Graham Thorpe's 100th Test July 21, 2005

England's Mr Consistent

A journey which began almost 12 years ago against a tough-as-nails Australian side reached its conclusion on the second day of the 2005 Ashes, when Graham Thorpe announced his retirement from international cricket. Thorpe has battled all sorts of bowlers in all sorts of conditions, and usually come away a winner. Here's a look at what the numbers say about England's Little Big Man:

Mr Consistent
The one aspect of Thorpe's career which has stood out has been his consistency. Success came early for him - in his debut Test, in fact, when he scored an unbeaten 114 in his second innings. A brief lull followed, during which period his average dipped to the early 30s, but it crept past the 40-mark in his 10th Test, and since then it's never fallen below 38. Since 2000, Thorpe's average for a calendar year has been at least 42 (except in 2005 so far, when he's only played four matches) - even when his personal life was in turmoil, Thorpe still churned out the runs whenever he played for England. (Click here for Thorpe's career summary.)

Australia's nemesis
During this 12-year period, Thorpe's numbers look especially impressive against Australia. He missed 14 of the 30 matches played between the two teams, but when he did make it to the starting XI, he made a difference. In all Tests against Australia, Thorpe averaged 45.74, but when he played them in their own backyard, the average rose to 48.18. Since 1993, Vaughan is the only English batsman to do better against Australia, and he's only played five games against them. England might feel confident about the strength of their current batting line-up, but they'll still want Thorpe around when the first Ashes Test starts on July 21.

v Australia Tests Runs Average
Michael Vaughan 5 633 63.30
Graham Thorpe 16 1235 45.74
Mark Ramprakash 12 933 42.41
Nasser Hussain 23 1581 38.56
Graham Gooch 9 679 37.72

Winning factor
Only Ken Barrington has a higher average in England¹s post-war Test wins than Thorpe. This could mean Thorpe makes runs when victory is already certain but for most of his career England victories never seemed certain. Instead the statistic suggests two things: that Thorpe has played an unusual number of match-changing innings and that he often played in a weak side. When he failed, England failed too.

In England wins Innings Runs Average
Ken Barrington 42 2319 64.42
Graham Thorpe 62 2940 61.25
Graham Gooch 56 2950 56.73
Len Hutton 42 1957 55.91
John Edrich 35 1771 55.34
(Since World War II. Qualification: 1,000 runs)

Highest of the high fives
Ostensibly Thorpe has been the ultimate No. 4: fearless counter-attacker and rugged scrapper rolled into one small bundle of defiance. But the numbers tell a different story: he is the most productive No. 5 in England¹s Test history by some distance and his average there is much higher than anywhere else. Perhaps he should not be moved up the order to accommodate Kevin Pietersen after all.

England's top No.5s
(by runs scored)
Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Graham Thorpe 3265 54.41 10/ 17
Colin Cowdrey 2377 49.52 6/ 16
David Gower 2131 49.55 7/ 8
Allan Lamb 1803 40.06 5/ 8
Keith Fletcher 1774 46.68 5/ 9

Dashing debutant
At the end of the 20th century English batsmen took to Test cricket like Superman to Kryptonite with one exception. Whereas no other specialist batsman scored more than 33 on debut during the 1990s, Thorpe bashed that fabulous century against the Aussies at Trent Bridge. Sometimes it is safe to judge a book by its cover.

Average debut scores Australia England
2000s 51.00 41.87
1990s 46.04 18.21
1980s 36.04 18.75
(Averages cover both the first and second innings of a player's debut Test. They refer only to batsmen from Nos. 1-7.)

Spin master
Thorpe is pretty adept against fast bowling, but his stats against spin are quite awesome. And he's done well in the subcontinent against the slow bowlers as well - the only bowler who has clearly got the better of him is Muttiah Muralitharan.

Since September 2001 Runs/ Dismissals Average
v Pace 1464/ 30 48.80
v Spin 716/ 11 65.09
v Spin in subcontinent 281/ 7 40.14
v Muralitharan 110/ 5 22.00
v Kumble 68/ 2 34.00

Rob Smyth is a freelance writer based in London. S Rajesh is assistant editor of Cricinfo