December 8, 2010

Younger than the Don, a little older than Tendulkar

Alastair Cook's century in the second Ashes Test in Adelaide made him the second youngest batsman to score 15 Test centuries

When (if?) Sachin Tendulkar eventually retires, Alastair Cook, the choir boy who became a batsman, could be best placed to overtake his world-record tally of Test centuries. The possibility is not as outrageous as it sounds. England play more Tests each year than other countries do. Cook made his debut in 2006 and has 62 caps already. And, at 25 years and 348 days, he has age on his side, so form and fitness permitting, Cook will have plenty of opportunities. He has made outstanding use of his chances in Australia so far this summer, scoring 235 and 148 in the first two Ashes Tests. They were his 14th and 15th hundreds, making him the second youngest batsman - after Sachin Tendulkar, ahead of Don Bradman - to score so many.

Tendulkar isn't the youngest batsman to score a century - he's behind Mohammad Ashraful and Mushtaq Mohammad - but he's the youngest to score five Test hundreds, and ten, and every other multiple of five attained by a human being. Tendulkar's the only teenager to have had five Test centuries. He was 40 days younger than Bradman was when he reached his tenth. He is the only 24-year-old to score 15 tons and the only batsman to have 20 before his 27th birthday. And it's likely to stay that way, until another batsman begins in his teens and combines productivity with longevity like Tendulkar has.

Bradman, of course, needed only seven Tests to score five centuries, but he is not unmatched in that feat - George Headley and Everton Weekes did it too. Bradman and Headley were 21 years old, Weekes 23. All of them are in our table of youngest batsmen to score five Test centuries. Headley finished his Test career on 10 tons, Weekes with 15. Both of them don't appear in the tables of youngest batsmen to score 10 and 15 centuries though, but Bradman does. He made his 10th Test century in his 16th match when he was 23, and his 15th ton in his 28th Test five days before his 26th birthday.

Youngest to score five Test centuries
Player Span Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave 100 50 Match End Age
SR Tendulkar (India) 1989-1993 23 35 3 1382 165 43.18 5 6 Feb 15, 1993 19y 297d
RN Harvey (Aus) 1948-1950 8 12 4 843 178 105.37 5 1 Feb 14, 1950 21y 129d
GA Headley (WI) 1930-1931 7 14 1 860 223 66.15 5 0 Jan 20, 1931 21y 235d
Javed Miandad (Pak) 1976-1979 17 29 8 1592 206 75.80 5 8 Feb 7, 1979 21y 240d
Saleem Malik (Pak) 1982-1984 21 29 5 1126 119* 46.91 5 5 Dec 15, 1984 21y 243d
DG Bradman (Aus) 1928-1930 7 13 1 1196 334 99.66 5 2 Jul 15, 1930 21y 322d
GS Sobers (WI) 1954-1958 21 37 6 1865 365* 60.16 5 6 Dec 17, 1958 22y 142d
AN Cook (Eng) 2006-2007 15 28 2 1207 127 46.42 5 4 May 21, 2007 22y 147d
RJ Shastri (India) 1981-1985 32 49 8 1580 142 38.53 5 6 Jan 5, 1985 22y 223d
RG Pollock (SA) 1963-1967 16 29 2 1510 209 55.92 5 7 Jan 5, 1967 22y 312d
GC Smith (SA) 2002-2003 18 29 1 1639 277 58.53 5 4 Dec 16, 2003 22y 318d
L Hutton (Eng) 1937-1939 13 21 1 1345 364 67.25 5 3 Aug 22, 1939 23y 60d
KD Walters (Aus) 1965-1969 16 26 3 1706 242 74.17 6 9 Feb 20, 1969 23y 61d
DB Vengsarkar (India) 1976-1979 32 52 5 1878 157* 39.95 5 9 Dec 9, 1979 23y 247d
DPMD Jayawardene (SL) 1997-2001 29 47 2 1938 242 43.06 5 9 Mar 11, 2001 23y 288d
MD Crowe (NZ) 1982-1986 30 49 4 1718 188 38.17 5 5 Jul 29, 1986 23y 310d
ED Weekes (WI) 1948-1949 7 10 0 878 194 87.80 5 0 Jan 4, 1949 23y 313d
RR Sarwan (WI) 2000-2004 46 81 6 3134 261* 41.78 5 20 Jun 7, 2004 23y 350d
M Azharuddin (India) 1984-1987 18 27 3 1307 199 54.45 5 4 Feb 16, 1987 24y 8d
JH Kallis (SA) 1995-1999 29 46 5 1682 148* 41.02 5 8 Nov 14, 1999 24y 29d

Cook was sixth youngest to score 10 Test centuries, getting his 10th five days after his 25th birthday, but his five hundreds in 2010 have made him second youngest to 15. He has the opportunity to add more in the Perth Test next week, which ends before he turns 26 on Christmas Day. Cook's unlikely to surpass Tendulkar as the youngest batsman with 20 Test hundreds, though, because he has about six months to score five more hundreds and England don't have any Tests between the Ashes and their home summer in 2011. But it could happen.

Unless he suffers a slump in form, Cook is likely to reach 20 Test hundreds at a younger age than Graeme Smith, Ricky Ponting and Jacques Kallis did. Smith got there just before he turned 29, Ponting and Kallis after they were 29, so Cook has about three years to score five centuries.

Youngest to score 15 Test centuries
Player Span Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave 100 50 Match End Age
SR Tendulkar (India) 1989-1998 59 89 9 4265 179 53.31 15 18 Mar 10, 1998 24y 320d
AN Cook (Eng) 2006-2010 62 111 7 4814 235* 46.28 15 23 Dec 7, 2010 25y 347d
DG Bradman (Aus) 1928-1934 28 42 3 3849 334 98.69 15 6 Aug 22, 1934 25y 360d
RN Harvey (Aus) 1948-1955 39 67 6 3766 205 61.73 15 12 Jun 17, 1955 26y 252d
GC Smith (ICC/SA) 2002-2008 67 118 5 5507 277 48.73 15 22 Jul 14, 2008 27y 164d
JH Kallis (SA) 1995-2004 75 123 20 5486 189* 53.26 15 27 Jan 20, 2004 28y 96d
RT Ponting (Aus) 1995-2003 65 103 13 4423 197 49.14 15 17 Apr 13, 2003 28y 115d
KP Pietersen (Eng) 2005-2008 45 83 3 4039 226 50.48 15 11 Dec 23, 2008 28y 179d
RR Sarwan (WI) 2000-2009 81 142 8 5671 291 42.32 15 31 May 18, 2009 28y 329d
DPMD Jayawardene (SL) 1997-2006 82 134 10 6114 374 49.30 15 29 Jul 31, 2006 29y 65d
SM Gavaskar (India) 1971-1978 40 77 6 3673 220 51.73 15 16 Nov 19, 1978 29y 132d
V Sehwag (ICC/India) 2001-2008 59 100 4 5102 319 53.14 15 14 Aug 3, 2008 29y 288d
GS Sobers (WI) 1954-1966 53 90 10 4611 365* 57.63 15 14 Jun 4, 1966 29y 311d
Younis Khan (Pak) 2000-2007 57 103 7 4736 267 49.33 15 19 Dec 4, 2007 30y 5d
KC Sangakkara (SL) 2000-2007 68 112 9 5741 287 55.73 15 23 Nov 20, 2007 30y 24d
Javed Miandad (Pak) 1976-1987 86 133 18 6251 280* 54.35 15 34 Aug 11, 1987 30y 60d
MD Crowe (NZ) 1982-1992 63 106 10 4591 299 47.82 15 15 Dec 9, 1992 30y 78d
AR Border (Aus) 1978-1985 73 129 23 5485 196 51.74 15 29 Nov 12, 1985 30y 108d
R Dravid (India) 1996-2003 70 120 13 5909 222 55.22 15 29 Oct 12, 2003 30y 274d
MP Vaughan (Eng) 1999-2005 60 107 8 4399 197 44.43 15 12 Aug 15, 2005 30y 290d

