Brian Lara's career in numbers April 21, 2007

Lara and the art of run-making



A stroke that was his trademark: Brian Lara flays through the covers © AFP

A terrible mix-up with Marlon Samuels limited Brian Lara to just 18 in his final international innings, but with an aggregate of 22,358 international runs, it's fair to say that he's played a heck of an innings. Over a career that spanned 17 years, Lara provided thrills and entertainment that went far beyond numbers, but at the end of the day the stats don't look bad either: with a Test average of 52.88 from 131 matches and an ODI average of more than 40, Lara has done enough to look back with pride on a glorious career.

Lara was considered precocious by all those who had seen him even before he made his international debut, and it didn't take him long to translate all that talent into runs - in only his fifth Test, and his ninth innings, he stroked a magnificent 277 against Australia at Sydney in 1992-93. One-day success took him slightly longer to achieve - his first ODI century came in his 41st match, but only a little more than a month after that memorable double. Since then, there have been a few hiccups, but those troughs were almost always followed by heady highs, which ensured that he was always in the mix when discussion veered towards who's the best batsman in the world.

An important criterion when discussing that is performance against the best team in the world, and Lara's numbers against Australia indicated his class: in Tests he averaged 51 against them from 31 games, with nine centuries - each of them a gem, and one, the matchwinning unbeaten 153 in Barbados, arguably his best Test innings. His ODI numbers against them were pretty good too - an average of nearly 40 from 51 games.

Part of the thrill of watching Lara was the uncertainty over which version would turn up - the sublime version could send spectators and critics into raptures, but equally, the scratchy version could be painful to watch. Lara's Test career lends itself to a neat three-way partition - for the first five years the runs came easily and he averaged 60; then came a more difficult period, when he averaged less than 40 over four seasons, and while it wasn't all bleak - that memorable Barbados innings came during this period, as did a fantastic series against Australia - for large periods it was hugely disappointing. In his last five seasons - starting with the outstanding series against Sri Lanka in 2001-02 - he has been among the runs again. In his last Test series - against Pakistan late last year - he averaged 89.60, with two hundreds, including a double. Talk about finishing with a flourish.

Break-up of Lara's Test career
Period Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
1990-91 - 1995-96 33 3197 60.32 7/ 17
1996-97 - 2000-01 47 3356 39.95 8/ 16
2001-02 - 2006-07 51 5420 60.90 19/ 15

Through much of his career, Lara has had to battle for the mantle of best batsman with Sachin Tendulkar. Between 1992 and 1995 there was little to choose between the two, but Lara's slump coincided with a golden period for Tendulkar, when he averaged almost 62. Since November 2001, though, Lara has clearly been the superior batsman, and one of only five to average more than 60; over the same period Tendulkar average 49.70 only, with nine hundreds in 50 Tests.

Top Test batsmen since November 2001
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Ricky Ponting 62 6501 71.43 25/ 22
Mohammad Yousuf 42 4318 66.43 16/ 15
Jacques Kallis 54 5001 62.51 15/ 27
Rahul Dravid 58 5128 61.78 14/ 25
Brian Lara 51 5420 60.89 19/ 15

Being a part of a mediocre West Indian team meant enduring more than his fair share of defeats - Lara is the only batsman with more than 5000 runs in defeats, more than 2000 runs clear of the second-placed Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

Most number of runs in Test defeats
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Brian Lara 63 5316 42.19 14/ 22
Shivnarine Chanderpaul 49 3059 33.61 3/ 19
Alec Stewart 54 2993 29.93 0/ 23
Sachin Tendulkar 39 2783 35.67 8/ 11
Allan Border 46 2771 33.38 5/ 13
Andy Flower 34 2713 43.06 7/ 15

Lara has had his share of personal battles, and victories, against fast bowlers, but he was clearly at his best against spin - it wouldn't be far-fetched to call him the best against spin in the last 20 years. The tables below display the numbers since November 2001 in both forms of the game, and the stats lend further credence to that theory.

Lara against pace & spin in Tests since Nov 2001
Runs Balls Dismissals Average Runs per over
Pace 3144 5377 61 51.54 3.50
Spin 2276 3510 28 81.29 3.89

Lara against pace & spin in ODIs since Nov 2001
Runs Balls Dismissals Average Runs per over
Pace 1899 2589 56 33.91 4.40
Spin 1335 1381 24 55.63 5.80

A further break-up against specific bowlers makes for interesting reading as well. He has dominated Muttiah Muralitharan, Stuart MacGill, Danish Kaneria, Chaminda Vaas and Makhaya Ntini, but some of the other bowlers have enjoyed more success against him since 2001. While most bowlers would be thanking their stars at the prospect of not having to bowl to Lara again, one might feel differently - Andre Nel has dismissed him 11 times in international cricket, eight in Tests and three in ODIs.

Lara versus the top bowlers in Tests since Nov 2001
Bowler Runs Balls Dismissals Average Runs per over
Chaminda Vaas 233 372 1 233.00 3.75
Makhaya Ntini 225 312 1 25.00 4.32
Muttiah Muralitharan 373 710 3 124.33 3.15
Stuart MacGill 174 236 2 87.00 4.42
Danish Kaneria 260 298 3 86.67 5.23
Brett Lee 172 243 2 86.00 4.24
Shaun Pollock 63 192 1 63.00 1.96
Glenn McGrath 90 233 2 45.00 2.31
Stephen Harmison 146 303 4 36.50 2.89
Shane Warne 105 168 3 35.00 3.75
Andrew Flintoff 109 263 4 27.25 2.48
Andre Nel 185 341 8 23.12 3.25
Anil Kumble 67 112 3 22.33 3.58
Shane Bond 52 64 3 17.33 4.87

Lara versus the top bowlers in ODIs since Nov 2001
Bowler Runs Balls Dismissals Average Runs per over
Muttiah Muralitharan 72 99 0 - 4.36
Harbhajan Singh 129 140 2 64.50 5.52
Anil Kumble 58 50 1 58.00 6.96
Shaun Pollock 30 69 1 30.00 2.60
Andre Nel 50 72 3 16.67 4.16
Glenn McGrath 33 67 2 16.50 2.95
Brett Lee 58 87 4 14.50 4.00
Nathan Bracken 33 55 3 11.00 3.60

Despite being such an excellent player against spin Lara has struggled against India, both in Tests and in ODIs. That, though, is only a tiny blot on what has been a glittering career.

More stats highlights

  • Lara has scored three Test double-centuries in defeats. No-one else has more than one. He also has five as captain, which is also a record, one more than what Don Bradman managed.

  • Against South Africa at Johannesburg in 2003-04, Lara smashed 28 from a Robin Peterson over, which remains the most number of runs in an over.

  • Lara is one of only four batsmen to amass three or more 150-plus scores in ODIs. Sanath Jayasuriya (with four), Viv Richards and Chris Gayle are the others.

  • He averages 61.82 in ODIs that West Indies have won, but only 25.40 in matches they have lost.

  • Lara averages 70.17 in the first innings of a Test, but only 35.12 in the fourth innings.

    S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo