Kevin Pietersen's 100th Test November 20, 2013

One of England's biggest matchwinners

Kevin Pietersen has been England's best batsman in the last 30 years, and one of their biggest matchwinners ever

Kevin Pietersen the person tends to divide opinions, but there's no doubting the class of Kevin Pietersen the batsman. On Thursday he'll become the 10th England player to appear in 100 Test matches, but in terms of achievements he has already surpassed many of them. Only four England batsmen have scored more Test runs than him, and only one - Alastair Cook - has more Test hundreds.

More than just the sheer number of runs, though, it's the ability to influence the results of matches that has been the stand-out aspect of Pietersen's Test career so far. Mark Nicholas had mentioned in his article that Pietersen "is close to being regarded as a truly great cricketer, England's first since Ian Botham". A batting average of 48.38 doesn't necessarily bear that out, especially in this era of so many batsmen breaching 50, but here's a stat which reflects Pietersen's ability to turn games: he has won ten Man-of-the-Match awards in his Test career, which is the second-highest among all England players; only Botham, with 12, has won more.

The first of those awards came in his very first series, and in his fifth Test, against Australia at The Oval, when his 158 in the second innings helped England save the game and clinch the Ashes. In the next home season, he won his second for scoring 142 at Edgbaston against Sri Lanka; by the end of the 2007 home season, he had four awards in 30 Tests, scored ten hundreds, and averaged almost 53.

It was an outstanding start to his Test career, but the next two-and-a-half years weren't as prolific, as his average dipped to 42.80 in his next 28 matches. Of the nine series he played during that period, three times his average slipped below 30, two of those being on tours to Sri Lanka and South Africa.

The next 20 Tests were outstanding again, and included the 2010-11 Ashes - when he averaged 60 from five Tests - and the four-Test home series against India, when he scored 533 from six innings. However, since the beginning of 2012 the average has dipped again, to 41.24 from 21 matches. The highs have been there during this period as well, including three stunning innings in Colombo, Leeds, and Mumbai, but there have been lows too, including the series against Pakistan in the UAE, when he aggregated 67 in six innings.

Pietersen's Test career so far
Period Tests Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Till Aug 2007 30 2898 52.69 65.49 10/ 10
Sep 2007 to Jan 2010 28 1926 42.80 57.75 6/ 6
Feb 2010 to Dec 2011 20 1537 59.11 64.20 3/ 9
Jan 2012 onwards 21 1526 41.24 60.79 4/ 8
Career 99 7887 48.38 62.27 23/ 33

Problems in Asia, and v left-arm spinners

While he has played some memorable and matchwinning knocks abroad, overall Pietersen has been more consistent in England, averaging almost 53 at home compared to 43.51 in overseas Tests (including those at neutral venues). Specifically, he has had his problems in Asia, averaging less than 40 in four out of eight series. However, even in conditions he hasn't been comfortable with, Pietersen has played a couple of matchwinning innings on the last two tours, in Colombo and Mumbai.

Pietersen in Tests, home and away
  Tests Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Home 53 4537 52.75 66.18 15/ 18
Away 46 3350 43.51 57.67 8/ 15
Asia 22 1573 40.33 62.66 4/ 6

The Asian problem has something to do with left-arm spin, but, more surprisingly, Pietersen doesn't have a great average against right-arm pace either in Asia, scoring only 34.20 runs per dismissal. Overall, his average against right-arm fast is 50.24. Against left-arm spin, he has less-than-impressive numbers all around the world.

The individual bowlers who've dismissed him most often, though, aren't left-arm spinners. Peter Siddle has got him out seven times (average 21 runs per dismissal), while Brett Lee and Muttiah Muralitharan have dismissed him six times each (at averages of 38.16 and 28). Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne dismissed him five times each, but their averages differed hugely: McGrath conceded only 27 per dismissal, but Pietersen won many of his battles against Warne, averaging 61.60 against him. The bowler who has troubled him more than any other, though, is Pakistan's Saeed Ajmal: his five dismissals have cost him only 12.80 runs each.

