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Stats Analysis

That one fantastic performance in a long career - Stuart Broad, Sourav Ganguly, Joe Root and Kapil Dev

Instances of solitary top-class batting and bowling performances by players with long and short careers

Joe Root celebrates a wicket, India vs England, 4th Test, Ahmedabad, 2nd Day, March 5, 2021

Joe Root's 5 for 8 in Ahmedabad in 2021 is No. 3 on the list of bowlers who played many Tests and had a single top performance to their name  •  BCCI

In the India-England Test series earlier this year, Ollie Pope played an epochal innings of 196, which I have placed ninth in my list of greatest Test innings ever played, the Bat-100. But his next-best score in the series was 39. It was as if that one innings took everything out of him. In the same series, Ben Duckett also had one very good score - 153 off 151 balls in Rajkot - and nothing else. When I looked at these one-offs, I wondered whether regarding these series-level events could form the basis of a macro career-level analysis. It turns out, they can.
It so happened that, around this time, I also got into a discussion with someone about Narendra Hirwani and Bob Massie, and their exceptional debut performances. There turned out to be a little more in Hirwani's case, and nothing else in Massie's. So this analysis looked like it could open up many new insights.
I knew I could not use just runs and wickets for this analysis. A hundred made on a featherbed pitch cannot be rated very highly. On the other hand, a four-wicket haul on a batting pitch should be considered a great performance, and a five-wicket haul on a quagmire of a pitch should be ranked lower.
I decided that the only way I could do this analysis would be to use the context-driven Bat-100 and Bowl-100 rating points. These are derived from complex in-depth analyses and the parameters involved will not allow ordinary performances to achieve special status. If Brian Lara's unbeaten 153 against Australia in Bridgetown in 1999 is rated at 897 points and Javed Miandad's unbeaten 153 at Edgbaston in 1992 is rated at 477, there are compelling and irrefutable context-driven reasons for the wide disparity.
This will be the first analysis where the Batting and Bowling Performance Rating points are used as data points. Until now, I have merely presented the Bat-100 and Bowl-100 as lists of the top performances in Tests.
Batting performances
I analysed the Bat-100 performances in depth. Out of more than 90,000 innings, just over 800 (under 1%) have over 600 rating points. This goes up to around 1.5% if we ignore the 30,000 or so innings by late-order batters. This is a tall enough bar and these performances form an elite group. It requires a very good, contextually rich innings to reach 600 points. In fact, a couple of 300-plus scores have not reached this mark (Sanath Jayasuriya's 340 and Andy Sandham's 325).
So I decided to go with 600 Batting Rating points as the cut-off for consideration. Using the list of 800-plus performances so generated, I determine the following groups of players/performances. These are nuanced, unique tables that are updated till the Chattogram Test between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in April this year. They look at:
1. The batters who played in very few matches and reached the elite mark of 600 points once
2. Those who played in many matches and reached this mark only once
3. Those who played in many matches but never reached this mark
4. And finally, as a bonus, those who reached the 600 mark the most times
This table lists those players who reached the 600-point mark only once but have played in very few Tests. The first row features an innings that many of us will have seen. Jamie Overton made his debut against New Zealand at Headingley in 2022, at the beginning of the McCullum-Stokes era. He came in at 55 for 6 and contributed 97 in a partnership of 241 with Jonny Bairstow. This fantastic innings secured him 612 rating points. He hasn't played a Test since, and it's likely to stay that way.
Recently Kavem Hodge was among three West Indies batters who crossed 600 points, in that famous eight-run win over Australia in Brisbane, in his second Test. He will surely play more Tests, as will Kamindu Mendis, the Sri Lanka allrounder who scored hundreds in both innings in Sylhet. Charles Bannerman, who scored the first hundred, in the first ever Test, played only two more Tests after that. His 165 not out secured 751 rating points. Washington Sundar, who has only played four Tests for India, already has a 600-plus performance for his innings in Brisbane in January 2021. He could very well play more Tests for India.
Now, for the other end of the spectrum. This table features players who were decent batters, played many matches, and had exactly one top performance. Stuart Broad had one such performance in 167 Tests, in which he scored 3662 runs. That was against Pakistan at Lord's in 2010 when he came in at 102 for 7 and scored 169, adding over 300 with Jonathan Trott. Kapil Dev's lone day in the sun was the magnificent 129 he made in Port Elizabeth in December 1992, coming in at 27 for 5 - an all-time great innings in a losing cause.
Ian Healy's unbeaten 161 was the main reason for an Australia win at the Gabba against West Indies in 1996.
