Michael Jeh October 7, 2010

An attempt to understand second-innings stalwarts

In my most recent post , I 'fluked' the Laxman prediction and it opened up some dialogue that deserves a follow-up piece
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In my most recent post, I 'fluked' the Laxman prediction and it opened up some dialogue that deserves a follow-up piece. The raison d'etre behind writing the original story wasn't really meant to be a prediction; rather, it was intended to explore the unusual phenomenon of batsmen who buck the overwhelming trend and average more in the second innings of Test cricket. The sheer luck involved in predicting Laxman's great innings was almost accidental. A few tongue-in-cheek comments suggested I must be part of the match-fixing mafia and I smiled at the suggestion, all the more since this was one of the few times I had no wager riding on it!

Today's article is about following up on my promise to a few bloggers who were keen to explore the question of which great batsmen average more in the second innings than the first. More importantly, can we suggest any reasons why that may be the case? Thankfully, S Rajesh, in his customary style, ended up doing my homework for me by writing an insightful piece which listed the top 8 batsmen of all time in that category. So let's check that list out again.

Best batting averages in second innings (Qual: 2500 runs)
Batsman Innings Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Jacques Kallis 97 4086 58.37 8/ 26
Garry Sobers 67 2923 55.15 8/ 15
Allan Border 111 4371 54.63 11/ 24
Kumar Sangakkara 61 2894 53.59 9/ 12
Matthew Hayden 81 3472 51.82 11/ 13
Sunil Gavaskar 90 3963 51.46 11/ 22
Geoff Boycott 85 3319 51.06 9/ 17
VVS Laxman 74 2877 50.47 5/ 17

My initial hypothesis was that I figured a few of the players in this list were likely to be opening batsmen, especially players who played a lot of cricket on pitches that would have been difficult to bat on the first day of a Test match, thereby creating a situation where their second innings average, on slightly flatter, drier surfaces, was likely to be inflated in comparison. I think it may be fair to extend that to include openers and No. 3 batsmen because they tend to be in pretty early on 'fresh' pitches that need enough moisture to last five days. Looking at those eight players listed, most of them batted in the top 3, even Laxman at the start of his career. So that theory may have some substance to it then?

What strikes me as curious though is that the two greatest batting allrounders of the game are right at the top of that list. Yes, Jacques Kallis has batted at 3 for most of his Test career so that is in line with my first theory, but when you consider that both Kallis and Garry Sobers would already have done some bowling in the match (and in Kumar Sangakkara’s case, wicketkeeping), their improved performances in the second innings is a great credit to their fitness levels.

Kallis, especially, is worthy of mention because he so often gets unfairly shaded when compared to the peerless Sobers. Looking at Kallis' numbers in all aspects of the game, including ODIs, I think we'll look back on his career and retrospectively realise that he was one of the genuine 'greats' of the game. I just hope that the cricketing world, not just the South Africans, savour the twilight of his career because I doubt we'll see a player of his calibre (and durability) again in the modern era.

Back to the original theme, it seems then that Kallis' place at the top of that list can be attributed in part to his resilient and unflinching style of batting, rarely flamboyant, but utterly dependable and risk-free. Well, in Test cricket anyway. He can shift gears seamlessly when necessary but I think it is a fair comment to say that his game is built around a rock-solid foundation of eliminating risk. I never saw Sobers bat but the legend around him paints a picture of a very different kind of batsman, much more carefree and flowing. For those who remember his batting, was that really the case or are they over-romanticising the aura around the great man?

No surprises that Allan Border is somewhere in that list. His entire reputation (perhaps unfairly) was built around his tenacity and courage with his back to the wall, and with a fair bit of his career played in a relatively weak Australian team, it's no surprise that rearguard efforts in second innings have boosted his average. What may surprise some people, though, is that AB was a fabulous attacking player in his own right. I played club cricket with him at Valleys CC in Brisbane for many years and at that level, free of the burden of responsibility (and not having to deal with Ambrose, Walsh, Holding, Marshall etc), AB's ferocity in attack was awesome to watch. Had he played in the modern era, behind a dominant top order, we might have seen another dimension to his batting. He was that good!

Matthew Hayden's inclusion on that list just proves that you don't need to be the traditional style of opening batsman to feature in this analysis of second-innings champions. Both Sunil Gavaskar and Geoff Boycott were from a different era and a different tempo, much less Haydenesque in technique and strike-rate. Boycott certainly would have batted on many pitches that were 'unfriendly' on the first morning of a Test match, hence it is no surprise that he cashed in heavily when he got a second chance. Gavaskar would probably have played many back-to-the-wall innings for India early in his career, again creating opportunity for long second innings that might even have left him carrying his bat. Again, while my boyhood memories of Gavaskar were those of a brave and courageous grafter, friends of mine who played with him at the Ranji level speak in awe at his ability to rip into attacks with savage intent.

Sangakkara's presence in the list is another surprise to me, only because I would have expected a wicketkeeper to be fatigued by the time he bats in the second innings. The only valid reason I can come up with is that he must have had a good look at the bounce and movement off the pitch by the time he batted in the second dig and this must surely have helped, along with lashings of talent!

