December 2, 2016

The year of the wicketkeeper-batsman

Led by Jonny Bairstow and Quinton de Kock, wicketkeepers have averaged 40.79 in Tests in 2016, the highest in a calendar year since 1900
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Wicketkeeper-batsmen have averaged more in Tests in 2016 than they did in any year since 1900 © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

With two Tests still to go for England in 2016, Jonny Bairstow has already racked up 1355 runs from 15 Tests, the most by any wicketkeeper in a calendar year; in fact, he needs just 127 from the last two Tests to become the highest run-getter for England in a calendar year. (Michael Vaughan currently holds the record with 1481.) Meanwhile, Quinton de Kock has been on a roll of his own, with six 50-plus scores in 11 Test innings, including two hundreds. This includes a five-innings sequence that reads thus: 82, 50, 84, 64, 104. His Test average for the year is 65.44.

Add to this the useful contributions by BJ Watling, Wriddhiman Saha and Shane Dowrich, and it's clear that 2016 has been a pretty useful year for wicketkeepers with the bat in Test cricket - even Parthiv Patel grabbed his chance in Mohali with scores of 42 and 67 not out.

"Pretty useful" is an understatement, for the overall average of 40.79 for wicketkeepers in 2016 is the highest for any calendar year since 1900. In the history of Tests, there has been only one year when wicketkeepers had a higher average, and that was 119 years ago, in 1897, when just one Test was played and the wicketkeepers averaged 45. The next six entries are all since 2000, but in 2015 the average was just 30.81, which means so far this year the average is 32% higher than last year.

Highest averages for wicketkeepers in calendar year, since 1900
Year Tests Runs Average 100s 50s
 2016  42  4855  40.79  9  26
 2013  44  5204  40.03  13  29
 2009  41  4532  39.40  8  25
 2001  55  5501  38.20  12  26
 2014  41  4426  34.57  8  22
 2007  31  2965  34.47  3  23
 1996  28  2821  34.40  6  11
 1972  14  1232  34.22  1  9
 1975  16  1533  34.06  1  13
 2012  42  3785  33.20  5  16

The two wicketkeepers who have been at the forefront of this bounty year are Bairstow and de Kock. Bairstow has been on a record-breaking spree with the bat and gloves this year - his 68 dismissals in Tests this year is also the highest by a wicketkeeper in any calendar year - while de Kock has been stellar with the bat not only in Tests but also in ODIs, scoring 857 runs at an average of 57 and a strike rate of 109 in 17 ODI innings.

Watling, who averaged 48.72 in Tests in 2015, has had another good year with the bat, averaging 42.61 (though his 107 and 83 not out against Zimbabwe has helped lift the average considerably). Saha has lifted his game too, averaging 40.66 this year after struggling a bit in 2015, when the average dipped to 23.18 in eight Tests. West Indies' brave move to bring in Dowrich to replace Denesh Ramdin has brought in batting benefits too. Dowrich has averaged 38.37 this year, compared to Ramdin's average of 20.72 from 17 Tests in 2014 and 2015.

Jonny Bairstow has already racked up 1355 runs and 68 dismissals in Tests this year - both are records for wicketkeeper-batsmen in a calendar year © Associated Press

While most wicketkeepers have been among the runs, a couple have missed out. Peter Nevill, no longer in favour with Australia's selectors, managed only 195 runs in 13 innings, at 17.72, while Dinesh Chandimal has had a lean year as well, with seven sub-20 scores in nine innings when he has played as wicketkeeper. Sarfraz Ahmed came down a few notches too from his batting standards of 2014-15, averaging only 30.42 this year compared to 60.35 in the previous two years.

Wicketkeepers with 300+ Test runs in 2016
Player Inns Runs Average Strike rate 100s
 Jonny Bairstow  25  1355  64.52  58.86  3
 Quinton de Kock  11  589  65.44  80.68  2
 BJ Watling  17  554  42.61  49.42  1
 Sarfraz Ahmed  15  426  30.42  69.60  0
 Wriddhiman Saha  11  366  40.66  47.71  1
 Shane Dowrich  10  307  38.37  56.74  0

In all of Test history, there have only been eight instances of wicketkeepers scoring 500-plus Test runs in a calendar year at a 60-plus average; two of those eight instances have happened in 2016. Andy Flower was the first to do this, in 2000 and 2001, and Adam Gilchrist in 2002. He nearly achieved it again when he averaged 59.50 in 2003.

Twice this year, wicketkeeper-batsmen scored 500 runs or more at an average of over 60 © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Matt Prior did it in 2011, not only averaging nearly 65, but also doing it at a strike rate of 89, the highest among these eight instances. (Gilchrist's strike rate in 2002 was 88.98, and de Kock's this year is 80.68). AB de Villiers and Sarfraz achieved it too in 2013 and 2014, but never before have two wicketkeepers done it in a year.

