March 28, 2012

The boundary crossers in Tests: an in-depth look

A comprehensive statistical analysis of fours and sixes hit by top batsmen in Tests

Among batsmen with 1500-plus Test runs, Virender Sehwag has hit the highest number of boundary fours per match © Getty Images

In one of my responses I had mentioned that I have to alternate some lighter articles with the heavier ones. This is one of the lighter ones. It still contains information which you cannot get otherwise but I expect that the topic will not elicit hundreds of comments and cross-comments. Quite a bit of this information is available in Cricinfo but not necessarily in this form and order.

Readers might remember that I had elicited help from readers and five of them, viz., Boll, Rameshkumar, Anshu, Ranga and Raghav chipped in magnificently and helped me add balls played data for about 500+ matches. Along with that I was able to derive the fours/sixes information also. This article is dedicated to these five readers. I have given below the summary of the balls played/fours/sixes information in my database.

Total balls data available: 1380 Tests (out of 2036 - 67.7&%)
Continuous information available: 1070-2036 (967 Tests)
1980 - 1987 period: 188 out of 221 Tests.
1877 - 1979 period: 225 out of 867 Tests.
At a pinch I can say that I have complete information available for all the modern greats including Tendulkar, Lara, Steve Waugh et al.

Since there are many tables, the tables are presented with appropriate headers and the comments are provided at the end of the tables. All the tables, barring one, are for batsmen for whom complete balls/fours/sixes information is available. The cut-off is 1500 Test runs since this is a sub-set of top batsmen.

Player career analysis - by % of runs in boundaries

Shahid Afridi Pak171622052119269.5%
Flintoff A Eng384551382254466.2%
Gayle C.H~Win637393675419465.8%
Sehwag V Ind8178117488522463.9%
Gibbs H.H Saf616788747383062.1%
Yuvraj Singh~Ind177524719110262.1%
Trescothick M.E~Eng582083042357261.4%
Harbhajan Singh Ind216527140132461.2%
Kaluwitharana R.S Slk19332846117260.6%
Hinds W.W~Win260836816156860.1%
Cairns C.L Nzl332036587198259.7%
Imran Farhat~Pak23273404138459.5%
Kamran Akmal Pak264837214157259.4%
Tamim Iqbal~Bng174824112103659.3%
Gilchrist A.C~Aus5570676100330459.3%
Taylor M.A~Aus75257299297039.5%
Healy I.A Aus43564225171839.4%
Matthews G.R.J~Aus1849166569437.5%
McCosker R.B Aus1622143359036.4%
Jones A.H Nzl29222458102835.2%

As could be expected, the mercurial Shahid Afridi leads the table of boundary share with 69.5%. This could be partly discounted by the fact that Afridi has scored only 1716 runs. However Flintoff ups the ante with 66.2% out of the 3845 runs he scored. However the real impact is made by Chris Gayle who has scored 65.8% of his 6000+ runs in boundaries. Sehwag has scored over 63% of his 8000+ runs in boundaries. Then comes Gibbs. It is interesting that the three of the top-5 who have scored a lot of runs in boundaries are openers. Harbhajan Singh is a surprise occupant of this space and is the only bowler here. However considering that he has scored more Test runs than Afridi or Srikkanth or Sardesai, his place is well-deserved.

At the other end the usual culprits are there. Stodgy openers like Mark Taylor, McCosker are present here. Jones of New Zealand occupies the last place. Anticipating a question from interested readers, let me say that Chris Tavare just manages to beat Mark Taylor, with 39.9%.

Player career analysis - by number of runs in boundaries

Tendulkar S.R Ind15470199567838254.2%
Lara B.C~Win11953155988676456.6%
Dravid R Ind13288165521674650.8%
Ponting R.T Aus13196149073639848.5%
Kallis J.H Saf12379137590604048.8%
Sehwag V Ind8178117488522463.9%
Jayawardene M Slk10089119547506250.2%
Sangakkara K.C~Slk9347117829488652.3%
Waugh S.R Aus10927117520482044.1%
Inzamam-ul-Haq Pak8830110548470853.3%
Hayden M.L~Aus8626104682467654.2%
Laxman V.V.S Ind878111355457052.0%
Gooch G.A Eng8900107925446650.2%
Chanderpaul S~Win9709105731441445.5%
Smith G.C~Saf7997102023421852.7%
Gayle C.H~Win637393675419465.8%
Mohammad Yousuf Pak753095651413054.8%
Jayasuriya S.T~Slk697391059399457.3%
Gower D.I~Eng823197910397648.3%
Ganguly S.C~Ind721290057394254.7%