Another theory I had for this second innings phenomenon was that it might feature players who batted a lot in venues that are traditionally tougher to bat on first thing in the morning, hence the second innings was likely to be more productive because it could happen at any time of the day. The dew in Sri Lanka is a known factor, Brisbane (and many Australian pitches) are notoriously hard work until lunch on the first day and I'm assuming South Africa is very similar to explain Kallis' average. I suppose, even in India, going back to Gavaskar's days, the new ball on a fresh pitch might have been the biggest threat, especially for someone like Gavaskar who was a fabulous player of spin bowling.

Enough guessing – I am keen to hear your opinions on these theories. What would also be interesting would be to see what the comparison of second innings aggregates and centuries are for these batsmen. Is their average inflated slightly by not-outs in the second innings (less likely in the first innings for obvious reasons) or have they genuinely churned out big runs batting last? Not that it's meant to be a criticism. It's hardly Laxman's fault that his last 7 second-innings efforts have been 124*, 61, 51*, 69*, 69, 103*, and 73*. Perhaps we can convince Rajesh to do his magic on Statsguru and give us another brilliant insight into this fascinating picture.

As for the greatest batsman of all time, Sir Donald Bradman? He did not make the list since he narrowly missed the 2500 runs cut-off but, for the record, he probably has the biggest gap between first and second innings averages of all. 97.85 in the first dig, 104.50 in the second. So that lays waste to any suggestion that the truly great players score heavily in the first innings, setting up the victory. Mind you, an average of 97 in the first innings is always a handy start!

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Tamaal on November 3, 2010, 1:27 GMT

    Completely off the topic but I remeber seeing Gavaskar batting against New Zealand's Ewen Chatfield. Regularly partnered with Richard Hadlee, Chats was renowned for unflagging accuracy which kept batsmen tied down - perhaps it was their understandable frustration which helped our most famous cricketer to a (then-) world record wicket haul and a knighthood.

    Anyway, they were playing in Tasmania in a World Cup match and, to me, it was memorable for seeing Chatfield pummelled all around the park (admittedly, close boundaries) and then, when he finally got him out, altogether losing his rag - a sight I, al least have never seen.

  • Sam on October 20, 2010, 20:47 GMT

    Sangakara's presence in this list baffles me. To further tweak this list can we ensure that his innings against minnows BD and Zim are eeked out.

    His is a bulged average for the sheer amount of cricket he plays against weaker teams. He is not a great batsmen as he has not scored in Australia, Africa and India.

  • sagar chatterjee on October 13, 2010, 7:45 GMT

    and that is what separates the men from the boys. i would still rate kallis a lot higher than others due to the sheer fact that he bowls a hell lot of overs in every test match that sa play and also picks up a lot of wickets. thats a behemoth effort. he's the last of his kind. i don't see another jacques kallis taking birth ever.

  • Anonymous on October 13, 2010, 7:39 GMT

    Cumulative averages Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 0 4s 6s Opposition Start DateAscending 1 1 0 101 101 101.00 279 36.20 1 0 0 6 0 v Australia 26 Dec 1997 Test # 1392 2 2 0 146 101 73.00 389 37.53 1 0 0 10 0 v Australia 2 Jan 1998 Test # 1393 3 3 0 161 101 53.66 432 37.26 1 0 0 13 0 v Australia 30 Jan 1998 Test # 1397 3 3 0 161 101 53.66 432 37.26 1 0 0 13 0 v England 4 Jun 1998 Test # 1417 4 3 0 161 101 53.66 432 37.26 1 0 0 13 0 v England 18 Jun 1998 Test # 1419 4 3 0 161 101 53.66 432 37.26 1 0 0 13 0 v England 2 Jul 1998 Test # 1420 5 4 0 172 101 43.00 465 36.98 1 0 0 15 0 v England 23 Jul 1998 Test # 1421 6 5 0 175 101 35.00 480 36.45 1 0 0 15 0 v England 6 Aug 1998 Test # 1422 6 5 0 175 101 35.00 480 36.45 1 0 0 15 0 v New Zealand 27 Feb 1999 Test # 1446 6 5 0 175 101 35.00 480 36.45 1 0

  • Muhammad Adnan Riaz on October 11, 2010, 7:20 GMT

    A really good article this, however I do not agree with the reasoning provided; not in its fullest.

    I think some players perform better when they are put to real pressure. VVS, Kallis, Sanga are all modern day supreme class batsmen with their own styles, however one thing common in them is the level of calmness when put to pressure. The understanding of responsibility and the willingness to fight more than the others is one thing that separates these players.

  • R Giridharan on October 9, 2010, 6:06 GMT

    All the batsmen mentioned are excellent players of spin and also adept at working the ball around. Driving in the fourth innings is hazardous due to possible double pace. Sachin has not been able to resist his tempation to drive in the second innings and maybe that is why he does not figure in the list.Hayden's average is not a true reflection because most of his second innings were played in the backdrop of a huge first innings lead for Australia and an opposition on the run.

