Masterly Batting November 24, 2013

Mathematical, with humanity

A collection of fine cricket writing on great cricket feats, and never mind the omissions
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It is both an invidious and a beguiling task. The urge to rank things runs deep - in cricket, in sport, in life (though it is perhaps something males delight in more). Inevitably, the impulse to disagree is just as hardwired, a patellar reflex of the socialised human brain. "You think that is the best...?" In compiling Masterly Batting: 100 Great Test Centuries, Patrick Ferriday and Dave Wilson, assisted by an able band of co-conspirators, have struck up a pub debate liable to exercise pedants, inflame nationalists and, perhaps worst of all, provoke the Twitterati to fresh displays of mandrill pomposity. There could be broken glass.

This is no back-of-a-beer-mat musing, however. The authors have come tooled up. The research has been rigorous, their soundings far and wide (former Wisden editor John Woodcock is one of the first to be credited in the acknowledgements). In setting out the project's aims, Ferriday is awake to the difficulty, both rousing and daunting. Ranking the 100 greatest Test hundreds - for that is what they have done, or attempted, despite the enigmatic subtitle - is not a matter of irrefutable fact, but rather falls into the category "where no such certainty can bring the debate to a crushing and indelible conclusion. And it is precisely these latter cases that are the most stimulating; opinion is reinforced by fact, fact is questioned, opinion reinforced or, where open minds prevail, altered."

The danger of having an open mind, of course, is that your brain falls out. But Masterly Batting should find the thoughtful audience it deserves. The methodology is explained in the introduction, with ten categories - size, conditions, bowling attack, percentage, chances, speed, series impact, match impact, intangibles, compatibility - weighed against each other. The precise formula is not revealed but we can assume it is quite exacting, as there are several tied positions. The prospect of sifting through over 2000 possible candidates would leave many to conclude that pure maths was the only way to go, but Ferriday and Wilson have brought humanity to the numbers by stirring in contemporaneous reportage and the wisdom of numerous cricket judges.

The order is, in many ways, subordinate to the higher purpose, which is to collate great cricket writing on great cricket feats. Measuring centuries against each other was settled upon as a "valid and achievable goal" but the effect is to paint vivid pictures of a different kind of century - more than 100 years of Test batting. This is particularly true with regard to the top 25 innings, which are given extended treatment and take up more than half of the book.

Never mind the run-making, the keystrokes are just as impressive. There are some fabulous pieces in the book by a variety of writers, including David Frith, Stephen Chalke, Telford Vice and Rob Smyth. Chalke provides a superb portrait of Herbert Sutcliffe, Daniel Harris on Gordon Greenidge fizzes and crackles with an apposite energy, while Vice's essay on Jacques Kallis - "He has fashioned one of the great careers with the passion he might have brought to mowing the lawn" - is full of good lines. Ferriday himself worships thrice at the altar of Brian Lara, while the comic-book vitality of Kevin Pietersen's 186 in Mumbai is another example of the multitudes contained within.

The result is richly satisfying, a kaleidoscope of dogged rearguards, effervescent counter-attacking and dreadnought destruction. Absence is what makes the heart grow harder. Each reader will come to Masterly Batting in search of particular favourites, some of whom are bound to be disappointed. No Atherton in Johannesburg, no Dravid in Adelaide? It is the relative dearth of Asian representatives that will cause most debate: seven Indian entries, five Pakistani and three Sri Lankan, plus Mohammad Ashraful. Virender Sehwag's 293 in Mumbai is the highest ranked, at No. 15, while Ashraful comes well ahead of Sachin Tendulkar, whose single worthy effort - 155 not out against Australia in Chennai - is deemed "great" enough to creep in at No. 100. This may seem doubly controversial in the prevailing climate of Sachinalia, although it is interesting to note that a similar exercise in 2001, the Wisden 100, found no room for Tendulkar at all.

Perhaps a greater oversight is the lack of Asian voices - Rahul Bhattacharya is quoted in the opening pages, but that is as close as an Indian writer gets to the book. The subcontinent stretches far across cricket's globe, however, and this might have been better reflected. On the matter of which innings did and didn't make the cut, Ferriday is happy to engage and he would doubtless provide a sound argument for the inclusion of both Kallis hundreds in Cape Town in 2011 when Tendulkar's in the same match misses out.

But they are still serving at the bar and argument will continue long into the night. In a publishing landscape that is dominated by turgid autobiographies and glossy compilations, Masterly Batting stands out like a Laxman cover drive. And where does Kolkata 2001 rank next to Bradman on a sticky MCG pitch or Mark Butcher's Headingley heroics? Time for me to get my coat.

Masterly Batting: 100 Great Test Centuries
Compiled and edited by Patrick Ferriday and Dave Wilson
Von Krumm Publishing
290 pages; £15

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on November 28, 2013, 0:55 GMT

    Ok cats, enough of all this, kudos to the authors for stepping up and taking everyone's questions (and invective). Beyond a point, if Hanifs innings and Laxmans innings are top 10 on your list and my list and KPs 180 against Govinda and Mithun feature on absolutely noone's list - it doesnt matter. There is still lots of great stuff written about lots of great knocks. And if your favorite knocks arent on there, write your own book on all the great knocks they missed and your addressable market is 1/7th of the worlds population.

  • lardster on November 27, 2013, 9:06 GMT

    PhilCkt - you have a point about pitches. It is quite subjective but what is the alternative? Ignore pitch conditions? That would be absurd as I think we all agree this is one of the crucial factors. So you do your best, rather like using ICC date specific ratings to get an initial reading on the bowling attack. Not perfect but the best on offer. We did read a lot of match reports to judge conditions and the rating was always done by 2 people to try and cut out any obvious errors. Hence it is a mixture of stats and subjective assessment. Look what stats only produced (Wisden 2000). We worked hard on the method but the writin g is the point of the book otherwise I'd not have bothered getting Frith, Chalke, Manthorp, Smyth, Pringle etc to contribute.

