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ESPNcricinfo's stats editor S Rajesh looks at the stories behind the stats

The Numbers Game

Fourth-innings gladiators and Ponting airborne

Perhaps numbers do never reveal the full story, but they tell a large part of it fairly well

S Rajesh

November 14, 2003

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Perhaps numbers do never reveal the full story, but they tell a large part of it fairly well. Every Friday, The Numbers Game will take a look at statistics from the present and the past, busting myths and revealing hidden truths.

The Calypso plays quieter abroad
A West Indian resurgence has been spoken about for a while now, but their dismal display against Zimbabwe at Harare, when they just about managed to scrape out a draw, only confirmed what has been obvious for a long time now - the huge gulf between their home and away record. Over the past six years, West Indies have played 33 Tests overseas, and lost 25 of them. It's a shockingly abysmal statistic for a team which used to pride itself on its ability to conquer any opposition under any conditions.

West Indies in Tests in the last six years
(from November 1, 1997)
Tests
Won
Lost
Drawn
Win-loss ratio
At Home
33
13
10
10
1.30
Overseas
33
4
25
4

0.16

Apart from being blanked 0-5 in Australia, West Indies have, during that period, suffered embarrassing whitewashes at the hands of South Africa (0-5), Pakistan (twice - 0-3 in Pakistan, and 0-2 in Sharjah), Sri Lanka (0-3) and New Zealand (0-2), and series defeats in India (0-2 in three Tests) and England (1-3). Their only overseas series wins came against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Take away the three Tests wins in those series, and West Indies have a solitary victory against England to show for all their overseas ventures.

During the same period, their record at home was significantly better, including a drawn result against Australia and series wins against England, Pakistan and India. As the table below shows, all teams barring Zimbabwe and Bangladesh have a better overseas record during this period. West Indies have a huge opportunity to rectify this imbalance when they tour South Africa later this year.

Overseas records of teams since November 1997
Tests
Won
Lost
Drawn
Win-loss ratio
Australia
32
18
10
4
1.80
Pakistan
28
12
10
6
1.20
South Africa
36
13
11
12
1.18
New Zealand
28
6
9
13
0.67
England
35
10
15
10
0.67
Sri Lanka
24
5
10
9
0.50
India
26
5
14
7

0.36

Zimbabwe
25
2
18
5
0.11
(Bangladesh have lost all 15 overseas Tests so far)

******

Fourth-innings gladiators
Making runs in the fourth innings is traditionally considered to be the toughest task for a batsman: the pitch is quite often at its worst, and the team might be battling to save or win a Test. So who are the batsmen who have best thrived in these conditions?

The name at the top of the list is no surprise - Don Bradman, with an average of a mere 73.4 - but further down the list are a few surprises, comprising as much of players who played above themselves in the fourth innings as of players who significantly underperformed. Among batsmen who scored at least 700 runs in fourth innings, Geoff Boycott and Sunil Gavaskar lead the pack after Bradman.

Best batsmen in the fourth innings (Qual: at least 700 runs)
Inns
NO
Runs
Ave
Career ave
Bradman
15
5
734
73.40
99.94
Boycott
34
13
1234
58.76
47.72
Gavaskar
33
9
1398
58.25
51.12
Hobbs
23
6
979
57.59
56.94
Miandad
22
7
816
54.40
52.57
Stackpole
19
5
749
53.50
37.42
Greenidge
38
12
1383
53.19
44.72

Interestingly, the list is dominated by former openers - there are five of them in the top seven. The high number of not-outs helped - for Boycott it was one every 2.6 innings - but it would be unfair to attribute the healthy average of the openers solely to that. Sachin Tendulkar has remained unbeaten as many times as Gavaskar in the fourth innings - nine - and has played two fewer innings. Yet Tendulkar averages 35.68, more than 22 points lower than Gavaskar.

In fact, among the current-day batsmen who meet the 700-run criterion, Rahul Dravid is the best fourth-innings performer, outdoing Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Steve Waugh, who has struggled to get among the runs in the last innings. A tally of 533 runs in 30 knocks with just one fifty is a miserable return for a man rated as arguably the best batsman when the chips are down. It's not even as if most of his fourth-innings failures happened early in his career, when he was a much lesser batsman - 23 out of those 30 innings came after 1992, by which time he had established himself as one of the leading batsmen in the team. Sample his brother Mark's figures - 820 runs at 41. Pretty good for someone who, for much of his career, was believed to be all grace and no grit.

How the current batsmen have fared
in the fourth innings
Inns
NO
Runs
Ave
Career ave
Dravid
23
7
720
45.00
54.37
Lara
35
5
1182
39.40
51.11
Kirsten
29
9
735
36.75
44.87
Tendulkar
31
9
785
35.68
56.57
S Waugh
30
7
533
23.17
51.25

******

Jonathan Livingstone Ponting - master of the aerial route
There was little wrong with the outfield at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore, but for Ricky Ponting, the aerial route was by far the preferred option. Ponting blasted seven sixes and just one four in his unbeaten 108 against India in the TVS Cup, becoming the first batsman to end up with only one four in an ODI century. As the table below shows, Ponting seems to favour this approach - he figures in three of the five innings where a batsman made a century hitting at least twice the number of sixes as fours. One of those knocks came in the World Cup final at Johannesburg. Clearly, the Indian attack isn't held in very high regard by Ponting.

Batsman
Runs
4s
6s
Opposition, venue and year
Ponting 108* 1 7 India, Bangalore, TVS Cup 2003-04
Ponting 101 2 4 Bangladesh, Darwin, 2003
Styris 141 3 6 Sri Lanka, Bloemfontein,
World Cup 2003
Ponting 140* 4 8 India, Johannesburg,
World Cup 2003
Jayasuriya 107 3 6 New Zealand, Sharjah, 2000-01

S Rajesh is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo in India.

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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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