  • Bhavesh on October 9, 2010, 5:21 GMT

    The overseas umpires like Ian Gould, mark benson, David shepherd, Daryl Hare... used to get the Poms and the Aussies to win the test matches, and they used to let this batsman play not giving them out.

  • Michael Jeh on October 8, 2010, 22:06 GMT

    A few bloggers seem to (mistakenly) think that this article was about an argument that second innings runs were inherently more valuable than first innings runs. That was never the intention. It was triggered initially by VVS' special innings on Tuesday and it then grew into a friendly discussion about some of the other great 2nd innings performers and some theories as to why that might be the case. No one is suggesting that 1st innings runs are not as valuable or that prolific scorers in first innings are lesser players. This was merely an analysis of the second innings phenomenom. Just a bit of fun on a rainy day.

  • sangeeth on October 8, 2010, 14:54 GMT

    As you can see that all of the 7 batsmen except laxman were top order players.hayden,gavaskar,boycott were openers..kallis ,sangakara,border and sobers batted either in the 3rd or 4th position.even if sachin was included in this list,he is also a top order player..laxman bats low down the order.he had to bat with the lower order .so in any case,he looks more efficient than the others..

  • Binu Thomas on October 8, 2010, 11:09 GMT

    Take Steve Waugh: His 4th innings record is very bad for a man with 10K+ test runs. Are you guys telling me that he lacked mental toughness?

    Take Sehwag: His 4th innings record is pathetic compared to the 1st innings. Are you guys telling me that Sehwag plays differently in the 2nd innings as compared to the 1st?

    The thing is stats in Cricket are sometimes so much overrated. Sometimes they dont mean anything.

    I agree to the point that Sachin plays differently in the 2nd innings as compared to the 1st. For example, in the Mohali test, he manufactured a shot and got out. But thinking that he does that because he lacks something is nonsense. He plays very differently in different situations in different innings, whether 1st or 2nd innings, whether ODI or T20. He tries to adapt to the situation(and sometimes fails). Sehwag doesnt adapt at all(and sometimes fails). It has nothing to do with mental toughness. I think it has nothing to do with anything. Things just happen.

  • Tamaal on November 3, 2010, 1:27 GMT

    Completely off the topic but I remeber seeing Gavaskar batting against New Zealand's Ewen Chatfield. Regularly partnered with Richard Hadlee, Chats was renowned for unflagging accuracy which kept batsmen tied down - perhaps it was their understandable frustration which helped our most famous cricketer to a (then-) world record wicket haul and a knighthood.

    Anyway, they were playing in Tasmania in a World Cup match and, to me, it was memorable for seeing Chatfield pummelled all around the park (admittedly, close boundaries) and then, when he finally got him out, altogether losing his rag - a sight I, al least have never seen.

  • Sam on October 20, 2010, 20:47 GMT

    Sangakara's presence in this list baffles me. To further tweak this list can we ensure that his innings against minnows BD and Zim are eeked out.

    His is a bulged average for the sheer amount of cricket he plays against weaker teams. He is not a great batsmen as he has not scored in Australia, Africa and India.

  • sagar chatterjee on October 13, 2010, 7:45 GMT

    and that is what separates the men from the boys. i would still rate kallis a lot higher than others due to the sheer fact that he bowls a hell lot of overs in every test match that sa play and also picks up a lot of wickets. thats a behemoth effort. he's the last of his kind. i don't see another jacques kallis taking birth ever.

  • Anonymous on October 13, 2010, 7:39 GMT

    Cumulative averages Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 0 4s 6s Opposition Start DateAscending 1 1 0 101 101 101.00 279 36.20 1 0 0 6 0 v Australia 26 Dec 1997 Test # 1392 2 2 0 146 101 73.00 389 37.53 1 0 0 10 0 v Australia 2 Jan 1998 Test # 1393 3 3 0 161 101 53.66 432 37.26 1 0 0 13 0 v Australia 30 Jan 1998 Test # 1397 3 3 0 161 101 53.66 432 37.26 1 0 0 13 0 v England 4 Jun 1998 Test # 1417 4 3 0 161 101 53.66 432 37.26 1 0 0 13 0 v England 18 Jun 1998 Test # 1419 4 3 0 161 101 53.66 432 37.26 1 0 0 13 0 v England 2 Jul 1998 Test # 1420 5 4 0 172 101 43.00 465 36.98 1 0 0 15 0 v England 23 Jul 1998 Test # 1421 6 5 0 175 101 35.00 480 36.45 1 0 0 15 0 v England 6 Aug 1998 Test # 1422 6 5 0 175 101 35.00 480 36.45 1 0 0 15 0 v New Zealand 27 Feb 1999 Test # 1446 6 5 0 175 101 35.00 480 36.45 1 0

  • Muhammad Adnan Riaz on October 11, 2010, 7:20 GMT

    A really good article this, however I do not agree with the reasoning provided; not in its fullest.

    I think some players perform better when they are put to real pressure. VVS, Kallis, Sanga are all modern day supreme class batsmen with their own styles, however one thing common in them is the level of calmness when put to pressure. The understanding of responsibility and the willingness to fight more than the others is one thing that separates these players.

