Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Rising at the top: batsmen

Over at CFF, sYed asked about players who have poor domestic records but excellent international records. I've done a search through Test batsmen (qual. 20 innings), and separated their Test average from their average from other first-class cricket. Here are the top twenty improvers from other first-class to Tests.

20. Jack Robertson
Tests: 881 runs at 46,37
Other FC: 31033 runs at 37,30
Difference: 9,07

Robertson was unlucky to play only 11 Tests for England (between 1947 and 1952). He was dropped more than once after doing well with the bat. He was dropped in favour of Cyril Washbrook after scoring a century at Lord's, and in his last Test he made a pair of half-centuries, only to be replaced by Reg Simpson for England's next Test. Perhaps the selectors dropped him because of his county form.

19. Geoff Pullar
Tests: 1974 runs at 43,87.
Other FC: 19554 runs at 34,67.
Difference: 9,20

After a mediocre first five seasons of county cricket, Pullar averaged 55 in first-class cricket in 1959, the season he made his England debut. He had good success, averaging over 50 in his first 22 Tests. But in 1962 his form waned, both at Test and first-class level. He was dropped from England after 28 Tests, and he never re-found the same consistent form of those few good years.

18. Herbert Sutcliffe
Tests: 4555 runs at 60,73
Other FC: 46115 runs at 51,30
Difference: 9,44

It's surprising to see Sutcliffe's relatively poor record for Yorkshire — an average of only 50,2. But he had five seasons of county cricket before making his England debut, and in those years he never averaged more than 47, and indeed he averaged only 30,12 in 1921. He also played four seasons after his last Test, by which time he was past his prime.

17. Ernest Tyldesley
Tests: 990 runs at 55,00
Other FC: 37884 runs at 45,26
Difference: 9,74

With an average of 55, it's surprising that Tyldesley didn't play more than his 14 Tests for England. He made his first-class debut in 1909, but didn't have much success until after the War, and he gained England selection in 1921. Despite his success, he never cemented an England spot. I don't know why.

16. John Reid
Tests: 1296 runs at 46,29
Other FC: 4354 runs at 36,28
Difference: 10,00

This is the New Zealander John Reid from the 1980's, not the New Zealander John Reid from the 50's and 60's. His first five seasons of first-class cricket for Auckland went between the OK (37,14 in 76/7) to the poor (23,94 in 77/8), but he did very well in the 1980's until a form slump in 85/6 before his retirement.

15. Bob Catterall
Tests: 1555 runs at 37,93
Other FC: 4294 runs at 27,88
Difference: 10,04

Catterall was a regular part of the South African team for much of the 1920's. He saved his best for Test matches — for South African sides in tour games he averaged only 25,16. He had a stint with Natal in the middle of the decade, and for for them his record was similar to his international one (36,09 for Natal). But for Transvaal, where he played most of his domestic cricket, he averaged only 31,71.

14. Allan Watkins
Tests: 810 runs at 40,50
Other FC: 19551 runs at 30,26
Difference: 10,24

Watkins made his first-class debut for Glamorgan in 1939, and so the early part of his career was interrupted by World War II. In 1946 he struggled to establish himself in the Glamorgan side, but in 1947 he had more success, averaging 33,5. It was in 1948 that he made his international debut, after transforming himself into a successful all-rounder. The start of Watkins' England career was inauspicious, with scores of 0, 2, 9, 4, and 7 before he made double-figures. Thereafter he had more success, almost exclusively overseas. His bowling was not up to Test standard, though, and unable to hold his place as a specialist batsman, he played his last Test in 1952. He continued to play as an all-rounder for his county until the early 1960's.

13. Marcus Trescothick
Tests: 5825 runs at 43,80
Other FC: 7745 runs at 33,53
Difference: 10,27

Trescothick made his England debut in coloured clothing, and such was his success that he was picked for the Test team soon afterwards, despite his very mediocre County Championship record. He's done pretty well for himself, despite still averaging less than 35 in first-class matches for Somerset.

12. Shoaib Malik
Tests: 1076 runs at 35,87
Other FC: 1825 runs at 25,00
Difference: 10,87

Shoaib Malik's career is certainly an unusual one — he started his career as an off-spinner, before suddenly showing everyone that he could bat. It's just as well he did so, because his bowling action is dubious.

11. Tony Greig
Tests: 3599 runs at 40,44
Other FC: 13061 runs at 29,35
Difference: 11,09

He just didn't bat as well for Somerset as he did for England.

10. Colin Bland
Tests: 1669 runs at 49,09
Other FC: 5580 runs at 35,54
Difference: 13,55

Bland is best-remembered as one of the greatest fieldsmen of all time, but he was more than handy with the bat. Stuart has written a detailed profile of him. His international career ended with a knee injury, and though he continued to play first-class cricket, his batting from the 1968/9 season was inconsistent.

