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Len Hutton played his last Test match more than 55 years ago, but even today he remains in the top bracket of batsmen who have ever played the game
June 21, 2010
Len Hutton played his last Test match more than 55 years ago, but even today he remains in the top bracket of batsmen who have ever played the game. His career was interrupted by the War and by an injury to his left-arm during commando training in 1941, but Hutton overcame all those roadblocks to finish with glittering numbers: in 79 Tests he scored 6971 runs which, at the time of his retirement, was the third-highest tally in Test cricket. In terms of averages, his mark of 56.67 has stood the test of time: among those who've played at least 50 Tests, only six batsmen have done better. With Wally Hammond, Jack Hobbs, Herbert Sutcliffe and Denis Compton, Hutton was one of the five great England batsmen in the pre-1960 era, all of whom scored more than 4500 at an average in excess of 50.
One of the most outstanding aspects of Hutton's international career was his sheer consistency. In the 13 years that he played Tests, only three times did his annual average slip below 50 (and two of those were his first and last years in international cricket). Through eight years from 1947 to 1954, he finished every year with an average of more than 50, which is a telling commentary of his consistency. (Click here for his career summary.)
Here are some of the other major statistical milestones from his outstanding career:
|Before the War||13||1345||67.25||5/ 3|
|After the War||66||5626||54.62||14/ 30|
Of the 138 innings that Hutton batted in Tests, 120 were at the top of the order, as were all of his 19 hundreds, and 31 out of 33 fifties. His average of 56.47 as opener has stood the test of time as well, with only Herbert Sutcliffe having a higher average, among openers who scored at least 4000 runs.
The start to Hutton's career was pretty disappointing - he scored 0 and 1 in his first Test - but he scored his first hundred in his next match, which put his international career on track. His highest score of 364 came in only his ninth Test innings, and that stage of his career, his three scores of more than 15 had all yielded hundreds. (Click here for his innings-wise scores.) He never got such a high score again, but his consistency improved as his career went along: overall, he scored 20 or more in 90 out his 138 innings, which is pretty high considering the fact that he opened the batting. And when he scored a hundred, he usually went on and made his count: ten of his 19 centuries yielded 150 or more runs.
|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||139||6809||51.97||21/ 25|
|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|
With Cyril Washbrook, Hutton formed one of the most successful combinations in Test history. In 51 innings, the pair put together eight century partnerships, and averaged 60 per dismissal, which remains among the highest even today - only four pairs have a higher average.
Of those eight century stands, three came in successive innings in Australia in 1947, when they added 138 in Melbourne and followed that with 137 and 100 in Adelaide. In Johannesburg the next year, they added a mammoth 359 for the opening wicket, with both batsmen scoring hundreds. It remains the seventh-highest opening stand in Test history, and one of only 12 instances of the first wicket adding 300 or more.
|Pair||Innings||Runs||Average||100/ 50 stands|
|Hobbs - Rhodes||36||2146||61.31||8/ 5|
Apart from his batting skills, Hutton also showed himself to be an astute captain of the national team, despite never having captained his county: he led England to 11 wins in the 23 Tests that he was in charge. He had a relatively easy initiation as captain, leading for the first time at home against India in 1952, but thereafter he had two creditable series wins against Australia, the second one in Australia as England came back from a first-Test setback to win three in a row. Hutton's own batting performance didn't suffer much either from the strains of captaincy, as he averaged more than 52 in those 23 Tests. One of the aspects of his captaincy that came in for much praise was his handling of Frank Tyson: Hutton encouraged the bowler to shorten his run-up, which led to outstanding success in the series against Australia in 1954-55. In eight Tests that Tyson played under Hutton, he took 44 wickets an average of 16.59.
Hutton's win-loss record of 11-4 remains among the best by an England captain, with only two having a better ratio. That's only one of several reasons for which Hutton will be remembered forever by cricket aficionados.
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