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Jack Hobbs: stats analysis

First-class cricket's most prolific batsman

His Test record is imposing enough, but Jack Hobbs has set some first-class numbers which will probably never be surpassed

S Rajesh

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Jack Hobbs executes the pull, 1926
Jack Hobbs finished with a Test average of 56.94, which remains one of the highest even today © Getty Images
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Jack Hobbs was, quite simply, the most prolific batsman in cricket. His Test record is imposing enough - he finished with an average of almost 57, and was, at the time of retiring, the highest run-getter in Tests - but his overall first-class record continues to be quite staggering. Here are a few of his records, which will probably never be surpassed:

  • With a gigantic tally of 61,760 first-class runs, Hobbs is the leading run-getter by far, and the only one to go past 60,000. England's Frank Woolley comes in next on 58,959. (To put things in perspective, Sachin Tendulkar's first-class tally is 22,336, and no one who has played beyond 1952 has an aggregate of more than 50,000.) It boggles the mind to think of what Hobbs' tally would have been had he not lost six years due to the Great War.

  • Along with the record for most first-class runs, he also holds the record for most first-class hundreds, with 199. Patsy Hendren is next on 170, and only four others have more than 150.

  • Hobbs scored his last Test century - 142 against Australia in Melbourne in 1929 - when he was all of 46 years and 82 days old, which remains a record. Hendren comes in second again, at 45 years and 151 days, while the oldest since 1980 is Geoff Boycott, at 41 years and 63 days.

Those are records that will almost certainly stay forever, not least because of the nature of the game in the modern era. While some of those first-class stats are staggering, his Test record is outstanding too, with 15 centuries in 61 Tests at an average of 56.94.

Hobbs started his Test career with 83 against Australia in Melbourne, but he didn't exceed that score till his 10th Test, when he made an unbeaten 93 against South Africa. In fact, in his first 11 Tests Hobbs had eight fifties but not a single hundred. That landmark only came in his 12th Test, when he scored 187 against South Africa. That was the beginning of a prolonged prolific passage for him: of the 12 years he played between 1910 and 1929 (there was no cricket between 1915 and 1919), only once, in 1921, did his average for the year slip below 50. In 44 Tests during this period, Hobbs' average soared to more than 65, and his conversion rate improved dramatically too, with 15 hundreds and 17 fifties.

Jack Hobbs' Test career
Period Runs Average 100s/ 50s
First 11 Tests 786 41.36 0/ 8
Next 44 Tests 4261 65.55 15/ 17
Last 6 Tests 363 33.00 0/ 3
Career 5410 56.94 15/ 28

With the conditions loaded in favour of batsmen over the last decade, several of them have joined the list of 50-plus averages: with a cut-off of 5000 runs, 77 are in this league today, while there were only 44 before the start of the 2000s. However, Hobbs' average of 56.94 remains among the top five. It's in fifth place, next only to Bradman, Barrington, Hammond and Sobers.

Obviously Hobbs is among the top openers in Test history as well. Only Herbert Sutcliffe and Len Hutton have a higher average, among openers who've scored at least 4000 runs. Among modern-day openers, India's Virender Sehwag comes closest to the legends, with an average of almost 55.

Best openers in Tests (Qual: 4000 runs as openers)
Batsman Innings Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Herbert Sutcliffe 83 4522 61.10 16/ 23
Len Hutton 131 6721 56.47 19/ 31
Jack Hobbs 97 5130 56.37 14/ 27
Virender Sehwag 120 6312 54.88 18/ 19
Graeme Smith 136 6564 51.28 20/ 24
Matthew Hayden 184 8625 50.73 30/ 29
Sunil Gavaskar 203 9607 50.29 33/ 42
Justin Langer 115 5112 48.22 16/ 18
Geoff Boycott 191 8091 48.16 22/ 42
Herschelle Gibbs 116 5242 47.22 14/ 21

At the time of his retirement, Hobbs was also easily the highest run-scorer in Tests. His tally of 5410 was almost 2000 more than Clem Hill, who was the second-highest, on 3412. Only five players had scored more than 3000 runs in Tests at the time.

The small group of Test-playing nations at the time also meant Hobbs played most of his Tests against Australia - 41 out of 61 were against them, and he scored 12 centuries in those games, at an average of more than 54.

Leading run-getters in Tests till the end of Hobbs' career
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Jack Hobbs 61 5410 56.94 15/ 28
Clem Hill 49 3412 39.21 7/ 19
Herbert Sutcliffe 36 3396 66.58 13/ 16
Victor Trumper 48 3163 39.04 8/ 13
Frank Woolley 61 3160 37.17 5/ 22
Warwick Armstrong 50 2863 38.68 6/ 8

With Herbert Sutcliffe, Hobbs formed an opening combination that remains the most prolific in Test cricket in terms of average opening stands. In 38 innings in which the two opened together, they managed an incredible 15 century stands, including a highest of 283 against Australia in Melbourne, a match England ultimately lost by 81 runs - it remains the third-highest partnership by a pair who ended up on the losing side. Twice the pair recorded century stands in three consecutive innings.

Not only does Hobbs top the list of leading opening pairs, he also comes in second: his 36 opening stands with Wilfred Rhodes were worth 2146 runs, at an average of 61.31.

Among the modern-day pairs, India's Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir have the highest average partnership (with a 2000-run cut-off) - they average 60.06, with seven century stands in 50 innings.

Leading opening pairs in Tests (Qual: 2000 runs)
Pair Innings Runs Average 100/ 50 stands
Hobbs-Sutcliffe 38 3249 87.81 15/ 10
Hobbs - Rhodes 36 2146 61.31 8/ 5
Lawry-Simpson 62 3596 60.94 9/ 18
Gambhir-Sehwag 50 2883 60.06 7/ 16
Hutton-Washbrook 51 2880 60.00 8/ 13
Atherton-Gooch 44 2501 56.84 7/ 12
Gibbs-Smith 56 2983 56.28 7/ 10
Gavaskar-Chauhan 59 3010 53.75 10/ 10
Strauss-Trescothick 52 2670 52.35 8/ 12
Hayden-Langer 113 5655 51.88 14/ 24

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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