March 7, 2008

New Zealand's best batsman, and the world's best allrounder

Over the last decade Daniel Vettori has offered New Zealand much more than just accurate and incisive left-arm spin



Daniel Vettori averages more than 48 in Tests over the last three years © Getty images

When England had taken six New Zealand wickets for just 277 on the opening day of the Hamilton Test, they would have been entirely justified in believing that they would restrict the opposition to around 350. While most teams would have one of their lesser batsmen come out to bat at that stage, out strode New Zealand's best, and what followed was a 148-run partnership that turned the game around and put England completely on the back foot.

Daniel Vettori came into New Zealand cricket 11 years ago as a bright new bowling talent, but over the last decade he has offered much more to his team than accurate and incisive left-arm spin. For the first five years, his numbers as a batsman were decidedly modest, but more recently, the stats have shown a significant improvement.

During the two-year period from January 2003, Vettori doubled his batting average, but over the last three years he has had astonishing success. In the 19 Tests that Vettori has played since January 2005, he averages more than 48, with six fifties in his last 15 innings, which is remarkable considering that in his first 32 innings he only had two 50-plus scores.

Vettori's progress as a Test batsman
Period Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Till Dec 2002 44 878 16.25 0/ 4
Jan 2003 - Dec 2004 15 604 33.55 1/ 4
Since Jan 2005 19 1060 48.18 1/ 7

Unlike most of the top sides in international cricket, New Zealand have generally struggled to produce prolific top-order batsmen: apart from Charles Dempster, who averaged more than 65 in ten Tests in the 1930s, they haven't produced a single batsman who has averaged over 50; in fact, only six of their players have averaged more than 40 (cut-off: at least ten Tests), and none of the batsmen in the current line-up have even managed that. With the top order struggling so often, Vettori's batting efforts have shone even brighter: in the last three years he has been New Zealand's best batsman by some distance, averaging a touch above 50 at an equally impressive strike-rate of more than 73 runs per 100 balls.

Among New Zealand batsmen who've played at least eight Tests during this period, only Lou Vincent and Stephen Fleming have managed 40-plus averages, but at strike-rates that pale compared to Vettori's. (His overall average drops to less than 50 due to the Super Test, which he played for the World XI and where he scored 8* and 0.) Considering the batting stats of the rest of his mates, and the fact that he is now captain of the team, Vettori will probably have little opposition if he moves himself a couple of spots up the line-up in the New Zealand batting order.

Best batsmen for New Zealand in Tests since 2005 (at least eight Tests)
Batsman Tests Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Daniel Vettori 18 1052 50.09 73.46 1/ 7
Lou Vincent 8 578 44.46 57.62 1/ 3
Stephen Fleming 20 1253 41.76 52.58 1/ 7
Nathan Astle 15 796 34.60 52.71 2/ 5
Hamish Marshall 11 543 33.93 48.83 2/ 1
Jacob Oram 9 388 29.84 51.66 2/ 0
Scott Styris 10 353 27.15 59.62 1/ 1
Brendon McCullum 20 753 26.89 68.39 1/ 3
Craig Cumming 11 441 25.94 34.86 0/ 1

All but eight of his runs during this period have come when he has batted at No. 8 or lower, which makes him by far the best lower-order batsman during this period. In fact, with the kind of numbers he has, Vettori is one of the best lower-order batsmen of all time. Among players who have scored at least 1000 Test runs batting at positions 8 to 11, only three - Shaun Pollock, Kapil Dev and Mark Boucher - have a higher average than Vettori's 29.41. Another century from Vettori will make him only the second batsman, after Pakistan's Kamran Akmal, to notch up three Test hundreds from the last four batting positions.

Best batsmen at No. 8 or lower in Tests since 2005 (at least 500 runs)
Batsman Tests Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Daniel Vettori 19 1052 52.60 72.85 1/ 7
Kamran Akmal 15 756 39.78 63.68 3/ 2
Chaminda Vaas 17 645 37.94 47.53 1/ 3
Nicky Boje 17 571 31.72 56.36 0/ 2
Shaun Pollock 18 517 30.41 66.88 0/ 2
Anil Kumble 33 861 25.32 41.65 1/ 2

While Vettori the batsman has made giant strides over the last three years, he has also ensured that his bowling hasn't fallen away: during this period he has averaged 31 with the ball, with both his five-fors coming against good sides - he took 5 for 106 versus Australia in Christchurch in 2005, and 7 for 130 against Sri Lanka in Wellington in 2006.

Vettori the bowler in Tests
Period Tests Wickets Average 5WI/ 10WM
Till Dec 2002 44 139 33.86 7/ 1
Jan 2003 - Dec 2004 15 49 38.46 4/ 1
Since Jan 2005 19 50 31.28 2/ 1

His performances with both bat and ball make him arguably the best allrounder in the world today. The difference between his batting and bowling averages over the last three years is a healthy 16.90. Only Jacques Kallis has a higher difference during this period, but he has hardly been a regular contributor with the ball, averaging less than two wickets per Test.

Best Test allrounders since Jan 2005 (at least 600 runs and 30 wickets)
Player Tests Runs Bat ave (1) Wickets Bowl ave (2) 1-2
Jacques Kallis 32 3036 66.00 62 30.95 35.05
Daniel Vettori 19 1060 48.18 50 31.28 16.90
Chaminda Vaas 20 787 35.77 62 27.40 8.37
Andrew Flintoff 25 1274 31.85 102 27.75 4.10
Shaun Pollock 19 672 32.00 60 30.55 1.45
Chris Gayle 23 1623 38.64 36 38.66 -0.02
Irfan Pathan 18 830 33.20 61 33.80 -0.60
Shane Warne 26 705 22.74 147 25.07 -2.33

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo.