Wisden Cricketers' Almanack Australia October 29, 2004

Wisden rates Gilchrist the fastest scorer ever

Wisden Cricinfo staff

Adam Gilchrist: the fastest of them all © Getty Images

Adam Gilchrist is the fastest Test runscorer of all time, according to historic scientific research in the new edition of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack Australia. It is the first serious undertaking ever attempted to calculate the batting strike rates of every Test cricketer since 1877. The full list - the Hurricane Hundred - is published in the 2004-05 edition of Wisden Australia, which comes out on November 3.

Gilchrist comfortably tops the chart with a strike rate of 81.9 runs per 100 balls. In second place is Kapil Dev. Today's heavier bats, smaller boundaries and buccaneering approach to batting are reflected in the fact that 30 of the fastest 100 are current players. Four of them make the top 10: Gilchrist, Virender Sehwag of India (fifth), England's Andrew Flintoff (sixth) and Sri Lanka's Sanath Jayasuriya (ninth). Matthew Hayden and Darren Lehmann rank 11th and 15th respectively.

But despite the advantages of modern-day batsmen, an intriguing mix of dashers from yesteryear also figure prominently. Maurice Tate, the England allrounder of the 1920s and '30s, is the third-fastest batsman. The swashbuckling South African Jimmy Sinclair, who debuted in 1896, ranks fourth. In eighth place is the legendary Australian strokemaker Victor Trumper, who hummed along at nearly 68 runs per 100 balls. Don Bradman, cricket's most prodigious batsman, rates as the 16th-fastest.

The Hurricane Hundred encompasses batsmen who scored at least 1000 Test runs. If that minimum qualification is stripped away, then the speediest of them all - faster even than Gilchrist - was Gilbert Jessop, the bludgeoning Englishman of the early 20th century, who scored at a bewildering 112 runs per 100 balls.

"It is fair to say that Gilchrist, taking both batting average and scoring speed into account, is the most dynamic batsman the game has ever seen," says Charles Davis, the Melbourne-based cricket scientist who conducted the research. "One advantage he has, as with Viv Richards, is that he plays in a supremely dominant side. But even when he is exposed to predicaments demanding fierce resistance, his response is invariably aggressive."

Until now, the strike rates of batsmen through the ages have remained a mystery. Balls faced were recorded irregularly - or not at all - until as recently as the mid-1980s. The Hurricane Hundred is the product of countless hours of detective work and slogging through old scorebooks and match reports. Where the number of balls a batsman faced in an innings is not available, Davis has made a near-precise estimate by taking into account the number of minutes batted and the prevailing over-rate that day.

"This research invites us to reassess cricket's past, to see the giants of batting in a new and revealing light," says Christian Ryan, the editor of Wisden Australia. "We always suspected Victor Trumper was something special, but we had to rely on hearsay and imagination and romanticised eyewitness accounts. Now we have hard scientific evidence."

Wisden Cricketers' Almanack Australia 2004-05 is published on November 3. To order a copy from Cricshop, click here.