 2004


A Boxing Day Record


There has been a bit of gloom and doom around about the future of cricket. Just recently, there was a story on the ABC’s 730 report, and a major article in The Age, both focusing on the problems in international cricket. For those that are worried that interest in cricket in Australia is plummeting, it can be useful to look at some real figures once in a while.


The Boxing Day Test has become a Melbourne institution (although some will be surprised to find this “tradition” is barely 20 years old), and interest is still strong. If you average crowds over a four-Test cycle (the interval between Ashes Tests), the trend since 1983 has been:


1980-83, average Boxing Day crowd: 43,198

1984-87: 44,160

1988-92: 41,940

1993-96: 59,917

1997-2000: 64,427

2001-04: 62,600


These figures are encouraging, increasing almost 50% since 1992. And while the last four years have been slightly down, bear in mind that recent figures have been affected by construction work on new stands, and the near-washout of the 2001 Boxing Day against South Africa. The 2004 figure of 61,800 is a record day crowd for any Australia/Pakistan Test. The 2003 figure of 62,213 set a new record for Australia/India Tests in Australia.


In Australia as a whole, the trends are similar. Using four-year cycles, the total crowds have been:


1979-84  Tests: 1.57 million, ODIs: 1.92 million

1984-88  Tests: 1.22 million, ODIs: 1.62 million

1988-92  Tests: 1.18 million, ODIs: 1.55 million

1992-96  Tests: 1.44 million, ODIs: 1.71 million

1996-2000  Tests: 1.65 million, ODIs: 1.66 million

2000-2004  Tests: 1.94 million, ODIs: 1.51 million

(Excludes World Cup, and off-season matches)


The Test match crowds are very healthy, while it is the ODIs that are looking a little soft. In fact, apart from a brief period in the 1970s, the total numbers of people paying to see Tests have never been higher. In the case of ODIs, one reason that figures in 1980s were higher was that more matches were played. If we take daily averages for the crowds, the picture is slightly different:


1979-84  Tests: 15,300, ODIs: 24,300

1984-88  Tests: 13,000, ODIs: 26,900

1988-92  Tests: 12,100, ODIs: 27,200

1992-96  Tests: 14,100, ODIs: 30,000

1996-2000 Tests: 17,400, ODIs: 28,600

2000-2004  Tests: 20,600, ODIs: 26,800


Test figures have been rising steadily for over 20 years, while ODIs, while flat, are hardly in precipitous decline. And bear in mind that the proportion of Tests being played against the “lesser” nations (in terms of crowd-drawing capacity) has been increasing, as has the proportion of matches played in lesser venues such as Hobart. Both these factors would tend to pull averages down, but overall figures are rising nevertheless.


It is the job of Cricket Australia to constantly look for new ways to advance and promote the game, so they should always be anticipating trends and worrying about the future. But that doesn’t mean that the game in Australia is in a state of decline.



24 Dec 2004


Some new figures on the fastest 150s ever in Test matches. In minutes batted:

135 minutes, Joe Darling (160), Sydney 1897-98.

145 minutes, Stan McCabe (189*), Johannesburg 1935-36.

150 (approx), Don Bradman (152), Melbourne 1930-31.


LEG Ames scored 149 in about 130 minutes (175 balls) at Kingston in 1929-30.


In balls faced

113  RC Fredricks(169)  Perth   1975-76

115  DPMD Jayawardene(150) Colombo(ssc) 2001-02

118  IDS Smith(173) Auckland   1989-90


21 Dec 2004


Perth’s Entertaining Stats


If the Australian procession to victory is becoming unfortunately predictable, there were at least a few statistical extremes on the last day of the Perth Test to keep us entertained:


-  Glenn McGrath’s 8 for 24 is the “second best” innings performance for any Australian bowler. The only better analysis, using traditional evaluation methods, is Arthur Mailey’s 9 for 121 in 1920-21. But if you think that 8 for 24 sounds more remarkable than 9 for 121, you would be right. When assessed on its “rarity value”, McGrath’s effort converts to being equivalent to an innings of 310, whereas Mailey’s comes in at about 275. The 24 runs conceded by McGrath is the fewest by any bowler from any country taking 8 of more wickets, with the exception of a couple of cases in very early Tests in South Africa, in Test matches of rather dubious status.


-  A select few batsmen have scored more runs than their opponents combined total in a Test match (Abel, Hutton, Bradman, Hayden), but Justin Langer is the first individual player to outscore his opponents in the first innings of a Test (191 vs Pakistan’s 179), and then do it again in the second innings (97 vs Pakistan’s 72). Each of the other players mentioned batted just once in the match.