  • R Giridharan on October 9, 2010, 6:06 GMT

    All the batsmen mentioned are excellent players of spin and also adept at working the ball around. Driving in the fourth innings is hazardous due to possible double pace. Sachin has not been able to resist his tempation to drive in the second innings and maybe that is why he does not figure in the list.Hayden's average is not a true reflection because most of his second innings were played in the backdrop of a huge first innings lead for Australia and an opposition on the run.

  • Bhavesh on October 9, 2010, 5:21 GMT

    The overseas umpires like Ian Gould, mark benson, David shepherd, Daryl Hare... used to get the Poms and the Aussies to win the test matches, and they used to let this batsman play not giving them out.

  • Michael Jeh on October 8, 2010, 22:06 GMT

    A few bloggers seem to (mistakenly) think that this article was about an argument that second innings runs were inherently more valuable than first innings runs. That was never the intention. It was triggered initially by VVS' special innings on Tuesday and it then grew into a friendly discussion about some of the other great 2nd innings performers and some theories as to why that might be the case. No one is suggesting that 1st innings runs are not as valuable or that prolific scorers in first innings are lesser players. This was merely an analysis of the second innings phenomenom. Just a bit of fun on a rainy day.

  • sangeeth on October 8, 2010, 14:54 GMT

    As you can see that all of the 7 batsmen except laxman were top order players.hayden,gavaskar,boycott were openers..kallis ,sangakara,border and sobers batted either in the 3rd or 4th position.even if sachin was included in this list,he is also a top order player..laxman bats low down the order.he had to bat with the lower order .so in any case,he looks more efficient than the others..

  • Binu Thomas on October 8, 2010, 11:09 GMT

    Take Steve Waugh: His 4th innings record is very bad for a man with 10K+ test runs. Are you guys telling me that he lacked mental toughness?

    Take Sehwag: His 4th innings record is pathetic compared to the 1st innings. Are you guys telling me that Sehwag plays differently in the 2nd innings as compared to the 1st?

    The thing is stats in Cricket are sometimes so much overrated. Sometimes they dont mean anything.

    I agree to the point that Sachin plays differently in the 2nd innings as compared to the 1st. For example, in the Mohali test, he manufactured a shot and got out. But thinking that he does that because he lacks something is nonsense. He plays very differently in different situations in different innings, whether 1st or 2nd innings, whether ODI or T20. He tries to adapt to the situation(and sometimes fails). Sehwag doesnt adapt at all(and sometimes fails). It has nothing to do with mental toughness. I think it has nothing to do with anything. Things just happen.

  • cecil on October 8, 2010, 8:34 GMT

    I think players are remembered not because of their stats but due to great innings that they have played. This's why Laxman stands out.

  • Vineesh Vedsen on October 8, 2010, 8:26 GMT

    @Taimur, I am surprised if you say that Sunny was not a defensive batsman. Irrepective of whatever the record may say, I never consider Kallis very great. What was his score in the second innings when SA lost to India over the years. That is where your second inning batting gets tested. When the SA batting fails, he too fails conveniently. Not the case with Sobers, Sunny, Border, Miandad, Sachin, Dravid, Laxman etc. When they have batted well, they have taken the team out of the jaws of defeat to draws or even wins.

  • venkat on October 8, 2010, 6:48 GMT

    Most of the theories are rubbish. The only plausible reason I can come up with is that they were darn good players. For the absolute greats the condition of the wicket hardly matters. They just go out and play. Here is an interesting anecdote to go with what I was saying. Sunny Gavaskar- after scoring that magnificent double against England when we were chasing 440 runs- was asked what he remembered most about his innings. His reply was he could remember nothing and his explaination was that his concentration was at such levels that the surroundings did not matter to him at that time. Gives you a fair idea of why he was that good. Theories are just theories. The one thing that you haven't listed over here is mental fortitude. Thats the common thread. Infact the only thread.

  • piyoosh kotecha on October 8, 2010, 5:45 GMT

    This group of players represent all the main Test playing nations except Pakistan. Four are righthanded and four lefthanded.Three are current test players. Both Australian played in the same club and the same state team. This means we queenslanders are the best crickters!

  • Jim on October 8, 2010, 3:29 GMT

    I guess there are lot of misconceptions. When people talk about Sachin, they say his 4th innings average is 37. But, when talking about VVS, they combine 3rd & 4th innings and state his average is 50, which in 4th innings alone is 39. Sachin averages 43 in both 3rd and 4th innings, so does Ponting. Kallis averages 45 in 4th innings alone. Sangakkara: 42; Border: 34; Sobers: 47; Hayden: 50; Boycott: 59; Gavaskar: 58. Why do people criticize Sachin that he does not play pressure situations well when all his contemporaries play likewise, and compare Sachin 4th innings with all other people's 3rd & 4th innings combined? Sachin might not be perfect in such scenarios but he is not that bad or behind any of other so-called 4th innings heroes!

