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ESPNcricinfo's stats editor S Rajesh looks at the stories behind the stats

Australia's gaping hole at No. 3

Over the last three years, Australia's No. 3 batsmen have averaged 27.13 in Tests, which is worse than all teams except New Zealand and Zimbabwe

S Rajesh

March 8, 2013

Comments: 63 | Text size: A | A

Shaun Marsh is cleaned up, Australia v India, 1st Test, Melbourne, 3rd day, December 28, 2011
Shaun Marsh looked like he might fill Ricky Ponting's boots, until he suffered a severe case of the batting yips against India © Getty Images
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During the days of Ricky Ponting in his pomp, the fall of the first Australian wicket would be a moment of high alert for the opposition team, for the next man walking in would be the best of the Australian line-up, and arguably the best of any line-up during that period. More often than not, the one-hour passage of play immediately after his arrival would be one in which Australia would regain control after an early wicket, or consolidate the gains of a productive first-wicket partnership.

Fast forward to the present, and the fall of the first Australian wicket is now a signal for the No. 4 batsman to be on guard, for the second wicket usually follows the first pretty quickly. Phil Hughes' recent struggles in India - 25 runs in four innings, three of them at No. 3 - only brings further attention to a batting position that used to be an undoubted strength for Australia not so long ago but is now their biggest liability in their top-order batting line-up.

Over the last three years, beginning March 2010, Australia's No. 3 has been among the weakest of all sides in Test cricket - even Bangladesh have done significantly better at that position during this period, a stat which won't please a country that has historically produced some of the best batsmen who've ever batted at that position in Test cricket: over the history of Test cricket, West Indies and Australia are the only two sides whose collective No. 3 batting average is more than 45.

In these three years, though, that average has slipped alarmingly to 27.13 over 60 Test innings, which is lower than all other teams except New Zealand and Zimbabwe. Bangladesh have done 20% better, averaging 32.59. Australia's average second-wicket partnership during this period is 26.67, worse than all other teams except Zimbabwe.

Australia's problems at this position began when Ponting was still around. Between March 2010 and November 2011, he batted 22 times at that slot and averaged a mere 26.28, with a highest of 77. It wasn't good enough by any standards, let alone his own lofty ones, and the logical step was for him to make way for a player who initially looked tailor-made for that position. Shaun Marsh scored plenty from that position in Sri Lanka, but then suffered a severe case of the batting yips in the home series against India, making a pedestrian attack look ultra-threatening, as he gathered 17 runs from six completed innings. (His average of 2.83 remains the lowest in a series for an Australian top-four batsman who's played at least four innings.)

Since Marsh's debacle, Shane Watson and Phil Hughes have done the bulk of the batting at No. 3, without doing justice to the slot. A couple of stats indicate further how steep the fall has been: in 60 innings at this position, there has been only one century - Marsh's 141 against Sri Lanka in Pallekele. On the other hand, there have been ten ducks in these 60 innings, with Ponting and Marsh each contributing three. Twenty-two times the No. 3 batsman has got out for a single-digit score, and a further 15 times for less than 25. All these failures have put additional pressure on the rest of the Australian batsmen, and offered early encouragement to the opposition bowlers, in contrast to how it was during Ponting's pomp, when opposition bowlers were usually deflated early in the innings, and the rest of the Australian batting order benefited.

Team-wise stats for No. 3 batsmen in Tests since March 2010
Team Players Tests Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s Ducks
Sri Lanka 5 28 2659 59.08 49.71 9/ 11 5
South Africa 4 27 2523 58.67 59.51 9/ 11 2
England 5 35 2844 53.66 50.94 8/ 12 2
India 4 33 2649 49.05 45.45 9/ 8 0
Pakistan 5 27 1967 40.97 40.02 4/ 13 5
West Indies 8 26 1606 37.34 44.58 3/ 11 3
Bangladesh 2 11 717 32.59 48.18 1/ 5 2
Australia 7 33 1574 27.13 46.66 1/ 11 10
New Zealand 11 22 1078 26.29 41.94 1/ 7 4
Zimbabwe 2 4 193 24.12 36.21 1/ 0 0
Australia's No. 3 batsmen in Tests in the last 3 years (Qual: > 2 Tests)
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s Ducks
Ricky Ponting 12 552 26.28 0/ 5 3
Shaun Marsh 7 301 30.10 1/ 1 3
Phil Hughes 5 258 32.25 0/ 2 1
Shane Watson 4 228 28.50 0/ 2 1
Usman Khawaja 4 203 29.00 0/ 1 0

The fall in standards over the last three years becomes even starker when compared with the numbers for the two previous three-year periods. In the period between March 2007 and February 2010, Australia's No. 3 batsmen averaged 45.70, which was the third-best in the world, after Sri Lanka (64.23, aided by the ever-consistent Kumar Sangakkara) and South Africa (58.13, thanks largely to Hashim Amla). During that period Ponting wasn't at his best, but his stats were still very acceptable - six centuries in 56 innings at No. 3, and an average of 46.09.

In the previous three-year period, from March 2004 to February 2007, Australia's No. 3 stats were far and away the best of the lot - they averaged 68.23, with the next-best being Sri Lanka's 55.66. Of the 72 innings for the team at one-drop, Ponting played the role 60 times, scored 13 hundreds, and averaged 68.16. The team that struggled during that period was South Africa, who averaged 34.11 - Amla hadn't yet made his mark, and the others who occupied that slot had limited success.

Combining the stats over the entire six-year period from March 2004 to February 2010, Australia's No. 3 batsmen scored 21 hundreds in 129 innings, and averaged 57.46, next only to Sri Lanka's 59.37. Nineteen of those 21 hundreds belonged to Ponting. The other noteworthy stat is that there were only seven ducks in those 129 innings, compared to ten in 60 innings since March 2010.

In fact, working backwards from February 2010, ten ducks by Australia's No. 3 batsmen spanned 12 years, and 221 Test innings. The current lot has achieved the mark in only 60 innings.

Team-wise stats for No. 3 batsmen in Tests in the two previous three-year periods
Team 2007-2010* - Tests Average 100s/50s/0s 2004-2007^ - Tests Average 100s/50s/0s
Sri Lanka 25 64.23 8/11/1 31 55.66 8/11/2
South Africa 30 58.13 8/13/3 35 34.11 3/14/7
Australia 32 45.70 6/15/4 39 68.23 15/15/3
India 34 44.69 7/13/2 32 50.68 6/13/4
Pakistan 16 44.24 3/5/3 31 49.34 7/9/5
West Indies 26 40.32 6/6/2 31 46.34 8/6/8
England 38 31.92 6/5/4 41 40.39 5/19/5
New Zealand 25 29.88 0/10/5 25 48.64 5/7/4
Bangladesh 20 21.43 0/5/3 16 30.31 1/7/0
Zimbabwe - - - 10 9.95 0/1/3
* Refers to the period between March 2007 and February 2010
^ refers to the period between March 2004 and Feb 2007

Australia's No. 3 is their weakest batting position in the last three years (though the No. 4 batsmen haven't done a whole lot better). Their overall top seven average of 38.96 owes much to Michael Clarke, who has been by far the best of the lot, averaging 57.10 when none of the others, barring Michael Hussey, have played a significant number of matches and averaged over 45. That Australia have had more Test centuries from their No. 7 batsmen than their No. 3s in the last three years is another unusual stat, and one that says much about the failures at one-down. Over the last three years, Australia's Nos. 3 and 4 have been problem areas, and unless they fix these holes at the top of the order, there could be more problems down the road, especially with the Ashes coming up later this year.

Australia's averages by batting position in Tests since March 2010
Position Innings Runs Average 100s/ 50s Ducks
Openers 122 4284 36.61 7/ 26 6
No.3 60 1574 27.13 1/ 11 10
No.4 58 1785 31.31 2/ 12 3
No.5 58 3592 66.51 13/ 9 4
No.6 58 2080 40.00 8/ 6 6
No.7 57 1649 35.84 2/ 12 3
Overall top 7 413 14,964 38.96 33/ 76 32

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

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Posted by zenboomerang on (March 11, 2013, 3:15 GMT)

Gaping hole at no.3 ?... More likely a poorly selected no.1-4... Cowan needs a right-hander to open with him (helps upset bowlers rhythm), Warner moves to no.3, Clarke no.4 - Watto's very poor average since being VC doesn't make him an opener (not even top 6)... That probably leaves Rogers or Cosgrove as leading candidates - no one else is standing out this season atm...

@Khawaja_troll... Even the great Ponting started his Test career at the bottom of the middle order... Hussey spent most of his FC career as an Opener but he batted no.5-6 for Oz...

Posted by Paul_Rampley on (March 9, 2013, 23:09 GMT)

@Bertjie agree completely with you bud, Khawaja would be my number 3 as well and just needs a similar trod at it similar to what the other blokes before have got. I still think we can come back in this series, it wont' be easy but one thing we Aussies don't do is give up so expect a fightback.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (March 9, 2013, 21:50 GMT)

@HowdyRowdy "Clarke's inability to move up to this spot has really hurt." :

Spot on 100%.

Clarke's refusal to take responsibility for the chaos that is the Australian batting orders' top 4 is one of the most controversial episodes in modern aussie cricket, as it has harmed the development of the team. Every position in the four places above him has been unstable for a longg time, and occupied by players who do not possess the skill levels required to take on the top 4 or 5 countries in the world. Time and again, like the whitewash and Ashes defeats to England, losing against South Africa and now in India, Clarke cannot take the risk and move up. Put simply, this is decision making unbecoming from a captain.