Pietersen against different bowler types in Tests
  Overall In Asia
Bowler type Dismissals Average Runs/over Dismissals Average Runs/ over
Right-arm pace 77 50.24 3.66 10 34.20 3.61
Right-arm spin 36 60.86 4.25 14 48.28 4.45
Left-arm pace 17 41.52 3.32 3 41.66 2.97
Left-arm spin 29 37.48 3.41 12 35.83 3.31

Among England's finest, at No. 4 and overall

Pre-1970, England had several batsmen who ended their careers with 50-plus averages - Herbert Sutcliffe, Ken Barrington, Wally Hammond, Jack Hobbs, Len Hutton and Denis Compton all belonged in that club - but since then the list has dwindled. Among all the England batsmen who've scored at least 1000 runs since the beginning of 1970, only one batsman has a 50-plus average during this period: Geoff Boycott averaged 50.50 in the 67 Tests he played since 1970, though his overall career average was 47.72.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, England played against West Indies far too often for any of their batsmen to average in the vicinity of 50, but even in the 2000s none of their batsmen breached that mark. Pietersen's average of 48.38 is the highest among England batsmen who've played in the last 30 years, and the third-best since 1970.

Highest Test averages for England since 1970 (Qual: 1000 runs)
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Geoff Boycott 67 5505 50.50 16/ 29
Dennis Amiss 45 3487 49.11 11/ 11
Kevin Pietersen 99 7887 48.38 23/ 33
Alastair Cook 97 7801 47.85 25/ 32
Jonathan Trott 48 3744 47.39 9/ 18
Ian Bell 93 6487 46.66 20/ 37
Graham Thorpe 100 6744 44.66 16/ 39
David Gower 117 8231 44.25 18/ 39
Marcus Trescothick 76 5825 43.79 14/ 29
Robin Smith 62 4236 43.67 9/ 28
Graham Gooch 118 8900 42.58 20/ 46

At No. 4, Pietersen is already England's leading run-scorer by a distance, already having scored 1965 runs more than Compton, though Compton had a better average. In the all-time list for all teams, Pietersen is in seventh place, after Tendulkar, Kallis, Jayawardene, Lara, Miandad and Mark Waugh.

England's highest run-getters at No. 4 in Tests
Batsman Innings Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Kevin Pietersen 130 6199 49.59 19/ 25
Denis Compton 86 4234 53.39 13/ 20
David Gower 91 3223 38.36 3/ 20
Wally Hammond 66 2997 50.79 7/ 15
Nasser Hussain 82 2877 37.36 8/ 17
Graham Thorpe 73 2712 41.72 4/ 18
Peter May 49 2383 58.12 7/ 12
Ken Barrington 44 2367 59.17 7/ 12
Allan Lamb 67 2340 38.36 8/ 7
Robin Smith 49 1834 39.86 5/ 10

Pietersen at No. 4 by point-of-entry scores

The table below lists Pietersen's batting stats at No. 4 sorted by the team totals at which he has come in to bat. When he has come in early - with the score reading less than 25 - Pietersen's average has dropped to 32, which is well below his career average. He has scored a couple of centuries in 20 innings - 144 against India in Mohali coming in at 1 for 2, and 129 against New Zealand in Napier coming in at 4 for 2 (which soon became 36 for 4) - but 12 times in 20 innings, he has been dismissed for less than 15, which brings his overall average down to 32.

The average increases to 41.03 when he comes in with the total between 25 and 49, but he has been at his most productive at No. 4 when he has come in to bat with the team total between 50 and 99. In 37 such innings he has scored ten centuries, and averages nearly 65. Two of his double-centuries were scored in this point-of-entry range, as was his matchwinning 186 in Mumbai last year (when he came in at 68 for 2). When he's come in after 100, his average has dropped, though it's still an impressive 50.66.

Pietersen at No. 4 by point-of-entry scores
Score Innings Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Less than 25 20 641 32.05 2/ 3
25 to 49 29 1149 41.03 3/ 6
50 to 99 37 2332 64.78 10/ 5
100 to 149 22 884 44.20 1/ 6
150 or more 22 1193 56.81 3/ 5

Comparing with the best of his time

Pietersen is the fastest to 4000, 5000, and 7000 Test runs in terms of days, but that's also partially because of the amount of Test cricket England tend to play. Since Pietersen's Test debut, in July 2005, England have played 106 Tests, the most by any team. Australia are next with 94, India 89, South Africa 76 while Pakistan have managed only 65 Tests. (Click here for the full list.) This unequal distribution has helped Pietersen and the other England batsman, but his overall average of 48.38 isn't as good as some of the others.

This is clearly an era in which 50-plus averages are nowhere near as exclusive as they used to be: since July 2005 (when Pietersen made his debut), nine batsmen have scored 4000-plus runs at 50-plus averages, while two others have marginally higher averages than Pietersen. It's true that Pietersen has played more than half his Tests in England, where run-scoring has been relatively difficult during this period: the average runs per wicket here since his debut is 31.30, compared to 35.35 in the same period in India, and 33.09 in Sri Lanka. However, Pietersen has had more problems scoring runs consistently in Asia.

Highest batting averages in Tests since Pietersen made his Test debut (Qual: 4000 runs)
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s Strike rate
Kumar Sangakkara 70 6986 63.50 26/ 24 53.84
Shivnarine Chanderpaul 63 4931 57.33 14/ 26 43.00
Younis Khan 49 4349 56.48 13/ 16 51.92
Hashim Amla 68 5851 54.68 20/ 27 52.70
Jacques Kallis 71 5803 53.73 22/ 21 50.69
Michael Clarke 85 6987 53.33 22/ 25 55.94
Michael Hussey 79 6235 51.52 19/ 29 50.13
AB de Villiers 76 5670 51.08 14/ 29 54.35
Mahela Jayawardene 70 5869 50.59 18/ 23 51.51
VS Laxman 70 4820 48.68 10/ 34 49.02
Sachin Tendulkar 77 5787 48.63 17/ 27 53.84
Kevin Pietersen 99 7887 48.38 23/ 33 62.27

Though Pietersen isn't among the top ten in terms of averages, he is clearly among the most impactful players during this period. Since his Test debut, only Kumar Sangakkara has more Man-of-the-Match awards (11) than Pietersen's 10.

Already, Pietersen is the fifth-highest run-scorer in Tests for England, 1013 behind the leader, Graham Gooch. If he stays focussed and hungry for Test cricket, he should cruise past that landmark and become the first England player to score 9000 runs. (It's a tad surprising that of the 12 batsmen currently in the 9000-run club, none are from England.) However, more than the sheer number of runs, it's his ability to turn games that will probably remain Pietersen's biggest selling point.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on November 23, 2013, 1:04 GMT

    Dennis Amiss averaged 49 yet struggled against the great Dennis Lillee. He averaged almost 60 in this period against allother teams...........

  • David on November 21, 2013, 12:28 GMT

    Stats don't tell you everything (there are a few sourpusses out there who think Tendulkar should have retired 10 years ago, and yet even during his supposed years of decline he averaged slightly more a great player like KP). KP is essentially an emotional player who needs some kind of challenge or occasion to get the best out of himself. This has been in evidence since the Oval 2005, and even in the past 2 years where he his averaged has dipped a bit, he has played 3 great innings, two of which turned a series (the third might have done the same had KP not also been texting the opposition on how to get his captain out.. ) Viv Richards (who averaged 'only' 50 in test cricket) was similar to KP - had he chosen to accumulate rather than look to dominate, bowlers would never have got him out in the first 10 years of his test career.

  • Dummy4 on November 20, 2013, 18:25 GMT

    No doubt KP is impact and match winner. I believe england management once again not able to handle great player by not giving him respect and honor when he was captain of the team. KP has lost all his touch after losing the captaincy and his place in the team. KP would become one of the greatest hard hitting batsman of all time along with Viv but KP is not lucky because ECB did not support him when he was in form of his life and was captain too. Sad

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