  • lardster on November 27, 2013, 8:57 GMT

    Sorry, did answer this but post didn't go through. I do think the SRT JK tons show a weakness, namely that all the centuries in the book are so closely ranked that one incident, such as a dropped catch, can lead to a plummet in position. I think you could look at Hobbs and Sutcliffe in 1926 - not dissimilar and we have Sutcliffe at 10 and Hobbs at 110. Similar story here - you've alighted on some fair points although I disagree on the injury; it might concentrate the mind but one you can't move properly it's hardly a help. The real difference is the ICC bowling ratings on this date, of course Steyn is rated clear top but a 4-man attack with Harris and Tsotsobe didn't get a good figure. For better or worse the Indian attack rated higher; they were slightly downgraded for moderate bowling at stages. You may disagree with ICC date specific ratings but they are a tool we chose to use. Also SRT was dropped (very hard chance) in the 90s - he isn't downgraded for his pieces of good fortune.

  • peter56 on November 26, 2013, 19:08 GMT

    Lardster there is one question you are going out of your way to avoid answering SRT wins the award for the greatest test innings of 2011. Yet your criteria rate his 146 behind both of JHK centuries in the same test. In the first innings both teams had to bat on essentially the same bowler friendly strip. Everyone knows that the SA attack was vastly superior than the indian attack and in the first innings the worlds best bowler Dale Steyn was operating at his absolute peak and virtually unplayable to all but SRT.in the second SA innings the pitch had eased and the indians compounded this by bowling tripe.and still the JHK 109 is rated higher than the 146.this is the ultimate proof that at the very least one of your critetia is ridiculously over weighted and it must be players batting with an injury.this criteria should be deleted completely.Why nothing concentrates the mind like pain so heightened concentration is a godsend for a batsman.

  • ramesh_sound on November 26, 2013, 8:50 GMT

    Consider these facts

    1. Opposition is on a world record 17 consecutive test wins. 2. Only thrice in test history, has a team in the situation ( follow on) has gone on to win the test. 3. The score made ( 281) was the highest ever in India till that date. 4. Australia were 250/8 and were again bowled out for 210 or so. India did not cross 200 in the first knock. 5. Dravid at # 6 came in after Laxman had scored 150 runs for the match.

    In a match where 37 wickets fell, how does one get convinced that the batting conditions were so pristine that the 281 is an inferior innings to those of Mark Butcher or Graeme Smith?

  • lardster on November 26, 2013, 8:11 GMT

    In answer to last 3 posts: The result wasn't included mindlessly. The match impact measures the state of The game at the beginning and end of the innings and subsequent events affect only series impact. Sure, it did make a difference but not hugely so hence Botham's 149 is only #50. There are defeats in this list including Lara and Clarke in the top 25. Speed is a tricky one and we did make adjustments to innings where speed was not a factor at all but these are quite rare. I don't think speed is only a factor in a run chase or setting up a declaration. It almost always helps to score faster - sets fields back, demoralises bowlers, makes the job of team-mates easier, sets up a winning position etc. Just sometimes (Atherton, Hanif M, Sutcliffe) it was really of no relevance and so we then uipped the figure. Yes, Lara was amazing

  • archiemac on November 26, 2013, 7:13 GMT

    to Philcrt

    I struggle to understand your point. It seems to be based on what if?

    What if Walsh was dismissed? What if the SAs didn't play their shots in relation to the Trescothic innings?

    What ifs could be applied to all cricket innings and happenings. how about this one: what if Bradman decided to play tennis instead of cricket?

    What ifs were not taken into account and rightly so. Surely you can only base a book such as this on what actually happened and not what if?

    H Singh Only official Tests were considered although I agree WCS matches were played against great attacks

  • PhilCkt on November 26, 2013, 5:51 GMT

    Lardster,

    >> pitch (worn and tricky especially before lunch), ... Add to that chanceless.

    How do you take these into account in the computation ? You could not possibly compare the state of the pitch for (for eg) Ranji's 154* and Buthcer's 173*. The definition of a chances or a half chances in reports are extremely unreliable, especially when comparing the writings over the course of 130 years.

  • PhilCkt on November 26, 2013, 3:27 GMT

    The result of the match has again been given a large weightage mindlessly and without considering the context. In Trescothick's case, South Africa had to play just two sessions in what had been a high scoring match (411-419-332). On almost any other day, they would have comfortably done so. Just because SA threw away the wickets, Trescothick is in the top 10. If SA had played out time, I suppose he wouldn't be in the top-100.

    It is a recurring theme. If Viswanath was sent in early, or even immediately after Gavaskar's wicket, SMG's 221 would probably suddenly enter into top-10 list. Or if Walsh managed to get out at Bridgetown, Lara may not be in the top-10. The same explains for the absence of Trumper's 185*, two of McCabe's innings and so on. The present logic, if there is one, doesn't make a great deal of sense.

  • on November 26, 2013, 2:11 GMT

    Without making any comment on the presence or absence of particular innings, I do wonder - why is 'speed' included as one of the categories? This is a list of Test innings, not T20. Most Tests have been played over five days, some over six or even timeless. Speed is only really of any importance if the team is either chasing a target in the fourth innings with a limited number of overs, or aiming for a third innings declaration to give as much time as possible to bowl the opposition out. It is often the precise opposite - crease occupation - which is most important; Hanif's 337 or Gary Kirsten's 275 would have scored zero for speed, but they did exactly what was required in the circumstances. Both secured draws, when batting more quickly would probably have led to defeat. It could be argued that a century scored in one session demoralises the bowling team, but being kept in the field for hours without looking like dismissing a batsman is, if anything, even more demoralising.

