Stats analysis: Barry Richards

Much more than the numbers

Barry Richards hardly got any opportunities to show his talent on the international stage, but he still managed to prove how great a batsman he was

S Rajesh

November 8, 2010

Comments: 17 | Text size: A | A

Barry Richards bats during the Courage Challenge cup, The Oval, London, September 1979
Barry Richards is one of only three South African batsmen to finish his Test career with a century Adrian Murrell / © Getty Images
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The biggest compliment to Barry Richards, in the context of the Legends of Cricket series, is the fact that he finds a place in this elite list despite having played a mere four Test matches. In those four Tests - all in a home series against Australia - Richards gave more than a glimpse of just what international world cricket was missing, but his reputation as one of the very best batsmen to ever play the game was built mostly on his exploits in first-class matches - where he played mainly for Hampshire, Natal and South Australia - and, of course, in Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket. Richards finished with a first-class tally of 28,358 runs, 80 centuries and an average of 54.74, but even these numbers don't do full justice to the sort of batsman he was. Here's a sample of some of his first-class achievements:

  • Between 1968 and 1976, when Richards played in the English county championship for Hampshire, his average in the competition was in the top 20 in each season. During this period he scored 15,607 first-class runs for the county at an average of 50.51.

  • Three times he carried his bat through a completed innings in first-class cricket, including an instance for Hampshire against Nottinghamshire in 1974, when he scored an unbeaten 225 out of a team total of only 344.

  • His highest first-class score of 356 came in 1970-71 for South Australia against Western Australia, a team whose bowling attack included Dennis Lillee, Graham McKenzie and Tony Lock. Of the 356, 325 came in one day, off a mere 322 balls, as Richards slammed 44 fours and a six. Only five players had scored more than 325 in a day in first-class cricket anywhere in the world, and Richards became the third batsman to score 300 in a day in Australian first-class history.

  • Nine times he scored a century before lunch; five of those were made on the first day of the match.

  • During his time with Natal, he scored four centuries in a season four times.

And then, of course, there were Richards' classy performances in World Series Cricket. His knocks in first-class cricket had made him a much sought-after name, and the deal was clinched when he went to Perth to play league cricket for Midland-Guildford in the 1976-77 season. As he confirmed later, money wasn't the main reason he signed on the dotted line: "The money was only incidental to a last opportunity to play in the company of world-class cricketers again."

In the first of the three Supertests he played that season for WSC World XI, in Sydney, Richards got starts in both innings but couldn't convert them into huge scores, scoring 57 and 48. Then came a truly magnificent display in the second match, which justified all the hype. Opening the innings with his Hampshire team-mate Gordon Greenidge, Richards scored a wonderful 207, adding 234 for the opening wicket before Greenidge was forced to retire hurt. That brought the other great Richards, Viv, to the wicket, and for the next few hours the Australian bowlers didn't know what hit them. Viv was generally a more destructive batsman, but on this day Barry outshone him, scoring 93 in the next 90 minutes, even as Viv made only 41. When Barry finally fell, the scoreboard read 369 for 1 in 60 eight-ball overs.

In the next Supertest, Barry made a half-century in the first innings but fell for a duck in the second as WSC World XI, chasing 272 for victory, fell 41 runs short. He finished the three matches with an aggregate of 388 runs in five innings, second only to Viv's 502. (Click here for more details.)

In the next season there was another Richards special, this time in the final of the World Series Supertests: in a tense, low-scoring game, where neither team had scored more than 219, WSC World XI needed to score 224 in the fourth innings. Richards stamped his presence on the chase with an outstanding unbeaten 101; the next-highest score from one of his team-mates in either innings was 44. At 84 for 4 the Australians had a slight edge, but Richards took on Dennis Lillee and Gary Gilmour and ultimately led his team to a five-wicket win.

Overall Barry Richards played only five Supertests, but he clearly left his mark - in eight innings he scored two hundreds and two fifties and averaged almost 80, which was easily the highest. Since he wasn't from Australia or West Indies he didn't play as many matches as the others, but that's hardly his fault.

Performance of top batsmen in World Series Cricket
Batsman Team Matches Innings Runs 100 50 Average
Barry Richards World XI 5 8 554 2 2 79.14
Vivian Richards West Indies and World XI 14 25 1281 4 4 55.69
Greg Chappell Australia 14 26 1415 5 4 56.60
David Hookes Australia 12 22 769 1 7 38.45
Clive Lloyd West Indies and World XI 13 21 683 1 3 37.94
Gordon Greenidge West Indies and World XI 13 23 754 1 4 35.90
Ian Chappell Australia 14 27 893 1 5 35.72

However, in the one-dayers, called the International Cup ODIs, Richards wasn't as successful, averaging less than 24 and scoring only two half-centuries in 19 innings. As the table below shows, though, most of the other top players didn't do much better either.

How the major batsmen fared in the International Cup ODIs
Batsman Matches Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Gordon Greenidge 24 694 36.53 0/ 6
Greg Chappell 24 705 30.65 0/ 3
Ian Chappell 21 456 25.33 0/ 2
Clive Lloyd 24 423 24.88 0/ 3
Barry Richards 19 455 23.95 0/ 2
Viv Richards 25 472 23.60 0/ 4
Zaheer Abbas 14 266 20.46 0/ 1

And then, of course, there was the small matter of his Test record. Richards got only seven innings to prove his class in Test cricket, but he did a pretty good job of utilising those chances. His opponents in all those four Tests were Australia, who came into the series having won their two previous ones, against West Indies at home and India in India. In South Africa, though, they were no match for the home team, and Richards did his bit to vanquish the visitors. Against a bowling attack that included Garth McKenzie, Alan Connolly and John Gleeson, Richards scored 508 runs at an average of 72.57. Only Graeme Pollock made more runs - he topped the averages with 517 runs at 73.85.

Richards scored only 29 in his first Test innings, in Cape Town, but that was to be his lowest score, as he went from strength to strength in his next three matches. His best innings of the series came in the next Test, in Durban, when he scored an outstanding 140 off a mere 164 balls, completely dominating the Australians. Just how unstoppable he was is apparent from the fact that out of a lunchtime score of 126 for 2 on the first day, Richards' contribution was an unbeaten 94. Six more runs would have made him the fourth batsman at the time, and the fifth overall, to score a century before lunch on the first day of a Test. After lunch the South African fans were treated to some of the best strokeplay seen in the country: Richards and Pollock creamed 103 runs in the hour after the break, before Richards fell for 140. Pollock went on to score 274, and the Australians were crushed by an innings and 129 runs.

In the next Test, Richards scored 65 and 35, before finishing off the series with knocks of 81 and 126; South Africa swept both Tests by more than 300 runs. That series could have kickstarted a phenomenal Test career. Unfortunately for cricket, South Africa's isolation meant Richards joined a select band of players to have scored a century in their last Test match.

Bibliography
ESPN Legends of Cricket, Geoff Armstrong

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo

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Posted by BellCurve on (November 11, 2010, 10:08 GMT)

@ pom-basher - You shouldn't confuse the Ranji trophy with the Sheffiled Shield, the Currie Cup, or County cricket; particularly not in the 1970s.

Posted by pom_basher on (November 10, 2010, 12:30 GMT)

"in the top 20 in each season", "Three times he carried his bat through ", "His highest first-class score of 356 ", "four centuries in a season four times"..... Classic... I bet WV Raman or Debang Gandhi or SS Sugwekar would come up with stats better than this.

Posted by sundarb on (November 10, 2010, 5:03 GMT)

@Ranjan Mishra: face the facts. The so-called "packer circus" as you refer to, attracted the best talent there was in world cricket at that time (top players from the best cricketing nations), was the highest quality of cricket ever played (even the successfully established players like viv richards and greg chappell say so). Barry excelled against them. First-class cricket was no ordinary at that time when all the overseas players (holding, marshall, lilee, thompson) contributed to the competitiveness at that level and Barry was great there too. @all the nay-sayers: if you're going to hinge on the fact that he played only 4 international tests so he can't be included in World XI, nothing that anyone says can convince you. However if you face the facts, believe in what you hear from the very best cricketers, attest to the Don himself who included Barry in his all-time XI, you won't question the experts judgment.

