Multistats June 29, 2011

A stat you want to argue with but can't



Ian Bell's Test batting average in 2011 - 446 mellifluous runs in five innings, three of which have ended undefeated ‒ currently the highest average for a year in Test history by anyone who has batted at least five times. Next on the list is Zaheer Abbas, with a relatively inept 194.33 from his five innings in 1978, followed by the man most ESPNcricinfo readers would, of course, assume was guaranteed to clinch a podium place in this category - John Bracewell of New Zealand. He averaged 165 in 1985, making him statistically better than Don Bradman ever was. For a year. (Acknowledging that Bracewell was only out once in his five innings.) (And allowing for the fact that Bradman averaged 402 in 1932, a year in which he was only dismissed once.) (And in awareness of the fact that Bradman averaged over 100 in five separate years in which he batted five or more times ‒ no one else has done so three times, and only Boycott, Chanderpaul, Hammond, Imran Khan and Samaraweera have managed it twice.) (And admitting that Bracewell's Test batting average on January 1, 1985 was 8.11.) (And, finally, granting that batting averages are essentially meaningless when players have only been out once or twice.) (But you still cannot, should not, and must not argue with statistics. In 1985, Bracewell was a better batsman than Bradman. And offered more with the ball. And was not in his late 70s as Bradman was at the time.)

Also: The most common Test score over 206. There have been nine innings of 223 in Test history. If there are no more scores of 223 in the next 10 Tests played, there will have been an average of one innings of 223 for every 223 Tests played. [This is an official submission for the ICC's prestigious Most Meaningless Statistic Of The Year award, an increasingly hotly contested gong in the Twenty20 age.]

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer