Mark Boucher's international career

Class and consistency

Mark Boucher fell short of a few significant landmarks, but even more important were the ones he achieved

S Rajesh

July 10, 2012

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Mark Boucher dives to collect one down the leg side, South Africa v India, 1st Test, Centurion, 4th day, December 19, 2010
Mark Boucher's wicketkeeping was high quality throughout his career © Gallo Images
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Had Mark Boucher played the three-Test series in England, he would have achieved several landmarks: the third Test, at Lord's, would have been his 150th, thus making him the first wicketkeeper to reach that mark; two more dismissals would have made him the first to effect 1000 dismissals as a wicketkeeper (he has also taken one catch as a fielder); 56 more runs in the series would have made him the highest run-getter among wicketkeepers in Tests, going past Adam Gilchrist's aggregate of 5570. Perhaps more than all that, it would have given him the opportunity to properly bid farewell to international cricket after a 15-year career (though he did hint at being available to tour Australia later this year).

The freak eye injury means Boucher won't get a shot at those landmarks, but rather than dwell on those misses, it makes far greater sense to celebrate the fact that he got so close to these gigantic landmarks. It speaks volumes about his longevity and his consistency that he performed at such high levels over a decade-and-a-half.

Boucher took over from Dave Richardson in 1998 (though he'd played a Test in Sheikhupura in 1997), and it didn't take him long to get into his stride, as a batsman and as a wicketkeeper. In his second Test innings, against Pakistan in Johannesburg, he scored 78; in his fourth and fifth innings, he scored 52 each. Along with that, he also effected nine dismissals in only his fourth Test, including six in the first innings, against Pakistan in Port Elizabeth - a performance which won him the Man-of-the-Match award - and repeated the haul of six in an innings in his next Test as well. In fact, Boucher is the only wicketkeeper to take six or more in an innings on four occasions, and nine or more in a match three times.

As a batsman, Boucher struggled a bit in his first 14 months, averaging less than 20, but his maiden Test hundred against West Indies early in 1999 set him on his way. Over the next several years he was a more-than-handy contributor with the bat. (In any other age an average in the mid-30s for a wicketkeeper would have been pretty neat; unfortunately, Adam Gilchrist came along and changed all the benchmarks.) Overall in his Test career, Boucher scored 4326 runs at Nos. 7 and 8, next only to Gilchrist and Kapil Dev.

Mark Boucher's Test career
Period Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s Ct/ St
Till Dec 1998 14 365 19.21 0/ 3 65/ 2
Jan 1999 to Dec 2004 62 2417 34.04 4/ 14 212/ 11
Jan 2005 to Dec 2010 62 2475 30.55 1/ 16 219/ 9
Jan 2011 onwards 9 258 23.45 0/ 2 36/ 1
Career 147 5515 30.30 5/ 35 532/ 23

As a one-day player, Boucher wasn't a key member of the South African side in the last couple of years, but in the 11 years when he was around he made several vital contributions. As with his Test stats, though, he came within touching distance of a landmark here too, finishing just five short of 300 ODI appearances. Among South Africans, only Jacques Kallis and Shaun Pollock have played more ODIs.

Through the 2000s, Boucher was an integral part of South Africa's ODI line-up, consistently scoring brisk runs from positions 6 and 7. In that decade, no batsman scored more runs from those two slots than Boucher's 3222 runs from 140 innings. Several of those innings came in wins too, none more memorable than the unbeaten 50 off 43 against Australia in Johannesburg in that ODI. His highest was a brutal unbeaten 147 - off just 68 balls - but against much lesser opposition, Zimbabwe. Boucher's overall batting stats in wins was pretty impressive: in 118 innings he scored 2651 runs at an average of 36.81 and a strike rate of 92.98.

Mark Boucher's ODI career
Period Matches Runs Average 100s/ 50s Strike rate Ct/ St
Till Dec 1999 43 316 13.16 0/ 1 69.45 58/ 3
Jan 2000 to Dec 2009 245 4323 32.02 1/ 25 86.59 335/ 18
Jan 2010 onwards 7 47 9.40 0/ 0 58.02 10*/ 1
Career 295 4686 28.57 1/ 26 84.76 403*/ 22
* Includes one catch as a fielder, v West Indies in 2010

In terms of dismissals for wicketkeepers in Tests, Boucher is way out in front with 555 dismissals, 139 of the second-placed Gilchrist. While no other wicketkeeper has even managed 400 catches, Boucher pouched 532. His dismissals per innings is impressive too, thanks to the array of fast bowlers that has always been at South Africa's disposal. In ODIs, Boucher finished with 424 dismissals, 48 behind Gilchrist, the leader.

Highest dismissals for wicketkeepers in Tests
Player Matches Innings Catches Stumpings Total dismissals Dismissals/innings
Mark Boucher 147 281 532 23 555 1.975
Adam Gilchrist 96 191 379 37 416 2.178
Ian Healy 119 224 366 29 395 1.763
Rodney Marsh 96 182 343 12 355 1.950
Jeff Dujon 79 150 265 5 270 1.800
Alan Knott 95 174 250 19 269 1.545

Most great wicketkeepers have forged successful partnerships with fast bowlers during the course of their career and Boucher is no exception: of the 16 top bowler-wicketkeeper combinations in Tests (in terms of dismissals), Boucher features five times - with Makhaya Ntini, Shaun Pollock, Jacques Kallis, Dale Steyn and Allan Donald. He has taken 84 catches off the bowling off Ntini and 79 off Pollock. However, the dismissals-per-match figure was much lower in the case of Pollock. Only the Dennis Lillee-Rodney Marsh combination (95 dismissals in 69 Tests) and the Glenn McGrath-Gilchrist combination (90 dismissals in 71 Tests) are ahead of the Boucher-Ntini pairing. Although Boucher played only 35 Tests with Allan Donald, he took 53 catches off Donald's bowling at a rate of 1.51 dismissals per match, which is well above the corresponding number for Lillee-Marsh and McGrath-Gilchrist.

In ODIs, Boucher features twice in the top three - with Ntini (75 in 164 matches) and with Pollock (62 in 243).

Most successful bowler-wicketkeeper combinations in Tests
Bowler Fielder Span Matches Catches Catches/Match
Dennis Lillee Rodney Marsh 1971-1984 69 95 1.37
Glenn McGrath Adam Gilchrist 1999-2007 71 90 1.26
Makhaya Ntini Mark Boucher 1998-2009 96 84 0.87
Brett Lee Adam Gilchrist 1999-2008 65 81 1.24
Shaun Pollock Mark Boucher 1997-2008 88 79 0.89
Malcolm Marshall Jeff Dujon 1983-1991 68 71 1.04

As mentioned earlier, Boucher fell only 55 runs short of Gilchrist's tally in Tests. Gilchrist has a far superior average, but had Boucher played the three Tests in England, he would almost certainly have ended up with the most runs by a wicketkeeper.

Wicketkeepers with 4000-plus Test runs
Wicketkeeper Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Adam Gilchrist 96 5570 47.60 17/ 26
Mark Boucher 147 5515 30.30 5/ 35
Alec Stewart 82 4540 34.92 6/ 23
Andy Flower 55 4404 53.70 12/ 23
Alan Knott 95 4389 32.75 5/ 30
Ian Healy 119 4356 27.39 4/ 22

With inputs from Madhusudhan Ramakrishnan

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter

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S Rajesh Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.
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