July 16, 2008

The best performance in a single Test

When people talk of the most outstanding performances in a single Test match, a few superlative displays come to mind

When people talk of the most outstanding performances in a single Test match, a few superlative displays come to mind. Ian Botham's all-round excellence in Bombay in 1980, Jim Laker's 19-wicket haul in Manchester in 1956, Andy Flower's and Brain Lara's back-to-the-wall batting exploits, Richard Hadlee's tour-de-force in Brisbane in 1985 against Australia, Muttiah Muralitharan and Graham Gooch at Lord's etc. What is the best among these memorable efforts?

To seek an answer, this article looks at single player performances in a Test match.

Important note: Jeff, Rahul Bose, Sriram et al have mentioned about the bias towards bowling performances, which is true. The consensus is that the 25% upwards valuation of batting performances is too low. Jeff has even suggested 50%. After experimenting with a few figures, I have settled on 40% as the upwards valuation parameter. Since I am unlikely to do a follow-up, I have modified the values and table in this article itself. This means a 55% contribution in batting moves up to 77% which translates to just over 15 wickets. Looks like a very fair normalizing situation.

From this time I have made a significant change. In order for all readers to view my own response to the readers' comments, these responses will be appended at the end of the article. Even though this will make the article longer, this is the best way of addressing what are often overlapping comments. Pl see at the end of the article for these counter-responses.

Let me emphasise that this is not a look at the best all-round performances, although allrounders will be prominent in the lists. I have looked at a method of bringing batting, bowling and fielding performances to a common platform and analyse the results. I will also make due allowances for the fact that bowlers can, on their day, monopolise the team bowling performances, while batsmen cannot. I have also looked at the relative contribution of a player in a Test match rather than the absolute numbers.

Certain criteria have been laid down. Consider the following matches:

  • MtId 1138. Ind: 358 for 9, Nzl: 178 for 1.
  • MtId 0696. Win: 451 for 3, Nzl: 543 for 7.
  • MtId 1094. Nzl: 512 for 2, Eng: 183 for 6.
Very few wickets have fallen and lots of runs have been scored. How does one rationalise between batting and bowling. In the first match, Atul Wassan took the only wicket to fall. Surely he cannot be credited with 100% of the bowling effort. It is essential that a fair number of wickets are captured.

Hence I will consider only matches in which 20 wickets have fallen. The limit of 20 wickets has been decided after a lot of deliberation. 20 wickets represents two completed innings and there is a fair chance that the match would have gone a reasonable distance. There would be either two completed innings or a third innings. In addition matches in which over 1000 runs are scored are also included to make sure that the really high-scoring matches will be considered.

Just to pre-empt readers who rush to print, let me add that 1769 out of the 1879 Test matches fall under this category. This works out to a very satisfactory 94%.

The only match in which fewer than 20 wickets have fallen and there has been a result is Test # 1483 in which only 16 wickets were lost. This was the Test match with the contrived result and I have left the match in with a lot of reluctance.

Of course, if there is a match with the following [imaginary] scorecard, it would not be included. I can live that. I am sure any reader could.

  • Team 1: 100 for 9, Team 2: 400 for 0, Team 1: 200 all out.
I do not want to limit this analysis only to matches in which there have been results. This will keep out some great individual performances in drawn matches.

Now for the difficult task of normalising batting and bowling points.

First the batting. Let us use the batting as the base and assign a point for each run scored. Fairly easy. The only problem is that the batsmen do not have an opportunity to play as much of a dominant role in an innings or match as the bowlers do. The table given below is an eye-opener. The best performances by players as a proportion of their team's performances are outlined below.

Highest share of team performance - Batting
	Innings: A.C.Bannerman 165 (245 all out) - 67.3%
	Match:   Tharanga 165 & 71 (316 & 120)   - 54.1% (Both innings played)
Highest share of team performance - Bowling
	Innings: Laker & Kumble 10 (out of 10)   - 100%
	Match:   Laker          19 (out of 20)   -  95%
In view of the above, which clearly indicates that no batsman can ever hope to score more than two-thirds of his team total in a match, the individual batting points are increased by a factor of 25%, since changed to 40% on 23 July 2008..