The youngest bowler to take five, ten, 15 and 20 five-wicket hauls played his first Test in Karachi, 1989, the same match in which Tendulkar made his debut. How's that for a freakish coincidence. Waqar Younis had five five-fors in 10 Tests soon after his 19th birthday, beating Kapil Dev, who had reached the mark a week before he turned 21. Waqar took his tenth haul in his 19th Test, when he was 20 years old, and was the only 22-year-old with 15 five-fors. He was slow in collecting them after that and took his 20th only when he was 26 years and 114 days old, still ahead of Ian Botham, who was 26 years and 280 days.

Youngest to take 10 Test five-wicket hauls
Player Span Mat Balls Runs Wkts BBI BBM Ave 5 10 Match End Age
Waqar Younis (Pak) 1989-1992 19 3745 1908 93 7/76 12/130 20.51 10 2 Aug 9, 1992 20y 267d
Harbhajan Singh (India) 1998-2002 29 7790 3486 127 8/84 15/217 27.44 10 2 Oct 12, 2002 22y 101d
N Kapil Dev (India) 1978-1982 36 7976 3946 142 7/56 11/146 27.78 10 1 Jan 6, 1982 23y 0d
Saqlain Mushtaq (Pak) 1995-2000 27 7852 3444 115 6/46 10/187 29.94 10 2 May 22, 2000 23y 145d
IT Botham (Eng) 1977-1979 19 4476 1897 100 8/34 11/140 18.97 10 1 Aug 7, 1979 23y 256d
Danish Kaneria (Pak) 2000-2005 26 7347 3605 121 7/77 12/94 29.79 10 2 Mar 28, 2005 24y 102d
GD McKenzie (Aus) 1961-1966 33 9700 4078 143 7/153 10/91 28.51 10 1 Dec 28, 1966 25y 187d
DW Steyn (SA) 2004-2008 29 5650 3400 150 6/49 10/91 22.66 11 3 Dec 30, 2008 25y 186d
M Muralitharan (SL) 1992-1998 35 10169 4323 147 7/94 12/117 29.40 11 1 Jan 11, 1998 25y 269d
DL Vettori (NZ) 1997-2004 57 14160 6251 178 7/87 12/149 35.11 10 2 Oct 29, 2004 25y 276d
T Richardson (Eng) 1893-1896 8 2933 1422 66 7/168 13/244 21.54 10 3 Jul 18, 1896 25y 342d
SP Gupte (India) 1951-1956 18 6170 2124 87 7/128 9/145 24.41 10 0 Jan 11, 1956 26y 31d
Wasim Akram (Pak) 1985-1992 42 9072 3881 159 6/62 11/160 24.40 10 2 Jul 7, 1992 26y 34d
SK Warne (Aus) 1992-1995 39 11704 4316 187 8/71 12/128 23.08 10 3 Nov 13, 1995 26y 61d
SM Pollock (SA) 1995-1999 34 7532 2974 140 7/87 9/103 21.24 10 0 Nov 1, 1999 26y 108d
MD Marshall (WI) 1978-1984 34 7309 3438 156 7/53 10/107 22.03 11 1 Dec 11, 1984 26y 237d
DL Underwood (Eng) 1966-1972 26 7090 2158 114 7/32 12/97 18.92 10 4 Jul 29, 1972 27y 51d
A Kumble (India) 1990-1998 45 13593 5437 190 7/59 11/128 28.61 10 1 Mar 21, 1998 27y 155d
GF Lawson (Aus) 1980-1985 31 7156 3690 134 8/112 11/134 27.53 10 2 Jul 16, 1985 27y 221d
DK Lillee (Aus) 1971-1977 31 8400 3852 160 6/66 11/123 24.07 10 3 Mar 1, 1977 27y 226d

Tendulkar is also the youngest player to play 50 Tests (at 23), 100 Tests (29) and 150 Tests (35). This is no surprise. Some of the names below him are, though. For instance, Ramnaresh Sarwan played his 50th Test when he was 24 years and 59 days old, second to only Tendulkar. Sarwan made his debut at the age of 20 and his arrival coincided with a period of prolific Test activity for West Indies. He played seven matches in 2000, followed by 10, 12, 9 and 12 in the next four years.

