June 29, 2012

The fourth-innings story for Pakistan and Younis Khan

A look at how no other Pakistan batsman has managed 1000 fourth-innings runs in Tests

When Younis Khan eased Rangana Herath past mid-off for a single to reach 72 in Pakistan's second innings of the Galle Test, he became the first Pakistan batsman to reach the 1000-run mark in fourth innings of Tests. In terms of overall aggregate, Younis is only fourth on the all-time list of run-getters for Pakistan: he's more than 2300 runs behind Javed Miandad and Inzamam-ul-Haq, and more than 1000 behind Mohammad Yousuf. Yet, in fourth innings he has been more prolific, scoring 1015 runs at an outstanding average of 59.70, and is one of only five batsmen to score four hundreds in the last innings. It's obvious that fourth-innings batting brings out the best in him, but has he also benefited from Pakistan's tendency to leave themselves with a lot to do in the last innings in recent times? How have the stats for fourth-innings batting changed over the decades - has it become easier now, compared to the 1980s and '90s? Here's an attempt to answer some of those questions.

First, a look at fourth-innings averages over the decades: like all batting stats, these numbers too have seen an upward trend since 2000, with the average in the 2000s going up to 29.36 from 25.72 in the 1990s. However, the difference between averages in the first three innings and the fourth has largely stayed within a narrow band since the 1970s. It dropped to 3.04 in the 2000s, a reflection of the fact that batting last became a slightly easier proposition during this period: 20 out of 57 successful 250-plus chases in the fourth innings of Tests came during this period. The average number of innings per century has also stayed in the 40s through most of the last four decades. Also, in no decade has the fourth-innings average touched 30 - the highest it has been is 29.36, in the 2000s. (These averages have been calculated using runs scored off the bat only, excluding extras.)

The percentage of runs scored in the fourth innings is also an interesting stat. The last column in the table below shows that number as a percentage of the runs scored in the first three innings during each decade. In the 1980s, that percentage dropped to 9.28 (because so many drawn Tests didn't even go into a fourth innings?), but generally it has stayed at around 12-13% through most of the decades.

Decade-wise fourth-innings batting stats in Tests since 1950
Decade Innings Average 100s/ 50s 1st 3 inngs ave Ave diff % of runs
1950s 691 25.42 11/ 55 27.61 2.19 10.57
1960s 923 28.84 13/ 107 31.08 2.24 12.48
1970s 1040 27.17 27/ 99 31.31 4.14 13.29
1980s 1040 26.22 21/ 68 30.92 4.70 9.28
1990s 1715 25.72 37/ 163 29.99 4.27 12.51
2000s 2315 29.36 53/ 277 32.40 3.04 13.06
2010s 554 28.67 13/ 62 32.65 3.98 13.74

Since the difference in averages between the first three and the fourth innings have been fairly constant since the 1970s, let's look at the stats for each team between 1970 and 1999 - which was also a period of much success for Pakistan's Test side. The fourth-innings averages for all sides are pretty similar for most teams, with only West Indies and Australia going beyond 26.20; for the others, it ranges between 23.79 and 26.15. The difference is more in the averages in the first three innings - the better batting sides averaged in the early 30s.

Pakistan's batsmen scored most of their runs in the first three innings, with fourth-innings runs at about 10% of the runs they scored in the first three. These stats, combined with their high win-loss ratio during this period - they won 37 Tests and lost 24 - indicates that Pakistan's batsmen did most of their work in the first three innings during this period.

In these 30 years, the only Pakistan batsman who scored more than 500 fourth-innings runs was Miandad - he scored 765 in 20 innings at an average of 51. The next-best run-getter was Moin Khan, with 493. (Click here for the full list of batsmen.) Zaheer Abbas, for instance, scored only 293 fourth-innings runs in his entire career, which is a mere 6% of the runs he scored in the other three innings. His was an extreme case, however: he averaged more than 55 in the first innings, and only 22.53 in the fourth.