  • on November 28, 2013, 0:55 GMT

    Ok cats, enough of all this, kudos to the authors for stepping up and taking everyone's questions (and invective). Beyond a point, if Hanifs innings and Laxmans innings are top 10 on your list and my list and KPs 180 against Govinda and Mithun feature on absolutely noone's list - it doesnt matter. There is still lots of great stuff written about lots of great knocks. And if your favorite knocks arent on there, write your own book on all the great knocks they missed and your addressable market is 1/7th of the worlds population.

  • lardster on November 27, 2013, 9:06 GMT

    PhilCkt - you have a point about pitches. It is quite subjective but what is the alternative? Ignore pitch conditions? That would be absurd as I think we all agree this is one of the crucial factors. So you do your best, rather like using ICC date specific ratings to get an initial reading on the bowling attack. Not perfect but the best on offer. We did read a lot of match reports to judge conditions and the rating was always done by 2 people to try and cut out any obvious errors. Hence it is a mixture of stats and subjective assessment. Look what stats only produced (Wisden 2000). We worked hard on the method but the writin g is the point of the book otherwise I'd not have bothered getting Frith, Chalke, Manthorp, Smyth, Pringle etc to contribute.

  • lardster on November 27, 2013, 8:57 GMT

    Sorry, did answer this but post didn't go through. I do think the SRT JK tons show a weakness, namely that all the centuries in the book are so closely ranked that one incident, such as a dropped catch, can lead to a plummet in position. I think you could look at Hobbs and Sutcliffe in 1926 - not dissimilar and we have Sutcliffe at 10 and Hobbs at 110. Similar story here - you've alighted on some fair points although I disagree on the injury; it might concentrate the mind but one you can't move properly it's hardly a help. The real difference is the ICC bowling ratings on this date, of course Steyn is rated clear top but a 4-man attack with Harris and Tsotsobe didn't get a good figure. For better or worse the Indian attack rated higher; they were slightly downgraded for moderate bowling at stages. You may disagree with ICC date specific ratings but they are a tool we chose to use. Also SRT was dropped (very hard chance) in the 90s - he isn't downgraded for his pieces of good fortune.

  • peter56 on November 26, 2013, 19:08 GMT

    Lardster there is one question you are going out of your way to avoid answering SRT wins the award for the greatest test innings of 2011. Yet your criteria rate his 146 behind both of JHK centuries in the same test. In the first innings both teams had to bat on essentially the same bowler friendly strip. Everyone knows that the SA attack was vastly superior than the indian attack and in the first innings the worlds best bowler Dale Steyn was operating at his absolute peak and virtually unplayable to all but SRT.in the second SA innings the pitch had eased and the indians compounded this by bowling tripe.and still the JHK 109 is rated higher than the 146.this is the ultimate proof that at the very least one of your critetia is ridiculously over weighted and it must be players batting with an injury.this criteria should be deleted completely.Why nothing concentrates the mind like pain so heightened concentration is a godsend for a batsman.

  • ramesh_sound on November 26, 2013, 8:50 GMT

    Consider these facts

    1. Opposition is on a world record 17 consecutive test wins. 2. Only thrice in test history, has a team in the situation ( follow on) has gone on to win the test. 3. The score made ( 281) was the highest ever in India till that date. 4. Australia were 250/8 and were again bowled out for 210 or so. India did not cross 200 in the first knock. 5. Dravid at # 6 came in after Laxman had scored 150 runs for the match.

    In a match where 37 wickets fell, how does one get convinced that the batting conditions were so pristine that the 281 is an inferior innings to those of Mark Butcher or Graeme Smith?

  • lardster on November 26, 2013, 8:11 GMT

    In answer to last 3 posts: The result wasn't included mindlessly. The match impact measures the state of The game at the beginning and end of the innings and subsequent events affect only series impact. Sure, it did make a difference but not hugely so hence Botham's 149 is only #50. There are defeats in this list including Lara and Clarke in the top 25. Speed is a tricky one and we did make adjustments to innings where speed was not a factor at all but these are quite rare. I don't think speed is only a factor in a run chase or setting up a declaration. It almost always helps to score faster - sets fields back, demoralises bowlers, makes the job of team-mates easier, sets up a winning position etc. Just sometimes (Atherton, Hanif M, Sutcliffe) it was really of no relevance and so we then uipped the figure. Yes, Lara was amazing

  • archiemac on November 26, 2013, 7:13 GMT

    to Philcrt

    I struggle to understand your point. It seems to be based on what if?

    What if Walsh was dismissed? What if the SAs didn't play their shots in relation to the Trescothic innings?

    What ifs could be applied to all cricket innings and happenings. how about this one: what if Bradman decided to play tennis instead of cricket?

    What ifs were not taken into account and rightly so. Surely you can only base a book such as this on what actually happened and not what if?

    H Singh Only official Tests were considered although I agree WCS matches were played against great attacks

  • PhilCkt on November 26, 2013, 5:51 GMT

    Lardster,

    >> pitch (worn and tricky especially before lunch), ... Add to that chanceless.

    How do you take these into account in the computation ? You could not possibly compare the state of the pitch for (for eg) Ranji's 154* and Buthcer's 173*. The definition of a chances or a half chances in reports are extremely unreliable, especially when comparing the writings over the course of 130 years.

  • PhilCkt on November 26, 2013, 3:27 GMT

    The result of the match has again been given a large weightage mindlessly and without considering the context. In Trescothick's case, South Africa had to play just two sessions in what had been a high scoring match (411-419-332). On almost any other day, they would have comfortably done so. Just because SA threw away the wickets, Trescothick is in the top 10. If SA had played out time, I suppose he wouldn't be in the top-100.