Mark Boucher's the second youngest to play 100 Tests. He played his 100th when he was 30 years and 43 days old. Kallis was about 142 days older when he picked up his 100th Test cap.

Youngest to play 50 Test matches
Player Span Mat Runs HS Bat Av 100 Wkts BBI Bowl Av 5 Match End Age
SR Tendulkar (India) 1989-1997 50 3438 179 49.82 11 4 2/10 61.75 0 Mar 18, 1997 23y 328d
RR Sarwan (WI) 2000-2004 50 3401 261* 40.97 6 20 4/37 39.65 0 Aug 21, 2004 24y 59d
N Kapil Dev (India) 1978-1983 50 2129 126* 32.25 3 200 8/85 29.33 15 Mar 16, 1983 24y 69d
RJ Shastri (India) 1981-1987 50 2307 142 36.61 6 111 5/75 39.71 2 Feb 8, 1987 24y 257d
DL Vettori (NZ) 1997-2003 50 1249 137* 20.47 1 150 7/87 35.78 7 Dec 30, 2003 24y 337d
AN Cook (Eng) 2006-2009 50 3654 160 42.98 10 0 - - 0 Dec 30, 2009 25y 5d
Mohammad Ashraful (Ban) 2001-2009 50 2149 158* 23.10 5 19 2/42 58.63 0 Jul 20, 2009 25y 13d
AB de Villiers (SA) 2004-2009 50 3308 217* 42.41 8 2 2/49 49.50 0 Mar 2, 2009 25y 13d
MV Boucher (SA) 1997-2002 50 1761 125 28.86 3 0 - - 0 Feb 24, 2002 25y 83d
Harbhajan Singh (India) 1998-2005 50 841 66 15.29 0 219 8/84 27.87 17 Dec 22, 2005 25y 172d
Saleem Malik (Pak) 1982-1988 50 2234 119* 37.86 6 5 1/3 19.80 0 Oct 11, 1988 25y 178d
JH Kallis (SA) 1995-2001 50 2952 160 41.00 7 94 6/67 27.44 2 Apr 23, 2001 25y 189d
Javed Miandad (Pak) 1976-1983 50 3860 280* 57.61 10 17 3/74 36.64 0 Jan 19, 1983 25y 221d
CH Gayle (WI) 2000-2005 50 3364 317 40.04 7 31 5/34 37.51 1 May 3, 2005 25y 224d
GC Smith (ICC/SA) 2002-2006 50 3969 277 47.81 11 8 2/145 93.75 0 Dec 30, 2006 25y 332d
DPMD Jayawardene (SL) 1997-2003 50 3501 242 47.95 9 4 2/32 53.50 0 Jun 24, 2003 26y 28d
DB Vengsarkar (India) 1976-1982 50 2847 157* 39.00 6 0 - - 0 Jun 28, 1982 26y 83d
Waqar Younis (Pak) 1989-1998 50 538 45 9.96 0 244 7/76 22.06 19 Mar 2, 1998 26y 106d
DI Gower (Eng) 1978-1983 50 3374 200* 42.17 5 1 1/1 2.00 0 Jul 18, 1983 26y 108d
IT Botham (Eng) 1977-1982 50 2625 149* 36.45 10 229 8/34 22.89 19 Jun 28, 1982 26y 216d

If there's a particular List you would like to see, email us with your comments and suggestions.

Travis Basevi is a cricket statistician and UK Senior Programmer for Cricinfo and other ESPN sports websites. George Binoy is an Assistant Editor at ESPNcricinfo

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