Category Archives: International Cricket

99.94

If a  time machine took you back to watch a Don Bradman innings how many would you expect him to score? 99.94, meaning a 100? Suggestions that batting averages at times are over relied on are not new,  but this one is iconic, a number to end arguments: ‘The Don’s’ average is almost 40 more than George Headley, Graeme Pollock, Steve Smith…..

Yet in his 80 Test innings  he made 100+/-50 in just 24 of them and if batting careers are made from a relatively small number of really good days, a larger number that aren’t, what of such an elevated average as his? It’s a big compromise but it gets the right man as the greatest?

Bradman  made big hundreds, 150+, 18 times; more than Headley, Pollock and (to date) Smith together in less than half their combined number of innings. His 334 at Headingley in 1930, his 13th innings, took his career average to 99.67 from which there were not later big variations.

This suggests consistency, yet one run short of making three 300’s,  one four short of another .06.  the average variation of his scores was more than 70; the experience of those watching a  ‘day at the Test’ different day-to day. This applies to others of course,  Steve Smith, with a current average of 61.8 has made scores within +/- 30 around one innings in three, something similar or more so, with Graeme Pollock and George Headley.

Bradman b Hollies 4 at the Oval? If one ball in cricket history could be changed his last would surely have made for a happier ending, although from the standpoint of 2021 99.94 has its charm,  mystique as well maybe. It’s a marker of DGB’s greatness of course, but not very far away from this statistic are also markers for how much the experience of watching is personal;  that greatness is in the eye of the beholder, a matter of  aesthetic pleasure as well as the numbers.

Given the chance to see one innings from the past, personally DGB would be one contender but so would several others, including George Headley, ‘the black Bradman’, who from accounts of his time was arguably more stylish and Graeme Pollock, and the ‘golden hour’ of South African cricket complete with a century from Barry Richards at the other end.

 

 

Batting for England I: 1970-1999

An Ashes series ahead and England doing issues with their top order batsmen to the extent that Jonathan Agnew wrote that those chosen for the tour party were, at best, “a lucky dip”. What, therefore, to make of the signals from the county game about players who have the potential to play for England? A long time ago, before TMS had had its twentieth birthday, Trevor Bailey used to comment that a county average of 40 was a marker for a Test prospect; he was not alone, then or now. Of course there were exceptions, Mike Brearley, for example, is often remembered  for his captaincy rather than his runs, particularly during ‘Botham’s Ashes’ in 1981. 

1981 was a year of change that saw the  full covering of pitches in the domestic game and the players’ averages over the years reflect this. Taking for instance the England batsmen turned commentators now, whose career averages on their Test debuts are shown in the chart, David Lloyd and David Gower for example debuted in 1974 and 1978 with averages of 32 and 27; the other four who  first played in Tests over a decade later all had higher averages.  By comparison, Geoff Boycott, who first played for England against the Australians in 1964, had an average of 46.   

 

When players’ careers are on the rise and they first come into the England team, the average in the season when they are first picked (or the season before they go on tour)  could be expected to be above their career average more often than not; David Lloyd  and David Gower  had averages of 62 and 41 when first picked.  As to the general picture there is a pretty well defined list of 66 players who were picked to play as specialist batsmen for England between 1970-99 and their numbers are shown in the second chart. 

 

The overall average of the career numbers is 37, that for the season 44, add them and divide by two results in a figure just over 40!  As is evident there is some upward drift in the numbers and there is also a fair bit of variation from one player to another.  The variation around the career and seasonal averages itself averages 5-6.  Apart from David Lloyd in 1974,  the two others with averages of 60+ in the season picked were James Whitaker in 1986 and Steve James in 1998; although as with David Lloyd, Steve James was selected early in the season after a relatively small number of innings. James Whitaker had a very good season in 1986 that included  9 not outs. The two standouts with  career averages of 60+ are Allan Lamb in 1982 (as with others based on runs scored in England) and Graham Hick.

As for the relationship between a player’s average(s) when first picked and their subsequent Test career there is no obvious close and direct association. Of the major run-getters for England during these years, Allan Lamb and, to a lesser extent,  Nasser Hussain had numbers above the average line on their Test debuts; the others starting with Graham Gooch in 1974 and ending with Michael Vaughan in 1999 were either on or below it; in the case of Michael Vaughan, whose numbers are at the right hand end of the chart, quite a way below it.

TMS commentators in the 1970s,  Trevor Bailey, Henry Blofeld and Brian Johnston, with end of play summaries by EW  Swanton,  had a certain confidence that came from their backgrounds and with it also suggested a certain stability about the order of things; the relationship between Test and county cricket included as well perhaps, whether justified or not. But broadly, the numbers here do give  some sort of credibility to the idea that the county Championship then sent out useful messages about those with Test potential, or at least those that the selectors thought had it.

 

Champions Trophy 2017

As England neared their victory over Bangladesh in the opening game Michael Atherton commented that he expected more runs to be scored than was the case four years ago, observing that the game has ‘moved on’; the influence of heavier bats,  changing boundary ropes and mindsets at work amongst all other things. If he is right, and it is harder to know what ‘a good score’ is, then winning the  toss and fielding first seems likely to be an advantage.

As to the actual scores four years ago; overall almost 6000 runs  in the 15 matches played, an average rate of  5.3 runs per over, although these total figures are distorted rather by the four games affected by rain in 2013. Of the 11 games that weren’t, the average first innings total was around 230 and a score of 300 plus registered just once. Scores of under 200 were made four times. If the weather holds fair this month the question seems to be by how much will the numbers rise, although quite how exciting and/or interesting the cricket will be another matter again.

Forty-two years ago in the summer of 1975 England also hosted the first Prudential World Cup, sixty overs a side in a fifteen game tournament, with the West Indies the winners in a memorable final. Memorable because of the fluctuating fortunes of bat and ball , the early West Indian wickets, the brilliance of Clive Lloyd’s innings and late in the day the efforts of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thompson to retrieve a seemingly lost cause, in an innings that was to end with five run outs. 565 runs in all, at less than five an over; if it had been 50 over cricket perhaps the target would have been around 230 rather than the actual total of 291, but as to whether it was both exciting and interesting? Certainly was.

Postscript 19th June A win by the underdogs, Pakistan, who having lost to India by 150+ runs in a group match got to the final and reversed the outcome. An epic performance by them even if there weren’t any particularly epic matches taking the tournament as a whole.

A 1000 more runs were scored than in 2013, approaching half of all runs scored came in boundaries; the average  score of those batting first  up from around 230ish to 270ish. As to the entertainment it produced, pictures for the TV with the ball heading into the crowd, although the pressures when a team batting are not  making the runs they were expecting to seems to have help  produce some very one-sided matches as well.