9. Michael Vandort
Tests: 948 runs at 47,40
Other FC: 5297 runs at 33,11
Difference: 14,29

His Test average is bloated, with half of his Tests to date against Bangladesh. In my post below on modified batting averages, Vandort was the batsman with the biggest decrease when taking into account the strength of the opposition attack.

8. Mohammad Yousuf
Tests: 6770 runs at 55,49
Other FC: 2280 runs at 40,00
Difference: 15,49

After his conversion to Islam, Yousuf has had tremendous success at Test level. During his Test career he hasn't played much first-class cricket. His ratio of Test runs to other first-class runs (2,97) is the highest of any Test cricketer with at least 20 Test innings. He also has the highest ratio of number of Tests to number of other first-class matches.

7. Ken Barrington
Tests: 6806 runs at 58,67
Other FC: 24908 runs at 43,02
Difference: 15,65

Barrington played seven seasons of first-class cricket, during which time he averaged only 33, before becoming one of the best batsmen in cricket history. Even so, his record for Surrey is remarkably poor, compared to what he did for England. I estimate (I can't be bothered working it out precisely) that he averaged under 50 for his county even ignoring his formative years.

6. Charlie Davis
Tests: 1301 runs at 54,21
Other FC: 4327 runs at 38,52
Difference: 15,69

You'd think that an average of over 54 would keep you in the Test team for more than just 15 Tests, but you'd be wrong in Davis's case. He started his first-class career for Trinidad (and then Trinidad and Tobago) very well, averaging over 60 after five matches. Then his form tailed off for a few seasons before a return to form in 1967/8, which led to his selection for the West Indies. He was another player who just played better in Tests — for West Indians, he averaged only 32,34.

5. Phil Sharpe
Tests: 786 runs at 46,24
Other FC: 21744 runs at 30,37
Difference: 15,87

Sharpe, like Bland, is best remembered for his fielding. He didn't do much wrong in England colours, but he was dropped in favour of Geoffrey Boycott in 1964, and in 1970 he and Mike Denness were replaced by Brian Luckhurst and Colin Cowdrey. Probably his poor county form counted against him. For Yorkshire in 1965 and 1966 he averaged just 22,72 and 22,45 respectively.

4. Stanley Jackson
Tests: 1415 runs at 48,79
Other FC: 14486 runs at 32,85
Difference: 15,95

Jackson made his first-class debut in 1890, and played precisely half of his Tests in the 19th century and half in the 20th. His Test record is quite extraordinary for the time, as suggested in my post below on modified batting averages. He was also a more-than-useful bowler, taking 774 first-class wickets at 20,37.

3. Eddie Paynter
Tests: 1540 runs at 59,23
Other FC: 18535 runs at 41,28
Difference: 17,95

Paynter's career was remarkably topsy-turvy, which goes some way to explaining why he's not remembered as much as his Test average would recommend he should be. In his first-class seasons before 1932, he averaged less than 30. Then, after doing well in the Bodyline series, he went back to county mediocrity, always scoring a thousand runs but never at a great average. In 1937 his international career resumed, and perhaps he would be more famous if the Second World War hadn't happened.

2. Kumar Sangakkara
Tests: 6032 runs at 56,37
Other FC: 3925 runs at 33,55
Difference: 22,83

This is not much of a surprise. When not keeping wickets for Sri Lanka, his batting has been tremendous. He is not too far behind Mohammad Yousuf on the list of cricketers with the highest ratio of Test runs to other first-class runs. His Test average is bloated somewhat by minnow matches, but it's still much higher than his average in other first-class games.

1. Michael Hussey
Tests: 1896 runs at 86,18
Other FC: 15484 runs at 52,49
Difference: 33,69

I'm sure you all guessed this one. My numbers here are already out of date, as his Test average has dropped below 83 with his dismissal against India today.


You have done Indian domestic cricket a great diservice.

Off hand I can think of Ashok Mankad, who would beat all the players you profiled here hollow.:)
Heh. It's actually another Indian who comes in last: Ajay Jadeja, who averaged more than 34 runs less in Tests than in other first-class games. Then comes Chris Harris, Michael Bevan, Mark Ramprakash, and Ashok Mankad.
Ashok Mankad had far worse International record than his domestic. Quite the opposite of what this inquiry was about.
I am surprised to see that Herbert Sutcliffe's record for Yorkshire being described as 'relatively poor': even today to average 50 in a County career is exceptional. In the time Sutcliffe was playing he was on uncovered wickets in 3 day cricket where to be successful points for the County Championship you had to win matches as opposed to building up bonus points. Yorkshire's record between the wars was 12 titles in 21 wins: ie you got the runs that you needed without building up your average and gave your bowlers time to bowl the opposition out twice.
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