Posted by waspsting on (November 10, 2010, 3:05 GMT)

@Pommypete45 - Richards failed in those england-ROW matches you mentioned (which i hold against him just as little as i hold for him his success in his four official tests) @Xolile - I think a lot of the posters here are younger guys, who tend to state too strongly their reactions (e.g - "Tendulkar is God", or "Lara was rubbish against fast bowlers" etc. etc.)

I never saw Barry Richards play, do not consider his achievements in 1st class lightly or the opinions of those who saw him bat. BUT to call him a "Legend" is a bit much, IMO. Some guys are pushing the envelope with comparisons with Hussey, Ramprakash and Hick, but Vijay Merchent is a fair target. If Richards is a legend, so is Merchent.... no one will call him one though

Posted by BellCurve on (November 9, 2010, 15:36 GMT)

@ All the negative comments: In 1970 SA was the No. 1 ranked side in the world by a considerable distance. In the side Graeme Pollock and Barry Richards were regarded as the best batsmen. Overall, the side was considered more of a batting side than a bowling side. Today India is the No. 1 ranked side in the world by some distance. In the side Tendulkar and Sehwag are regarded as the best batsmen. Overall, the Indian side is considered more of a batting side than a bowling side. Do you see the similarities between SA 1970 and India 2010? Anyway, I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions and decide whether your negativity towards Barry Richards is justified.

Posted by PommyPete45 on (November 9, 2010, 11:05 GMT)

It may be true that Barry Richards played only four test matches, but he also played for a very strong and representative Rest of the World team in most of the 5 all-but-test matches they played against the full England test team during the summer of 1970.

Posted by Nipun on (November 9, 2010, 7:37 GMT)

Everyone scores runs in county cricket.Period.So,4 test matches,that too against a weak Australian team at that time,& a legend of cricket?Wow,cricinfo made my day with this nice joke :) Keep putting in such jokes please;after all,good jokes are so rare to find nowadays :)

Posted by Saad_Parekh on (November 9, 2010, 6:19 GMT)

Utter nonsense. Agree with all the negative comments

Posted by   on (November 8, 2010, 20:41 GMT)

Nonsense, utter and total nonsense. Now people want us to believe that a player who played 4 test match and 5 packer circus so called super test is a legend because they say so!!!! I have to say it has left a very bad taste in my mouth and I am very angry on the behalf of fans of other legends. It is outrageous that other player has to play many more test and perform consistently in all condition against all odds for 5 to 10 years or even longer and has actually done pretty well are just dismissed as very good players ( to name few Vishawanath, Miandad, Martin Crow, David Gower, Ricky ponting or kumar sagarkara while some are considered legends because few so called experts say so. May be Barry Richards was good at domestic circuit ( however he average 54). international test arena are altogether different and there where you have to prove your mettle to be consider great or legend.

Posted by pranksters on (November 8, 2010, 20:26 GMT)

@ mr monty first of all you cannot compare ajay sharma & b.richards at all ajay sharma dint knew what had to be done whilst playing against england tour of india in 1993 ( i remember once he was fooled while he was trying to sneak a run when chris lewis appealed for lbw & ran him out) barry richards wasnt a player whose form was only for the 4 tests he played no one can score 28000 runs & first of all to last so many years without playing int cricket is a big big thing u need an excellent temprament 7 real love for the sport 80 centuries - aint a joke graeme hick was once with ricky ponting were described as the future stars graeme hick was bit disaapointing but still he was too good i heard county bowlers sighed relief when he retired barry richards would have made life difficult for batsmens from last decade who went on to achieve all sorts of records & are still acheiving them as he himself would have piled on hell lot of runs if......................

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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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