    It is a recurring theme. If Viswanath was sent in early, or even immediately after Gavaskar's wicket, SMG's 221 would probably suddenly enter into top-10 list. Or if Walsh managed to get out at Bridgetown, Lara may not be in the top-10. The same explains for the absence of Trumper's 185*, two of McCabe's innings and so on. The present logic, if there is one, doesn't make a great deal of sense.

  • on November 26, 2013, 2:11 GMT

    Without making any comment on the presence or absence of particular innings, I do wonder - why is 'speed' included as one of the categories? This is a list of Test innings, not T20. Most Tests have been played over five days, some over six or even timeless. Speed is only really of any importance if the team is either chasing a target in the fourth innings with a limited number of overs, or aiming for a third innings declaration to give as much time as possible to bowl the opposition out. It is often the precise opposite - crease occupation - which is most important; Hanif's 337 or Gary Kirsten's 275 would have scored zero for speed, but they did exactly what was required in the circumstances. Both secured draws, when batting more quickly would probably have led to defeat. It could be argued that a century scored in one session demoralises the bowling team, but being kept in the field for hours without looking like dismissing a batsman is, if anything, even more demoralising.

  • on November 25, 2013, 21:09 GMT

    Okay, I skipped ahead (naughty me) and read the sections on Butcher's innings. The authors make very good cases on Butcher. Indeed, some of the innings in the book are "forgotten" innings I myself have classified as "great" whilst watching them. People forget that it's not just cricket's greatest batsmen who produce great innings. Indeed, cricket is littered with masterful passages by batsmen you would not necessarily categorise as a "great batsman".

    What this book sold me on, however, was the absolute heights of Lara. All Lara's innings in this book, bar one vs South Africa at Port of Spain, are versus the biggest Australian attacks. This means that the authors assign Lara 5 of the world's greatest test innings and YET do not include his 400, 277 and 375. This fact speaks as to how dominant Lara could be on his day. He seemed to be able to put together big scores akin to the great Bradman.

    Ok and someone had to say it: the cover of the book is superb. Too bad no photos inside!

  • lardster on November 25, 2013, 21:02 GMT

    One last post. Indian and Pakistani batsmen have scored 20.9% of all Test tons. In our long list of 225 innings they had 21.5% of entries but in the book list that is down to 16% and none (as we know) in the top 10. That is an under-representation but please don't claim we fixed it because we don't like Asian batsmen or any such nonsense. Our method may have faults but cheating and racial bias ain't two of them.

  • on November 25, 2013, 21:01 GMT

    Cats, without having read the book, I wonder if any World Series Cricket innings made the list? Richards, Richards and Chappell scored those runs on the fastest pitches against the most ballistic attacks..

  • lardster on November 25, 2013, 20:37 GMT

    on the subject of Kallis vs Tendulkar in 2011. You have to remember that all these innings are very closely bunched so small differences can make a big lurch in the ranking. This is a weakness without a doubt but you'd hardly expect big gaps when we are considering the very best. In most categories the scoring was similar - the biggest difference was in the attacks. Yes, SA had Steyn but he bowled less balls at Tendulkar than either Harris or Tsotsobe. The overall quality of the Indian attack rates higher using ICC figures. Don't be conned by one great bowler. Look at what Atherton actually faced in his 185 at Joburg - a lot of Pringle and Eksteen. Tendulkar was not far behind Kallis (who was injured throughout the match) but it was enough to leave him just outside the top 100. This may not convince anyone but as ever we are trying our best. Buy the book, you might just like it. Even if you disagree with the ratings you'll not find much wrong with the writing.

  • chasingthedon on November 25, 2013, 20:17 GMT

    It seems my first post didn't go through. The initial research, ie when the ratings system was being developed, involved stripping off all of the identifying characteristics of every innings, such as batsman's name, team, opposition, venue and date. Only a chronoligical key (eg 23678, the 23,678th innings ever played), and an indication of era (e.g. 19th century, pre-WW1 etc) were included to a) allow restoration of the identifying characteristics for later research and b) ensure that cetain eras were not being favoured or otherwise. In this way, absolute objectivity was maintained throughout.

  • chasingthedon on November 25, 2013, 20:03 GMT

    It was only once we had reduced the 'finalists' down from 3600+ to the more than 200 which the rating system suggested were most worthy of further consideration for our final list of 100, that we once more added back in the identifying details, based on cross-referencing the earlier key.

    This re-introduction of the identifying characteristics was necessary for the next stage, which was to refine the research and dig much deeper into contemporary match reports etc. to ensure that the objective evidence from the initial research did not need to be revised. For example, it may be that a highly-ranked bowler was carrying an injury or otherwise bowled particularly badly that day - those subjective observations had to be taken into acount.

  • chasingthedon on November 25, 2013, 19:56 GMT

    Hi, I'm the other co-author and would like to add something to lardster's comments. When the intial investigation was run, i.e. when the rating system was in development, all innings (that is ALL innings, not just centuries) were given a chronological key. All identifying aspects of the innings were then removed except for something defining the era - we wanted to be able to check that certain eras were not being either favoured or marked down. So the only identifier for correlation at a later stage was a number key which might look something like '23798', which would have been the 23,798th innings ever played. The batsman's name, team, opponent, venue and date were taken out. Obviously one or two innings could be identified purely from the runs, e.g. Lara's 400, but the runs total had to stay in as it was a small part of the ranking. In this way, absoulte objectivity was maintained throughout the development stage.

