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Gautam Gambhir's extraordinary second-innings run

The Indian opener has been incredible in the second innings, notching up hundreds at an almost Bradman-esque rate

S Rajesh

February 5, 2010

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Gautam Gambhir plays through the off side, India v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Kanpur, 1st day, November 24, 2009
Gautam Gambhir has already scored five second-innings centuries in Tests, at an incredible average of one every 4.6 innings © AFP
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If it's the second innings of a Test and Gautam Gambhir is coming out to bat, chances are he'll help himself to a significant score. His Test career is only 29 matches old, but Gambhir has already built a formidable reputation as a second-innings plunderer: in 23 such innings, he has scored five hundreds, and averages 62.52.

Over the years, even top batsmen have found run-scoring more difficult in the second innings than in the first due to a variety of reasons: the match situation can be tense, the pitches have normally deteriorated, and on some occasions there's the fatigue factor that sets in after spending several hours in the field. None of that affects Gambhir, apparently. His first-innings stats aren't ordinary by any definition - he averages 54.20 - but he takes it up a notch when he comes out to bat a second time. In fact, the numbers in his last ten second innings beggars belief: five centuries plus a 97, and a stunning average of 108.37.

His ability to score hundreds in second innings is especially remarkable - he has only played 23 innings, and he already has five, a ratio of 4.60 innings per century. It's second only to two batsmen (among those who've scored at least four second-innings hundreds) - the original Bradman and the Black Bradman. The Don scored 10 in 30, while George Headley, in his short Test career, made four in 18 innings. Had Bangladesh scored two runs fewer in the Mirpur Test and saved Gambhir the trouble of coming out to bat in the second innings, his ratio would've been marginally better than Headley's. During this sequence of five hundreds in successive Tests, four have come in the second innings, which is quite unusual - only Bradman has a similar sequence.

The top 10 in the table below is an interesting mix of recent stars and older ones, with three names - all left-handers, incidentally - who've played in the 2000s. Here's a look at how some of the other top batsmen fared on this parameter: Garry Sobers - ratio 8.38 (8 centuries in 67 innings); Brian Lara 11.33 (9 in 102); Greg Chappell - 10.83 (6 in 65); Inzamam-ul-Haq - 13.67 (6 in 82); Viv Richards - 10.17 (6 in 61); Ricky Ponting - 16.33 (6 in 98); Jacques Kallis - 11.63 (8 in 93). (Click here for the full list.)

The second-innings plunderers (Qual: four hundreds in second innings)
Batsman Innings Runs Average 100s/ 50s Inngs per 100
Don Bradman 30 2299 104.50 10/ 8 3.00
George Headley 18 931 54.76 4/ 2 4.50
Gautam Gambhir 23 1188 62.52 5/ 4 4.60
Herbert Sutcliffe 31 1541 64.20 6/ 6 5.17
Clyde Walcott 30 1251 52.12 5/ 4 6.00
Kumar Sangakkara 59 2824 53.28 9/ 12 6.56
Martin Crowe 56 2098 46.62 8/ 5 7.00
Warwick Armstrong 35 1595 55.00 5/ 3 7.00
Cyril Washbrook 29 1155 50.21 4/ 3 7.25
Matthew Hayden 81 3472 51.82 11/ 13 7.36

Gambhir's fourth-innings efforts are also outstanding as he has moulded his game according to the needs of the team - when they were battling to save the Test in Napier last year, he faced 436 balls to make 137, scoring at a strike rate of 31.42. He more than doubled that figure in his next Test, when India were looking for quick runs to press home their first-innings advantage in Wellington, and in his most recent effort he scored 116 off 129 balls (strike rate 89.92) against Bangladesh.

Among Indian batsmen, Gambhir's second-innings stats are easily the best, though obviously he has played far fewer innings than some of the others. In just 23 innings he has scored as many centuries as Dravid has managed in more than four times as many innings. Gundappa Viswanath has five hundreds as well, but he needed 65 innings to get them. Only five Indians have scored more second-innings hundreds than Gambhir, but he should catch up with three of them soon - Mohinder Amarnath, Dilip Vengsarkar and Mohammad Azharuddin have six each.

Dravid and Laxman should have opportunities too, but Gambhir's advantage is his batting position, which allows him more chances in the second innings than players who bat in the middle order.

One batsman who hasn't taken advantage of that batting position is Virender Sehwag. In fact, Gambhir's second-innings success in quite a contrast to the run-scoring patterns of his opening partner. Sehwag's overall average is only five runs lesser than Gambhir's, but his second-innings average is just about half that of Gambhir. And while Gambhir has scored five hundreds in 23 innings, Sehwag has one in 53. To be fair to Sehwag, though, his second-innings stats have definitely improved in the last couple of years - he averages almost 45 in his last 18 innings, with six 50-plus scores.

Best Indian batsmen in second innings (Qual: 1000 runs; sorted by averages)
Batsman Innings Runs Average 100s/ 50s Inngs per 100
Gautam Gambhir 23 1188 62.52 5/ 4 4.60
Sunil Gavaskar 90 3963 51.46 11/ 22 8.18
Mohinder Amarnath 45 1865 49.07 6/ 11 7.50
VVS Laxman 71 2632 47.00 4/ 15 17.75
Vijay Manjrekar 37 1341 46.24 2/ 8 18.50
Rahul Dravid 100 3549 44.36 5/ 23 20.00
Sachin Tendulkar 107 3663 42.10 11/ 15 9.73
Dilip Vengsarkar 70 2249 40.16 6/ 10 11.67
Gundappa Viswanath 65 2272 39.85 5/ 12 13.00
Sourav Ganguly 77 2443 39.40 1/ 15 77.00

Gambhir's outstanding run also means he has the highest second-innings average in the last couple of years, and he is the only one to score more than 1000 runs during this period. Thilan Samaraweera is the only other batsman to average more than 80, while Graeme Smith has been superb as well, with four hundreds in 15 innings. The forthcoming series between India and South Africa will thus also be a battle between two of the most in-form second-innings openers. The top 10 includes one other Indian and two South Africans who're in the squads for the series, but the biggest batting names have been surprisingly tepid: Sachin Tendulkar averages 39.23, which is still significantly better than the numbers for Rahul Dravid (average 28.26 in 14 innings) and Jacques Kallis (26.30 in 14 innings).

The most prolific second-innings batsmen since Jan 2008 (Qual: 500 runs)
Batsman Innings Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Gautam Gambhir 14 1039 86.58 5/ 3
Thilan Samaraweera 13 647 80.87 1/ 6
Graeme Smith 15 953 73.30 4/ 4
VVS Laxman 16 692 69.20 1/ 6
Neil McKenzie 12 552 61.33 2/ 1
Chris Gayle 12 613 61.30 2/ 2
Hashim Amla 15 793 61.00 2/ 6
Kumar Sangakkara 14 719 55.30 3/ 3
Paul Collingwood 17 689 49.21 2/ 4
AB de Villiers 13 533 48.45 1/ 4

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo

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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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