Posted by Beertjie on (March 9, 2013, 21:05 GMT)

I too would favour Khawaja at 3 but with so many "openers" and so few middle order batters it's perhaps worthwhile considering Warner there. He's hit and miss but averages over 40. By having him there Clarke at 4 and Khawaja at 5 you have a good mix provided you have decent openers. Cowan and Hughes are worth considering, but for me Rogers and Watson would be better for England. To get stability though keep 3 thru 5 as I suggested since over the next 3 years they'll be the backbone of the team.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (March 9, 2013, 20:52 GMT)

No wonder Australia have a gaping hole at no.3, they're currently one of the worst sides in international cricket.

Posted by Soso_killer on (March 9, 2013, 17:27 GMT)

@Master_mihil when did i suggest that Sangakara cant play spin or pace? Lets be honest here, he handeles spin better than pace. He averages 35 and 30 in South Africa and England which are two of the toughest conditions to bat in, yes tougher than Australia. So he does have a weakness against a swinging ball. In that sense Amla is a complete batsman to Sangakara you cant tell me a guy averaging averaging 40 away from home is better than a guy averaging 56. Sangakara's overall average has been increased by the dust bowls of the subcontinent.

What is it about Amla and India? Amla was born in South Africa and both his parents were, also. You can click on his profile if you want.

Posted by   on (March 9, 2013, 17:05 GMT)

noticed one common factor in the article, Kumar Sangakkara has been by far the most prolific batsman in the world since 2004. Averages over 70 as a pure batsman. a Legend. Kallis and Dravid should have gotten a mention in this article as well as they have been magnificent no 03 batsman for SA and India

Posted by aruntheselector on (March 9, 2013, 14:52 GMT)

Just shows how important that position is for any team and what was the impact of Punter.However greats are not produced that often and not easy to fill the shoes of the Punter leave alone Australian cricket but World cricket.Also the stats show that only those teams have been consistent where the No.3 was the best batsman in the team and among all time greats.No wonder Sri Lanka is at the top as it has been Sangakkara's position for almost a decade and once he goes,it is going to be bad days for Sri Lanka.For South Africa that position was occupied by Kallis for long and now its Amla who is also heading towards greatness.India was lucky to have rahul Dravid with VVS Laxman taking the position on a few occassion.India is as of now lucky that Pujara has not made the position felt void post Dravid's retirement.But once needs to see how he would perform overseas and will he be consistent for a decade.With a good start and his approach to the game,it looks like Pujara is here to stay.

Posted by HatsforBats on (March 9, 2013, 14:12 GMT)

For all the doom & gloom statistics, prior to this poorly scheduled and under-prepared-for series, Australia have lost just 4 of their last 21 test matches. In the last 12 months they had the most productive opening partnership, the captain averaging near 70, a wk scoring 2 centuries, and some of the most promising young pace stocks I've seen in years. They are (rightfully) ranked 3rd. Just imagine if they manage to fix the leaks. Even without the bizarre selectorial events and administrative bungling then I imagine Aus would still be ranked 3rd behind SA and England.

Posted by hycIass on (March 9, 2013, 12:18 GMT)

@Nitin I am a fan of Hughes but not at 3, he is a opening batsman. Hughes is THE pin-up boy for not letting statistics rule your selections. I think you said it yourself that Mark Waugh's career on paper belies his effectiveness. We need him to be a long term prospect for Australia, I agree, but not at 3. Khawaja is the best option for number 3, he has batted there for the last few years in shield and has the game to play both pace and spin . Hughes has a severely restricted arsenal of shots, and from 22 test matches has very much underperformed except for his first dig in South Africa though saying that i wouldn't mind seeeing him get a go at opener as that's where he has played all of his cricket.

Posted by   on (March 9, 2013, 12:15 GMT)

Clarke has said he will move up the order, which I believe is well overdue, the best 2 batsmen must bat 3 and 4, Clarke to me would be a better 4 than 3, but with no obvious choice for number 3, he may well have to go there to stop the rot, I am a huge fan of Watson opening the batting as long as he doesnt get a huge work load with the ball, My top order with the current players would be Watson, Warner, Clarke, Hughes.... I think Hughes would benefit greatly if he walked out to bat and his good mate and one of the best batsmen in the world was in the middle and set already

Posted by Markdal on (March 9, 2013, 11:12 GMT)

Dunno about number 3, but I reckon that Australia might be better served if they had Watson and Cowan opening, and Warner at 4. That would allow Watson to bat in his favoured position, and get Warner away from the moving ball and play his natural game. Perhaps Burns at 3, or Khawaja, and let Warner open in ODI (and T20), as they did with Mark Waugh.

Posted by Sunil_Batra on (March 9, 2013, 10:37 GMT)

@PaulAnderson Khawaja is the best option for number 3 but i think he will be happy to bat where he gets a shot, and i hope he can get a spot anywhere in the top 6 as he can bat at any spot. Yes of course he got the nuber 3 spot he would do very well. The current squad give or take a few is more or less the best we've got. They have been playing cricket since they were kids and at a first class standard since young men. They've played the game in a wealthy country with a long history of champions, experience and success. Everything is at their disposal to succeed and yet they are increasingly falling short. Their skills and techniques should be ingrained, embedded and second nature at this level. When we were champions these blokes were playing cricket at various levels so why wasn't this knowledge of excellence passed down the line? I suspect it was. We are at a stage where for the most part the talent doesn't compare to previous generations and as a nation we demand winners because w

Posted by amit.agarwal on (March 9, 2013, 10:35 GMT)

"During the days of Ricky Ponting in his pomp, the fall of the first Australian wicket would be a moment of high alert for the opposition team, for the next man walking in would be the best of the Australian line-up, and arguably the best of any line-up during that period".... Oh, strange is the fact that You seem to have ignored Rahul Dravid (my best) and Kallis. Stranger is that these two legends even need such a testimonial from Me.

Posted by KhanMitch on (March 9, 2013, 10:10 GMT)

@JosesphLangford great summary on Khawaja mate, your analysis shows just how unlucky he has been when he was dropped, he showed great potential in his limited tima and i am sure he will fullfill that potential when given his next chance which could be for the next test, i have no doubt also that he is our best number 3 if he is given half the chances the other number 3s(Hughes, Marsh) have been given. We're all feeling sad because we are being flogged. But I see it as a new beginning and as necessary. Its a steep learning curve for a bunch of young cricketers who have been nurtured on pace doctored Oz pitches and who have never experienced class spin bowling on spin friendly wickets. We're more upset because the whole team, except for Clarke, Henriques and Pattinson, have looked pretty ordinary, and even they have been troubled. But with the right changes we will bounce back for the next test.

Posted by   on (March 9, 2013, 8:05 GMT)

this decades going to be belong to Pujara... Looking forward for his stats in the five years on top of this list....

Posted by Master_Mihil on (March 9, 2013, 7:18 GMT)

@Soso_killer- I'd agree with you if it was not based on a false premise. Firstly you can't compare Amla and Sangakkara. They are unique batsmen with their own style. Which makes both of them great players. And you say amla can play both spin and pace and suggest in hindsight sanga can't. Ponting himself said sanga's 192 at hobart was one of the best innings he has seen a visiting player perform in Australia. And it was against a champion Aussie side. And in simple math Sanga has better test average than amla. Just check amla's cricinfo profile. And you say Amla is a complete player, and i double dare you? Sanga ISN'T? A wicketkeeper, a Batsmen, member of a twice worldcup runners-up team and captaining at one of those occasions. You haven't hurt my feelings. Because you are entitled to your own opinion. And in NOWHERE i suggested Amla is NOT a great player. But ironically he's south african player with INDIAN origin.. Lol!

Posted by   on (March 9, 2013, 6:06 GMT)

There was a time where established batmen were moved to 3 and the debutant came in at 5 or 6. Time for Michael Clarke to step up, something I have been saying for years.

Posted by Nightwing32 on (March 9, 2013, 5:52 GMT)

I think people look at Stats too often as well. Hughes is a very good player but he hasn't had the greatest of tour in India, I feel it was more prep. They should have sent him to India earlier instead of playing the ODIs but many players don't start out strong like Martyn, Hayden, Langer but eventually in time as I see Hughes are someone who will work is but off. Anyway Khawaja isn't that great against spin but he will be awesome in England as the No.6 or 5 depends on Clarke.

I think we have to wait a little for players like Hughes, Marsh, Warner, Khawaja, Wade and Lyon in the bowling to take their time, they are young. They don't have the main asset like Hussey and Ponting had which was experience.

Posted by   on (March 9, 2013, 5:48 GMT)

we're hopeless right now like a cat on a hot tin roof

we don't have anyone that can average 45. whereas eng, south africa, and india have superb batting talent in their current teams . south africa will also lose kallis but most of their other batters are aorund 30. india will lose tendulkar, but he's not needed when guys like puj slot in and score double tons.

Posted by   on (March 9, 2013, 5:38 GMT)

I am very impressed with Mr. Rajesh's research and all the statistcal analysis.A well researched article with a lot of hard work going into it.Very well done and thank you.

Posted by Ajronald on (March 9, 2013, 5:15 GMT)

I have no idea how you guys come off with the cut-off dates. Is this because that these stats are aimed at showing the Aussies at poor light or is it because Aussies had done better before March 2013? I wish cricinfo uses standard cut-off dates like "end of season", "end of world cup" and similar ...