  • lardster on November 25, 2013, 15:30 GMT

    Yes, Butcher is an odd one. But look at the attack (Lee, Gillespie, McGrath, Warne), pitch (worn and tricky especially before lunch), match situation (almost lost) and his domination. Add to that chanceless. Yes, it was a dead rubber and he lost points for that but there is no evidence that Aussies were going easy on England. That latter factor makes it lesser than Graeme Smith but beyond that it was maybe a greater innings. Butch wasn't a great player but on this day he WAS as all the Aussies agreed. We are looking at innings not players (although there should be a correlation, hence we have 5 Bradman and 5 Lara) otherwise we would hardly include Bruce Edgar but just look at his entries. Nature of pitch is hard but you read all the reports you can and do your best. the worst we found was Doug Walters 104 vs NZ. Thanks for reasonable questions - we've tried hard to make it fun and informative and assertions of racial bias are pretty hurtful.

  • karachikhatmal on November 25, 2013, 14:34 GMT

    Lardster

    Really, really appreciate your insights in the comments section. Your grace under all this pressure is admirable.

    The explanations help a lot too. I didn't think that nationalities were being excluded, but its good to know how you came up with a system. I think that with several factors, particularly nature of the pitch, it would be very difficult to give quanitifiable amounts. Same could probably go for other factors as well, so fair enough.

    Two things - adding 100 points for the greatest comeback in test history seems like a reasonable addition to the formula ;) | Secondly, how did you feel when your list threw up Butcher at 5? No disrespect but that's one innings here which just shocks.

    In either case, I don't agree with the list but really appreciate you engaging with us, which is what the point of the book is too I guess.

  • lardster on November 25, 2013, 13:07 GMT

    J751 - Botham's Headingly ton is #50 in the book. You are right about attack and conditions although neither were really at the very top end of difficulty. He didn't score really high in any category - in fact in terms of match impact he only moved England from virtually beaten to probably beaten; not his fault of course. the real turnaround was with Willis (although without Botham he'd never have bowled). We rated this Botham innings higher http://www.alloutcricket.com/ashes/features/the-100-greatest-test-centuries

  • lardster on November 25, 2013, 11:44 GMT

    In answer to Cloudmess and his comparison of Gooch and Lara. These two were rated very close and some way clear of the 3rd place. Gooch shaded it on conditions being more difficult, it was chanceless, higher % of team total and the bowling attack higher rated (by ICC). Lara's match impact was much higher and I agree the drama was wonderful - I tried to bring this out in writing the essay on his innings

  • J751 on November 25, 2013, 11:33 GMT

    How about Ian Botham's Headingley hundred in 1981 ? Not worthy of inclusion in the top ten ? England were following on,the pitch was unpredictable as shown by Australia's second innings collapse soon afterwards and the attack included Lillee and Alderman.

  • lardster on November 25, 2013, 11:31 GMT

    In answer to the 'Some questions based on the Top 10 list alone:' post. We haven't been done any favours by the top 10 alone being shown. The lean towards modern innings is surely influenced by the amount of Tests played and centuries scored. The top 100 does closely mirror this fact - 4 of the innings 10-20 do come from the 70's 80's period you mention. Should we discount a batsman because his team lost the series? Do we just ignore any innings played in defeat? I'd say 'no' to both questions. As to 'iconic', I'd say all of these were that in their own ways. In England it's Botham, in India it's Laxman, before 1939 certainly Sutcliffe and Bradman. We have tried to be fair and it's not just statistics in play - a lot of work went into observation, this was the only way to assess pitch conditions and chances given. Of course there will be differences of opinion but please don't believe that we have somehow tilted the list to favour certain nationalities or eras - it's about cricket.

  • lardster on November 25, 2013, 10:32 GMT

    There seem to a number of perfectly reasonable questions here mixed in with the frankly absurd presumption that we have somehow tilted this against Asian batsmen. Why would we do that? Laxman's 281 is the main problem. It is #34 in the book. The Test at Kolkata must be one of the greatest ever played and it was won by three men in essence. Of the 10 categories we employ, Laxman scored consistently highly except on 'pitch conditions' which is a major one. Simply put the wicket was flat - Dravid's innings is an indication as are all match reports. A missed chance and a relatively low % of the team score don't help. Don't expect these explanations will help but we could hardly include '+100 points for the greatest turnaround in Test history'. All this makes the efforts of Harbhajan look amazing. Incidentally, Peter Willey (umpire) thought Dravid's knock equally impressive. I can't think of many innings I'd rather have seen but if you have a system you stick to it.

  • karachikhatmal on November 25, 2013, 7:07 GMT

    Some questions based on the Top 10 list alone:

    1. Why are there no innings from the 1970s-80s, a particularly brutal era for batsmen? 2. Gooch and Butcher's innings were in series their team didn't win, and in the latter case they went on to lose. Why include them then? 3. 7 of the top 10 were innings played at home. Would've imagined it the other way around. 4. Lara's innings aside, almost none of these are all-time iconic innings. What led to such a huge gap b/w stats and popular recollection? 5. 6 of the 10 innings are post 1999, a particularly easy era for batsmen. Seems like an anomaly.

    Would appreciate your insights.

  • archiemac on November 25, 2013, 6:01 GMT

    I helped to research this book and expected some debate about the final list but what I didn't expect was to be basically labelled a racist.

    The fact Brian Lara has three innings in the top 25 should dispel racism claims so instead we are anti Asian? Please, the idea is ludicrous, read the book there are heaps of innings by Asian players. It should be remembered that innings in a losing cause or in a match that did not alter a series are marked down. Also the percentage of an innings is important so if a player scored a ton but a team-mate also scores heavily the innings will be marked down.

    Well done to Cricinfo who changed the rating from 4 to 3.5 - peer pressure?

  • on November 25, 2013, 5:26 GMT

    I am surprised by no 4 rating of KP's 186 as I feel he has played numerous better ones like the 140 odd in Headingly against SA in 2012, the match saving 150 + against Australia in 2005 or even 150+ in Sri Lanka. I guess that speaks a lot about the class of Kevin Pieterson.