This is just to round off the article. The table lists the batsmen in order of the runs they scored off boundaries. As expected Tendulkar leads the table with 8382 runs in boundaries. Lara has leap-frogged over three batsmen who have scored more runs than him to be in second place with 6764 runs in boundaries. This shows his propensity to essay boundary shots. The next three places are taken by the next three top run-scoring batsmen.

Summary of fours and sixes hit by batsmen

Maximum fours: Tendulkar - 1995 (10.6 fours/Test)
Maximum sixes: Gilchrist -  100 (1.04 sixes/Test)

Average fours per Test (more than 11 fours per Test)

Sehwag : 1174 in 96 Tests - 12.2 fours/Test Lara : 1559 in 131 Tests - 11.9 fours/Test Sangakkara: 1174 in 106 Tests - 11.1 fours/Test

Average sixes per Test (more than 1 six per Test)

Afridi: 52 in 27 Tests - 1.93 sixes/Test Chris Cairns: 87 in 62 Tests - 1.40 sixes/Test Gilchrist : 100 in 96 Tests - 1.04 sixes/Test Flintoff : 82 in 76 Tests - 1.04 sixes/Test

Soon Tendulkar will hit his 2000th four. To put it in perspective, Tom Hayward, Gaekwad and Wasim Jaffer et al did not reach 2000 Test runs. Gilchrist reached the 100 mark, in his last but fifth Test and went through four Tests without going over the ropes. He at least did not do a Don, and managed to reach 100.

Sehwag averages 12.2 fours per Test and Lara, 11.9 fours per Test. Sangakkara is the only other batsman to exceed 11 fours per Test. Including Tendulkar there are 7 other batsmen who have crossed 10 fours per Test.

Only four batsmen exceed a six per Test. This group is led by Afridi, who, if he plays in one Test and hits four sixes, would cross 2.0. Chris Cairns, basking in the deserved success of his London libel case, has a healthy 1.4 per Test. Gilchrist and Flintoff complete this table.

Player career analysis - by % of runs in boundaries - for players for whom part data is available

BatsmanLHTeamMatsRuns4s6sRuns-Data-Avlble4s-6s-Runs% of DA-Runs
Kapil Dev N Ind1315248490433707221859.8%
Srikkanth K Ind43206220315155190258.2%
Richards I.V.A Win1218540873666701388858.0%
Wasim Akram~Pak1042898318522785158456.9%
Greenidge C.G Win1087558702465642308454.7%
Ijaz Ahmed Pak603315417233312180654.5%
D'Oliveira B.L Eng442484277142215119253.8%
Richardson R.B Win865949744235792311453.8%
Stewart A.J Eng1338465112198456453853.7%
de Silva P.A Slk936361711405754308453.6%
Hussain N Eng965764734245763308053.4%
Ranatunga A~Slk935105511314247223052.5%
Hadlee R.J~Nzl863124309252644138652.4%
Sidhu N.S Ind513202357383163165652.4%
Logie A.L Win52247028462240117252.3%
Greig A.W Eng583599404173338171851.5%
Azharuddin M Ind996215680185633282850.2%
Saleem Malik Pak103576866375380269450.1%
Stackpole K.R Aus4328072053170583849.1%
McCabe S.J Aus3927482304193194448.9%

There is one table for batsmen for whom I do not have complete balls/fours/sixes data available. I have selected only batsmen for whom I have the relevant data available for at least half the number of runs they scored in their careers. No one would be surprised to see Kapil Dev, with nearly 60% of his runs in boundaries. Srikkanth is there by virtue of his crossing 2000 runs, the cut-off. However the important batsman is the next one, Richards. I have data available for 80% of his runs. He has scored 58% of his runs in boundaries. Wasim Akram, with his propensity for big hitting, is a surprise placement next and then comes Greenidge. Bradman is somewhat lower down, at 39.6%. Let me confess, I am not even sure of the data.

