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Bowing out on top

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.