- The margin of victory in the Perth Test, 491 runs, is the largest victory by a runs margin by any team in a time-limited Test. Australia won Tests by 562 runs in 1934 (The Oval) and 530 runs in 1910-11 (Melbourne), but they were timeless matches, as was the Brisbane Test of 1928-29, which England won by 675 runs.


- The winning target of 564 runs was the highest ever set by an Australian team in a 5-day Test. Australia, under Bill Lawry, set the West Indies 735 to win in Sydney in 1968-69, but that was a six-day match. The highest 4th-innings target ever set was 836, set by England in a timeless Test in the West Indies in 1930. The West Indians scored 5 for 408 before the match was abandoned, after 9 days, because the Englishmen’s ship was about to sail.




17 Dec 2004


The All-Star Test Team


There is a cricketing saying that goes something like “it is harder to get out of the Australian side than to get into it”. It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, but it probably meant that it took many poor performances to get dropped. At any rate, it doesn’t seem to apply nowadays – it is incredibly hard to get into the Australian team. The main reason is that the incumbents are so consistent.


For a team that has carried all before it, there have not been many superstar individual performances in the last 12 months. All of the batsmen have been good, but none of them extraordinary. Averages over the last 365 days tell the tale:


Clarke 60.9

Ponting 52.9

Hayden 51.4

Martyn 49.6

Langer  46.2

Lehmann 45.6

(Katich 42.2)

Gilchrist 35.0


There is no weak spot anywhere, and when you throw in Gilchrist’s keeping and Lehmann’s bowling, it is not surprising that team turnover is low.


The bowling tells a similar story. The most exceptional feature is Shane Warne’s 61 wickets since his return to Tests, but again the averages are impressive without being breathtaking:


McGrath 21.5

Warne 24.2

Gillespie 24.4

Kasprowicz 25.6

Lehmann 26.8


Throw in Michael Clarke’s six wickets at 2.2 (!) and the team is looking a like a perfectly oiled machine.


Pakistan’s last 12 months is less impressive. It is strange that they have played only 7 Tests in that time, to Australia’s 13. The limited opportunities mean that their most prolific batsman, Yousuf Youhana, has scored only one-half as many runs as Matthew Hayden, 564 to 1233.


10 Dec 2004


Casual Top Order?


Australia’s extraordinary depth in batting is one of the main factors keeping them on top of the ODI ratings. There are one or two troubling signs at the top of the order, however.


Given the amount of talent available, Australia’s top order has been rather mediocre recently. Nothing disastrous, of course, but it is surprising, for example, that a batsman with gifts of Matthew Hayden has produced only one century, and two other scores over 70, in his last 38 innings when Australia has batted first (since September 2002). Hayden’s average in these innings is less than 35; again, not too bad, but not what you might expect from a player given the prime batting position in the best team in the world.


Gilchrist is doing better, averaging 44 in the same matches, but even he seems to going “over the top” a bit too often. Even scoring at a run-a-ball does not seem to satisfy Gilchrist. Yes, he is one of the great one-day players, but perhaps some easing of the pace once the fielding restrictions are eased after 15 over would be in order.


Ponting has scored five centuries in the same period, but recently even he seems to have forgotten how to build an innings. In his last 17 innings when Australia batted first, he has been out eleven times for between 18 and 37, with a top score of 67.


With players of the calibre of Lehmann, Martyn, Clarke, and Symonds to follow, could it be that the top order is getting a bit too casual about their responsibilities? One lesson from the two Chappell-Hadlee matches so far should be that no player can afford to assume that his teammates will pick up the pieces if he throws his wicket away after getting a start.



5 Dec 2004


South Australia’s Old-Fashioned Record-Breaking


South Australia’s utter collapse to be all out for 29 at the SCG was an event that hearkened back to the game’s ancient history. Although there are 13 cases, in Australia or involving Australian team overseas, of first-class teams being bowled out for fewer runs, all but one of them occurred more than 100 years ago. The exception was South Australia’s 27 in 1955-56, the lowest score in Sheffield Shield/PC Cup history, coincidentally also scored vs NSW at the SCG.


The recent effort was also, at 89 deliveries, the shortest complete innings in the history of the SS/PC competition; the last time a first-class team in Australia was dismissed more quickly was 100 years ago, when Victoria was out for 15 in 73 deliveries against the MCC in 1904 (batting two men short).