  • Sushant on October 8, 2010, 1:07 GMT

    My first guess was that the list will contain mostly grafters. So I wasn't surprised to see Border, Gavaskar, Boycott and Kallis on the list. What surprised me was players like Hayden, Sangakkara and Sobers in the same. Overall an interesting analysis, but seeing players from the sub-continent on this list only shows their grit and ability because in the majority of their matches, the pitches generally wear down and suit spin and reverse swing which are not the easiest to negociate. For players where day 1 pitches are about survival, the 2nd innings is a chance to cash in. Also for Kallis, Sobers and Sanga,after performing their respective duties on the field, it only takes a guy of immense class to come out and perform spectacularly with the bat and yielding performances better than the specialists. If Rajesh could crunch the numbers for 2nd innings averages of some of the greats - like Bradman, Richards, ST, Dravid, Ponting, Chappel- we could be in for an ideal comparison.

  • sud on October 8, 2010, 1:00 GMT

    Seems like a very half baked article.....It seems like the author is only trying to prove a point that many of these players were worse of 1st innings players..On Gavaskar, the author has conviniently ignored the fact that 23 of his centuries are in 1st innings playing in seaming and pacy conditions..13 overall against less than friendly West Indian pacers......for most listed above, their 1st innings average over several more innings is nearly as good as their second innings averages thus disproving the hypothesis that they were better off in the 2nd dig.......completely agree with Dale in the earlier post..the author should have spoken more about the mental strengths than try to unearth some existent technical weaknesses

  • Jay on October 7, 2010, 23:33 GMT

    If it was that easy to improve on first innings there would be lot more than these batsman listed who would have high average. Someone like Shewag who showed that it requires lot of motivation and single mindness when batting in the Second innings to save his place in Australia. There has to be some reason that few players are able to do it time and again , though some can't do it at all or very few times inspite of being very good players.

  • R on October 7, 2010, 20:07 GMT

    I don't think you can just isolate second innings and talk about averages. Why is first innings any different. You should look at it from a holistic point of view in terms of effort one puts in to bat.

  • Junior Pasha on October 7, 2010, 20:06 GMT

    Good Job, your analysis is simple and accomplishes the task unlike crazy analysis being performed elsewhere on the site which does not have a head or tail and being churned out one every millisecond. There they have are comparing apples to oranges like winning last two tests after 3-0 defeat is same as winning first two...scary crazy. Thanks for your clever analysis.

  • Rivi on October 7, 2010, 18:25 GMT

    at uday: here is statsguru's analysis of sangakkara's batting.....

    as designated wk matches: 48 overall average: 40.48 3rd innings ave: 54.10 4th innings ave: 19.00

    not as designated wk matches: 43 overall average: 76.54 3rd innings ave: 64.70 4th innings ave: 74.57

    but it doesn't necessarily say that he's a 'second innings stalwart'.... you see if we take his 40 odd matches as a batsman... he averages 76. but only 65 and 75 in 3rd and 4th inns respectively... so his first innings average must be higher than that. hope it helps.

  • Yogesh on October 7, 2010, 17:45 GMT

    Yes 2nd innings vs 1st innings is an important distinction but as someone said it is also useful to split it further. When you look at 4th innings avg, there are significant differences : Sachin is 37+ (13 no of 48 inn), VVS is 39+, Lara is 35+, Ponting is 52+ (13 no out of 38 no), Kallis 44+, S. Waugh 25+ (2nd Inn 32+), Gavaskar 58+. Hayden 49+ (13 no out of 39 inn). Sobers - 46+ (but only 19 inn with 6 no).

    Anybody who has done some fair amount of stat searching would have already known that the ICEMAN of his generation averaged only 25+ in the 4th innings with no century. But never has it been held against his mental toughness. He is the best counter-example to the theory of strong positive correlation between toughness & 4th innings runs. He played 31 inn there with 7 no. Now check Sehwag's 1st & 2nd inn avg.

  • Rahul Bose` on October 7, 2010, 17:19 GMT

    I think what your list shows is that there is no hidden secret to second innings batting. You have batsmen from different countries, different styles and batting positions all featuring in the list. So quit looking for the secret mantra cause there is none.

    Based on what I have watched the problem with a 4th or 5th day track is uneven bounce and extra spin from rough areas. Playing late gives you the extra time to react to unexpected bounce, guys like Gavaskar and Kallis are masters at this. As for playing spin on a breaking wicket, the best innings in such conditions have been played by guys who can play against the turn and smother the spin with good footwork. Laxman and Gavaskar are the best at this.

    The only enigma in that list is Sobers because usually attacking batsmen who go for their strokes don't have good second inning records, ala Sehwag.

  • Rajaraman.R on October 7, 2010, 16:27 GMT

    Good article and great analysis. Point made by Satish regarding the fact that whether the second innings is the third one or the fourth one had to be accounted to get the real measure of the pressure. In the same breadth the result of the test - whether it was a dull draw or it was drawn after the batting effort or it was won or lost has to be considered also. Batting well in a destined to be drawn match is different from battling to save the match.

