December 6, 2011


Multistat: 4

Andy Zaltzman

The highest score made by an Australian opener in his first innings on Test debut, since Matthew Hayden’s unforgettable 15 against South Africa in Johannesburg in 1993-94.

David Warner’s dashingly pugnacious third-ball 3 in Brisbane (the shortest recorded innings by an Australian opener in his debut Test innings), followed Phil Hughes’ 0 in South Africa in 2008-09, Chris Rogers’ 4 against India in 2007-08, Phil Jaques’ 2 and Mike Hussey’s 1 in the 2005-06 season, and Matthew Elliot’s duck in 1996-97.

Debuting Australian openers have thus averaged 1.66 in their maiden Test innings since 1994. Unsurprisingly, this is by far the lowest figure of any Test nation, although the stats show that many debut openers have struggled ‒ none of the 10 Indians and seven Sri Lankans to open on debut since 1994 have reached 50 in their first Test innings.

By comparison, in the same period since Hayden first galumphed to the Test match crease, 15 Australians have made their Test debuts batting at Nos. 3, 4, 5 or 6. Between them, they have scored four hundreds and six fifties, and recorded a collective average of 90.17 (next highest: South Africa, averaging 47). All of this suggests that modern Australian batsmen are 5432% more effective in their debut Test innings when not opening the batting. Which also suggests that Australia should keep picking debut openers until at least one reaches double figures, before flooding the rest of their batting order with randomly conscripted debutants, who will then, with mathematical inevitability, score at least a quintuple-century each. You cannot fight mathematics.

Of course, the likelihood is that these failures have been deliberate. Not, I hasten to add, for any dubious reasons. It is a well-known fact that education in Australian schools consists of little other than sledging and obscure cricket statistics, so Warner, like his immediate predecessors, would have been well aware of the fact that, of the 19 openers to have made first-innings hundreds on Test debut, 11 have never made another century (and only Alviro Petersen has any realistic hope of doing so, unless a more-than-usually fractious contractual dispute in the West Indies gives 90-year-old Andy Ganteaume a chance to add to his 112 in his only Test innings). Eight of these 11 never even passed 50 in a Test again. These facts would, without any doubt, have been coursing around Warner’s mind as he plotted the most likely way to ensure himself a long and productive Test career.

Also: The least common place in the batting order for a debutant player to bat: 103 Test debutants have batted at 4 in the first innings of their debut match. (The figures for the rest of the batting order are as follows: 1: 117 debutants; 2: 268; 3: 147; 5: 154; 6: 269; 7: 251; 8: 286; 9: 271; 10: 313; 11: 362.)

Only two debuting No. 4 batsmen have made centuries in their first Test innings – the Nawab of Pataudi, for England in the first Test of the Bodyline series, and Aminul Islam, in Bangladesh’s first Test. Neither made another Test hundred. Use that fact wisely. It could open doors for you in one of both of business and romance.

Also: The number of decades (plus a couple of years) from 1928-29 that it took Australia to find the same number of bowlers to take five-wicket hauls on debut as have done so in the last three months. Lyon, Cummins and Pattinson have combined to ensure that there have been as many five-wicket hauls by debutant Australian bowlers since 31 August as there were in the 1930s, ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s combined (or between 1987 and 2008).

Conclusion: He who reads too much into Test debuts is as much a fool as he who wanders into a lion enclosure dressed as a zebra, shouting, “Can we not sort this out with dialogue rather than violence?”

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

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Posted by Chris Purnell on (December 8, 2011, 21:02 GMT)

I'm a recent reader of this blog (recommended by my son) & can only say: What an extremely well brought up boy he is!. A great blog. Well Done

Posted by Anonymous on (December 7, 2011, 7:49 GMT)

@Bhaskar:Viru didn't open in his debut match he was a middle order batsman..... @Andy:Refreshing stats as always!!!!!!!!!

Posted by shiva on (December 7, 2011, 3:58 GMT)

boring to read disappointed comparing this to your usual work

Posted by Grant Sansom-Sherwill on (December 7, 2011, 0:28 GMT)

Very interesting and amusing, as always.

With regard to the stats regarding Australian openers on debut, vs middle-order batsmen, I would abuse this mathematical "certainty" in a different way. Given that you know that an opener on debut is not going to get runs, don't ever have debut openers! Always bat new batsmen in the middle order in their first test, regardless of their specialty. Should guarantee Australia heaps of additional runs over the years!

Using the recent Aus vs NZ test as an example, if the selectors had known about this trait of debut openers, they would have batted Warner at No 3 and Khawaja as opener in the first innings. Warner would have got a ton; Khawaja would not have been run out, as he wouldn't have batted with Ponting, and his 38 would have been a ton instead. Australia would have scored about 600. Easy.

Posted by Bhaskar on (December 6, 2011, 22:01 GMT)

If you are saying that none of Indian batsmen have scored more than 50 while opening on debut then you are forgetting Sehwag's 105 against South Africa in Blomfontein

Posted by Ray on (December 6, 2011, 20:07 GMT)

Andy, you could be cricket's own Billy Beane(Moneyball). Superb hilarious article especially the conclusion, keep 'em coming mate.

Posted by Talha Irfan on (December 6, 2011, 17:45 GMT)

"cracked a thunderous 15 " and “Can we not sort this out with dialogue rather than violence?” hahahahaha......

Posted by Julio on (December 6, 2011, 16:35 GMT)

Usman Khwaja : 3 Jan 2011; scored 37 in the first innings and 21 in the second.. are you perhaps optically challenged :)

Posted by The RAJ on (December 6, 2011, 16:10 GMT)

Andy...What a legend! Viva Australia!

Posted by Dharmagya on (December 6, 2011, 10:36 GMT)

Another gem, not advisable to take the multistat onsluaght in office. Colelagues have now started taking these bursts of laughter as the definitive confirmation to availability of new Zaltzman posts.

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Andy Zaltzman
Andy Zaltzman was born in obscurity in 1974. He has been a sporadically-acclaimed stand-up comedian since 1999, and has appeared regularly on BBC Radio 4. He is currently one half of TimesOnline's hit satirical podcast The Bugle, alongside John Oliver. Zaltzman's love of cricket outshone his aptitude for the game by a humiliating margin. He once scored 6 in 75 minutes in an Under-15 match, and failed to hit a six between the ages of 9 and 23. He would have been ideally suited to Tests, had not a congenital defect left him unable to play the game to anything above genuine village standard. He writes the Confectionery Stall blog on Cricinfo.

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