December 7, 2007

Sangakkara's sensational 2007

Why Sangakkara won't forget this year in a hurry



A familiar feeling this year: Kumar Sangakkara gets another century © AFP

The year 2007 has been one Kumar Sangakkara won't forget in a hurry. His first innings of the year brought him a mere six runs, but since then it's been a massive deluge - 200*, 222*, 57, 192, 92, and 152. The two double-hundreds came against relatively weak bowling attacks - Bangladesh were at the receiving end on both occasions - but since then, stronger oppositions have also failed to staunch the runs against him. The 192 against Australia in Hobart has been arguably the finest batting performance of the year so far, while his latest innings, against England in Kandy, turned an evenly matched game Sri Lanka's way.

That innings was also his first hundred against England, which has allowed him to achieve the feat of having scored at least one century against every Test-playing team. It also made him the first batsman to register a 150-plus score in four successive Tests. Not surprisingly, he has replaced Ricky Ponting at the top of the ICC rankings for Test batsmen.

Sangakkara's 921 runs have come at an outstanding average of 184.20. If he keeps up this form in the last two Tests of the year, he will end up with one of the highest averages ever in a calendar year. Among batsmen with at least 500 runs in a calendar year, only one - Zaheer Abbas, in 1978 - has averaged more. Even Don Bradman's highest average in a year was "only" 138.

Highest Test average in a calendar year (at least 500 runs)
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Zaheer Abbas (1978) 3 583 194.33 2/ 1
Kumar Sangakkara (2007) 5 921 184.20 4/ 2
Wally Hammond (1936) 4 645 161.25 3/ 0
Garry Sobers (1958) 8 1299 144.33 6/ 3
Don Bradman (1937) 3 690 138.00 3/ 0
Hashan Tillakaratne (2001) 8 682 136.40 3/ 2
Charlie Davis (1971) 4 529 32.251 2/ 3
Dilip Vengsarkar (1986) 8 793 132.16 4/ 2
Geoff Boycott (1977) 4 505 126.25 2/ 2
Don Bradman (1930) 6 978 122.25 4/ 0

Since 2004, Sangakkara has been in sensational form, averaging over 66 and scoring a century every three Tests. In these four years, only Jacques Kallis, with 4044 runs from 38 Tests, has averaged more.

Best Test batsmen since 2004 (at least 2000 runs)
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Jacques Kallis 38 4044 72.21 16/ 19
Kumar Sangakkara 36 3699 66.05 12/ 11
Ricky Ponting 38 3759 64.81 13/ 17
Mohammad Yousuf 30 3278 64.27 13/ 8
Younis Khan 29 3056 59.92 10/ 10
Rahul Dravid 40 3205 55.25 8/ 18
Brian Lara 31 3037 55.21 11/ 6
Sachin Tendulkar 32 2325 54.06 6/ 11
Virender Sehwag 33 2761 52.09 7/ 8
Shivnarine Chanderpaul 34 2705 52.01 7/ 14

Apart from the hundred and the half-century he scored in Hobart, the rest of the runs Sangakkara scored this year have been in wins, which has considerably boosted his numbers in victories. In the 32 wins he has been a part of, Sangakkara averages nearly 90, which is second only to Bradman. Sangakkara's amazing run has pushed Inzamam-ul-Haq into third place.

Highest averages in wins (at least 3000 runs)
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Don Bradman 30 4813 130.08 23/ 4
Kumar Sangakkara 32 3410 89.73 12/ 10
Inzamam-ul-Haq 49 4690 78.16 17/ 20
Garry Sobers 31 3097 77.42 12/ 11
Rahul Dravid 37 3746 74.92 10/ 18
Greg Chappell 38 3595 70.49 14/ 16
Steve Waugh 86 6460 69.46 25/ 25
Ricky Ponting 80 7049 65.87 26/ 27
Jacques Kallis 52 4411 65.83 15/ 22
Sachin Tendulkar 45 3793 64.28 13/ 14

Sangakkara wasn't doing badly even when he was doubling up as wicketkeeper, but since he gave up the gloves behind the stumps, his numbers have been sensational - in the 22 Tests in which he hasn't kept wicket, Sangakkara averages a Bradmanesque 96, with 22 fifty-plus scores, which is an average of one per match.

An unwanted 50 for Sami
It finally happened off the fourth ball of Mohammad Sami's ninth over in India's first innings of the Kolkata Test - the delivery was full and outside off, Dravid eased it past point to the boundary, and four more runs were added to Sami's bowling analysis, which increased his career runs-conceded tally to 3851. Divide that by 77 - the number of wickets he has in his 32-Test career - and the result is fractionally over 50, making him the only bowler today to have the rather unwanted double of 50-plus wickets and bowling average in Tests.

Highest averages for bowlers with at least 50 Test wickets
Bowler Tests Wickets Average Strike rate 5WI/ 10WM
Mohammad Sami 32 77 51.28 86.3 2/ 0
Carl Hooper 102 114 49.42 121.0 4/ 0
Greg Matthews 33 61 48.22 102.8 2/ 1
Paul Wiseman 25 61 47.59 92.7 2/ 0
Ajit Agarkar 26 58 47.32 83.7 1/ 0
Chandu Borde 55 52 46.48 109.5 1/ 0
Pat Pocock 25 67 44.41 99.2 3/ 0
Daren Powell 22 56 43.62 77.5 1/ 0
Fidel Edwards 27 72 43.01 63.7 5/ 0
Nicky Boje 43 100 42.65 86.2 3/ 0

In the current series in India, Sami has bowled 66 overs and conceded 263 runs without taking a wicket, which increases his count of wicketless Tests to five. Admittedly, with some luck the numbers would have read slightly better - Rahul Dravid escaped a plumb lbw shout in the first Test, while Sachin Tendulkar was dropped by Kamran Akmal in Kolkata - but Sami hasn't helped his cause with some rather listless spells through both matches.

For a bowler who started off with an eight-wicket haul and a Man-of-the-Match award in his debut Test, the rest of his career has gone horribly wrong. The stats were reasonably respectable till his eighth match, but in the ninth his bowling average touched 40, and it hasn't gone below that mark since. It's hardly a surprise that he hasn't added to his Man-of-the-Match tally since that debut performance. (Click here for Sami's cumulative bowling average.)

A break-up of Sami's career
Wickets Average Strke rate 5WI/ 10WM
First 8 Tests 24 36.79 71.6 1/ 0
Last 24 Tests 53 57.84 93.0 1/ 0

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo.

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