Next the bowling. Here only the wickets captured have been considered. Overs bowled is another factor. However, if the batting team score is 400 all out, it is difficult to give any weight to a spell of 40 overs for no wicket against 40 overs for eight wickets. It is quite possible for a bowler to monopolise 100% of his team's bowling effort. Hence no adjustments, similar to the batting adjustments, are done. I will wait for the reader responses to decide whether to give a small weightage, say 10%, to the overs bowled.

It is interesting to note that a bowler has captured 10 wickets or more (50% of or more of the bowling effort), in 361 of the 1879 Test matches.

Look at the following two matches.

  • Test # 0028: Aus 116 ao & 60 ao, Eng 53 ao & 62 ao.
  • Test # 0137: Aus 354 ao & 582 ao, Eng 447 ao & 370 ao.
Both are similar in many ways. 40 wickets have fallen in both and there has been a result. However in the first match, 291 runs have been scored and in the second, 1753 runs have been scored. Clearly it was very easy to pick up wickets in the first match and very difficult to pick up wickets in the second match.

Hence while computing the value of a wicket the bowling and batting figures, for a single match, in terms of runs are equalised. In other words, the value of a wicket in the first match is approximately equivalent to 7 runs and in the second, 46 runs. This will make sure that the proportionate allocation for bowlers is done equitably.

First, the batting and bowling points for a single match are equalised. Then the proportionate allocation takes place.

Now for fielding. Since run-out records are available for very few matches, that is not taken into account. Each catch taken or stumping effected by a player is alloted 20% of the value of a wicket. This figure of 20% is not arbitrary. It has been determined that an average of around 5-6 catches are taken in a match and the total allocation for fielding per match is around a single wicket value, which is very reasonable.

It must be remembered that all calculations are within a single Test match only to determine the contribution of the 22 players involved. Since all these contributions are reduced to % values, there is no chance of wide variations. A batsman scoring 50 out of 100 and another, 250 out of 500 are considered equal. Similarly for bowling.

Finally a recognition that winning is [if not everything] something. Hence the winning team's player points are increased by a nominal 5% and drawing team's player points are increased by 2%.


  • 1. Only matches in which 20 wickets have been captured or 1000 runs have been scored.
  • 2. Bowling and Batting points are equalised for the match.
  • 3. Per wicket points are computed by dividing total runs by total wickets.
  • 4. Batting points = Runs scored x 1.40 (changed from 1.25).
  • 5. Bowling points = Wickets captured x Per wicket points.
  • 6. Fielding points = No of C/St x (Per wicket points x 0.2).
  • 7. Total points = Batting points + Bowling points + Fielding points.
  • 8. Player contribution = Total points / Team Total points.
  • 9. Win factor - 105%, Draw factor - 102%.
Detailed explanation of the calculation - using the top performance.

Match # 1380, India vs England, 1980. Match total: 785 runs & 30 wickets. Per Wkt points - 26.166. England: 296 all out and 98 for no loss. (Batting points - 394) India: 242 all out and 149 all out (England: Bowling points - 20 * 26.166 = 523) Total England points: 394 + 523 = 917. Ian Botham Batting: 160 points (114 runs). Bowling: 340 points (13 wkts). Fielding: 0. Total: 500 points. Indexed by 5% for win. Total: 525 points. % of Team total: 525/917 = 57.20%, which reflects Botham's outstanding contribution.

I want to emphasise that the batting and bowling equalisation takes place only at the match level and not at the team level. This is done to make sure that the overall match conditions are reflected in this analysis. It is also done to ensure that there are no way-out allocations in completely one-sided matches. An example is given below, the match which can be billed "Brian Lara vs Sri Lanka".

Match # 1572, Sri Lanka vs West Indies, 2001. Match total: 1306 runs for 29 wickets. Per Wkt points - 45.03. West Indies: 390 all out and 262 all out (Batting points - 652) Sri Lanka: 627 for 9. (West Indies: Bowling points - 9 x 45.03 = 405). Total West Indies points: 652 + 405 = 1057. Brian Lara. Batting: 491 points (351 runs). Fielding: 0. Total: 491 points. No indexing since West Indies lost. % of Team total: 439/1057 = 46.48%, which seems very fair.

Note that the West Indian bowlers get less points since they captured only 9 wickets. That allows the batsmen like Lara [and Andy Flower against South Africa] who fought valiantly to get their due.

Now for the tables. Only the Top-10 are listed below.

