Extreme Performance in Test Cricket: Batting v Bowling

One difficulty in judging the most remarkable cricketing performances lies in the different basis of batting and bowling figures. The challenge is to put batting and bowling on the same scale, without using arbitrary conversion formulas or weighting factors. It can be done.

 

The difficulty begins with properly ranking bowling performances; we must take into account both wickets taken and runs conceded. Take an example: while standard lists would list a bowler taking 11 for 150 above a bowler taking 10 for 30, most would agree that the latter is the more remarkable return. There is a way to quantify this statistically, based on the observation that bowling returns follow a ‘normal distribution’ or Bell Curve. For each specific number of wickets, there is a separate Bell Curve, and the remarkable thing is that each of the curves has much in common; at five wickets or above, they all peak at 110-135 runs and have similar spreads or standard deviations of around 35-40. The difference is in the height of the curves, reflecting increasing rarity as the number of wickets climbs.

 

Using these observations, different bowling performances can be matched according to how rare they are. For example, the analysis of all Tests since 1966 shows that the following match returns are similar in terms of rarity: 7 for 35, 8 for 50, 9 for 65, 10 for 80, 11 for 100, 12 for 125, and 13 for 150+. These are equivalent, in terms of rarity, to a batsman scoring about 225 runs in a match. [Note that taking 14 or more wickets, regardless of runs conceded, is always rarer than the above, and will always have a rarity value higher than 225, as will a bowler taking 13 wickets for less than 150 runs.]

 

By expanding this analysis, to cover all performances, any bowling performance can be matched with its batting equivalent, based on rarity value. The calculation can be reduced to a statistical formula based on normal distributions. We can now create a ranked table of extreme performances, putting batting and bowling on the same scale. Batting performances are untouched, a simple total of runs scored.

 

If we start by looking at pure batting or bowling performances over a whole match, the list is:

 

The Most Extreme Batting and Bowling Performances: Test Cricket since 1966

Score

456

1. GA Gooch

333 & 123

Eng v Ind, Lord's 1990

426

2. MA Taylor

334* & 92

Aus v Pak, Peshawar (Niaz) 1998/99

424

3. KC Sangakkara

319 & 105

SL v Ban, Chittagong 2013/14

414

4. CA Walsh

13/55 (7/37 & 6/18)

WI v NZ, Wellington 1994/95

400

5. BC Lara

400*

WI v Eng, Antigua (St John's) 2004

394

6. ND Hirwani

16/136 (8/61 & 8/75)

Ind v WI, Chennai (Chepauk) 1987/88

393

7. RAL Massie

16/137 (8/84 & 8/53)

Aus v Eng, Lord's 1972

381

8. GD McGrath

10/27 (6/17 & 4/10)

Aus v WI, Brisbane ('Gabba') 2000/01

380

9. GS Chappell

247* & 133

Aus v NZ, Wellington 1973/74

380

10. ML Hayden

380

Aus v Zim, Perth (WACA) 2003/04

378

11. DL Underwood

13/71 (5/20 & 8/51)

Eng v Pak, Lord's 1974

375

12. BC Lara

375

WI v Eng, Antigua (St John's) 1994

374

13. DPMD Jayawardene

374

SL v SAf, Colombo2 (SSC) 2006

370

14. RJ Hadlee

15/123 (9/52 & 6/71)

NZ v Aus, Brisbane ('Gabba') 1985/86

362

15. GC Smith

277 & 85

SAf v Eng, Birmingham (Edgbaston) 2003

 

 

 

 

 

 

Batting performances outnumber bowling in such lists because recognised batsmen outnumber bowlers. In an extended list, the ratios of batting to bowling remains relatively steady all the way down, even if looking at the Top One Thousand or more.

 

It must be stressed that these are pure statistical assessments, with a minimum of adjustment factors or arbitrary weightings. If you are looking for “The Greatest”, there are many other factors to consider: too many, perhaps, for now, but it might be feasible to build on these rankings by bringing in some of these factors.

 

One advantage of putting batting and bowling on the same scale is that all-round performance can now be included, simply by adding up the totals. The all-round list looks like this

Combined Score

481

1. GA Gooch

333 & 123, 1/26

Eng v Ind, Lord's 1990

441

2. TM Dilshan

162 & 143, 4/10

SL v Ban, Chittagong 2008/09

432

3. IT Botham

114, 6/58 & 7/48

Eng v Ind, Mumbai (Wankhede) 1979/80

426

4. MA Taylor

334* & 92

Aus v Pak, Peshawar (Niaz) 1998/99

424

5. RJ Hadlee

54, 9/52 & 6/71

NZ v Aus, Brisbane ('Gabba') 1985/86

424

6. KC Sangakkara

319 & 105

SL v Ban, Chittagong 2013/14

414

7. CA Walsh

7/37 & 6/18

WI v NZ, Wellington 1994/95

404

8. ST Jayasuriya

340, 3/45

SL v Ind, Colombo4 (RPS) 1997

401

9. Mushtaq Mohammad

201, 2/15 & 5/49

Pak v NZ, Dunedin 1972/73

400

10. BC Lara

400*

WI v Eng, Antigua (St John's) 2004

395

11. ND Hirwani

1, 8/61 & 8/75

Ind v WI, Chennai (Chepauk) 1987/88

393

12. RAL Massie

0, 8/84 & 8/53

Aus v Eng, Lord's 1972

390

13. DL Underwood

12*, 5/20 & 8/51

Eng v Pak, Lord's 1974

388

14. M Muralitharan

30, 7/155 & 9/65

SL v Eng, The Oval 1998

382

15. GS Chappell

247* & 133, 0/27

Aus v NZ, Wellington 1973/74

381

16. GD McGrath

0, 6/17 & 4/10

Aus v WI, Brisbane ('Gabba') 2000/01

380

17. Imran Khan

39, 8/58 & 6/58

Pak v SL, Lahore (Gaddafi) 1981/82

380

18. ML Hayden

380

Aus v Zim, Perth (WACA) 2003/04

377

19. GStA Sobers

174, 5/41 & 3/39

WI v Eng, Leeds (Headingley) 1966

375

20. BC Lara

375

WI v Eng, Antigua (St John's) 1994

 

 

For those interested in earlier performances, the highest rating of all goes to Jim Laker’s 19 for 90 at Old Trafford in 1956, equivalent to a score in the region of 550. This, of course, is far beyond any recorded batting figure, but perhaps this is fair enough, since Laker’s return also stands as an all-time record for first-class cricket, and no one else has taken more than 17 wickets in a first-class (11 a side) match.

 

Charles Davis

September 2015