Both Bairstow and de Kock can expect to play some more Tests till the end of the year, and will have to score runs to ensure their average stays above 60. Bairstow needs 145 runs if he gets out four times in the two remaining Tests England play, while de Kock needs 71 in two innings in the Boxing Day Test. Given the form they have been in in 2016, you wouldn't bet against either.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Justice_for_all on December 9, 2016, 21:46 GMT

    Before the completetion of test series between India and England, saying top year for keeper batsmen after 1900 is absolutely invalid statement, espicially when you see 2013 average. Which is very close to 2016 average. As of today Bairstow completed his 1st innings and contributed only 14 runs. There were possibly 7 more innings will be played by Partiv Patel (4 innings) and Bairstow (7), if they can't make 215 more runs, then the average will be less than 40.03 (2013 avg). If they failed to make 135 runs from those innings, the average fall below 2009 average. So it doesn't make any value to put the year averages before all the matches are concluded and there is real posibility that they can't keep that average.

  • cricfan8054170 on December 7, 2016, 14:08 GMT

    Dane Vilas is not superior in batting compared to de kock doesn't mean that he has to be better than him with the gloves at least.

  • sohanpandey578 on December 7, 2016, 8:53 GMT

    @CRICFAN8054170 I agree with tententen.

    Dane Vilas is a better keeper than QDK.

  • cricfan8054170 on December 5, 2016, 11:37 GMT

    bansal97 de kock scored 103 vs india in on a slow and fairly spinning track. Also he scored a gritty 91 ball 37 vs sri lanka in SSC Colombo.

  • bansal97 on December 5, 2016, 10:36 GMT

    Bairstow is proving to be good in india as well.I would like to see de kock play well in subcontinent to rate him as high as Bairstow.I say this because he struggled to play spinners on Indian tracks,for example against Harbhajan. No doubt he is a better stroke player and has proven it down under against a good fast bowling unit,but struggled against Lyon when the ball was spinning in Adelaide

  • brahms on December 4, 2016, 8:14 GMT

    KEEPCALMANDSLAPTHEUMPIRE and TENTENTEN think that Bairstow is not a good keeper. In fact his record as a keeper is one of the best ever - better than Prior and G O Jones (whose record was better than Prior's). The only keepers ahead of him that come to mind are Gilchrist and Boucher.

  • keepcalmandslaptheumpire on December 4, 2016, 4:03 GMT

    Even with Nevill being the worst wicketkeeper since the 19th century the average is still the best in a long time. Shows that so called "specialist wicketkeeper" is a rightfully dead idea as a number 7 needs to know how to bat just as good if not better than your average batsman otherwise you end up in the doldrums as Australia are only just making their way out of. Also I would've thought with Gilchrist and Flower going about in the early 2000's that it would've stacked up although with Moin Khan, Alex Stewart in decline, Ridley Jacobs, the Bangladesh wicketkeeper, Mahmud I think? and a fledgling Mark Boucher must've dragged the average down a fair bit. Gilchrist would've made it as a batsmen in most teams and likewise with Flower showing the standard that was set back then and only Quinton De Kock really matches it in batting and keeping ability, Bairstow really isn't a keeper though. A fantastic batsman for England and probably 3rd best behind Root and Cook but is a bad keeper.

  • DrJez on December 3, 2016, 23:06 GMT

    @Theluckycountry. Clearly you haven't watched many England games this year. Count how many times bairstow has rescued the side from 30-3 or 60-4 or 100-5. Many of these runs are hard hard runs - most recently his 89 against India when the rest of the side didn't know which end of the bat to hold. Or are you suggesting that Ashwin and Jadeja are tired after 5 overs?

  • cricfan8054170 on December 3, 2016, 16:18 GMT

    tententen are you serious ? de kock's glovework is not as good as vilas's. It's the joke of the week.

  • tententen on December 3, 2016, 12:47 GMT

    though bairstow and Qdk have been standout with the bat, there is no evidence of their keeping skills, neither would be selected to the teams as keepers without their batting. Special mention here for watling, the guy is generally selected as keeper first but his batting has been useful and totally selfless he keeps on hanging out there and still has an above 40 avg playing for a country where save kane and ross to some extent watling has been the best batter, who can forget his 300+ stands with kane and baz. In this articles most keepers have been chosen on strength of their batting rather than keeping except saha and watling, if only keeping were the preference, aus would keep nevill, sa - dane vilas, eng - read, wi - ramdin, pak - adnan akmal(he's a pretty good keeper unlike his bros kamran and umar). also the stats of sl keeper may not reflect the entire truth as kusal perera and chandimal have been exchanging the golves randomly.