Stephen Fleming's Test career March 25, 2008

New Zealand's finest overseas batsman

A statistical rewind of Stephen Fleming's Test career
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Cold numbers will suggest that Stephen Fleming may not have lived up entirely to his potential as a batsman, but he surely has been one of New Zealand's best of all time, besides being an astute captain and an excellent hand in the slips. Fleming finishes his career with a Nelson of Tests, while the previous match against England also saw him go past the 7000-run mark, making him the first New Zealander to do so.

New Zealand's leading Test run-getters
Player Matches Innings Runs Average 100/50
Stephen Fleming 111 189 7172 40.06 9/44
Martin Crowe 77 131 5444 45.36 17/18
John Wright 82 148 5334 37.82 12/23
Nathan Astle 81 137 4702 37.02 11/24
Bev Congdon 61 114 3448 32.22 7/19

Fleming had said he wanted to finish his career with an average of more than 40. Though his two fifties in Napier may not help New Zealand avoid defeat in the series, it ensured his average moved up to 40.06 - prior to the Napier Test, his average was 39.81, and he needed to score 113 runs in his final two innings, assuming he was dismissed in both - he managed to score 12 more than that.

Most batsmen are more prolific in home conditions, but for Fleming the bigger challenge was to score in New Zealand. He averaged only 33.87 in 54 Tests at home, and 45.92 in 57 away Tests.

Fleming home and away
Venue Matches Innings Runs Average 100/50
Home 54 89 2947 33.87 2/21
Away 57 100 4225 45.92 7/25

The away average of 45.92 reflects more favourably on Fleming's contribution, especially when compared to other New Zealand batsmen.

Best away averages for New Zealand batsmen (min 1000 runs)
Player Matches Innings Runs Averages 100/50
Stephen Fleming 57 100 4225 45.92 7/25
Glenn Turner 21 38 1536 43.88 4/6
Mark Richardson 22 38 1582 42.75 2/11
Martin Crowe 45 79 3043 42.26 9/11
Bert Sutcliffe 29 53 1934 42.04 4/11

Fleming fared poorly against trans-Tasman rivals Australia - definitely the best team of his time - and the only countries against whom he averages over 50 - often a requisite benchmark for great batsmen - are Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Fleming averages over 100 in both the countries; his average of more than 100 in Sri Lanka - where he scored his best of 274 not out, besides an unbeaten 174 - is only matched by Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara among players having played more than one Test in the country. Fleming's overall record in the subcontinent - he averages 35.70 and 50 against India and Pakistan - is surely something to be proud of. In fact, he is one of the leading run-getters in the subcontinent among players from outside the region, and in the company of quite a few distinguished fellow left-handers. (For Fleming's career batting summary, click here.)

Leading visiting batsmen in the subcontinent
Player Matches Innings Runs Average 100/50
Allan Border 22 39 1799 54.51 6/8
Clive Lloyd 20 31 1629 62.65 4/7
Andy Flower 21 38 1614 53.80 5/9
Stephen Fleming 18 29 1571 65.45 3/8
Brian Lara 14 26 1530 58.84 5/4

Fleming also holds the unique distinction of being the only batsman in the 7000-plus club not to have scored at least ten Test hundreds. His nine centuries leaves him six short of the next-lowest tally of 15 hundreds by Stewart. Perhaps the slow start did Fleming in: his first century came in his 23rd Test. For a player who struggles to score centuries, he has done remarkably well after going past three figures - five of his nine hundreds have extended beyond 150.

Scores break-up for Fleming
Score range Innings Percentage of total innings
0-19 81 43.32
20-49 53 28.34
50-89 38 20.32
90-99 6 3.21
100-149 4 2.14
150+ 5 2.67

Fleming's poor conversion rate from fifties to hundreds - 46 fifties to nine hundreds - is even worse in lost causes: he's made only one hundred in the 41 losses during his career, in which he averages 28.93. He fares better in wins and draws, averaging 51.07 and 47.71. Five of his nine hundreds have come in drawn matches, and his conversion rate is best in those.

Fleming's record by type of result
Match result Matches Innings Runs Average 100/50
Won 33 48 2145 51.07 3/15
Lost 41 82 2373 28.93 1/16
Drawn 36 57 2529 47.71 5/13

He performs best in the first innings of a match, with an average of over 50. Eight of Fleming's nine Test hundreds have come in the first innings of a match. However, his average drops to less than 40 in the second, and to 28.36 in the fourth innings. In the third innings of a match, Fleming has one hundred to show along with 11 fifties, while he has suffered from a century jinx in the second and fourth innings, with no hundreds despite scoring 22 fifties.

Fleming's record by match innings
Match innings Innings Runs Average 100/50
1st 58 2980 53.21 8/13
2nd 50 1881 38.38 0/16
3rd 52 1602 32.69 1/11
4th 29 709 28.36 0/6

Fleming has batted for most of his career between positions 3 and 5; however, it's surprising that a majority of his innings are at the No. 4 spot, despite the fact that his average at No. 3 - 47.25 - is over ten more than what he has managed at either No. 4 or No. 5. Fleming has scored 26 fifties at No. 4, but only two centuries, while at No. 3 he's managed only 12 fifties, but six scores of over 100.

Position-wise averages for Fleming
Position in batting order Innings Runs Average 50/100
2 11 333 33.30 1/1
3 69 2977 47.25 6/12
4 82 2902 36.27 2/26
5 17 702 33.42 0/4
6 1 88 88.00 0/1
7 4 170 42.50 0/2

Over 70% of the Tests played by Fleming have been as captain, with his 80 Tests in charge second only to the record of 93 by Allan Border. The 80 included 28 wins, 27 losses and 25 draws - only Geoff Howarth has a higher win percentage among New Zealand captains who have led in at least ten Tests. Fleming's first Test as captain came when he was only 23, which still remains a New Zealand record. Captaincy, though, doesn't seem to have impacted his batting. In fact, eight of his nine hundreds were scored when he was in charge.

Captaincy and Fleming's batting
Role Matches Innings Runs Average 100/50
Captain 80 135 5156 40.59 8/31
Non-captain 31 54 2016 38.76 1/15

Fleming also bows out as one of the leading catchers in the game; his 171 catches is only second to Mark Waugh's 181 among non-wicketkeepers. Had Fleming not retired before turning 35, he could have perhaps wrested the record from Waugh. However, he would have in all probability been surpassed by Rahul Dravid, with Ricky Ponting and Mahela Jayawardene also catching up.

Trivia:
1. Fleming has played 111 Tests without bowling a ball in Test cricket; he's played the most number of matches having not bowled throughout his Test career among those who have not kept wicket. England's Peter May previously held the mark with 66 Tests. If we include wicketkeepers, Fleming finishes second, bookended by two Australian wicketkeepers he's played against - Ian Healy and Adam Gilchrist.

2. Fleming is the only player to fall in the nervous nineties during his Test and ODI debuts. Ricky Ponting managed nineties on his Test and Twenty20 international debuts - he was not out on 98 in the latter.

Mathew Varghese is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo