The gold standard in Test batting averages is Don Bradman's 99.94, achieved during a 52-match career. In bowling averages, it belongs to George Lohmann, who took wickets at 10.75 apiece in 18 Tests. In one-day internationals, Joel Garner's economy rate of 3.09 over 98 matches is far lower than those of the rest. These figures remain unsurpassed by anyone over the length of an entire career. A reader, however, wanted to know whether a batsman had enjoyed a sequence of 52 Tests as purple as Bradman's. We decided to find out, and also dig up bowlers who matched Lohmann and Garner during equivalent sequences of 18 Tests and 98 ODIs.
Bradman batted 80 innings in 52 Tests, scored 6996 runs at an average of 99.94, with 29 hundreds and 13 half-centuries. No one has come within 25 runs of that average or within 1000 runs of that aggregate in 52 consecutive Tests. Ricky Ponting was closest, relatively speaking, during his glory years between 2002 and 2006. During that time, Ponting scored 5813 runs at an average of 74.52, with 23 hundreds and 29 half-centuries. He averaged more than 50 against every team except Sri Lanka, against whom he made only 487 runs in eight innings at an average of 33. Ponting had several other hot streaks of 52 Tests, most beginning just before or after the one just cited, but we've included only his best in the table below.
Before Ponting, the player who had the most productive 52-Test streak was Garry Sobers. He played those matches for West Indies over 11 years, between 1957 and 1968, scoring 5468 runs in 88 innings at an average of 72.90. Before that period began, Sobers had averaged only 29.55, with no centuries, in 13 Tests from debut in 1954 to 1957. During those 52 Tests, however, Sobers also took 141 wickets at an average 33.59, giving him claim to the title of cricket's greatest allrounder.
Jacques Kallis also had an impressive all-round record during a sequence of 52 Tests between 2001 and 2006. He scored 5127 runs at an average of 71.20 - the fourth best after Bradman, Ponting and Sobers - and also took 106 wickets at 36 apiece.
Lohmann played only 18 Tests between his debut in 1886 and 1896, and took 112 wickets at an average of 10.75. He still possesses the best strike rate (34.1) and is the quickest to 100 wickets (16 Tests). There was someone, however, who had an 18-match patch that was better than Lohmann's.
Johnny Briggs, who bowled left-arm orthodox for England between 1884 and 1899, finished his career with 118 wickets in 33 Tests at an average of 17.75. In 18 consecutive Tests, though, Briggs took 72 wickets at an average of 9.79.
In the table below, Muttiah Muralitharan is the only bowler whose entire 18-match sequence occurred in the 21st century. Murali averaged 17.42 during that period, between 2003 and 2005, and took 128 wickets, a tally that is second only to Sydney Barnes' 139. Barnes took 18 five-fors and six ten-wicket match hauls during his 18-Test stretch.
Garner played 98 one-day internationals between 1977 and 1987 and took 146 wickets at an average of 18.84. His most outstanding stat, however, was his economy - 3.09 per over. The next best economy rate belongs to Australian fast bowler Max Walker, but he played only 17 ODIs.
None of the other great bowlers, who played more matches than Garner did, have as miserly a 98-match sequence. Richard Hadlee came closest, finishing a 115-match career with an economy rate of 3.30, and conceding only 3.20 per over in 98 ODIs between March 1975 and January 1988.
Zimbabwe spinner Ray Price is perhaps the most surprising name in the table below. He has played 98 consecutive ODIs with an economy rate of 3.90. Price has, in fact, the best economy rate among present one-day bowlers, and is a fraction more miserly than Murali was too.