  • crikkfan on November 25, 2013, 1:07 GMT

    i gotta agree with peter56. if it is all subjective, anything is fair and square? admittedly i havent read the book buti would like to see the reasoning and logic behind some key omissions - not just to pick on sachin omissions - but obviously the cape town miss is glaring but what about the 1992 perth one or the chennai 136 against pak - is that because they are in a losing cause? thats my guess actually! - the weightage when the game is lost is probably heavily against these.

  • maxtalker on November 24, 2013, 23:49 GMT

    this is a hilarious list. not one innings by an asian in the top 10! what kind of a compilation is this? so not one of the tons scored by the indian masters gavaskar, tendulkar, dravid, or laxman merits a place. not even laxman's kolkata magnum opus, the 281. thanks but i'll save my money.

  • lardster on November 24, 2013, 22:32 GMT

    OK. Please give me 24 hours and I'll try to answer some of the questions on here. The book was my idea and I'm one of the names on the cover. This book is a celebration of great batting and I didn't expect everyone to agree with all 100 innings. I don't, but we tried very hard to get a fair system in place that treats all centuries under all conditions from all countries and eras equally. The essays on each innings should still make good reading.

  • on November 24, 2013, 21:23 GMT

    The Book should be named " A collection of fine cricket writing on great cricket feats without Asians " .....

  • fredfertang on November 24, 2013, 20:51 GMT

    So Rishi03 feels able to rubbish a book he hasn't read by virtue of a sweeping generalisation - well done mate - you're ignorance is breathtaking

  • Rishi03 on November 24, 2013, 19:42 GMT

    Another useless book by two Englishmen frustrated with Asian dominance.Perhaps, these chaps are so used to colonial rule that they cannot accept anything from Asia. Entries are hilarious to say the least.Some of them are so poor that even Shikhar Dhawan's 187 on debut would look superior. Don't see any point wasting time on reading this book!

  • Rishi03 on November 24, 2013, 19:02 GMT

    Another useless book by two Englishmen frustrated with Asian dominance.Perhaps, these chaps are so used to colonial rule that they cannot accept anything from Asia. Entries are hilarious to say the least.Some of them are so poor that even Shikhar Dhawan's 187 on debut would look superior. Don't see any point wasting time on reading this book!

  • peterhrt on November 24, 2013, 17:41 GMT

    It is a good book. The introductory chapters explaining the maths are particularly interesting. The autihors have stuck rigidly to their maths, which is admirable in a way, but does throw up some odd selections. Two entries each for Bruce Edgar and Mark Butcher but none for Trumper, Headley or Compton. Only one of McCabe's three epics makes the Top 100. A factor that seems undervalued is the impact of an innings on cricket history. Bannerman in the first ever Test; Ranji's debut hundreds in Victorian England and Australia that caused a sensation at the time; Herbie Taylor against Barnes; the 3 Ws in 1950 when WI first won in England; Hanif's 337; Gavaskar and Viswanath chasing down 400 at Port of Spain. All are missing. There is an excellent piece by Richard Parry on Bruce Mitchell's 164* at Lord's during SA's first victory in England, but no word on the Denis Lindsay centuries that brought their first series win over Australia. Overall though, the scientific approach is a plus.

  • on November 24, 2013, 16:42 GMT

    Strange that Englishmen/ Australians have scored only 40% of all centuries but make up 9 out of the 10 top spots.

  • lardster on November 24, 2013, 15:49 GMT

    I'd say that the amount of the innings by Asian players probably just about replicates the amount of hundreds they've scored. After all, Australia and England have been playing much longer. It doesn't look like the kind of book where the authors would have penalised players for not being English. The Laxman innings was great but so was Dravid's in the same game and Tendulkar's 146 in SA was essentially against 2 bowlers. So many variations - I guess that's why there are so many opinions.

  • on November 24, 2013, 15:20 GMT

    peter56, Tendulkar's 146 had a poor strike rate and Morkell was bowling junk. Id imagine that is why it was neglected. Staggeringly, Lara is listed 5 times, with his 375, 400 and 277 not listed.

  • lardster on November 24, 2013, 14:25 GMT

    Surely not a match for McCabe against Larwood - or Kim Hughes against the Windies?

  • peter56 on November 24, 2013, 14:15 GMT

    I have read the book it contains some great cricket writing. I believe I am very fair minded and a complete neutral I thought some of the entries were more than a little dubious, but the authors were strictly adhering to their criteria, so at least they were being consistent. until I came across both of Jacques Kallis centuries at home in 2011 against India . in the same test Tendulkar played an innings of 146 against a rampaging Dale Steyn that was voted the best innings of the year by ESPN CRICINFO. so how can both of these Kallis tons be included and the Tendulkar one not? the pop gun Indian attack was called 'insipid' by Wisden .everyone knows the Saffa attack is far superior to India Kallis was at home too. this proves the criteria used are flawed.Suffice to say Kallis would no way have scored 2 tons in this test against his own attack.I CHALLENGE THE AUTHORS TO COME OUT AND SHOW HOW THEY WEIGHTED THEIR 10 SEPARATE CATEGORIES FOR THE RESPECTIVE TONS IN THIS MATCH

  • fredfertang on November 24, 2013, 14:04 GMT

    Jardine's 127 against the bodyline of Martindale and Constantine was the most disappointing omission for me

  • TATTUs on November 24, 2013, 12:15 GMT

    I these types of lists everyone is entitled and expected to have a different version. But still, considering all that, that VVS Laxmans 281 doesnt find even a top 15 spot makes the whole process foolhardy. Kevin Pietersens Oval 100 in 2005 was better than the one on the list IMHO. But still I dont believe that should find a place in the top 20. Sehwags 200 odd against Srilanka out of a 350 winning India the match was much much better than the 293 I guess. So there it goes, The differences will only add up. But I agree Sachin Tendulkar does not have a top 10 Test knock. But the 103* against England could certainly had found a place in the top 20 considering the situation.