Posted by HowdyRowdy on (March 9, 2013, 3:38 GMT)

Great article highlighting the huge gap at no. 3 for Australia.

Whatever the reason, Clarke's inability to move up to this spot has really hurt. Traditionally, Australia has had its best batsman at 3 (think Bradman, the Chappells, Ponting), with the ability to put enormous pressure on the bowlers. However, it does seem that Clarke will not be at 3.

Forget about Hughes as a potential solution. He is now averaging low 30s after 22 Tests, putting him in Marcus North territory, except that North's average was a bit better. Hughes' technical and mental fragility has again been exposed.

As for possible fixes - I reckon that Warner might be worth a try at 3, with e.g. Cowan and Watson opening.

Posted by mikey76 on (March 9, 2013, 2:41 GMT)

To be fair Australia have gaping holes at number 2,4,6 and 7 too. You're not going to win many test matches with a top order that averages in the low to mid thirties. If Clarke hits a bad run of form which lets face it is due, then who will Australia turn to for runs? The Argus report might well have No.1 as its goal in a couple of years but they seriously need to find at least 2 competent players who can average 45+ and then they need to find a top class spinner. I cant see Australia challenging for No.1 for at least 5 years, probably more.

Posted by SRK666 on (March 9, 2013, 2:00 GMT)

Joseph Langford + Nightwing32 make a very good point about Marsh's role in all of this. He bursts on to the scene, taking the position of another young batsman being groomed for a successful career (Khawaja). But then he gets injured, and has a horrible run of form against India. This combination of injury and extreme form fluctuation is difficult for the selectors to anticipate and manage.

The other complicating issues here have been Watson + Hughes. Watson has enormous upside, but frail body + psychology. Hughes continues to make an irresistable case for selection given his domestic form, but for three consecutive summers now (vs England, NZ, India) he has been shown to be /clearly/ not good enough against good bowling in somewhat helpful conditions.

So the selectors have done ok; the real problems are beyond their control: (i) lack of quality at first-class level; (ii) injury; (iii) extreme form fluctuations; (iv) players picked on form/ability not taking their opportunity.

Posted by   on (March 9, 2013, 0:05 GMT)

Looking at the no.3 in isolation is very interesting but the table would be more instructive if the victory data was included. Sri Lanka average 68 at first drop but how often did they win? I would estimate that Australia's success rate is linked to the number 3, but in reality it is getting 20 wickets that is the real issue. The reason India is winning the current series is mainly Ashwin and to a lesser extent Jadeja, the reason Australia holds the Chappell/Gavaskar is mainly the fast bowlers at home. In the three tests you quote about Marsh in Australia where he avaeraged less than 3, all were Australian victories. Individual stats are engrossing but team victories are the measure of success

Posted by Soso_killer on (March 8, 2013, 23:00 GMT)

@Master_mihil sorry mate Amla is better than Sangakara. Sangakara outside of Asia averages 40, Amla away from home averages 56, in South Africa he averages 46.86 which is acceptable as South Africa is the toughest place in the world to bat in. To put that into perspective Tendulkar averages 46.44, Ponting 46.85, Lara 46.72, Dravid 29.71, Laxman 40.42, Ganguly 36.14, Sangakara 35.75.

Amla in Asia averages 61.95. He is a complete player to Sangakara, he plays spin and pace well. You can look up his numbers if you like. The can be no argument here, sorry!!

Posted by suyog86 on (March 8, 2013, 22:51 GMT)

i like J.Langford's assessment. Will definitely like to see U Khwaja play, and get a long run. On paper, he seems the best bet after Clarke to handle spin! At least, it cant get any worse than watching Hughes struggles..

Posted by   on (March 8, 2013, 19:54 GMT)

@ ScottStevo

Usman Tariq Khawaja .. TM : 6 .. B.Av : 29.22

Doesn't sound very impressive .. then you filter through the numbers.

Debut : Ashes 5th Test. Scores 37 and 21 .. more runs than PH, MH or MJC in this Test.

Tour's SL : 1st Test Scores 21 & 26. 2nd Test, walks onto a flat track and an opportunity for a big score. Scores 13no before rains come down and Clarke declares. Dropped for 3rd Test allowing RP to return on a batsman's paradise. Tours SA : Recalled for 2nd Test .. BATS No3 IN FRONT OF RP & MJC. Top scores in 2nd Inn run chase that wins test and draws series.

NZ at Home : BATS No3 IN FRONT OF RP & MJC. 1st Test : Seems set on 38 before RP runs him out. "Ponting's error completely, there was no need for that risky run first ball after tea." (Source : espncricinfo.com). 2nd Test : Not so good but his 23 in 2nd Inn is 2nd top score, more that MJC, MH & RP combined.

DROPPED FOR THE INDIA TESTS!!!

His performance is a lot better than it may appear at first.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2013, 17:45 GMT)

No young blokes with the skill or the application of a S Waugh or a N O'Neill. Cricket may have missed a generation of young Aussies, and we are witnessing the dramas associated with that.

Posted by Master_Mihil on (March 8, 2013, 16:54 GMT)

@neal sinclair- i would not get into meaningless argument with you about who is best of amla and Sanga. I specifically mentioned No.3 which is the position Sanga bat. So Amla having home average of 44 is what your point? that amla struggles in pace bowling friendly pitches just as much sanga does? You do realize that away to amla means sub-continent tracks right? Anyway like James Cooper mentioned Sanga is one-man show in the SL team. Because although we have brilliant averages we haven't won that much many matches. That should help you to realize the predicament Sanga always finds himself in more often than amla when he is batting.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2013, 16:28 GMT)

3 of the top five scores in Test Cricket have been made by batsman coming in at No. 3. Of the top ten scores, 5 of them are from No. 3. For such a pivotal position, Australia sure need to find a solution soon.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2013, 16:25 GMT)

If Sanga was nestled in cotton wool in amongst an all star batting line up of Smith, Peterson, Kallis, AB and Du Plessis like Amla does then he too would score with gay abandon without any pressure & get tons and tons of runs. The first 6 years of his career he was number 3 batsman and keeper & then for the most part of his career he has been SL's batting main stay with the onus of the team's batting fortunes falling entirely on him. In the last 2 years Sanga AVGs 50 in Tests and his colleagues Mahela, Dilshan & Sam all AVG only between 30 and 35. You can imagine the kind or pressure on Sanga eveytime he walks into bat. Amla on the other hand already has AB & Du Plessis averaging as much as he does in the last two years while the rest have been prolific scorers for SA in that same period, a luxury Sanga seldom enjoys in the fragile SL batting order that depends entirely on him. Like Amla, Sanga seldom or hardly ever comes in at 100/1. It's more like fewer than 20 for 1 always.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2013, 15:45 GMT)

Ponting played for atleast three more years than he should have. He was smart enough to retire before facing yet another humiliation by Indian spinners in India, given his wonderful average there. He might have challenged Marsh's average of 2.85 in a series if he hadn't. It is heart warming to see that Australia have found a very good replacement for Ponting in Hughes, in terms of his skill (lack thereof) playing spinners. Good going! Nathan lyon's batting looked more convincing on the 3rd innings at Chennai than Ponting or Hughes have ever looked against spin.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2013, 15:44 GMT)

Hughes is a specialist opener

Khawaja was treated a lot worse than Shaun Marsh and he has the best technique of ANY player in the domestic competition..... yeah he wasnt getting high scores but he was getting decent scores that were better than those who got out before he went out there

Posted by   on (March 8, 2013, 15:17 GMT)

Australia's Number 5 players have an average of 66 since 2010? More than double that of 4 and 3. Who are these guys? Maybe they can be promoted to bat higher up in the order.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2013, 15:09 GMT)

What those stark stats tell you is that there is only one batsman who can fill the number three slot and that is Michael Clarke.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2013, 14:42 GMT)

Someone here mentioned that the conclusion of the article is that Sangakkara is the best in the world right now and others battle to emulate. Important to remember Sangakarra has done most of his batting on the sub continent where his average is 62 and notably off the sub continent its 44. Wheras someone like Amla has an away average of 56 and home average of 46 batting in bowling friendly conditions.

I would say Amla more than emulates Sanga

Posted by   on (March 8, 2013, 14:31 GMT)

Can't help but spare a thought for Clarkie, he's the only batsman who's consistently getting 50s and most times converting it into 100s, but its a lottery with the rest of them to help him out, and 9/10 its only 1 batsmen getting a 50 (e.g. Clarke and Wade contributed 153/237 scored in the 1st innings at Hyderabad, basically 65%), the rest failing, which doesn't cut it in international level, its fine to point the finger at our no.3, they aren't doing well, but are the openers as well batsman no. 4, no. 6 (that average is mainly Mike Hussey so I wouldn't pay much attention to that) and no. 7 much better? They're not, and Clarke is always picking up the pieces and it gets too much, as this series is showing, I hope Hughes, Warner (he's good, but needs more consistency) and Khawaja become better in the long term, they all look promising, but Australian cricket is in a spot of bother right now in terms of batting, and bowling isn't much better either.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2013, 13:56 GMT)

I think the conclusion of this article is Sangakkara is the best no.3 test batsman in world right now and that the people from everywhere in the world are finding it hard to emulate that much of success.

