Can Southee be Test cricket's greatest six-hitter?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Player||Mat||Inns||Runs||Ave||50+||6s||Percentage of runs in sixes|
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.
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.