Of the 13 lower scores, only two were in the opening innings of the match, the last being South Australia again, but this time back in 1882-83 at the MCG, when they were out for 23.


3 Dec 2004


Bangladesh…Zimbabwe…New Zealand?


For those with fond memories of the outstanding Australia- New Zealand series of 2001-02, including the wonderful Perth Test of that season, the two New Zealand Tests just completed were especially disappointing. The Kiwi performances were on a par with those of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh in their recent Australian tours. And even those two minnows were able to occasionally contain the Australian batsmen.


Australia scored 575 or more in both Tests. The last team to do this in consecutive innings was the West Indies (vs England) in 1974, and the last Australian team to do it was Don Bradman’s, during the Invincible era (1947-48), against  a fledgling India. Incredibly, 10 out of the 11 Australians averaged over 40 in the current series, with only one New Zealander (Jacob Oram) joining them. There was not even a hint of a weak link anywhere in the Australian lineup. These are frustrating times for players, like Katich, and Lee, on the fringes of selection.


New Zealand’s top order (#1-#5) could average only 19.8 with the bat. In fact, the lower order did better, thanks to Oram, averaging 24. Overall, Australia’s batting average (63.2, ignoring extras) was nearly three times higher than New Zealand’s (22.0). It will be a little comfort to the Kiwis that their 1993-94 touring side did even worse on the averages front, but even that team managed to draw one Test.


The bowling averages provide even starker contrasts. Australia’s least-successful bowler (Lehmann, 33.5) had a better bowling average than New Zealand’s best (Vettori, 34.1). If we leave aside the regular massacres of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, this has happened only once before, when England beat India in 1974.



2 Dec 2004


Follow-On No Longer Followed


An interesting new fashion in Tests has seen captains turning away from enforcing the follow-on. Once a rarity, batting again when leading by over 200 is fast becoming normal. Stats tell the story: from 1975 to 2000, the follow-on was enforced 93% of the time. In the Tests since then this figure has dropped to 77%, and in 2004 it is below 50%. How successful is the change in strategy? Overall, since 1975, teams enforcing the follow-on have won 81% of the time, while teams in similar positions, but choosing not to enforce, have won over 93%. There have been two losses by teams enforcing the follow-on, both well-known to Australian supporters  - Leeds 1981 and Kolkata 2001. The last time a team lost after choosing not to enforce the follow-on was in 1950.


With Tests being played so frequently, captains are probably becoming more aware that "burn-out" of bowlers by enforcing the follow-on can not only affect teams within matches, but in subsequent matches also.


29 Nov 2004


The Prolific Australians


In two Tests against New Zealand we have seen no fewer than ten Australians making half-centuries. This has never happened before in a two-Test series, and even in three-Test series there is only one precedent, that being Pakistan against Sri Lanka in 1981-82 (Sri Lanka’s first full Test series). In that case, Pakistan used 17 players, rotating some young players to try them out against weak opposition. Australia, of course, has used only 11 players in the current series.


With Justin Langer making 215 in Adelaide, Australia now has three batsmen with 20 Test centuries to their credit, Langer joining Hayden and Ponting in that elite club. No other team has ever boasted three such prolific batsmen.


Langer’s double-century gives him 200s against three different countries on three different Australian grounds. Among Australians, only Bradman (4) and Greg Chappell (3) scored 200s against such a wide range of opponents. For all countries, however, Rahul Dravid and Javed Miandad both scored 200s against five opponents.


Matthew Hayden has just passed 1000 runs for the calendar year for the fourth year running; he is the first batsman to do this. His best for any 365-day period is 1675 runs, from 27th March 2003 to 26th March 2004. Hayden’s feat highlights the huge number of Tests being played in recent years. In the past four years, Hayden has played the same number of Tests, 52, as Don Bradman played in his entire 20-year career.



November 22, 2004


McGrath Upgrades from Rabbit Class


It is doubtful if bowlers will take Glenn McGrath’s batting lightly ever again, after he set some records for #11 batsmen. McGrath, with 61, broke Rodney Hogg’s 1984 score of 52 at Georgetown, Guyana, as the highest score by an Australian “rabbit”. The only higher scores by #11 batsmen have been 68* by Richard Collinge of New Zealand, in a record-setting last-wicket stand of 151 against Pakistan in 1972-73, and 62 by AEE Vogler in South Africa in 1905-06. Vogler also had the temerity to top the score.