Table by frequency of boundaries - in balls/boundary

Shahid Afridi Pak1973220527.3
Sehwag V Ind99751174887.9
Gilchrist A.C~Aus67966761008.8
Flintoff A Eng61965138210.4
Harbhajan Singh Ind33062714010.6
Gayle C.H~Win107829367510.7
Kamran Akmal Pak41963721410.9
Jayasuriya S.T~Slk106869105911.0
Kaluwitharana R.S Slk3203284611.0
Yuvraj Singh~Ind30442471911.4
Tamim Iqbal~Bng29062411211.5
Dilshan T.M Slk70715792111.8
Lara B.C~Win1975315598812.0
Smith I.D.S Nzl2873231712.1
Trescothick M.E~Eng106858304212.3
McCosker R.B Aus3833143326.3
Marsh G.R Aus8109305126.5
Flower G.W Zim100113511627.5
Jones A.H Nzl7443245829.4
Tavare C.J Eng5735175032.8

Now we come to the frequency of boundary-hitting. The first is the frequency with which a boundary (four or six) was hit. Shahid Afridi has done so once in every 7.3 balls, that is almost one an over. Sehwag has done it once every 7.9 balls, but over nearly 100 Tests. Gilchrist, every 8.8 balls, again over many Tests. These three are the batsmen to have gotten a frequency below 10 balls. Lara's place is noteworthy since he has got a boundary every 12 balls, over 131 Tests.

Now for the other end of the table. Tavare has a frequency of one every 32.8 balls and four others are just below 30. Almost all are stodgy openers.

Table by frequency of Sixes - in balls/six

Shahid Afridi Pak19735238
Cairns C.L Nzl58168767
Gilchrist A.C~Aus679610068
Flintoff A Eng61968276
Harbhajan Singh Ind33064083
Dhoni M.S Ind58516196
McMillan C.D Nzl567454105
Haddin B.J Aus391637106
Sehwag V Ind997588113
Botham I.T Eng856567128
Javed Omar Bng450914509
Young B.A Nzl522915229
Manjrekar S.V Ind528215282
Marsh G.R Aus810918109
Boon D.C Aus1811629058
Trott I.J.L Eng443300
Robinson R.T Eng384600
Russell R.C~Eng528900
Tavare C.J Eng573500

I am not moved by sixes in ODIs, much less in T20s. However, in Tests, there is a charm vested with sixes. This table analyzes the frequency of hitting sixes. This table is again led by Shahid Afridi who hits a six every 38 balls. Every 6 overs, during which he would have also hit six fours. Mind-boggling indeed. Then comes Chris Cairns whose frequency is 67, closely followed by Gilchrist, with 68 and Flintoff, with 76. Look at the next entry. The feisty Sardar, Harbhajan Singh has cleared the ropes every 83 balls, some feat indeed for a bowler. I am sure if ever he read this article he would be proud of this recognition.

At the other end there are five batsmen who have hit 1 and 2 sixes and have frequencies exceeding 4500 balls. Omar, Young, Manjrekar and Marsh have managed to hit a single six in their career. How about Boon, who, in his 18116-ball career, has hit two sixes, I was fascinated by this number, two. So I made a special study of Boon's career. The first six was in the early part of his career, in the tied Test at Chennai. The second six was hit late in his career during 1993 at Oval.

Now we come to a special category. These four batsmen, all Englishmen, had careers lasting upwards of 3800 balls and never managed to hit a ball past the ropes. Trott is recent vintage and in today's attacking environment has managed not to hit a six. Let us wait for his maiden six. Readers must note that these tables are not complete. I do not have complete balls-played information for Vijay Manjrekar who has scored the maximum number of runs (3208) without hitting a six. His less illustrious son managed to go over the ropes a single time: just before retiring, at Nottingham.

