The solitary centurions
Batsmen who scored the highest proportion of centuries in Test innings where no one else did
After Andrew Strauss scored the only centuries for England in the recent Tests against West Indies, a reader, Tim Barwell, asked which batsmen had the highest proportion of solitary hundreds: centuries scored in innings in which no one else had made one.
A high percentage of solitary centuries could indicate which batsmen were likely to score big in conditions that got the best of their team-mates. Or they could reveal who spent most of their careers in weak line-ups, carrying the responsibility of scoring most of the team's runs. They could also indicate who was more likely to score the important hundreds. We considered only those who had scored at least ten Test centuries.
Pakistan's Hanif Mohammad scored 12 centuries in 55 Tests and ten (83%) of those were in innings in which no other batsmen made a hundred. Only one of those innings - against West Indies in Karachi in 1959 - resulted in a Pakistan victory but none of them were in defeat. Even during Hanif's most famous innings, a 970-minute 337 that saved Pakistan from defeat in Barbados, the most his team-mates managed in the match was 91.
Hanif is followed by five England batsmen in our table below, led by Geoff Boycott, who scored 18 of his 22 centuries when none of his team-mates managed a hundred in the innings. England won seven and did not lose any of those matches. After Boycott, there's Ian Botham, Allan Lamb, Colin Cowdrey and Graham Gooch, all of whom scored at least 75% of their centuries when no one else did. And several of them had overlapping careers.
The batsman with the most solitary centuries is Brian Lara - 25 out of 34 Test hundreds. Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar are next with 23 and 21 hundreds. For the latter half of his career, Lara was part of a struggling West Indies team, and he and Shivnarine Chanderpaul did most of the run scoring. Only five of Lara's 25 solitary hundreds resulted in West Indian victories, and 13 were in defeat. Perhaps the best example of Lara scoring runs in vain was in Sri Lanka in 2001 - he made 688 in three Tests but Sri Lanka won two matches by 10 wickets and the third by an innings.
If we remove the ten-century qualification then Australia's Victor Trumper scored seven out of eight tons in innings in which he was the only centurion, while South Africa's Roy McLean, England's Jack Russell, who played in the 1920s, and Mohammad Ashraful had five out of five.
The table below contains a list of batsmen with the lowest proportion of solitary hundreds, but considering even Don Bradman features, it is an indication of the powerful batting line-ups they were part of, rather than a tendency to score low-pressure hundreds.
For example, only one of AB de Villiers' 13 Test hundreds has come in an innings where no other South African celebrated a century - they lost that match, against Australia at Wanderers in 2009. For his other centuries, de Villiers usually had Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, Hashim Amla or Ashwell Prince also scoring at least one. And only two of Adam Gilchrist's hundreds were solitary because he usually came in at No. 7, after someone above had already put Australia on top, to flatten the opponent with an aggressive innings. Gilchrist's solo hundreds were at Newlands in 2002 and Fatullah in 2006, and both times he pulled Australia out of first-innings trouble and steered them towards victory. If there's a particular List that you would like to see, email us with your comments and suggestions.
Travis Basevi is a cricket statistician and UK Senior Programmer for ESPNcricinfo and other ESPN sports websites. George Binoy is an Assistant Editor at ESPNcricinfo