  • sarath chandra on October 7, 2010, 16:23 GMT

    Sangakkara averages only 40 odd as keeper! He averages much more when he plays as batsman alone. Also its important to distinguish 3rd and 4th innings too! Sunny averages almost same across all innings!! Ponting is way poor in 3rd innings. Sachin 38 is better than Lara or Steve waugh in 4th innings. Sachin has 3 4th innings 100 which is same as Lara with 1 drawn,1 lost and 1 won. Laxman averages only 2.5 runs more than Sachin in 4th and that is mainly because of last two innings! Sachin averages 46 in 4th in last 10 yrs.

  • Ali Khan on October 7, 2010, 16:10 GMT

    I would like to see country by analysis of second innings total especially for true greats not featuring above. I mean for example for SRT, how does he fare in second innings by country and the reason is that for sub-continent second inning tracks are trickier but for England reverse may be true.

  • Rahuldev on October 7, 2010, 16:02 GMT

    You should analyze 4th innings heroes !

  • Rajeev on October 7, 2010, 15:24 GMT

    Would it not be woth an effort to find the worth of an cricketer in similar lines of D/L method. For example - when a team is chasing a target (say 300) and then it is 6 down 100 then a any batsman at that point has resources around him (tail) is 4 wickets and remaining runs 200 to get. Consider the career avg (up to that point) of remaining batsman to quantify the 'possible-help' that he would get and then you would get the real champion MVP of the match. My logic is if an opener (or top order) batsman gets 100 it is with the background that there are lots of wickets (resources) with him to chase, whereas in lower order batsman it is reverse case. So a batsman chasing even 70 odd runs with only last 3 wickets runs the risk of losing them as on an avg 50% strike is stacked against him. He has to take risks to manage that (risky singles and risky shots to get pass fielder to just get the single (not 2 or 4))... Good exercise to keep CRICINFO busy...

  • Sanjeev Chandran on October 7, 2010, 14:16 GMT

    @Bri Bri- correct - Sobers averages 57 hence his 1st innings average is higher than his 2nd. In fact, Sangakarra averages ~56, which'd also make his 1st innings average more than his 2nd innings. But you are interpreting this table incorrectly. This isn't a list of people averaging more in their 2nd innings than the 1st. It is just the highest averages by players in the 2nd innings - subject to a min of 2500 runs (quote from Rajesh's article "No wonder, then, that Laxman is one of only eight batsmen in Test history to score more than 2500 second-innings runs at a 50-plus average") There is no mention of 1st innings averages. Admittedly, the others in the table averaged higher in the 2nd innings than the 1st but the base hypothesis is wrong. There might be many players with career averages in their 40's (which would still make them very good players, especially if they hadn't played in the 21st century)who might average more in the 2nd than the 1st, with both averages less than 50.

  • S on October 7, 2010, 13:45 GMT

    If only matches in which player's team has won, Laxman is 3rd.

  • Sudarshan P.N. on October 7, 2010, 13:16 GMT

    I just think that these guys are mentally very tough and bloody minded. All of them may not necessarily chew gum or spit....and of course they were damn good batsman. I would reckon that Anil Kumble is the bowling equivalent of these guys.

  • Bilal Choudry on October 7, 2010, 12:43 GMT

    Laxman ave less than 40 in the 4th innings ... and there is not even a mention of Younis Khan who aves 50 plus in the 4th innings

  • Taimur Khan on October 7, 2010, 11:43 GMT

    Also, why are we comparing 1st with 2nd innings scores? This way we are many penalizing players with great 1st inning records by leaving them out even if their second innings scores were also great e.g. Bradman.

    We should look at 2nd innings average scores overall. This tells us clearly who were the best batsmen in 3rd or 4th innings.

    Variation: 3rd innings separately will give us best setter uppers and 4th innings best will give u the backs to the wall crowd.

    Another interesting variation is if we study how averages have altered in 1t vs 2nd half of careers.

    To avoid the bias of batting position, we could do separate exercises for the top six positions to identify the best 5 for each position.

    Finally, we could look at some typical pitches and using one or two batters for each position in each era, we could develop a pitch factor apply it to our list to eliminate pitch bias (i.e. brisbane vs. calcutta 4th inning). Similarly weather.

    Happy hunting!

  • Taimur Khan on October 7, 2010, 11:31 GMT

    Having watched Gavaskar towards the end of his career when India was stronger and having watched Border score 150 in each innings against Pakistan, its clear these two were not classical defensive players in the Boycott mould but often defended due to team reasons. They had the ability to change their game according to circumstances, which is important in 3rd and esp. 4th innings since batting is harder and needs care because the ball is doing more on balance. Sobers is the only purely attacking player in this bunch who did not have to change his game and yet managed to score bigger in 2nd innings. The only perhaps unfair caveat here is that west indian pitches tend to peter out as the match goes on and are not always responsive to spin. Hayden and Kumara also not defensive so credit to them. Laxman is a vvspecial player. Statistically, I would like to see how many of his 50s and hundreds helped india win and how many saved India from defeat. Instead of comparing innings score lets a

  • raj on October 7, 2010, 11:01 GMT

    in that case sanagakara shouldnt be on that list either because he averages 56 overall so first innings average must be higher.