Sourav Ganguly is a surprising presence on this table. His unbeaten 98 took India to a famous win in Kandy in 2001. In 112 other Tests, Ganguly did not breach the mark of 677 points he gets for this innings. Most of the others on the list are not regular batters, barring Andrew Strauss, whose single top performance was his 177 in a tough situation in Napier in 2008, David Boon, for his 149 against West Indies in Sydney in January 1989, and Ross Taylors 290 in the draw against Australia in Perth in 2015.
Now, we look at a still more rarefied group of batters - the ones who never crossed the 600-points mark once in their long Test careers. Mark Boucher tops this table, having played in 147 Tests, but let us not forget that as a keeper he made over 550 dismissals. In this table, dominated by wicketkeepers and bowling allrounders, there are a few batters whose presence is a surprise.
Ian Bell, Mudassar Nazar, and Ian Chappell played over 75 Tests but did not scale the peak even once. Thirty-one such batters have never breached the 600-points level but only a few are shown in the table. Most of them missed the magical mark very narrowly, like Ravindra Jadeja and Mudassar.
Finally, we move on to high-performing batters, who achieved the mark of 600 points the most times. Joe Root leads the field with 13 such lofty performances, and could potentially add more. Lara follows next with 11, as does Rahul Dravid.
Then come the two great Sri Lankan batters, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, with ten and nine such performances respectively. Steven Smith and Don Bradman also have nine each. The difference is that Bradman's 600-plus-point performances came in 52 Tests - at an average of one every 5.8 Tests. It's not a surprise that this is the best average among those with a minimum of five performances. If we lower this cut-off, Kumar Ranjitsinhji's frequency is 5 (three in 15 Tests), and Yashasvi Jaiswal's, 4.5 (two in nine Tests). Smith and Bairstow might essay more such impressive performances.
Sachin Tendulkar had seven performances. His best was the unbeaten 248 against Bangladesh with 696 points. The classic 136 in Chennai secured 681 points.
Bowling performances
Since the overall Rating points for bowling tend to be shared by fewer bowlers in comparison to how it is with the batting performances, the average Bowling Rating points earned by any given performance in the Bowl-100 list are relatively higher, by around 10%. Out of more than 49,000 bowling performances in Test innings, just over 830 have exceeded 675 Rating points. That is just over 1.5% of the total number of innings. That makes for a high bar, producing a very elite group indeed. It requires a very good, contextually rich bowling spell to get 675 points.
In fact, a couple of nine-wicket performances have not got to this mark (George Lohmann's 9 for 28 and Sydney Barnes' 9 for 103). So, I decided to go with 675 points as the cut-off. Using this list of 800-plus performances, I determine the following groups of players/performances.
1. The bowlers who played in very few matches and reached this elite mark of 675 Bowling Rating points once
2. Those who played in many matches and reached this mark only once
3. Those who played in many matches but never reached this mark
4. And finally, as a bonus, those who reached the 675 mark the most times
In his only Test, at The Oval in 1977, Australian fast bowler Mick Malone took 5 for 63, including a first-ball wicket, in a 716-rating-points performance.
In 1962, debutant fast bowler Lester King took 5 for 46 against India in Kingston. This was instrumental in a comfortable West Indieswin and got King, who only played one other Test, 702 rating points.
Current West Indies fast bowler Shamar Joseph is on the list for his magnificent match-winning seven-for in Brisbane, but he is very likely to play more Tests and drop off this table. Some of the other bowlers on this table are also playing today and could potentially achieve other top performances in the future. Arguably, the most impressive of the performances on the table is that of offspinner Jack Noreiga, whose 9 for 95 against India in Port-of-Spain in 1971, worth nearly 700 points, came in only his second Test. Then Clive Lloyd decided that pace was the way to go and Noreiga vanished from the scene after playing a couple more Tests.
What about Hirwani and Massie? Hirwani's one top performance in 17 Tests did not qualify for this table and Massie's two in six (both on debut) also missed out here, although he is referred to later.
Onwards to the bowlers who played many Tests and had a single 675-plus-points top performance to their name. Steve Waugh leads the table with a single top performance in his 168 Tests. Yes, he was a batter who bowled infrequently, but he took 92 wickets and hence qualifies as a bowler for the purposes of this table. His best performance was a match-winning 5 for 28 in Cape Town in 1994.
Everyone is familiar with Allan Border's famous opening-day masterclass of 7 for 46 against a strong West Indies at the SCG in 1989. That performance fetched him 808 points and a top-50 position in the Bowl-100 table.
A surprising entry here is Root, whose 5 for 8 in Ahmedabad in 2021 secured him over 700 points. England lost because of their atrocious batting failure after Root had got them back into the game.
S Venkataraghavan's pinnacle was his 8 for 72 against New Zealand in Delhi in 1965 in his fourth Test (out of 57).
Some of the others on the list are batters who bowled, like Carl Hooper and Mudassar, or spinners who struggled to pick up wickets regularly, like Daniel Vettori and John Emburey.
