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Eighty And Out (Slight Return)

Dave Wilson | 12:25am gmt 03 Sep 2009
Eighty And Out (Slight Return)When Michael Hussey shot out of the blocks to register the astounding average of 84.80 in his first 33 innings, this feat was described as "Bradmanesque", yet another word to add to our ever-expanding sporting lexicon. This was admittedly based mainly on comparison of Hussey's average to the famous 99.94 compiled by Bradman over his Test career, but Bradman's test career covered 21 years, whereas Hussey had been playing for only two and a half years at that point. It's much more impressive to maintain such a high average over such a lengthy Test career than for a relatively short period, however I did wonder just how comparable Hussey's performances were to those of the great man, and I decided the only way to compare them was as directly as is possible, that is over the first 33 innings of Bradman's career.

Here are the main figures compiled by both batsmen:-

Not Out38

Bradman scored almost half as many runs again as did Hussey, but it's when we look at the big scores each man compiled that the gap between them is most apparent - of the 17 scores over fifty made by Bradman, he converted an amazing 76% of them into centuries, and, even more amazing, six of his thirteen hundreds were doubles or better. Hussey, on the other hand, had almost as many scores over fifty, however only four were centuries (28% conversion rate) and none were doubles. It would appear that Hussey, with his higher number of incomplete innings, was more the beneficiary of the method by which averages are calculated - looking solely at per-innings averages, Bradman comes out at 91.51 to Hussey's 64.24. So the only thing "Bradmanesque" about Hussey's performance was his high average.

However, I'm not here to pick on Michael Hussey, but I did wonder if anyone else, in their early days, has approached the Don's level of greatness. I decided to look at all batsmen through the years to see who has scored the most runs over their first 80 innings (limited to 80 as Bradman played 80 innings over his test career) - here are the top twenty:

Bradman (Aus)699699.94
Weekes (WI)444659.28
Sutcliffe (Eng)442561.46
Richards (WI)441158.04
Hobbs (Eng)438460.05
Hutton (Eng)419158.21
Hayden (Aus)418557.33
Sobers (WI)417858.85
Hammond (Eng)409657.69
Sehwag (Ind)406252.75
Lara (WI)406052.05
Harvey (Aus)400654.14
Gavaskar (Ind)395153.39
Pietersen (Eng)389050.52
Dravid (Ind)387154.52
Worrell (WI)379253.41
Smith GC (SA)372849.71
Chappell GS (Aus)372455.58
Barrington (Eng)370851.50
Kanhai (WI)369647.38

Everton Weekes came closest, however even he was more than 2,500 runs off the Don's pace. Given the amount of cricket played nowadays, batsmen today reach 80 innings in a much shorter time period than players of the 1930s and 1940s, and are therefore much younger and possibly not at their peak, so let's expand the search a little bit by taking the best consecutive 80 innings for each batsman:

Bradman (Aus)699699.94
Ponting (Aus)505274.29
Lara (WI)497263.74
Sobers (WI)496973.07
Mohammad Yousuf (Pak)488466.90
Tendulkar (Ind)476766.21
Hobbs (Eng)475363.37
Hayden (Aus)474365.88
Richards (WI)474160.78
Kallis (SA)471171.38
Dravid (Ind)465268.41
Hutton (Eng)463567.17
Javed Miandad (Pak)457861.04
Barrington (Eng)454764.04
Gavaskar (Ind)452859.58
Sangakkara (SL)450960.12
Inzamam-ul-Haq (Pak)448761.47
Jayawardene (SL)445659.41
Weekes (WI)444659.41
Hammond (Eng)443963.41

The cream really is rising to the top now, with Ponting, Lara and Sobers in the top four - Ricky Ponting turns out to be the nearest to his countryman and with the next best average too. Still, there's the issue of era-specifics - batsmen are scoring at a higher rate then ever these days, so the next section takes into account the average number of runs a top order batsman would have scored in each decade, and shows each player's aggregate runs above that. For example, in the period during which Bradman played, an average top-order batsman would have scored 2712 runs in 80 innings, so Bradman was 4284 runs above era. Here is the list of the highest above-era scores:

PlayerRuns Above Avg
Bradman (Aus)4284
Sobers (WI)2328
Ponting (Aus)2231
Lara (WI)2151
Hobbs (Eng)2111
Tendulkar (Ind)2078
Richards (WI)2070
Mohammad Yousuf (Pak)2063
Hutton (Eng)2030
Weekes (WI)1939
Hayden (Aus)1922
Kallis (SA)1890
Javed Miandad (Pak)1863
Barrington (Eng)1856
Dravid (Ind)1831
Gavaskar (Ind)1813
Hammond (Eng) 1782
Sutcliffe (Eng)1708
Sangakkara (SL)1688
Inzamam-ul-Haq (Pak)1666

So Garry Sobers now shows as the next best, moving ahead of Ponting and Lara. Still, Bradman is a mile ahead of everyone else. But there's still one thing we're not taking into account, which is those batsmen who, for various reasons, didn't have the opportunity to amass 80 innings. Players such as Graeme Pollock, prevented by politics, George Headley, prevented by lack of tours and wartime, and the great players of the Golden Era, when much less Test cricket was played. To do that, we need to calculate the runs above average as a percentage; as an example, Bradman's 4284 runs equates to 159.7% above era-average. This percentage is based only on the games in which Bradman played, with Bradman's own performances excluded - in this way, each player is compared with his peers on an almost equal footing.

So here is our final top 25, showing the best batsmen's percentage runs above the era average:-

Player% Above Avg
Bradman (Aus)159.7
Abel (Eng)99.7
Richards (WI)89.0
Hobbs (Eng)88.5
Headley (WI)85.4
Sobers (WI)83.8
May (Eng)82.6
Hutton (Eng)82.6
Lara (WI)76.3
Ponting (Aus)75.9
Harvey (Aus)75.5
Steel (Eng)75.1
Javed Miandad (Pak)74.4
Gavaskar (Ind)73.8
Tendulkar (Ind) 73.7
Sangakkara (SL)68.2
Barrington (Eng)66.4
Jayawardene (SL)66.3
Hammond (Eng)66.0
Mohammad Yousuf (Pak)65.9
Jackson, FS (Eng)65.2
Hayden (Aus)63.7
Tyldesley, GE (Eng)63.3
Sutcliffe (Eng)62.2
Gooch (Eng)62.2

Once again, Bradman is head and shoulders above the rest. Bobby Abel's inclusion at number two is very interesting - in the games in which Abel played, he scored twice as many runs as anyone else, although it should be noted he only played 22 innings in total. Viv Richards is the king of the modern era, followed by Jack Hobbs, George Headley, Sobers and Peter May. As with Abel, Allan Steel's number 13 showing is a surprise, though again this was achieved with only 18 total innings. As for other notables who didn't make the top 25, Geoff Boycott was ranked 29th, Everton Weekes is at 32, Graeme Pollock at 36, Border at 38, Compton at 40, Dexter at 44, Clem Hill at 46, with Gordon Greenidge rounding out the top 50.

Whichever way you slice it, Bradman was significantly ahead of all-comers in terms of run-production. He is both the source of the term and, surely the only batsman who can lay claim to the adjective "Bradmanesque".

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Fine work. Forgot to put that comment in the original post.

Top class, mate! Thanks for the great analysis!

Terrific piece. Nice work.

Great analysis there mate, was an interesting read.

Interesting analysis.

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