The Numbers Game January 2, 2004

The year of the No. 3

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

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

A batsman's game
Perhaps the most common lament in cricket today is the absence of quality strike bowlers, making the job of scoring runs far easier for today's batsman. The year 2003 reflected the batsman's domination over the bowler quite clearly: the average runs per wicket over 44 Tests in the year was 34, three-and-a-half runs more than the average in 2002. In fact, the runs-per-wicket figure in 2003 was the highest in the last 14 years. The highest average in one series was 42.6, in the four-Test encounter between West Indies and Australia.

Year Tests Runs Dismissals Average
2003 44 45811 1347 34.01
2002 54 50831 1666 30.51
2001 55 52035 1644 31.65
2000 46 38441 1398 27.5
1999 43 38349 1312 29.23
1998 45 40256 1431 28.13
1997 44 39898 1314 30.36
1996 28 25564 895 28.56
1995 40 33920 1209 28.06
1994 38 36337 1191 30.51
1993 36 31654 1027 30.82
1992 26 23507 801 29.35
1991 21 19088 617 30.94
1990 26 22591 767 29.45

There were also an amazing number of double-centuries scored in 2003 - 14 in 44 matches, that's one every three Tests. Twelve doubles were notched in 2002, but ten more Tests were played in 2002; in 2001, nine were scored from 55 (one per six Tests), while 2000 was a particularly disappointing year, with five double-centuries in 46 matches.

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No. 3 on top
2003 was also the year of the No. 3 batsman. Ricky Ponting and Rahul Dravid were the most prominent ones, but there were plenty of others who came in at that position and made merry - Stephen Fleming, Gary Kirsten, Jacques Rudolph and Yasir Hameed all had more than their fair share of success. And then there were others whose overall stats for the year weren't exceptional, but who had spectacular success at one-down. Nasser Hussain averaged a modest 37.42 through the year, but in the two innings he played at No. 3 he scored 95 and 23 not out - an average of 118. The story repeats itself for Scott Styris: an average of 32.18 through the year, but in his only innings at three - against India at Mohali - he scored 119.

Of the 97 hundreds scored in the year, 26 came from the one-down batsmen, that's a healthy 27%. On the other hand, there were 82 zeroes notched up, and the No. 3s contribution was just eight, less than 10%. Whichever way you look at it, No. 3 was the position to bat at in 2003.

It was a modest year for the No. 4, whose combined average was only 44. Brian Lara was undoubtedly the star at that position, amassing 1215 runs at 86.78, but at the other end of the scale was Sachin Tendulkar: his eight innings at No. 4 brought him meagre returns of 190 at 13.62; in fact, when he moved down one position - in the second innings of the Boxing Day Test last week - he scored 44, his second-highest score of the year.

Position Runs Ave 100s 50s 0s Leading scorer
# 1/2 12566 40.80 31 56 24 Hayden
# 3 8131 55.69 26 32 8 Ponting
# 4 6299 44.36 17 27 7 Lara
# 5 4975 36.85 11 24 14 Waugh
# 6 4142 31.38 7 20 15 Chanderpaul
# 7 3676 30.38 5 18 14 Flintoff

Tests
Runs
Avg
100s
50s
Ponting
11
1492
106.57
6
4
Dravid
5
803
100.38
2
3
Fleming
5
524
74.86
2
-
Kirsten
6
534
66.75
2
3
Rudolph
5
390
65.00
1
1
Yasir Hameed
7
589
53.55
2
2
Butcher
13
937
44.62
3
5
Bashar
9
801
44.5
1
7

* * * * * *

Sorry story for the spinners
Muttiah Muralitharan and Stuart MacGill may have got a bagful of wickets in 2003, but overall, the plight of spinners wasn't very encouraging - they managed to take just under 30% of the total wickets which fell in the year, at a rather high average of nearly 40. Together, Murali and MacGill scalped 105 wickets in 18 matches at 24.1, nearly 30% of the total wickets taken by spinners over the year.

Pace Spin
Year Total wkts Wkts Avg Wkts Avg
% wickets by seamers
2003 1214 851 33.23 363 39.91
70.1
2002 1544 1059 32.04 485 30.04
68.6
2001 1534 1022 32.69 512 33.29
66.6
2000 1355 951 27.13 404 34.25
70.2
1999 1273 868 30.88 405 33.11
68.2

S Rajesh is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.