  • Michael Jeh on October 7, 2010, 10:54 GMT

    Thanks to Satish for arousing my curiousity. Another sleepless night! But, I've unearthed some very interesting analysis which is thought-provoking to say the least. It's worth discussing in more detail in my next blog, possibly in the next day or so. Stay tuned...

  • Michael Jeh on October 7, 2010, 10:21 GMT

    Satish, I reckon your comment is well worthy of dissection. I'll try to analyse that and let you know. Or maybe this theme is getting a bit 'tired'? Sorry, the M comment above was mine. I don't know why it didn't print my full name. Pragasen sounds like a hugely knowledgeable cricket fan. I enjoyed reading your breakdown of the various SA pitches. I never realised (before you pointed it out) that SA pitches were so different in character. In some senses, Aust is similar. England may be the most homogenous pitches, apart from The Oval perhaps?

  • M on October 7, 2010, 10:11 GMT

    Uday, fair point mate. Your comment on Sangakkara is correct so that's my theory blown out of the water. Bri Bri, thanks for spotting that anomaly. You're 100% correct. I suspect that S Rajesh's list was not necessarily who had a BETTER average than their first innings but he listed the top 8 players in terms of second innings averages. It was my mistake in not spotting that slight distinction until you alerted me to it. So maybe Sobers is not the only player on that list who averages more in second innings.

  • M on October 7, 2010, 9:47 GMT

    Uday, fair point mate. Your comment on Sangakkara is correct so that's my theory blown out of the water. Bri Bri, thanks for spotting that anomaly. You're 100% correct. I suspect that S Rajesh's list was not necessarily who had a BETTER average than their first innings but he listed the top 8 players in terms of second innings averages. It was my mistake in not spotting that slight distinction until you alerted me to it. So maybe Sobers is not the only player on that list who averages more in second innings.

  • Satish on October 7, 2010, 9:35 GMT

    Another data cut which might be useful is to split between 3rd innings & 4th innings averages, since the pressures while setting a target & chasing a target are different.

  • Pragasen on October 7, 2010, 9:04 GMT

    Having watched Kallis bat at home in SA, I'd have to say that he benefits from his prior bowling during the opposition's batting innings. No two South Africa test venues share the same type of pitch: Wanderers - consistently pacy and bouncy, Kingsmead - dependent on the tide, Newlands - pacy on day one and then starts to turn with greater effect, St. Georges Park - spinners paradise (or as close as you can get to one in SA). With such varied home conditions, Kallis definitely benefits from bowling and getting a first-hand feel for the pitch. It would be interesting to compare the home and away second-innings batting records to get a better perspective on these averages.

  • Dale on October 7, 2010, 8:01 GMT

    nothing mentioned much about the mental strength of each of these batsmen! Batting in the second innings, there is much more to think about (namely the result of the match!!) than just batting. Apart from Border (who had phenomanal mental strength), the list above is of players who played each ball the same no matter what state the match was in - if it was there to hit (or block, in Boycott's case!) on day 1, then it deserved the same treatment on day 5. Why is Tendulkar not on this list? - only need to refer to the way he played his last innings against Australia!

  • Bri Bri on October 7, 2010, 7:58 GMT

    Doesn't Gary Sobers average 57 overall? If that's the case, then his first innings avg must be greater than his seconds innings average of 55 you mention here.

    He shouldn't be on the list.

  • Bri Bri on October 7, 2010, 7:58 GMT

    Doesn't Gary Sobers average 57 overall? If that's the case, then his first innings avg must be greater than his seconds innings average of 55 you mention here.

    He shouldn't be on the list.

  • Arvind on October 7, 2010, 7:53 GMT

    Re: GS Sobers. No, they are not over-romanticizing. I saw Sobers in just one Test at the Brabourne in the winter of '66, but he made fifties in both innings, so that's enough batting for a spectator to form an opinion. Yes, his batting style LOOKED carefree and flowing. Languid grace and all that. He was a wiry guy at the time, with a remarkably low stance. He moved very early, never swung hard, and his strokes were more persuasive than powerful, though the ball travelled disproportionately fast. Not to disparage Kallis in any way - I'd pick a meat & potatoes guy any day over a "genius" - but Sobers and Kallis are as different as I can imagine any two men to be.

  • Pragasen on October 7, 2010, 7:38 GMT

    Having watched Kallis bat at home in SA, I'd have to say that he benefits from his prior bowling during the opposition's batting innings. No two South Africa test venues share the same type of pitch: Wanderers - consistently pacy and bouncy, Kingsmead - dependent on the tide, Newlands - pacy on day one and then starts to turn with greater effect, St. Georges Park - spinners paradise (or as close as you can get to one in SA). With such varied home conditions, Kallis definitely benefits from bowling and getting a first-hand feel for the pitch. It would be interesting to compare the home and away second-innings batting records to get a better perspective on these averages.

  • Uday on October 7, 2010, 7:37 GMT

    I dont think the reasoning that Sangakkara would have had a better look at conditions (being a keeper) etc really holds. Sanga's avg varies greatly between when he has kept wickets and when he hasnt (which has been the case for the latter part of his career). It would be interesting to note his second innings avg in these two periods separately.

  • Rohit on October 7, 2010, 6:45 GMT

    M surprised with STEVE WAUGH nt even mentioned. Bt d list includes all d greats.

  • Farhan on October 7, 2010, 6:39 GMT

    Just want to share my thoughts on your thinking for Kallis. He is definitely the 'genuine' great of modern era and that should be praise by cricketing nations. But why you (and I) doubt that?

    Because SAfrican achievement (as a team) wasn't as prominent as Great WIndies/Aussies, neither they are able to win ODI world cup (they deserve at least one though ;) ), and he isn't able to have some eye popping world record under his belt (like Brain Lara/Sachin Tendulkar).

    Now your article, real nice one at right time. Being a fan of classical batsmen, I feel, India never had a batsman as wristy as Laxman.

    Thanks for the article. Farhan (from Karachi - Pakistan)

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  • Farhan on October 7, 2010, 6:39 GMT

    Just want to share my thoughts on your thinking for Kallis. He is definitely the 'genuine' great of modern era and that should be praise by cricketing nations. But why you (and I) doubt that?

    Because SAfrican achievement (as a team) wasn't as prominent as Great WIndies/Aussies, neither they are able to win ODI world cup (they deserve at least one though ;) ), and he isn't able to have some eye popping world record under his belt (like Brain Lara/Sachin Tendulkar).

    Now your article, real nice one at right time. Being a fan of classical batsmen, I feel, India never had a batsman as wristy as Laxman.

    Thanks for the article. Farhan (from Karachi - Pakistan)

  • Rohit on October 7, 2010, 6:45 GMT

    M surprised with STEVE WAUGH nt even mentioned. Bt d list includes all d greats.

  • Uday on October 7, 2010, 7:37 GMT

    I dont think the reasoning that Sangakkara would have had a better look at conditions (being a keeper) etc really holds. Sanga's avg varies greatly between when he has kept wickets and when he hasnt (which has been the case for the latter part of his career). It would be interesting to note his second innings avg in these two periods separately.

  • Pragasen on October 7, 2010, 7:38 GMT

    Having watched Kallis bat at home in SA, I'd have to say that he benefits from his prior bowling during the opposition's batting innings. No two South Africa test venues share the same type of pitch: Wanderers - consistently pacy and bouncy, Kingsmead - dependent on the tide, Newlands - pacy on day one and then starts to turn with greater effect, St. Georges Park - spinners paradise (or as close as you can get to one in SA). With such varied home conditions, Kallis definitely benefits from bowling and getting a first-hand feel for the pitch. It would be interesting to compare the home and away second-innings batting records to get a better perspective on these averages.

  • Arvind on October 7, 2010, 7:53 GMT

    Re: GS Sobers. No, they are not over-romanticizing. I saw Sobers in just one Test at the Brabourne in the winter of '66, but he made fifties in both innings, so that's enough batting for a spectator to form an opinion. Yes, his batting style LOOKED carefree and flowing. Languid grace and all that. He was a wiry guy at the time, with a remarkably low stance. He moved very early, never swung hard, and his strokes were more persuasive than powerful, though the ball travelled disproportionately fast. Not to disparage Kallis in any way - I'd pick a meat & potatoes guy any day over a "genius" - but Sobers and Kallis are as different as I can imagine any two men to be.

  • Bri Bri on October 7, 2010, 7:58 GMT

    Doesn't Gary Sobers average 57 overall? If that's the case, then his first innings avg must be greater than his seconds innings average of 55 you mention here.

    He shouldn't be on the list.

  • Bri Bri on October 7, 2010, 7:58 GMT

    Doesn't Gary Sobers average 57 overall? If that's the case, then his first innings avg must be greater than his seconds innings average of 55 you mention here.

    He shouldn't be on the list.

  • Dale on October 7, 2010, 8:01 GMT

    nothing mentioned much about the mental strength of each of these batsmen! Batting in the second innings, there is much more to think about (namely the result of the match!!) than just batting. Apart from Border (who had phenomanal mental strength), the list above is of players who played each ball the same no matter what state the match was in - if it was there to hit (or block, in Boycott's case!) on day 1, then it deserved the same treatment on day 5. Why is Tendulkar not on this list? - only need to refer to the way he played his last innings against Australia!

  • Pragasen on October 7, 2010, 9:04 GMT

    Having watched Kallis bat at home in SA, I'd have to say that he benefits from his prior bowling during the opposition's batting innings. No two South Africa test venues share the same type of pitch: Wanderers - consistently pacy and bouncy, Kingsmead - dependent on the tide, Newlands - pacy on day one and then starts to turn with greater effect, St. Georges Park - spinners paradise (or as close as you can get to one in SA). With such varied home conditions, Kallis definitely benefits from bowling and getting a first-hand feel for the pitch. It would be interesting to compare the home and away second-innings batting records to get a better perspective on these averages.

  • Satish on October 7, 2010, 9:35 GMT

    Another data cut which might be useful is to split between 3rd innings & 4th innings averages, since the pressures while setting a target & chasing a target are different.