Cricinfo XI January 24, 2006

Eleven hot streaks

ESPNcricinfo staff
Eleven batsmen who scaled the heights

This XI is the choice of Andrew Miller and Martin Williamson. Undoubtedly readers will have their own preferences. Email us with your favourite hot streak

Don Bradman returns after scoring 309 not out in a day at Leeds in 1930 © Getty Images
Don Bradman (1930)
It would be easier to pick a period when Bradman was not in form, but in 1930 he really shone as Australia won back the Ashes. Only 21 years old, Bradman massacred bowling attacks across the country, scoring 2960 runs at 98.60 in first-class matches but keeping his best for the Tests. He reached hundreds in four of the five games against England, the exception being in the rain-ruined encounter at Manchester, and hit two double-hundreds as well as the then-record 334 at Leeds (his favourite stomping ground - in four Tests at Headingley between 1930 and 1948 he scored 963 runs at 192.60). He finished the series with 974 runs (still a record) at 139.14. Such was his form that England realised they had to devise a plan to counter him. They came up with Bodyline.

Denis Compton (1947)
The golden summer of English cricket with sunshine, full houses and post-war euphoria - and cricket's first commercial superstar cashed in. In 1947, the Brylcream Boy was at his peak before the knee injury which was to end his career really started hampering him. After a moderate start, he scored a hundred in his sixth game and thereafter was unstoppable, scoring 3816 runs in the summer at 90.85 with a phenomenal 18 hundreds - records that will never be broken. It was not only the volume of runs but the gloriously carefree and idiosyncratic way he made them, not to mention the speed he at which he scored, and crowds packed grounds wherever he played. In the Tests against South Africa he scored 753 runs at 94.12 with four centuries. For good measure, he also took 73 wickets with his chinamen. Spare a thought for Bill Edrich, his Middlesex and England team-mate, who at the same time amassed 3539 runs and 12 hundreds but was consigned to playing second fiddle for much of the time.

Sunil Gavaskar on his way to a hundred in Barbados © Playfair Cricket Monthly
Sunil Gavaskar (1970-71)
There are ways of announcing your arrival in international cricket, and then there's Sunil Gavaskar's method. A mere slip of a 21-year-old when he was called up for the second Test against West Indies in 1970-71, Gavaskar produced twin innings of 65 and 67 not out as India took a lead in the series at Port-of-Spain, and then clung onto his team's position with a tenacity that would become his watchword. In Guyana he produced his maiden Test century and followed up with a stalemate-securing 64 not out; at Bridgetown he made amends for his only failure by saving the match with a second-innings 117, and in the final Test in Trinidad, he batted and batted and batted for 344 runs in total, as West Indies were left to salvage a match they thought they had in the bag. As if that was not enough, he came back to the Caribbean five years later, and produced a mini-reprisal.

Graham Gooch (1990-91)
It's always darkest before the dawn. At the age of 36, and with a humiliating Ashes series behind him, Gooch's career seemed close to a frustratingly unfulfilled curtailment. But, with all other options exhausted, the selectors instead offered him the England captaincy. Leading from the front as an opener and an inspiration, Gooch produced his two most famous innings, 333 (and 123) against India at Lord's, and that legendary 154 not out against West Indies at a spitefully overcast Headingley. In between whiles came his most furious - a blistering 117 in a lost cause at Adelaide. The sleeping policeman had remembered to wield his truncheon.

No stopping Inzamam-ul-Haq © Getty Images
Inzamam-ul-Haq (2004-05)
Motionless and laconic at the crease, Inzamam has so much time in which to play any given delivery, it often seems he has dozed off with the ball in mid-trajectory. That is, of course, until he snaps into action with one of his immense repertoire of blazing strokes, and in the past 12 months, his full armoury has been proudly on display. A wonderful 184 at Bangalore brought about a famous victory over India in his 100th Test; a pair of centuries at Faisalabad in a run of five consecutive fifties ensured that England's Ashes-winners were brought back down to earth with a bump. At the age of 35, Pakistan's captain is approaching fulfillment.

Brian Lara (1993-94)
England had been forewarned of Brian Lara's genius - by none other than the Australians, against whom he had clobbered a breathtaking 277 at Sydney the previous winter. But forewarned was not forearmed against the pintsized genius with the backlift like a guillotine. A coruscating 167 at Georgetown was just the precursor to the moment that transformed his life - his record-smashing 375 in Antigua, when Garry Sobers' 36-year-old benchmark was surpassed. His appetite unsated, Lara decamped to Edgbaston where he embarked on a run-spree like few others in the history of county cricket - scoring six hundreds in his first seven outings for Warwickshire, including the small matter of an unbeaten 501 against Durham, the first and only quintuple century in the history of first-class cricket.

Bill Ponsford, Australia's run machine © Cricinfo
Bill Ponsford (1926-27 to 1927-28)
A man with a reputation for accumulating runs and breaking bowlers' hearts started his career as he meant to carry on. In his second first-class match in 1922-23 he made 162; in his third, against Tasmania aged 22, he scored 429 and followed with 162 on his Sheffield Shield debut a fortnight later. His real purple patch started in 1926-27 when he began with 214 and then carried on with 54, 151, 352, 108, 84, 34, 116, 131 and 7, a season aggregate of 1229 runs at 122.90. The following summer was even more awesome, his 1217 runs coming at 152.12 and including a top score of 437. But this incredible sequence was sandwiched between four appearances for Australia against England in which he only made 50 runs in five completed innings and was dropped twice. However, he made England pay in three subsequent series.

Ricky Ponting (2005-06)
Twenty-eight Test centuries and rising for Tasmania's favourite son. And no fewer than eight of those have been scored in the past 12 months, a period of batsmanship in which he has taken his game to new and formidable levels. He's called upon every facet of his abilities in that time as well, from the dogged 156 that saved the Old Trafford Test to the twin centuries in his 100th match that stole an extraordinary Sydney encounter against South Africa. He may be the Australian captain who lost the Ashes, but on this evidence, he is in the sort of form to win them back singlehandedly.

The long, hot summer: Viv Richards heads into the record books at The Oval © The Cricketer
Viv Richards (1976)
The 23-year-old Antiguan had been talked about in reverent tones for a couple of years, and in the final Test of West Indies' disastrous tour of Australia in 1975-76 he finally hit form with 101. In four home Tests against India which followed he smashed 556 runs, including three hundreds. By the time he reached England in May he was untouchable, and in four Tests (he missed Lord's because of injury) he hammered 824 runs at 118.42 with two double centuries, culminating in a career-best 291 at The Oval. In 1976 Richards scored 1710 runs at 90.00 with seven centuries in 11 Tests, both records to this day. Rather surprisingly, in six ODIs he played that calendar year he managed only 112 runs at 28.00.

Michael Vaughan (2002-03)
As a batsman, you know you are in good form when your nerves only start appearing in the 190s. That was Michael Vaughan's enviable problem in his annus mirablis of 2002, when Sri Lanka, India and Australia all felt the force of his wonderfully graceful willow. In the early part of his career, flourishing thirties had been Vaughan's stock-in-trade, but now he was starting as he meant to go on, pulling with panache and driving with an elegance scarcely matched by any English batsman since David Gower. Twin scores of 195 and 197 against India were the high-water mark, but the zenith came Down Under that winter, with 633 runs in ten innings, including three wonderful centuries at Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney.

Dilip Vengsarkar (1986-87)
The elegant but unassuming Vengsarkar is perhaps not the first man you'd think of when searching for a worldbeater, but for 18 months in the mid-1980s he was peerless as the rock of India's fortunes at that pivotal No. 3 position. In 16 Tests he accumulated 1668 runs at 104.25, including his third century in three appearances at Lord's and a brilliant 102 not out at Headingley to set up India's last significant series victory outside the subcontinent. And that was just for starters - next came three scores in excess of 150 in consecutive Tests against Australia and Sri Lanka, 96 against Pakistan, and two more hundreds in three matches against the mighty West Indies.