Fourth innings batting stats for all teams between 1970 and 1999
Team Innings Average 100s/ 50s 1st 3 inngs ave Ave diff % of runs
Zimbabwe 66 23.79 1/ 7 24.46 0.67 8.89
Sri Lanka 215 26.15 5/ 22 27.49 1.34 12.25
England 691 26.12 12/ 64 28.81 2.69 11.45
New Zealand 491 24.81 9/ 33 27.61 2.80 13.99
West Indies 568 29.07 13/ 62 31.87 2.80 13.16
Australia 676 27.03 19/ 54 32.35 5.32 11.05
India 489 25.72 13/ 40 32.64 6.92 11.37
Pakistan 443 24.98 10/ 32 32.58 7.60 10.38
South Africa 156 24.97 3/ 16 33.03 8.06 9.95

Looking at the same numbers since 2004, however, a few differences emerge, especially with respect to Pakistan. To begin with, their winning percentages have dipped considerably - they have a 23-27 win-loss record during this period, compared to an 18-12 record between 2000 and 2003. Clearly their batting in the early part of matches has dipped, leaving them with plenty of work to do in the fourth innings. As the table below shows, Pakistan's fourth-innings runs as a percentage of their first three amount to 20.15; in the period between 1970 and 1999, it was 10.38, which means the percentage has almost doubled.

Some of that is also because of the times they've fielded first in a Test during this period: in 69 Tests, they've fielded first 44 times, which means their batsmen have had to bat fairly often in the fourth innings. Then there's the matter of their first-innings scores: in the 1970-1999 period, their average in the first three innings was among the top ones, at 32.58. Since 2004, their average has remained more or less the same, at 32.79, but the other sides have improved their numbers significantly, with South Africa, Australia, England and India all averaging more than 36. Thus Pakistan's below-par batting performances early in matches have left them with more to do at the finish. Younis has scored 926 fourth-innings runs in 21 innings during this period alone, while Yousuf and Imran Farhat have also scored more than 400.

Fourth innings batting stats for all teams since 01 Jan 2004
Team Innings Average 100s/ 50s 1st 3 inngs ave Ave diff % of runs
Bangladesh 107 28.46 5/ 12 21.34 -7.12 15.60
Zimbabwe 22 23.30 1/ 3 22.24 -1.06 7.62
New Zealand 181 28.44 3/ 21 29.18 0.34 16.39
Australia 201 36.22 7/ 26 37.09 0.87 10.89
West Indies 275 26.59 5/ 32 28.83 2.24 19.01
South Africa 225 34.60 7/ 38 36.95 2.35 15.96
Sri Lanka 158 30.95 5/ 21 35.41 4.46 10.65
Pakistan 281 26.67 6/ 30 32.79 6.12 20.15
England 276 29.75 7/ 30 36.37 6.62 12.73
India 255 28.93 4/ 33 37.40 8.47 12.84

All these second-innings opportunities, though, have given Younis the chance to hoard fourth-innings runs, and he has done a superb job of it. He has scored 15.58% of his total runs in the fourth innings; for Zaheer, the corresponding percentage was 5.79. Among batsmen who've scored at least 1000 fourth-innings runs, Younis' average is the highest, while he is also among the rare breed of batsmen whose fourth-innings average is better than his average in any other innings, even if marginally. (In second innings, he averages 59.12.) Geoff Boycott is another batsman in this group.

Batsmen with 1000-plus runs at 50-plus averages in the fourth innings in Tests
Batsman Innings Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Younis Khan 25 1015 59.70 4/ 5
Geoff Boycott 34 1234 58.76 3/ 7
Sunil Gavaskar 33 1398 58.25 4/ 8
Graeme Smith 35 1504 57.84 4/ 9
Gordon Greenidge 38 1383 53.19 3/ 6
Ricky Ponting 42 1454 51.92 4/ 6
Mahela Jayawardene 29 1006 50.30 3/ 5

Pakistan's recent tendency to bat in fourth innings also means that Taufeeq Umar and Mohammad Hafeez are among their top seven all-time run-getters in the last innings. Hafeez has scored 503 of his 1668 Test runs in the fourth innings - a staggering 30%. In the all-time run-getters' list for Pakistan, Hafeez is only 32nd, but in the fourth-innings list, he vaults into seventh place. Younis is currently 20th in the all-time fourth-innings runs list, but given Pakistan's tendency to bat last, he should end up much higher in the chart by the time he is done.

Highest run-getters for Pakistan in the fourth innings
Batsman Innings Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Younis Khan 25 1015 59.70 4/ 5
Inzamam-ul-Haq 30 867 39.40 1/ 6
Mohammad Yousuf 25 817 43.00 0/ 6
Javed Miandad 22 816 54.40 2/ 5
Moin Khan 17 514 36.71 1/ 3
Taufeeq Umar 22 511 28.38 0/ 3
Mohammad Hafeez 18 503 38.69 1/ 2

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter

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