Table by frequency of Fours - in balls/four

Sehwag V Ind997511748.5
Shahid Afridi Pak19732209.0
Gilchrist A.C~Aus679667610.1
Kaluwitharana R.S Slk320328411.3
Kamran Akmal Pak419637211.3
Gayle C.H~Win1078293611.5
Jayasuriya S.T~Slk1068691011.7
Tamim Iqbal~Bng290624112.1
Flintoff A Eng619651312.1
Harbhajan Singh Ind330627112.2
Dilshan T.M Slk707157912.2
Yuvraj Singh~Ind304424712.3
Smith I.D.S Nzl287323112.4
Habibul Bashar Bng502040112.5
Lara B.C~Win19753155912.7
Marsh G.R Aus810930526.6
McCosker R.B Aus383314326.8
Flower G.W Zim1001135128.5
Jones A.H Nzl744324530.4
Tavare C.J Eng573517532.8

Frequency of fours follow the boundary table. However Sehwag has a better frequency of 8.5 balls/four than Afridi. Then comes Gilchrist, with 9 balls. At the other end, the table is propped by Chris Tavare, with 32.8, which is the same as the boundary frequency since he has not hit a six.

Hundreds with less than 20% in boundaries

TestYearBatsmanForVsBposRunsBalls4s6s4s-6s %
15132000Thorpe G.PEngPak3118301206.8%
15672001Tillakaratne H.PSlkWin61052473011.4%
9841984Mohsin KhanPakEng11041363011.5%
1801929Woodfull W.MAusEng11023813011.8%
9101981Chappell G.SAusPak32012966011.9%
9831984Border A.RAusWin61002693012.0%
9131981Wood G.MAusPak21003053012.0%
1381921Makepeace J.W.HEngAus31172604013.7%
2631938Bradman D.GAusEng31443795013.9%
6001966Barrington K.FEngAus41022884015.7%
8111977Amarnath MIndAus31001754016.0%
2831947Hutton LEngAus11223565016.4%
19992011Chanderpaul SWinInd51163435017.2%
2571937Fingleton J.H.WAusEng61364286017.6%
5361963Rev.DS SheppardEngAus11132185017.7%
6221967Barrington K.FEngPak31093665018.3%
1591925Ponsford W.HAusEng41282336018.8%
8541979Boycott GEngInd11252936019.2%
5361963Booth B.CAusEng61032745019.4%
5551964Booth B.CAusSaf51022335019.6%
11641991Jones A.HNzlSlk31222176019.7%
12081993Waugh S.RAusWin31002075020.0%

Now I come to analysing individual innings in terms of boundary content. There are four tables. The first lists centuries with lower than 20% boundary content. The table is headed by Thorpe whose score of 118 included just 2 fours resulting in a boundary content % of only 6.8%, the only instance of a century with less than 10% boundary content.

Fifties with less than 10% in boundaries

TestYearBatsmanForVsBposRunsBalls4s6s4s-6s %
8361978Boycott GEngAus177337105.2%
15672001Samaraweera T.TSlkWin777180105.2%
10311985Edgar B.ANzlAus274291105.4%
5001961Nurse S.MWinAus370259105.7%
13941998Flower AZimSlk567212106.0%
9361982Laird B.MAusPak160134106.7%
15132000Thorpe G.PEngPak3118301206.8%
15132000Thorpe G.PEngPak3118301206.8%
1141911Kelleway CAusSaf659172106.8%
1581924Hobbs J.BEngAus157128107.0%
1381921Bardsley WAusEng25687107.1%
15442001McKenzie N.DSafWin355216107.3%
11801991Vengsarkar D.BIndAus454180107.4%
13171995Law S.GAusSlk654118107.4%
1131911Bardsley WAusSaf45498107.4%
18982008Prior M.JEngInd853102107.5%
15682001Marillier D.AZimBng85294107.7%
8701980Laird B.MAusWin252119107.7%
8161978Simpson R.BAusInd551102107.8%
9591983Tavare C.JEngNzl151171107.8%
18242006Strauss A.JEngAus150132108.0%
2581937Gregory R.GAusEng650188108.0%
2351934Sutcliffe HEngAus269161018.7%
5501964Goddard T.LSafAus184265209.5%

The second table lists fifties with less than 10% boundary content. Boycott's 77 contained a single four and this works out to 5.2%. Samaraweera's innings is identical to Boycott's in every respect. Thorpe's 100 also finds a place here. It is interesting to see Sutcliffe's 60 in this table, the only highlight being that the only boundary was a six.