It may interest readers to know that the gentle giant Courtney Walsh, whose 5 for 39 against Australia in Bridgetown in 1999 fetched him 756 points, just misses out on figuring on the list. Walsh had another top performance (7 for 37 in Wellington in 1995) and ended with two in 132 Tests. And it is true that when three great bowlers bowl together, the chances of any one producing an epochal performance is low.
Another step down the ladder is the list of bowlers who played in many Tests but did not reach the 675-points mark even once. The table is dominated at the top by batting allrounders like Jacques Kallis, Ben Stokes and Garry Sobers. That they played a number of Tests and did not reach the cut-off level even once indicates how difficult it is to get there. Stokes misses out by six points, as did Heath Streak. Brett Lee was in a very strong Australian bowling line-up and it was not easy to stand out with Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne around. Ravi Shastri, Moeen Ali, and Ray Illingworth were never frontline bowlers. Umesh Yadav is a bowler who has not done well when he has played outside of India.
Finally, a table featuring those magnificent bowlers who delivered top performances most often. It is no surprise that Warne tops the list with 15 top performances. That is an average of one every ten Tests. Jimmy Anderson comes in second with 14 performances, once every 13 Tests. Will he add one more at Lord's next month? That would be a great way to end a wonderful career. His long-time partner, Broad, has 13 performances. Then come Nathan Lyon and Muthiah Muralidaran. A magnificent quintet, indeed. The rest of the table is also a veritable bowlers' elite group. It is certain that Lyon and R Ashwin will add to their already impressive tally of top performances.
Fazal Mahmood had a top performance every 4.9 Tests - seven in 34 Tests. That is certainly some consistent top-class bowling. If we take more than one performance as the criterion, Rashid Khan has two performances in five Tests, Massie has two in six, and Bill Bowes four in 15.
Finally, let me say that the numbers 600 and 675 have only been selected so that the bars are set high. It does not mean that those who received 595 Batting points or 670 Bowling points have not done well. It is similar to batters who scored 98 or 99 missing out in an analysis of hundreds scored.
All-round performances
A brief recap on the all-round performances using the same high bars. Hardik Pandya, in his brief career of 11 Tests, has reached the top in both batting and bowling. His nearly run-a-ball 93 in Cape Town in 2018 against a formidable South Africa attack earned 644 points, despite India's loss. A few months later, he helped India win the Trent Bridge Test by taking 5 for 28, which fetched him 679 points. Yasir Shah has four top bowling performances and one batting performance, in only 48 Tests. These are the only two players who required less than ten Tests per performance.
But the real star allrounder is Ian Botham. He has five bowling top performances and five batting performances in 102 Tests and is the only allrounder to have more than one such performance in each discipline. Other than Botham, only Kapil of the Fab Four allrounders (the others being Imran Khan and Richard Hadlee) has achieved a minimum of one in each discipline.
The quirky stats section
In each article, I will present a numerical/anecdotal outlier relating to Test and/or ODI cricket. This time the outlier query is: "What are the instances where teams had huge form changes within a Test - to the tune of well over 400 runs?"
The answers are given below, upto and including the Chattogram Test between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka earlier this year.
Highest difference in team runs between innings
  • Bridgetown, 1958: West Indies vs Pakistan 106 and 657 for 8 (difference of 551 runs)
  • Wellington, 1991: New Zealand 174 and 671 for 4 vs Sri Lanka (difference of 497 runs)
  • Wellington, 2014: New Zealand 192 and 680 for 8 vs India (difference of 488 runs)
  • Kolkata, 2001: India 171 and 657 for 7 vs Australia (difference of 486 runs)
  • Mumbai, 2011: India vs West Indies 590 and 134 (difference of 456 runs)
  • Dubai, 2016: Pakistan 579 for 3 and 123 vs West Indies (difference of 456 runs)
  • Wellington, 2017: New Zealand vs Bangladesh 595 for 8 and 160 (difference of 435 runs)
  • Harare, 2001: Zimbabwe 131 and 563 for 9 vs West Indies (difference of 432 runs)
  • Durban, 2004: South Africa vs England 139 and 570 for 7 (difference of 431 runs)
  • Bridgetown, 1972: West Indies 133 and 564 for 8 vs New Zealand (difference of 431 runs)
    Melbourne, 1910: Australia vs South Africa 506 and 80 (difference of 426 runs)
Most of the larger scores are in the second innings. This was a tough list to draw up since a scoreline of 600 and 100 for 7 could very well be a successful chase or a draw. There the difference of 500 runs does not matter. So I had to adopt various tweaks in generating the list, which may not be complete. In general, I have worked on the basis that if the high score came in the first innings, the team had to be all out in the second innings.
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Anantha Narayanan has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket and worked with a number of companies on their cricket performance ratings-related systems