McGrath and Gillespie, in adding 114, missed Australia’s last-wicket record by 16 runs, but it was the highest such stand by two authentic (Australian) tailenders.



Clarke’s Golden Run Continues


Michael Clarke continued to feather the selectors’ caps by scoring his second Test century, this time in his first innings in a home Test. In doing so, he became only the fourth player to score centuries in his first Test innings both home and away. The others are Azhar Mahmood of Pakistan in 1998, Kepler Wessels (playing for Australia) in the 1980s, and a name from the very distant past, Henry “Harry” Graham, who played in the 1890s. One wishes Clarke a happier career than Graham, who played only six Tests and died young. Azhar Mahmood, also, failed to live up to early promise, all three Test centuries coming early on. Kepler Wessels, of course, had a much more substantial career, and even scored another century on “debut” when he changed countries to represent his native South Africa.


If second innings of debuts are included, Lawrence Rowe of West Indies (1970s), and the Indian prince Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji (1890s) also scored hundreds and their home and away debuts.


After taking 6 for 9 in his last bowling spell, Clarke looks like missing out on a bowl in Brisbane. The last player to take 6 of more wickets in one Test, and then not get a bowl in his next (barring cases of injury, or abandoned matches), was Clarrie Grimmett in 1932, when he took 14 wickets against South Africa at Adelaide, only to be surplus to requirements in Melbourne when South Africa were bowled out for 36 and 45.


Clarke was also a dynamo in the field. His six-year youthful edge over his team mates was very evident. Even with Clarke in the team, Australia in 2004 is fielding its oldest team since 1933.



Gilchrist Slowing Down?


Well not exactly. When Gilchrist reached 100 in 130 balls against New Zealand, it was brilliant and aggressive batting by any normal standard, yet for Gilchrist it was the second slowest of his 10 Test centuries! There are many top batsmen down the years for whom 100 in 130 balls would have been a crowning achievement.


6 November 2004


Mumbai Mayhem


Anyone who watched the extraordinary Mumbai Test, or examines the scorecard, might well wonder about its place in the record books. A few possibilities:


Australia were set 107 runs to win, but were out for 93. That 107 is the smallest target that any Australian team has failed to chase down. Only two teams have failed to reach lower targets, England’s 77, chasing 85 in the famous old “Ashes” Test of 1882, and Zimbabwe, out for 63, chasing 99, at Port-of –Spain in 2000.


Australia’s previous smallest failed target was 111 at the Oval in 1896, when they were out for 44 on an unplayable wicket. In that match, 39 wickets fell on two consecutive days. The greatest number of wickets in two days since that match is, you guessed it, 38 in the Mumbai Test. The Mumbai Test saw all 40 wickets fall in 202.1 overs. It is the shortest match to see all 40 wickets fall since 1907.


So in order to find matches more friendly to bowlers, we usually have to go back well into the era of uncovered wickets. It certainly raises questions about the Mumbai pitch, which have been discussed in detail by others. Certainly the failure of so many quality batsmen is a condemnation of the conditions.


But the clincher is Michael Clarke taking 6 wickets for 9 runs. In the whole history of Test cricket, only one bowler has taken more wickets for fewer runs in an innings. Once again, that was in 1896, not at the Oval Test, but by George Lohmann, 8 for 7 at Port Elizabeth. That match, while officially regarded as a Test match, is of very dubious status, with the South African team of that time being extremely weak, and the England team far from representative.


A better comparison is AER Gilligan’s 6 for 7 at Edgbaston against South Africa in 1924, when South Africa was all out for 30. But Gilligan also bowled three no-balls that day, so under modern rules, his figures would be 6 for 10. Clarke’s figures are arguably the most freakish bowling return in all Tests, especially when you consider that he had a total of 7 first-class wickets to his name, at an average over 70, before this match.


The figures helped Clarke to top both the batting and bowling averages for Australia in this series. This is an unusual but not rare achievement; Darren Lehmann did it against Sri Lanka in 2003 earlier this year. However, Clarke is the first player to do it in his debut series since David Steele of England in 1975, and even then Steele did not play in all Tests of that series.


Remarkable then, that Clarke’s place in the side is not secure, once Lehmann returns from injury. To drop a player after taking 6 for 9 would certainly be one for the record books, and a definitive comment on that wicket at Mumbai.


Finally, Australia’s loss confirms their rather ordinary record in “dead” rubber Test matches. In their last 43 Tests, the Australians have lost six times. In only one of these losses has the series still been up for grabs. That was at Adelaide in 2003-04.