June 21, 2010

Occupying the crease

A look at the players who face the most balls per innings on average.

Don Bradman has the fastest scoring rate among batsmen who have faced more than 100 balls per innings © Getty Images

The table below lists the 30 batsmen in Test history whose known "balls faced" innings numbers at least 20, and whose average balls faced per innings exceeds 100:

Players with average balls faced/innings greater than 100
Player Team Balls faced/innings Balls faced/run
Herbert Sutcliffe England 163.95 2.89
Don Bradman Australia 142.00 1.71
Walter Hammon England 129.16 2.63
Glenn Turner New Zealand 126.91 2.94
Bill Woodfull Australia 125.66 3.21
Maurice Leyland England 125.47 2.50
John Reid New Zealand 124.24 2.82
Len Hutton England 123.71 2.64
Geoff Boycott England 122.23 2.82
Bill Lawry Australia 118.65 2.50
Jack Hobbs England 115.94 2.15
John Edrich England 115.41 2.69
Ian Redpath Australia 113.46 2.58
Mark Richardson New Zealand 113.31 2.65
Rahul Dravid India 112.50 2.36
Bob Simpson Australia 111.95 2.20
Trevor Bailey England 111.73 4.05
Bill Ponsford Australia 111.36 2.23
Bill Brown Australia 110.63 2.57
Shoaib Mohammad Pakistan 107.49 2.56
Sunil Gavaskar India 105.70 2.25
Jacques Kallis South Africa 105.29 2.25
Ken Barrington England 104.54 2.36
Jack Fingleton Australia 103.67 3.24
Tom Graveney England 103.29 2.51
Allan Border Australia 103.29 2.43
Chris Tavare England 102.41 3.27
John Wright New Zealand 102.23 2.84
Andrew Jones New Zealand 102.03 2.58
Asanka Gurusinha Sri Lanka 101.82 2.73

Three things stand out for me. The first is the over-representation of players from days gone by. One has to go to 14th place to find someone (Mark Richardson) who played this century, and in this list of 30, there are only two other, Dravid and Kallis. Test cricket was clearly more a battle of attrition in the past than it is now. But also, there were simply more balls available to be defended in those times than there are now.

Secondly, the obduracy of Herbert Sutcliffe is perhaps understated. His figure of nearly 164 balls per innings is more than 15% higher than the next most obdurate, Bradman. And at a run every 2.89 balls, he was hardly fluent, either. Another player whose high position deserves recognition is New Zealand's Glenn Turner, a very major player in a struggling team

Thirdly, the absence of any West Indians in this list confirms the impression of a carefree approach to batting. The preponderance of Australian and English batsmen is not significant. Many of the Test scorecards involving other countries simply don't have the "balls faced" data available. The highest placed West Indians are Sobers and Chanderpaul, both just over 96 balls per innings. But in the three innings for which we have "balls faced" data, George Headley averaged 139 balls per innings.

Rearranging the table in order of scoring fluency, we have:

Best scoring rate among players with average balls faced/innings greater than 100
Player Team Balls faced/innings Balls faced/run
Don Bradman Australia 142.00 1.71
Jack Hobbs England 115.94 2.15
Bob Simpson Australia 111.95 2.20
Bill Ponsford Australia 111.36 2.23
Jacques Kallis South Africa+ 105.29 2.25
Sunil Gavaskar India 105.70 2.25
Ken Barrington England 104.54 2.36
Rahul Dravid India+ 112.50 2.36
Allan Border Australia 103.29 2.43
Maurice Leyland England 125.47 2.50
Bill Lawry Australia 118.65 2.50
Tom Graveney England 103.29 2.51
Shoaib Mohammad Pakistan 107.49 2.56
Bill Brown Australia 110.63 2.57
Ian Redpath Australia 113.46 2.58
Andrew Jones New Zealand 102.03 2.58
Walter Hammond England 129.16 2.63
Len Hutton England 123.71 2.64
Mark Richardson New Zealand 113.31 2.65
John Edrich England 115.41 2.69
Asanka Gurusinha Sri Lanka 101.82 2.73
John Reid New Zealand 124.24 2.82
Geoff Boycott England 122.23 2.82
John Wright New Zealand 102.23 2.84
Herbert Sutcliffe England 163.95 2.89
Glenn Turner New Zealand 126.91 2.94
Bill Woodfull Australia 125.66 3.21
Jack Fingleton Australia 103.67 3.24
Chris Tavare England 102.41 3.27
Trevor Bailey England 111.73 4.05

In this respect, Bradman (over 20% more fluent than anyone else) and Hobbs show their class, while who would have thought that Ponsford would have rated so highly here? Perhaps we need to re-assess some of these players! Barrington beats Border. Lawry beats Redpath. But Tavare and Bailey are where we expect!

The last table gives the same data for top three most obdurate players at each position in the batting order. The qualification has been reduced to at least ten innings where "balls faced" data is known.

Players with highest average balls faced/innings by batting position
Batting Position 1st Balls/innings 2nd Balls/innings 3rd Balls/innings
Openers Herbert Sutcliffe 163.49 Bill Woodfull 128.07 Herbie Collins 127.79
3 Walter Hammond 175.69 Don Bradman 144.50 Ken Barrington 135.82
4 Graeme Pollock 125.44 Lindsay Hassett 116.57 Mike Denness 115.10
5 Ian Redpath 122.91 Michael Hussey 114.53 Allan Border 110.57
6 Trevor Bailey 137.08 Garry Sobers 124.05 Shivnarine Chanderpaul 123.19
7 Thilan Samaraweera 111.91 Brian McMillan 100.78 Ravi Shastri 92.00
8 Dion Nash 69.91 Manoj Prabhakar 69.77 Fred Titmus 65.38
9 Graham Dilley 60.20 Kiran More 58.43 Ian Salisbury 55.60
10 John Bracewell 45.33 Tim May 38.85 Sarfraz Nawaz 38.00
11 Arthur Mailey 36.30 Danny Morrison 20.28 Ashley Mallett 19.83

Occupancy of the crease clearly declines as one descends through the batting order, although the figures at number 6 are interesting. It is not only the special character of Trevor Bailey causing this, because Sobers and Chanderpaul also are higher than many players above them in the batting order. I suspect it is a realisation by a number 6 that he is the last specialist batsman, and he sets himself to bat through the innings with the tail.

A study of players at the other end of the scale, those who survive least, is also interesting, but that can wait for another time.

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