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.

Best batting average over a span of 52 Tests
Player Start Date End DateMat Inns NO Runs Ave 10050
DG Bradman (Aus) Nov 30, 1928 Aug 18, 194852 80 10 6996 99.94 2913
RT Ponting (Aus) Mar 8, 2002 Nov 27, 2006 5292 14 5813 74.52 23 20
GS Sobers (WI) Aug 22, 1957 Apr 3, 1968 52 8813 5468 72.90 19 20
JH Kallis (ICC/SA) Apr 19, 2001 May 1, 2006 52 9119 5127 71.20 17 25
R Dravid (India) Nov 18, 2000 Sep 16, 2005 52 8613 4883 66.89 14 21
KF Barrington (Eng) Nov 11, 1961 Aug 28, 1967 52 8412 4783 66.43 16 22
Mohammad Yousuf (Pak) Nov 15, 2000 Oct 12, 2007 52 878 5247 66.41 20 18
SR Tendulkar (India) Apr 4, 1997 Nov 3, 2002 52 868 5177 66.37 20 17
KC Sangakkara (SL) Aug 11, 2004 Nov 27, 2010 52 898 5352 66.07 19 18
WR Hammond (Eng) Nov 30, 1928 Jan 7, 1937 52 8712 4827 64.36 16 13
L Hutton (Eng) Jan 31, 1947 Jun 15, 1954 52 9213 5072 64.20 14 27
SR Waugh (Aus) Jun 3, 1993 Oct 5, 1998 52 8318 4134 63.60 11 23
Javed Miandad (Pak) Jan 3, 1983 Dec 6, 1989 52 735 4240 62.35 14 16
Inzamam-ul-Haq (ICC/Pak) Mar 12, 1999 Jan 17, 2006 52 869 4796 62.28 18 20
ML Hayden (Aus) Feb 27, 2001 Mar 13, 2005 52 9210 5077 61.91 19 17
IVA Richards (WI) Jan 31, 1976 Jun 18, 1984 52 742 4456 61.88 15 20
H Sutcliffe (Eng) Jun 14, 1924 Aug 22, 1934 52 819 4453 61.84 16 22
DPMD Jayawardene (SL) Mar 24, 2004 Nov 20, 2009 52 886 5026 61.29 17 15
BC Lara (ICC/WI) Apr 6, 2001 Nov 23, 2006 52 932 5576 61.27 19 17
JB Hobbs (Eng) Jun 14, 1909 Jun 17, 1930 52 855 4897 61.21 15 24

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.

Best bowling average over a span of 18 Tests (qualification: 2000 balls)
Player Start Date End DateMat Balls Runs Wkts Ave 510
J Briggs (Eng) Jan 1, 1885 Mar 28, 189218 2248 705 72 9.79 73
GA Lohmann (Eng) Jul 5, 1886 Jun 24, 1896 183830 1205 112 10.75 9 5
Imran Khan (Pak) Oct 14, 1982 Nov 25, 1986 18 36631378 98 14.06 7 2
JC Laker (Eng) Aug 13, 1955 Jul 8, 1958 18 52881402 97 14.45 6 2
SF Barnes (Eng) Jul 1, 1909 Feb 18, 1914 18 52112058 139 14.80 18 6
GAR Lock (Eng) Jul 12, 1956 Mar 18, 1959 18 44851197 80 14.96 7 3
W Barnes (Eng) Jan 19, 1883 Aug 12, 1890 18 2034704 46 15.30 3 0
JH Wardle (Eng) Jun 10, 1954 Feb 20, 1957 18 41561212 77 15.74 5 1
MD Marshall (WI) Apr 26, 1985 Jul 5, 1988 18 41641779 110 16.17 6 2
SM Pollock (SA) Aug 6, 1998 Mar 6, 2000 18 42621488 92 16.17 6 0
AV Bedser (Eng) Aug 12, 1950 Jun 16, 1953 18 52651590 98 16.22 9 3
RJ Hadlee (NZ) Feb 3, 1984 Mar 17, 1986 18 47101868 113 16.53 10 3
GD McGrath (Aus) Nov 26, 1999 Aug 4, 2001 18 41461525 92 16.57 5 2
CEL Ambrose (WI) Jun 6, 1991 Mar 30, 1994 18 49291710 102 16.76 8 2
DL Underwood (Eng) Jun 20, 1968 Mar 1, 1971 18 50241444 86 16.79 7 3
Waqar Younis (Pak) Oct 18, 1990 Dec 6, 1993 18 38511968 117 16.82 14 3
R Peel (Eng) Feb 20, 1885 Aug 12, 1896 18 43061473 87 16.93 4 1
J Garner (WI) Mar 3, 1978 Mar 18, 1981 18 41491431 84 17.03 1 0
AK Davidson (Aus) Feb 7, 1958 Jan 18, 1961 18 54881789 104 17.20 8 2
M Muralitharan (ICC/SL) May 3, 2003 Dec 6, 2005 18 56922230 128 17.42 11 3

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.

Best economy rate over a span of 98 ODIs (qualification: 1000 balls)
Player Start Date End DateMat Balls Runs Wkts Ave Econ5 4
J Garner (WI) Mar 16, 1977Mar 28, 1987 98 5330 2752 146 18.843.09 3 2
RJ Hadlee (NZ) Mar 8, 1975Jan 17, 1988 98 5216 2786 136 20.483.20 4 1
M Muralitharan (SL) Dec 15, 1999Feb 20, 2004 98 5301 2888 172 16.793.26 5 6
MA Holding (WI) Jun 16, 1979Jan 30, 1987 98 5245 2903 136 21.343.32 1 4
MD Marshall (WI) May 28, 1980Jan 14, 1989 98 5237 2905 127 22.873.32 0 4
CEL Ambrose (WI) Feb 26, 1991Jan 3, 1997 98 5214 2938 120 24.483.38 2 1
EJ Chatfield (NZ) Jan 10, 1981Mar 16, 1988 98 5159 2965 123 24.103.44 0 3
GD McGrath (Aus/ICC) Jun 9, 2001Jan 21, 2007 98 4926 2880 146 19.723.50 3 3
SM Pollock (Afr/ICC/SA) Jan 25, 2004Jan 27, 2008 98 4944 2915 104 28.023.53 1 2
Imran Khan (Pak) Aug 31, 1974Oct 16, 1987 98 4050 2399 106 22.633.55 1 2
N Kapil Dev (India) Mar 27, 1988Apr 2, 1994 98 4872 2928 107 27.363.60 0 2
Wasim Akram (Pak) Dec 13, 1992Jan 20, 1997 98 5171 3151 151 20.863.65 3 8
CA Walsh (WI) Feb 13, 1993Sep 12, 1999 98 5089 3131 110 28.463.69 0 2
GR Larsen (NZ) Mar 1, 1990Dec 6, 1997 98 5242 3243 94 34.503.71 0 1
CJ McDermott (Aus) Oct 13, 1987Feb 23, 1996 98 5245 3371 156 21.603.85 1 3
DL Vettori (ICC/NZ) Jul 4, 2004Feb 6, 2009 98 5044 3259 122 26.713.87 2 4
PAJ DeFreitas (Eng) Jan 5, 1987Feb 22, 1996 98 5472 3558 111 32.053.90 0 1
WPUJC Vaas (SL) Jan 14, 2001Oct 9, 2004 98 4844 3152 138 22.843.90 2 4
RW Price (Zim) Sep 14, 2002Oct 22, 2011 98 5134 3345 97 34.483.90 0 1
RA Harper (WI) Feb 4, 1984Apr 3, 1996 98 4770 3122 90 34.683.92 0 3

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