No Year MtId For Player            RunPts      WktPts  FlPts Total (Team) % Cont
(Runs)      (Wkts)
1.1980 0874 Eng Botham I.T         160(114r) & 340(13w)  0f 525p ( 917t) 57.20 Won
2.1899 0059 Saf Sinclair J.H       154(110r) & 143( 9w)  0f 297p ( 529t) 56.08 Lost
3.2001 1562 Zim Flower A           477(341r) &   0( 0w) 11f 489p ( 903t) 54.12 Lost
4.1964 0568 Aus Simpson R.B        193(138r) & 105( 4w)  5f 310p ( 580t) 53.40 Draw
5.1883 0011 Eng Bates W             77( 55r) & 262(14w)  0f 356p ( 668t) 53.25 Won
6.1985 1029 Nzl Hadlee R.J          76( 54r) & 592(15w)  8f 709p (1342t) 52.83 Won
7.1974 0734 Eng Greig A.W          242(173r) & 304( 6w) 10f 568p (1078t) 52.68 Draw
8.1962 0523 Nzl Reid J.R           283(202r) &  88( 3w)  0f 370p ( 705t) 52.53 Lost
9.1956 0428 Eng Laker J.C            4(  3r) & 474(19w)  0f 502p ( 958t) 52.40 Won
10.1952 0352 Ind Mankad M.H         358(256r) & 192( 5w)  0f 550p (1074t) 51.26 Lost
15.2000 1513 Pak Saqlain Mushtaq     45( 32r) & 392( 9w)  0f 445p ( 924t) 48.23 Draw
29.1966 0608 Win Sobers G.St.A      244(174r) & 261( 8w)  0f 530p (1152t) 45.97 Won
Legend: r-Runs, w-Wkts, f-Fielding pts, p-Player pts, t-Team pts.
Botham's all-round performance is, not surprisingly, the best in Test history. If any reader says that he knew about this all along and there was no analysis needed, the next few entries will show the importance of analysis since there are from different era and less-heralded players.

Botham's performance is closely followed by Sinclair's all-round performance. Remember South Africa lost the match.

The purely batting back-to-the-wall effort, albeit in a losing cause, by Andy FlowerAndy Flower's great batting performance is now in third place, followed by Simpson's all-round performance. Then come the (predominatly bowling) performances by Bates and Hadlee. Greig's all-round performance is followed by John Reid's batting effort, Lakers's 19-wkt haul and Mankad's predominantly batting effort at Lord's.

There are 3 bowling performances, 4 all-round performances and 3 batting performances in the top-10, restoring the balance between batting and bowling. We have got 6 specialist performances in the Top 10. It will take a truly great specialist performance to get into the top-10/top-20, which is true of Laker's or Hadlee's or Andy Flower's performances.

There are 4 wins, 2 draws and 4 losses. Again no one should have a complaint.

Saqlain Mushtaq just edges Imran Khan's great match-winning effort against India in Lahore for the best Pakistan' performance. Let me add that I myself feel that Imran Khan's 14-wicket haul against India is a far superior performance. However, having laid down parameters I cannot trample over them, just because I do not agree with the results. Sobers' all-round efforts are the best by a West Indian.

Just for information, Gooch's 333 plus 123 at Lord's during 1990, which is the highest compilation of runs in a match, pegged in at around 36.5%.

To view the complete list, please click here.

The brief scores for the concerned matches are given below. Only the concerned players' performances are shown.

Test # 874. India vs England.
Played on 15,17,18,19 February 1980 at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai.
England won by 10 wickets.
India: 242 all out            (Botham I.T     22.5  7  58  6)
England: 296 all out          (Botham I.T     114)
India: 149 all out            (Botham I.T     26.0  7  48  7)
England: 98 for 0 wkt(s)      (Botham I.T     dnb)
Test # 59. South Africa vs England.
Played on 1,3,4 April 1899 at Newlands, Cape Town.
England won by 210 runs.
England: 92 all out           (Sinclair J.H   12.0  4  26  6)
South Africa: 177 all out     (Sinclair J.H   106)
England: 330 all out          (Sinclair J.H   31.2  8  63  3)
South Africa: 35 all out      (Sinclair J.H   4)
Test # 1029. Australia vs New Zealand.
Played on 8,9,10,11,12 November 1985 at Woolloongabba, Brisbane.
New Zealand won by an innings and 41 runs.
Australia: 179 all out        (Hadlee R.J     23.4  4  52  9)
New Zealand: 553 for 7 wkt(s) (Hadlee R.J     54)
Australia: 333 all out        (Hadlee R.J     28.5  9  71  6)
Test # 11. Australia vs England.
Played on 19,20,22 January 1883 at Melbourne Cricket Ground.
England won by an innings and 27 runs.
England: 294 all out          (Bates W        55)
Australia: 114 all out        (Bates W        26.2 14  28  7)
Australia: 153 all out        (Bates W        33.0 14  74  7)
Test # 428. England vs Australia.
Played on 26,27,28,30,31 July 1956 at Old Trafford, Manchester.
England won by an innings and 170 runs.
England: 459 all out          (Laker J.C      3)
Australia: 84 all out         (Laker J.C      16.4  4  37  9)
Australia: 205 all out        (Laker J.C      51.2 23  53 10)
Test # 131. South Africa vs England.
Played on 26,27,29,30 December 1913 at Old Wanderers, Johannesburg.
England won by an innings and 12 runs.
South Africa: 160 all out     (Barnes S.F     26.5  9  56  8)
England: 403 all out          (Barnes S.F     0)
South Africa: 231 all out     (Barnes S.F     38.4  7 103  9)
Test # 1423. England vs Sri Lanka.
Played on 27,28,29,30,31 August 1998 at Kennington Oval, London.
Sri Lanka won by 10 wickets.
England: 445 all out          (Muralitharan M 59.3 14 155  7)
Sri Lanka: 591 all out        (Muralitharan M 30)
England: 181 all out          (Muralitharan M 54.2 27  65  9)
Sri Lanka: 37 for 0 wkt(s)    (Muralitharan M dnb)
Test # 734. West Indies vs England.
Played on 6,7,9,10,11 March 1974 at Kensington Oval, Bridgetown.
Match drawn.
England: 395 all out          (Greig A.W      148)
West Indies: 596 for 8 wkt(s) (Greig A.W      46.0  2 164  6)
England: 277 for 7 wkt(s)     (Greig A.W      25)
Test # 568. India vs Australia.
Played on 17,18,20,21,22 October 1964 at Eden Gardens, Calcutta.
Match drawn.
Australia: 174 all out        (Simpson R.B    67)
India: 235 all out            (Simpson R.B    28.0 12  45  4)
Australia: 143 for 1 wkt(s)   (Simpson R.B    71)
Test # 1562. Zimbabwe vs South Africa.
Played on 7,8,9,10,11 September 2001 at Harare Sports Club.
South Africa won by 9 wickets.
South Africa: 600 for 3 wkt(s)
Zimbabwe: 286 all out         (Flower A       142)
Zimbabwe: 391 all out         (Flower A       199)
South Africa: 79 for 1 wkt(s)
Test # 1513. Pakistan vs England.
Played on 15,16,17,18,19 November 2000 at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore.
Match drawn.
England: 480 for 8 wkt(s)     (Saqlain Mushtaq 74.0 20 164  8)
Pakistan: 401 all out         (Saqlain Mushtaq 32)
England: 77 for 4 wkt(s)      (Saqlain Mushtaq 10.0  2  14  1)
Test # 352. England vs India.
Played on 19,20,21,23,24 June 1952 at Lord's, London.
England won by 8 wickets.
India: 235 all out            (Mankad M.H     72)
England: 537 all out          (Mankad M.H     73.0 24 196  5)
India: 378 all out            (Mankad M.H     184)
England: 79 for 2 wkt(s)      (Mankad M.H     24.0 12  35  0)
Test # 608. England vs West Indies.
Played on 4,5,6,8 August 1966 at Headingley, Leeds.
West Indies won by an innings and 55 runs.
West Indies: 500 for 9 wkt(s) (Sobers G.St.A  174)
England: 240 all out          (Sobers G.St.A  19.3  4  41  5)
England: 205 all out          (Sobers G.St.A  20.1  5  39  3)
PS: 1. I have another complex method of measuring the (batting) innings and (bowling) innspells using 12 parameters. In reality that is the ideal method of measuring a player contribution in a Test match. That method is the one used to bring out the Hallmark-TS-100 (earlier called Wisden-100) tables. However I have to lay a proper foundation explaining all the parameters and methodologies used before doing an analysis. Since that will take a complete article or two, I have reserved it for a later date.

