New Zealand in West Indies 2014 June 11, 2014

Can Southee be Test cricket's greatest six-hitter?

Tim Southee is fast rising up the sixes charts in Tests; if he maintains his current pace, he is on track to set new records

Tim Southee was handed his Test debut against England in 2008 in Napier and immediately responded with a haul of 5 for 55 before smashing 77 off 40 balls in the second innings. That innings included nine sixes, the most hit by a batsman on Test debut. The next highest in that list is Michael Clarke with four sixes during his dazzling 151 in Bangalore. In terms of six-hitting, there was no looking back for Southee.

While a batsman like Nathan Astle - who holds the record for the fastest double century in Tests, off 153 balls - has hit only 39 sixes during his 81-Test career, Tim Southee has already hit 45 sixes* from his 32 Tests. Even renowned batsmen like David Warner, Allan Border, Shane Watson, Ian Bell, Michael Clarke and Mark Waugh have all hit fewer sixes than Southee in Tests. In fact, no batsman apart from Shahid Afridi has played fewer than 50 Tests and hit more sixes than the New Zealand seamer.

Most sixes by players who have played 50 or less Tests
Player Mat Inns Runs Ave 50+ 6s
Shahid Afridi 27 48 1716 36.51 13 52
TG Southee 32 51 876 19.46 2 45
Misbah-ul-Haq 46 80 3218 48.75 30 35
Mohammad Rafique 33 63 1059 18.57 5 34
DJG Sammy 38 63 1323 21.68 6 34

In the list of players who have hit the most number of sixes while batting at No. 8 or below, only Wasim Akram has hit more sixes. However, Akram's 50 sixes came from 110 innings, while Southee has played only 51 innings till date.

Most sixes hit by players batting at number eight or below in Tests
Player Mat Inns Runs Ave 50+ 6s
Wasim Akram 87 110 2160 22.26 8 50
TG Southee 32 51 876 19.46 2 45
Harbhajan Singh 101 140 2182 18.49 11 42
MA Holding 59 72 879 14.17 6 36
Sk Warne 141 186 3008 17.79 11 36

Among his countrymen, Southee is already among the top five six-hitters of all time, with all those above him having played a significantly higher number of Tests. Players such as Richard Hadlee, Martin Crowe, Ross Taylor and Jacob Oram have all hit fewer sixes than Southee. At his current rate, it won't be too long before Southee finds himself at the top of this list.

Most sixes hit by New Zealanders in Tests
Player Mat Inns Runs Ave 50+ 6s
CL Cairns
62
104
3320
33.53
27
87
BB McCullum 85 146 5226 37.86 37 68
CD McMillan 55
91
3116
38.46
25
54
TG Southee 32
51
876
19.46
2
45
NJ Astle
81
137
4702
37.02
35
39

Southee has faced 994 balls in Test cricket and hit 45 of those for six, which essentially means that he hits a six every 22 balls or so. Post 2000 (consistent balls-faced data is not available prior to that), no player who has faced at least 500 balls in Test cricket hit sixes as frequently as Southee. Shahid Afridi, who hits a six every 32 balls, is the next best.

Balls-per-six ratio for batsmen since 2000 (min. 500 balls)
Player Mat Inns Runs Ave Balls 50+ 6s Balls/6
TG Southee 32 51 876 19.46 994 2 45 22.09
Shahid Afridi 21 37 1362 37.83 1461 11 45 32.47
CL Cairns 18 30 1265 45.17 1717 8 42 40.88
M Muralitharan
85 102 780 10.98 1029 1 25 41.16
Mohammad Rafique 33 63 1059 18.57 1630 5 34 47.94

Southee has scored a 876 runs in Tests and has hit 45 sixes, which means that around 30% of his career runs have come in sixes. Among players who have scored at least 500 runs in Test cricket, Southee has hit the largest percentage of his runs in sixes.

Highest % of career Test runs scored in sixes (min. 500 career runs)
Player Mat Inns Runs Ave 50+ 6s Percentage of runs in sixes
TG Southee 32 51 876 19.46 2 45 30.82
Shoaib Akhtar 46 67 544 10.07 0 22 24.26
MA Holding 60 76 910 13.78 6 36 23.74
Umar Gul 47 67 577 9.94 1 20 20.80
Mohammad Rafique 33 63 1059 18.57 5 34 19.26

The top five six-hitters of all time are Adam Gilchrist, Jacques Kallis, Virender Sehwag, Chris Gayle and Brian Lara. By the time Lara had hit his 45th six, he had already scored almost 8000 Test runs. Southee on the other hand has scored less than 1000. Below is a table showing what stage of their career the top five six-hitters were at when they hit their 45th six.

Career records of the top five six hitters when they hit their 45th six (end of game)
Rank Career sixes Player Inns Runs Ave 100 50 6s
1 100 AC Gilchrist 64 3073 60.25 9 16 45
2 97 JH Kallis 145 6689 54.82 19 34 45
3 91 V Sehwag 92 4760 53.48 14 13 49
4 90 CH Gayle 134 5109 39.60 8 30 47
5 88 BC Lara 161 7921 50.45 20 38 47
35 45 TG Southee 51 876 19.46 0 2 45

Adam Gilchrist, who holds the record for the most sixes in Tests, hit 100 sixes from 137 innings. If Tim Southee were to continue hitting sixes at his current rate, he would hit 121 sixes by the time he played 137 Test innings, making him the greatest six-hitter of all time.

* Stats are as at the end of the first innings, West Indies v New Zealand at Kingston, 1st Test, Jun 8-12, 2014

Bishen Jeswant is a stats sub editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here.

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