  • lardster on November 24, 2013, 12:10 GMT

    I guess you have to see exactly what the criteria were but it's not a bad top 10. Surely with that great VVS innings you'd have to find Dravid's knock close behind? Also I guess the book measures innings and not careers so you are sure to get some funny results otherwise it would be Bradman followed by Bradman with Bradman back in third. Interesting to see what the other 90 are!

  • lardster on November 24, 2013, 11:59 GMT

    Saeed Anwar's 188 is one I'd like to see higher.

  • J751 on November 24, 2013, 11:52 GMT

    One innings that merits special mention is Hanif Mohammad's 337 against West Indies at Bridgetown in 1957-58.He arrived at the crease with Pakistan following on 473 behind and batted for a total of 970 minutes,saving the game.

  • J751 on November 24, 2013, 11:22 GMT

    No mention of battling innings by Pakistani batsmen ? A few that come to mind immediately are Javed Miandad's two hundreds against the West Indies in 1987-88,Waseem Raja taking on the West Indian speed merchants in 1976-77,Asif Iqbal's hundred against Australia at Sydney in 1976-77 and Abdul Razzaq and Kamran Akmal saving the Mohali test in 2005.

  • hhillbumper on November 24, 2013, 10:59 GMT

    That innings by Gooch was phenomenal.The pitch was a complete minefield and the bowling was exceptional.Ambrose , Walsh and Marshall were doing tricks and even Patto was bowling well. Not sure about some of the other choices though.

    As for the Tendulkar fans. He has not won a test which is why he is a lesser player than Lara,Ponting, Gilchrist,Dravid, Laxman and most others.

  • cloudmess on November 24, 2013, 9:12 GMT

    I feel like the writers have found some clever criteria to select these innings, which they've then applied across the board without the slightest semblance to common sense. Mark Butcher at no 4? The series was decided, and after some initial movement the pitch was flat. From the last 25 years (of watching cricket) my top 5 would be 1) Lara 153* 1999 2 Gilchrist 149* 1999 3) Gooch 154* 1991 4) Laxman 281 2001 5) Smith 154* 2008 Lara's was the best innings, simply because of the context - chasing a huge total against great bowling attack, and having little support from the other batsmen, and picking his side up from some hopeless drubbings to take a 2-1 lead against the best side in the world. Gooch's innings was great, but it took place on a slow (if awkward) pitch which negated some of the pace of WI quicks, and he was batting in the 3rd innings of a match where England already had a small lead.

  • rizwan1981 on November 24, 2013, 7:34 GMT

    I believe Layman's 281 deserves to be in the top 10 - is it possible that the omission was because unlike Gooch's 154, VVS had Dravid to help him out? As for Tendulkar, Sachin NEVER WON A MATCH SINGLEHANDEDLY unlike say Sehwag's 293 - Few can forget Sehwag's assault on Ajanta Mendis who had run rings round Sachin, Dravid, VVS and Gambhir.

    Sachin fans should realise context matters and scoring a century when Shastri scores a double hundred in the same match is not as difficult as the 80 odd Dravid scored on a West Indian dust bowl.

    Personally I think Gavaskar, Sehwag, VVS (his 4th innings are unmatched by his peers), and Dravid have contributed far more MATCH WINNING knocks (not necessarily centuries) than Sachin

  • mk49_van on November 24, 2013, 5:52 GMT

    Only an Englishman would put KPs 186 against a medicore Indian attack at #4. This book won't sell well in the world's largest cricket market - and that might be a good thing.

  • on November 24, 2013, 5:51 GMT

    4th placed Butcher's innings played when series was decided. Good bowling attack, but flat deck.. Doesn't deserve to be in top 10.. The 1st & 2nd places are debatable as well.. Lara's innings stand-out more because it was 4th innings on a terribly weary pitch, I would put that at the top.. The bowling quality was top-class for both of them.. But Lara's innings came after WI were shot for 51 in the previous match (after 5-0 whitewash in SA).. And Laxman's 281 not coming in is a surprise, esp when the Wisden analysis done in past had out it at 6th.. A word to Sachin fans : Don't expect to be him at the top everywhere.. However, I'm surprised that his innings against Steyn & co in SA is not even in top 100.. That was the best of Sachin against a very good hostile attack..

  • kurups on November 24, 2013, 5:49 GMT

    I thought this would be a wonderful read...but now I get it how much it is in short of facts and logic. example : forget tendulkar..VVS's innings not in the top?!!..and as some one said here...Kallis's 100 in but not Tendulkar's against a mean south african attach in alien conditions!! and what about Sunny's innings against the mighty windies!!or Miandad's...this is a joke..nothing but a book compiled by mathematicians or possibly a Computer playing the number games!! Ask Ian Chappel and he would sure agree.

  • on November 24, 2013, 5:39 GMT

    Mathematics of randomness with human error!

  • Rohit-Sen on November 24, 2013, 5:36 GMT

    This is an English list. Indian authors should prepare one and make Raina's debut century as #1, Agarkar's century at Lords at #2... Maybe that book will have more credibility haha. Everyone's entitled to their opinion. The obscure authors are entitled to there's as well. None of them are of any cricketing consequence to be taken seriously.

  • datewithdestiny on November 24, 2013, 5:34 GMT

    I have been watching cricket for 25 years and known of great innings that have been played over the last 35 years. I cannot believe VVS' 281 does not rank at the top.. Worst case should be top 5. I think you can argue Lara's 153 was better. I will not include 6,9, & 10 in my opinion as I have not known too much of them as it was decades ago but to suggest the ones mentioned there is bordering on ridiculous. I understand opinion's might differ on Laxman's and Lara's effort but on whichever yardstick you might want to choose, I have hardly known of an innings purely on impact on a match and a series!