Posted by Haleos on (March 8, 2013, 13:46 GMT)

The stats show how ordinary over hyped khwaja is. Can not believe he is going to be Ricky's replacement.

Posted by ScottStevo on (March 8, 2013, 13:06 GMT)

People rambling on about Khawaja being dropped unfairly from the test team need to take a better look at his scores. The biggest problem I see here is that he kept getting starts, then getting out. For me, its almost as bad as continually getting very low scores. Early on is when a batsman is most susceptible, so you have to expect that you're going to get a good one now and then when you're not fully in, but, when you are in and on 20/30, that's when the good batsmen cash in. Not saying you still can't cop a good pill, but with the amount of starts Khawaja was making, he only made one half century (from memory). For me it goes a long way in adjudicating temperament and concentration levels that he was unable to make good on the positions he'd worked hard to get into... nonetheless, he's getting a second chance now (or should) and I hope this time he proves the potential seen in him is warranted.

Posted by musVS319 on (March 8, 2013, 12:59 GMT)

Australia did have a serious problem of batting failures at the all important no.3 position.Was shocked to see Shaun Marsh fail in that Indian series. Phil Hughes got the talent but is not just doing justice. Australia should open with the attacking duo of Watson and Warner and play Ed Cowan at No.3. The way he batted in the second innings of the second test, looks like he's got the ability to play at No.3.

Posted by R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (March 8, 2013, 12:51 GMT)

Never believed Hughes and Warner were cut out for tests. Shorter formats yes, but far too few good performances with the bat in tests. I would have had Khawaja in ages ago, and Katich was handled very poorly.

Posted by Nightwing32 on (March 8, 2013, 12:29 GMT)

In regards to Khawaja, when Ponting went back home during the Sri Lankan series. It was between Usman or Shaun to compete for that No.3 spot and Shaun got a century, so he won the spot. Khawaja didn't get dropped, he just lost out because Marsh had a great match. People have to understand that batting in India for non-Subcontinent teams is hard and vice versa. India is a different beast to England, South Africa, West Indies and such. It is how it is. I'm sure Hughes and Khawaja will come good and there are good players such as Doolan, Burns and co. It is just cyclical that test teams have these struggles.

Posted by Mary_786 on (March 8, 2013, 12:15 GMT)

@Nilesh_T I also have no doubt that if Khawaja is given a real crack at 3 he coudl be our best option there. I think a lot of credit for Khawaja's improvmeent this season has to go to Lehmann. It was obvious to most of us that Khawaja has the talent and the technique / game to be a quality international cricketer - Boof has him playing like one, and for a left-hand batsman you can't really ask for a better mentor than Lehmann (except maybe Mr Cricket himself).I hope Khawaja gets a go at 3 as he unlike the other options can play both spin and pace and can cement a spot therel.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2013, 12:08 GMT)

I was surprised to see England no 3s doing so poorly in the comparison of recent years. I suppose this will have changed after Trott made his debut in 2009 and moved to no 3 shortly after.

Posted by Edwards_Anderson on (March 8, 2013, 11:53 GMT)

@championindia1786 yes i also think Khawaja would be our best number 3 but unlike the others(Hughes, Marsh) he was only given 2 games at this position where he scored 70 in a record chase against South Africa and 40 run out(not his fault) against NZ. Give him 5 games in a row and he will establish himself as our best number 3, no one can be Punter but this kid will do well. And do you know what impressed me the most about Pujara? Mental application. I'd never actually seen him bat, sure I'd heard good reports and read his cricinfo page and seen scorecards, but his batting is just beautiful. Solid technique and very patient. He waits, he defends, he watches and three maidens mean nothing to him because the ball is not in the right area to score off. Then a ball in the right spot comes and he works it for one or two; if a bad ball comes it is dispatched to the fence, no hesitation. I am sure Khawaja can follow in the same suit as Pujara as they are very similar batsman.

Posted by JeffG on (March 8, 2013, 10:16 GMT)

@ briandw - why did Ponting's average fall after the Hayden/Langer era if it wasn't down to them offering him more protection? Umm, maybe because Ponting got old and lost some of his ability?

Also, it should be noted that as of Sep2011, Ponting moved down from 3 to 4 in the order.

He basically began batting at 3 in Mar2001 (save for a few inns early in his career), so if you look at the period from Mar01 to Sep11, which was his run as the Aussie number 3, you find that, on average he came in with the score at 1/50.

If you then break it down into the Hayden/Langer era (Langer retired in 07, Hayden in 09) then the average score when Ponting came in was 1/51. With other openers, the average was 1/48. So, no real difference there.

There is also not much difference if you look at the % of times he came in at 3 with the score less than 20 - 33% with Langer/Hayden and 36% after that.

So really you can't put it down to Hayden & Langer.

Posted by stoos on (March 8, 2013, 8:58 GMT)

and how much of a difference would hodge make at no 3. It would be huge

Posted by   on (March 8, 2013, 8:56 GMT)

It's called vision and planning, and unfortunately the ACB do not have either of these qualities. I remember the time around the start of the Indian Tour. Ponting was batting poorly while Clarke's recent average was lower than Ponting. Australia had a young man in the team who could bat, and he was dropped for Marsh at the start of the series.

This was terrible for both players Khawaja, who had show real potential, has never played at the Test level since. Marsh had been rushed back from injury, with little or no first class batting, I actually thought that it was highly improbable that he would do well. Since this, I feel, his confidence is not quite what it should be and has since struggled to get back into the team.

As for Hughes, I think that he has got huge potential and may captain his country one day. However it would be a good idea to give him a break until the Ashes Series.

Posted by briandw on (March 8, 2013, 8:48 GMT)

Sifter, I'm sure the cricket world at large shuddered in fear at the very mention of those other opening pairs, the longevity of 113 starts to 28 next highest. To illustrate my point, Ponting's average during the Hayden/Langer era 70.96, after 40.10. If the openers after Hayden & Langer were still offering him protection, what happened?

Posted by satishchandar on (March 8, 2013, 8:24 GMT)

Post Ponting, No.3 is a big headache for Australia more than WK as well as the openers. It says how vital the spot is.. India doing it with Pujara well in home post Dravid era. SA did a great job by putting in Amla when Kallis is still there and now have a formidable no.3 for years. SL need to look who after Sanga. England has a reliable Trott there and NZ has talented Williamson. Azhar Ali showed a lots of promise which is in a slump right now. Once he is back to his best, Pakistan can be formidable. Darren Bravo will always improve there for WI. BD should try to use Shakib at 3 and lessen his role as spinner. After all, he is their best bat. Coming to Australia, Hughes was a disappointment in India but did a good job in home. I won't say he can't be a good one in Ashes right now. He is not a failure just because he failed in India. Lets wait n watch. If not for him, Khawaja can get a look in.Though stats are not good, Australia are not entirely out of depth.

Posted by NikhilCh on (March 8, 2013, 8:10 GMT)

The Indian no.3 batsmen since 2010 have got no duck and the aussies no.3 have got 10.This tells you about the batting lineup of the two.

Posted by johnathonjosephs on (March 8, 2013, 7:22 GMT)

Even Bangladesh has a better number 3????? Very scary for Australia. Of Course Sri Lanka and South Africa are on top because of Sangakkara and Amla... Class players those 2

Posted by champion_india786 on (March 8, 2013, 6:27 GMT)

Hughes is another one of those players who does well at domestic level but struggles in international cricket, time to test Khawaja or Marsh for 7-8 tests in a row.

Posted by alagu4ever_india4ever on (March 8, 2013, 6:06 GMT)

"for the next man walking in would be the best of the Australian line-up, and arguably the best of any line-up during that period"... though Ponting was a legend at 3, you missed Dravid...

Posted by sifter132 on (March 8, 2013, 5:46 GMT)

How about this briandw...Hayden/Langer averaged 51.88 as an opening pair. Since then there has been Katich/Watson (54.39), Cowan/Warner (44.44), Hayden/Jaques (71.27), Hughes/Watson (38.00), Hughes/Katich (60.40), Hayden/Katich (34.81) and Jaques/Katich (65.60) of pairs who've been together at least 5 times. Hayden/Langer scored 5655 runs together, all those pairs I've listed have 5553 runs together at an overall average of 49.58 (vs 51.88 of Hayden/Langer). So you see, Hayden and Langer as some unstoppable force is a myth - they've almost been matched by the pot pourri of opening pairs since then. It was PONTING who drove those legendary batting lineups. Sure, 1 in 10 innings he'd come in at 1-100, but every other time he had at least some work to do.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2013, 5:11 GMT)

Hughes has to be one of the worst Batsman to ever bat 3 in world cricket. He will never make it at Test Level. He may be a decent 1 day and T20 batsman.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2013, 4:21 GMT)

I agree with Nightwing... Hughes will come good at three, hes got all the talent and the first class record to back it up... I think his recent test performances are all in his head

Posted by briandw on (March 8, 2013, 4:07 GMT)

Ponting's real decline began with the retirement of Justin Langer and was furthered again by Matt Hayden's retirement, a point seemingly missed by many. It was very easy to dominate weak attacks anyway, it was even easier when consistently coming in at 1-100. Part of the problem for the No. 3's now is they are getting no protection whatever from the opening pair, not that they should demand it, they do have to stand on their own two feet, but the point must be made.

Posted by Nightwing32 on (March 8, 2013, 3:39 GMT)

Well they are young players, so really what do you expect. I think Hughes will come good at No.3 just India wasn't his series.

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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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