Mark Boucher 500 Test catches November 9, 2011

A staggering achievement

Madhusudhan Ramakrishnan
Mark Boucher's remarkable feat of 500 Test catches is testimony to his longevity and fitness over the last 14 years

Mark Boucher, who has featured in the most Tests as a wicketkeeper, has reached the unprecedented landmark of 500 catches in Test cricket. This outstanding feat is not only a tribute to his consistency, but also to the exceptional quality of his team's fast bowlers and the bowler-friendly conditions in South Africa. Among South Africa players, only Jacques Kallis has played more Tests (145) than Boucher. Since his debut in 1997, Boucher has been a regular in the South Africa Test squad missing only ten Tests in between.

Boucher, a quality batsman in his own right, is second behind Adam Gilchrist on the list of wicketkeepers with the most runs in Tests, but is by far the leader when it comes to wicket-keeping dismissals. He has a total of 522 dismissals from 140 Tests (139 for South Africa and one for ICC World XI) including 500 catches and 22 stumpings. His dismissals-per-innings figure of 1.962 is only marginally lower than that of Gilchrist, who is on top with a corresponding number of 2.178. The huge difference between the number of catches and stumpings for Boucher is indicative of the nature of the attack that South Africa have possessed for much of his career. Except for the odd spinner, the attack has predominantly revolved around pace. In sharp contrast, both Healy and Gilchrist have a higher percentage of stumpings because of the presence of top-quality spinners like Shane Warne and Stuart Macgill in their sides. Jeff Dujon, by virtue of being a part of the pace-heavy West Indies team, has the lowest percentage of stumpings among top wicketkeepers.

** All stats updated till the 500th catch

Fielding stats for top wicketkeepers
Player Matches Innings Catches Stumpings Total dismissals Dismissals/innings
Mark Boucher 139 266 500 22 522 1.962
Adam Gilchrist 96 191 379 37 416 2.178
Ian Healy 119 224 366 29 395 1.763
Rodney Marsh 96 182 343 12 355 1.950
Jeff Dujon 79 150 265 5 270 1.800
Alan Knott 95 174 250 19 269 1.545

Most great wicketkeepers have forged successful partnerships with fast bowlers during the course of their career and Boucher is no exception. He has taken 84 catches off the bowling off Makhaya Ntini and 79 off Shaun Pollock. However, the dismissals-per-match figure was much lower in the case of Pollock. Only the Dennis Lillee-Rodney Marsh combination (95 dismissals in 69 Tests) and the Glenn McGrath-Gilchrist combination (90 dismissals in 71 Tests) are ahead of the Boucher-Ntini pairing. Although Boucher played only 35 Tests with Allan Donald, he took 53 catches off Donald's bowling at a rate of 1.51 dismissals per match, which is well above the corresponding number for Lillee-Marsh and McGrath-Gilchrist.

Ricky Ponting, part of Australia's team in the two-match series, has been dismissed caught by Boucher nine times in Tests. Other batsmen who have been dismissed nine times are Andrew Flintoff, Chris Gayle and Michael Vaughan.

Most successful bowler-wicketkeeper combinations in Tests
Bowler Fielder Span Matches Catches Catches/Match
Dennis Lillee Rodney Marsh 1971-1984 69 95 1.37
Glenn McGrath Adam Gilchrist 1999-2007 71 90 1.26
Makhaya Ntini Mark Boucher 1998-2009 96 84 0.87
Brett Lee Adam Gilchrist 1999-2008 65 81 1.24
Shaun Pollock Mark Boucher 1997-2008 88 79 0.89
Malcolm Marshall Jeff Dujon 1983-1991 68 71 1.04

Boucher, who made his debut against Pakistan in 1997, had a very high dismissal rate in his first five years. South Africa's top pace att,ack which included Donald, Pollock and Ntini, was responsible for this high dismissal rate of 2.043 between his debut and the end of 2001. Following the retirements of Donald and Pollock, the dismissal rate went down slightly between 2002 and 2006, and then fell substantially to 1.846 in Tests between 2007 and 2011. Surprisingly the dismissal rate in home Tests has also fallen from a high of 2.28 (1997-2001) and 2.24 (2002-2006) to just 1.78 since 2007.

Different phases of Boucher's career
Phase Matches Innings Dismissals Dismissals/Innings
Debut-2001 48 91 186 2.043
2002-2006 50 96 191 1.989
2007-Present 42 79 145 1.835
Overall 140 266 522 1.962

As expected, Boucher's dismissal rate is very high (2.29) in England, where the conditions are ideal for swing bowling. He has also tasted much success at home (287 dismissals in 136 innings) and in the West Indies (dismissal rate 1.90). Australia's dominance of South Africa in the last decade has meant that Boucher has generally had a lower number of dismissals in Australia. In the subcontinent, Boucher's low dismissal rate reflects the nature of the conditions, which offer very little assistance to fast bowlers. His most successful series was in England in 1998, when he picked up 26 dismissals. That performance is joint-third on the list of most dismissals in a five-Test series, behind Marsh and Jack Russell.

Boucher's record in various host countries
Country Matches Innings Dismissals Dismissals/Innings
Australia 10 20 30 1.50
England 14 27 62 2.29
New Zealand 6 12 18 1.50
South Africa/Zimbabwe 74 142 294 2.07
West Indies 12 21 40 1.90
Subcontinent (including UAE) 24 44 78 1.77

Boucher's figures against Australia are lower not only as a consequence of Australia's tremendous record against South Africa, but also because Australia's batsmen have generally been excellent players of pace bowling. However, against teams from the subcontinent, the dismissal rate is much higher. The inability of most subcontinent batsmen to adjust to the pace-friendly conditions in South Africa is a major factor behind the high dismissal rate. South African bowlers have done superbly against England both home and away over the years, and on pitches that have consistently aided swing bowling, Boucher has an excellent dismissal rate of 2.23.

Boucher's record against each team
Opposition Matches Innings Dismissals Dismissals/Innings
Australia 20 38 64 1.68
Bangladesh 8 16 40 2.50
England 25 47 105 2.23
India 14 27 60 2.22
New Zealand 14 27 39 1.44
Pakistan 15 28 55 1.96
Sri Lanka 14 26 57 2.19
West Indies 24 45 77 1.71
Zimbabwe 6 12 25 2.08