Stats tribute to Glenn McGrath April 29, 2007

Bowing out on top

Glenn McGrath's career was characterised by his consistency and his ability to bring out his best on the most important occasions



Glenn McGrath: a class act in both whites and coloured clothing © Getty Images
A wicket off his last ball in Test cricket and his penultimate ball in ODIs, a 5-0 Ashes triumph in his last Test series and a World Cup win in his last ODI appearance, coupled with the Player of the Tournament ... Glenn McGrath bows out of international cricket on an incredible high.

Throughout a glittering career that spanned 13 years, the one aspect that stood out more than any other was his sheer consistency and the ability to deliver the matchwinning performance no matter what the conditions. The numbers bear that out amply: his career summary in Tests shows he had to work his hardest for wickets against South Africa, but even against them his average was only 27.33. Similarly, in Pakistan and Sri Lanka his average crept up to around 30, but everywhere else he was outstanding; in every continent he averaged less than 24; his home and away stats were almost identical; he was equally good in the first innings and the second; and only in two calendar years since 1995 did his average go beyond 24.

Since coming of age on that historic trip to the West Indies in 1995, McGrath never looked back in Test cricket. His average of 20.87 is bettered only by one bowler during this period.

Best Test bowlers since 1995 (at least 5000 balls)
Bowler Tests Wickets Average 5WI/ 10WM
Muttiah Muralitharan 94 618 20.71 54/ 19
Glenn McGrath 116 544 20.87 29/ 3
Curtly Ambrose 50 186 20.88 11/ 0
Allan Donald 55 255 21.04 16/ 2
Shaun Pollock 107 416 23.19 16/ 1
Courtney Walsh 64 280 23.22 15/ 2

His ODI summary is equally impressive, with an average of 22 and an economy rate of less than four runs per over. Like in Tests, in the one-dayers too he was hardly bothered by such trivialities like the toss and the playing conditions. He took slightly longer to find his ODI bearings, but since 1999 his numbers are unmatched.

Best ODI bowlers since 1999 (at least 5000 balls)
Bowler ODIs Wkts Average Econ
Glenn McGrath 176 286 20.03 3.83
Muttiah Muralitharan 196 316 20.40 3.64
Brett Lee 150 267 22.65 4.69
Shoaib Akhtar 128 203 22.89 4.61
Shaun Pollock 227 300 23.65 3.64
Makhaya Ntini 150 235 23.66 4.42
Wasim Akram 102 139 24.64 4.05
Shane Warne 98 143 26.83 4.38

One reason why McGrath deserves to be considered among the all-time great bowlers is his performance in the subcontinent - in conditions which were usually not conducive to fast bowling, McGrath adapted superbly, averaging 23 runs per wicket, which is among the best for overseas fast bowlers.

Best overseas fast bowlers in Tests in the subcontinent since 1980 (at least 2000 balls)
Bowler Tests Wickets Average 5WI/ 10WM
Malcolm Marshall 16 68 20.17 3/ 0
Courtney Walsh 17 77 20.53 5/ 0
Glenn McGrath 19 72 23.02 1/ 0
Shaun Pollock 17 60 23.18 2/ 0
Jason Gillespie 14 54 23.75 1/ 0

Over a long international career, few cricketers have walked the talk like McGrath has. His predictions went famously wrong during the 2005 Ashes, but almost every other time he has been spot on, a testament to his unmatched ability and his huge self-belief. On the big stage, in the most important matches, against the best opposition, McGrath has invariably brought out his A game. His Ashes average is a splendid 20.92, with 157 wickets from 30 Tests; he finished as the leading wicket-taker in World Cups, with 71 from 39 games at 18.19; and in finals of ODI tournaments he averages an astounding 16.43.

Equally impressive was his ability to live up to his pre-match talk of nailing the opposition team's best batsman, whether it be Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar, Jacques Kallis or Stephen Fleming - they all rank very high in his list of batsmen dismissed most often in Tests. The table below lists his averages against specific batsmen since June 2001 - not many have enjoyed too much success against him.

McGrath versus the top batsmen in Tests since June 2001
Batsman Balls Runs Dismissals Average Runs per over
Herschelle Gibbs 492 191 3 63.67 2.32
Nathan Astle 297 189 3 63.00 3.81
Brian Lara 233 90 2 45.00 2.31
Jacques Kallis 378 133 3 44.33 211
Michael Vaughan 349 193 6 32.16 3.31
Marcus Trescothick 438 184 6 30.67 2.52
Kevin Pietersen 270 135 5 27.00 3.00
Graeme Smith 224 81 5 16.20 2.16
Chris Gayle 177 63 4 15.75 2.13
Michael Atherton 210 86 6 14.33 2.45
Stephen Fleming 222 63 7 9.00 1.70
Rahul Dravid 170 26 3 8.67 0.91

It was no different in the ODIs - Tendulkar, Kallis, Sanath Jayasuriya, Herschelle Gibbs and Fleming were among the wickets he nailed most often in the shorter version as well. The key aspect here - apart from the fact that he got the good batsmen out - is the number of times he dismissed them early in their innings, before they got starts. The averages column in the page of batsmen dismissed indicates the average score of the batsmen in the innings in which McGrath dismissed them - significantly, that figure is mostly in the teens, or sometimes even in single digits.

The table below breaks-up his Test and ODI wickets by batting positions, and by cheap dismissals. He got rid of the openers 155 times in Tests, and on 84 of those occasions they fell for less than ten. The corresponding stat is even more impressive in ODIs.

McGrath's wickets by batting positions and scores in Tests and ODIs
Match type Openers Openers <10 Nos. 3-7 Nos. 3-7 < 10 Tail Tail < 10
Tests 155 84 266 115 142 95
ODIs 128 72 171 99 82 57

More McGrath stats

  • McGrath has taken 414 wickets in Test wins - only Shane Warne, with 510, has more wickets in victories. In ODIs, McGrath's 301 wickets in wins is better only by Muttiah Muralitharan (305) and Wasim Akram (326).

  • McGrath's 7 for 15 against Namibia at Potchefstroom is the best bowling figures in a World Cup match, and the second-best in all ODIs, after Chaminda Vaas's 8 for 19 against Zimbabwe in Colombo in 2001-02.

  • His 26 wickets in the 2006 World Cup is the highest by any bowler in a single edition of the World Cup.

  • In ODIs in which he bowled at least eight overs, 11 times he finished with an economy rate of less than two, and only four times went for more than seven an over. His most economical and most expensive figures were both at Sydney, within five days of each other - against India in 1999-2000 he returned astonishing figures of 10-4-8-4, while against Pakistan five days later he leaked 67 in eight overs.

  • McGrath has bowled 279 maiden overs in ODIs, next only to Shaun Pollock's 288.

  • McGrath has won 11 Man-of-the-Match and five Man-of-the-Series awards in Tests. In ODIs, he has won 15 MoM awards, six of which have been in World Cups. Only Tendulkar, with eight, has more awards in the tournament. Along with David Boon, Mark Waugh and Matthew Hayden, McGrath is one of only four Australians to win the MoM award three times in the same World Cup.

  • The c Gilchrist b McGrath combination accounted for 90 dismissals in Tests, which is next only to the 95 times that Rod Marsh and Dennis Lillee combined to dismiss batsmen. (Click here for the full list of such combinations.) In ODIs, the McGrath-Gilchrist combination brought about 73 dismissals.

  • Those 73 dismissals also included one stumping, when Craig McMillan was caught out of his crease at Wellington in 2004-05. That's his only stumped victim in international cricket.