    I think those players themselves will be a little embarrassed if you asked them if they believed their innings was better than Laxmans

  • on November 24, 2013, 5:32 GMT

    where are the innings played by vvs laxman (281) against australia and azhar mahmood (132). In which universe is gooch's 154 better than lara's 153* or laxman's 281 or any other test innings ever played by anyone.Even Kim Hughes 100 vs west indies in melbourne is better than gooch's 154. this list seems to be very inaccurate. i cannot say this list makes sense to me. none, whatsoever.

  • KeshavSeshadri85 on November 24, 2013, 5:23 GMT

    Why the pretence of a formula when the list is always going to favour centuries made by players from outside the subcontinent? Why not just openly admit that it's just the authors' opinion and that a list made by someone else would be totally different? I love the way the pretence of a formula is used when one of the conditions used was probably 1 English, Aus, or SA century is five times more valuable than a century scored by a player from any other team? I'll bet that if a top 100 ODI centuries list was compiled, none of Tendulkar's, Ganguly's, Sehwag's, Dravid's, Laxman's, Jayasuriya's, De Silva's, Sangakkara's, Inzamam's, Anwar's, or Jayawardane's centuries would make the top 75. but Collingwood, Botham, Cook, Bell, Pieterson, Trescothick, Nick Knight, Nasser Hussain, etc. etc. would all make the top 25.

  • on November 24, 2013, 5:21 GMT

    Heavily loaded against Asia. This list is as big a joke as the Wisden 100.

  • Srini_Indian on November 24, 2013, 5:14 GMT

    Never mind. This list is a joke. Pathetic

  • tushar.gupta on November 24, 2013, 5:11 GMT

    I suppose author is just following English cricket, that's why I only see England all the way in the top 10. I can also assume, how the rest of the 90 knocks will look like.

  • on November 24, 2013, 5:05 GMT

    Kevin Pietersen, 186 v India, Mumbai 2012 some Indian must comment on it with respect to bowlling .no indian batsman in the top 10 ,even no one from Asia bc0z there are no Sachin's Gavakar's Hanif or Miandad.hah

  • on November 24, 2013, 4:59 GMT

    No GR Vishwanath's 97 against the mighty WI fast bowling in 1975? Surely, you cant be serious!!

  • TenDonebyaShooter on November 24, 2013, 4:57 GMT

    Absolutely extraordinary set of choices. Gooch's the best of all time? FIGJAM's effort no.4? English batsmen scoring 5 of the best 10 test centuries (and Indian and Pakistan batsmen none of them). Bradman's effort in 1936/7 and Hanif Mohammed's match-saving 337 were better than any of those mentioned.

  • UB11 on November 24, 2013, 4:50 GMT

    I think best innings in India, was played by Laxman against Australia in Edens 2001..

  • on November 24, 2013, 4:49 GMT

    Where is VVS Laxman's 281 in the list i guess this list is just a joke

  • on November 24, 2013, 4:42 GMT

    So Kallis's against Z Khan, Sreesanth, et al ranks higher than Sachin's against Steyn, Morkel, et al? And there's no Sunil Gavaskar's 220 against the West Indies or his 221 against England? How much, then, should I give to this list?

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  • on November 24, 2013, 4:42 GMT

    So Kallis's against Z Khan, Sreesanth, et al ranks higher than Sachin's against Steyn, Morkel, et al? And there's no Sunil Gavaskar's 220 against the West Indies or his 221 against England? How much, then, should I give to this list?

  • on November 24, 2013, 4:49 GMT

    Where is VVS Laxman's 281 in the list i guess this list is just a joke

  • UB11 on November 24, 2013, 4:50 GMT

    I think best innings in India, was played by Laxman against Australia in Edens 2001..

  • TenDonebyaShooter on November 24, 2013, 4:57 GMT

    Absolutely extraordinary set of choices. Gooch's the best of all time? FIGJAM's effort no.4? English batsmen scoring 5 of the best 10 test centuries (and Indian and Pakistan batsmen none of them). Bradman's effort in 1936/7 and Hanif Mohammed's match-saving 337 were better than any of those mentioned.

  • on November 24, 2013, 4:59 GMT

    No GR Vishwanath's 97 against the mighty WI fast bowling in 1975? Surely, you cant be serious!!

  • on November 24, 2013, 5:05 GMT

    Kevin Pietersen, 186 v India, Mumbai 2012 some Indian must comment on it with respect to bowlling .no indian batsman in the top 10 ,even no one from Asia bc0z there are no Sachin's Gavakar's Hanif or Miandad.hah

  • tushar.gupta on November 24, 2013, 5:11 GMT

    I suppose author is just following English cricket, that's why I only see England all the way in the top 10. I can also assume, how the rest of the 90 knocks will look like.

  • Srini_Indian on November 24, 2013, 5:14 GMT

    Never mind. This list is a joke. Pathetic

  • on November 24, 2013, 5:21 GMT

    Heavily loaded against Asia. This list is as big a joke as the Wisden 100.

  • KeshavSeshadri85 on November 24, 2013, 5:23 GMT

    Why the pretence of a formula when the list is always going to favour centuries made by players from outside the subcontinent? Why not just openly admit that it's just the authors' opinion and that a list made by someone else would be totally different? I love the way the pretence of a formula is used when one of the conditions used was probably 1 English, Aus, or SA century is five times more valuable than a century scored by a player from any other team? I'll bet that if a top 100 ODI centuries list was compiled, none of Tendulkar's, Ganguly's, Sehwag's, Dravid's, Laxman's, Jayasuriya's, De Silva's, Sangakkara's, Inzamam's, Anwar's, or Jayawardane's centuries would make the top 75. but Collingwood, Botham, Cook, Bell, Pieterson, Trescothick, Nick Knight, Nasser Hussain, etc. etc. would all make the top 25.