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