2. This analysis emphasises only the relative contributions of players and not the absolute contributions. However readers may be interested in knowing who has compiled the highest absolute points on the basis of the parameters used in the analysis. Hence I have given below the top-10 players based on absolute values. Please remember that this table has no real intrinsic value.

Year MtId For Player         RunPts      WktPts  FlPts Total (Team) % Cont
(Runs)     (Wkts)
2004 1680 Ind Kumble A             0(  0r) & 839(12w)  0f 855p (2034t) 42.05 Draw
1976 0781 Win Holding M.A         45( 32r) & 754(14w)  0f 838p (1945t) 43.09 Won
1997 1374 Slk Jayasuriya S.T     476(340r) & 319( 3w)  0f 811p (1803t) 44.98 Draw
1990 1148 Eng Gooch G.A          638(456r) &  57( 1w) 23f 754p (2070t) 36.45 Won
1998 1423 Slk Muralitharan M      42( 30r) & 669(16w)  0f 746p (1464t) 50.98 Won
1985 1029 Nzl Hadlee R.J          76( 54r) & 592(15w)  8f 709p (1342t) 52.83 Won
2001 1572 Slk Vaas WPUJC          32( 23r) & 630(14w)  0f 696p (1555t) 44.76 Won
1983 0945 Pak Imran Khan         164(117r) & 484(11w)  0f 680p (1542t) 44.11 Won
1955 0406 Win Atkinson D.S.t.E   335(239r) & 323( 7w)  0f 671p (1667t) 40.24 Draw
2001 1558 Aus Warne S.K            0(  0r) & 576(11w) 21f 627p (1688t) 37.13 Won
Kumble is on top because he captured 12 wickets in a match in which 25 wickets were captured for a huge tally of 1737 runs. Each wicket was gold and valued at nearly 70 points. Similar case with Holding. Jayasuriya's tally is due to his triple century and 3 wickets in a run feast. Hadlee find places in the Top 10 of both lists.

Counter-responses: 1. I am aware that the increase of batting value by 25% without a corresponding increase in total will be mathematically inaccurate since the sum of allocations will exceed 100.If I increase total by 25%, the whole effect will be lost. However I am ready to live with this mathematical inaccuracy to achieve a parity between batting and bowling in cricketing terms.

2. Alan Davidson's stupendous all-round performance in the famous tied test during 1961 fetched him a high 41.85% which puts him in the top-75. It should be noted that there were other players who also contributed, especially O'Neill.

3. Without denying Laxman's contributions at Kolkatta in 1981, there were great supporting roles by Dravid and Tendulkar.In reality Harbhajan's performance was equal or greater. Laxman's contribution pegs at just below one-third while Harbhajan's at 34.65%.

4. The fielding allocation of 20% is justified by the following numbers. Total no of wkts captured in 1879 tests: 57495 (30 .6 wkts per test) Total no of Ct/St in 1879 tests: 34609 (18.4 Ct/St per test) This works to 6 Ct/St per completed innings. The exact weightage would be around 16.6%. I have given 20% since the Run outs are not covered. This seems eminently fair.

5. Botham's equally great all-round performance at Headingley during 1981 pegged in at 44.64% and is in the 21st position.

6. Sehwag's 309 at Multan was indeed a match-winning effort. However it must be remembered that there were other major contributors (viz) Tendulkar, Kumble and Pathan et al. In reality Sehwag's 319 at Chennai comes in higher. It must be remembered that I have not considered playing away, support, bowler quality etc. That will be another day.

7. There is merit in linking the Cricinfo scorecard. However it must be remembered that I have put in a customized potted match summary, this time emphasizing the concerned player performance. It is possible I could do both.

8. A good comment has been raised re Hanif Mohd's 337 getting a contribution value of only 37%. The following numbers will justify this allocation. Total points allocated: 1220 (incl draw bonus of 2%), out of which Batting is 800 and Bowling 420. This itself proves that the batsmen have got twice the valuation in this match. The batting allocation thus works out to 67%. Out of this, Hanif Mohd, who scored 354 runs gets a contribution value of 37% (incl the 25% extra). Five other batsmen, especially in the second innings, helped draw the match and they have to be given credit. It can be seen that the bowlers are not given any undue allocation.

Anantha Narayanan has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket and worked with a number of companies on their cricket performance ratings-related systems