Hundreds with greater than 75% in boundaries

TestYearBatsmanForVsBposRunsBalls4s6s4s-6s %
7961977Gilmour G.JAusNzl810114620185.1%
15622001Gibbs H.HSafZim114716428284.4%
15222000Dippenaar H.HSafNzl110019221084.0%
18972008Taylor J.EWinNzl810610717381.1%
19172009Laxman V.V.SIndNzl512421225080.6%
10391986Richardson R.BWinEng310214019180.4%
15942002Flintoff AEngNzl713716323380.3%
15942002Astle N.JNzlEng5222168281180.2%
13251996Astle N.JNzlWin412515022280.0%
16592003Gibbs H.HSafEng218325835179.8%
16542003Butcher M.AEngSaf310618221079.2%
15772001McMillan C.DNzlBng610614018279.2%
9011981Richards I.V.AWinEng311422621178.9%
16792003Chanderpaul SWinSaf710917120178.9%
11941992Kaluwitharana R.SSlkAus713215826078.8%
13231996Cairns C.LNzlZim61209610978.3%
14541999Lara B.CWinAus41008415378.0%
19532010Shakib Al HasanBngNzl610012915378.0%
15512001Gayle C.HWinZim217525534077.7%
16162002Sehwag VIndWin214720624377.6%
11211989Lamb A.JEngAus412520424076.8%
15882002Shahid AfridiPakWin210715016376.6%
19132009Hughes P.JAusSaf111515119276.5%
9051981Botham I.TEngAus714914827176.5%
17812006Sehwag VIndPak125424747176.4%
17312005Gilchrist A.CAusPak611312014576.1%
9751984Crowe M.DNzlEng410024719076.0%
6871971Knott A.P.EEngPak711617522075.9%
14131998Tendulkar S.RIndAus417720729375.7%
10031984Saleem MalikPakNzl611916921175.6%
19642010Sehwag VIndSlk210911819175.2%
20162011Amla H.MSafAus311213421075.0%

Now for the other end of the spectrum. Hundreds with boundary content greater than 75%. Gilmour's 101 contained 20 fours and a six, 86 runs, leading to 85.1%. Gibbs' 147 contained 124 runs in boundaries. Dippenaar's 100 contained 21 fours. Richards' famous 56-ball hundred misses out since the knock of 110 contained 7x4s and 7x6s, a total 0f 70 runs and 63.6%.

Fifties with greater than 85% in boundaries

TestYearBatsmanForVsBposRunsBalls4s6s4s-6s %
9421982Madan Lal SIndPak9526311196.2%
13951998Kaluwitharana R.SSlkZim7514712094.1%
15872002Gayle C.HWinPak26611815090.9%
18682008Southee T.GNzlEng1077404990.9%
12031992Rutherford K.RNzlSlk553629290.6%
16152002Younis KhanPakAus4586213089.7%
18332007Mohammad AshrafulBngInd5674112289.6%
17042004Flintoff AEngNzl6547912088.9%
17612005Mahwire N.BZimNzl950348288.0%
17752005Jayawardene D.P.M.DSlkInd3718014187.3%
16902004Gayle C.HWinEng1628112187.1%
16972004Asim KamalPakInd7609013086.7%
10171985Botham I.TEngAus6605110286.7%
15912002Sehwag VIndZim67411816086.5%
7981977Edwards G.NNzlAus6514711086.3%
19672010Umar GulPakEng965468486.2%
15382001Hinds W.WWinSaf15611412085.7%
11651991Labrooy G.FSlkNzl9708012285.7%
10181985Gatting M.WEngAus67518016085.3%
14932000Gilchrist A.CAusNzl8758016085.3%
19192009Ramdin DWinEng7619813085.2%
7961977Gilmour G.JAusNzl810114620185.1%

Now for the last table. This contains fifties with boundary content greater than 85%. Madan Lal's is an inscrutable innings. 52 in 63 balls, not even run-a-ball, but with 11 fours and a six, 50 runs in boundaries. How he must have defended those 50 dot balls. Kaluwitharana's 51 contained 48 runs in boundaries. Gayle's 66 contained 60 runs in boundaries. Southee's 77 contained 4x4s and 9x6s, 70 runs in boundaries: all in his debut Test.

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