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Opinion

Analysing Australia’s Test cricket winners: Harvey, Chappell, Hussey and Walters

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Roar Guru
7th October, 2020
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In this series we have been examining how various notable Australian players have performed in Test match wins compared to their peers fellow batsmen.

Here we have four of the finest middle-order players in Australian cricket history. Due to more recent memories of Steve Smith and Ricky Ponting, the achievements of some of these players have started to fly under the radar a little bit, but their records are second to none.

At the end I will also touch on two other interesting outliers.

Neil Harvey
41 wins; 3253 runs at 54.21 with 12 centuries (losses: 33.17; draws: 53.16); top six comparison: 42.11 (losses; 22.05, draws: 41.11)

Greg Chappell
38 wins; 3595 runs at 70.49 with 14 centuries (losses: 25.73; draws: 59.0); top six comparison: 42.95 (losses: 27.02; draws: 48.02)

Mike Hussey
48 wins; 3978 runs at 61.2 with 12 centuries (losses: 24.55; draws: 64.63); top six comparison: 48.48 (losses: 28.9; draws: 54.0)

Doug Walters
28 wins; 2303 runs at 63.97 with seven centuries (losses: 24.97; draws: 53.78); top six comparison: 42.33 (losses: 25.76; draws: 46.81)

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What is really interesting here is that all four players have excellent winning records. Chappell, Walters and Hussey are in the top ten for Australian batting averages in wins (among those with a minimum of ten wins) and Harvey rounds out the top 20. In comparison with their peers on those wins, they are ahead by the following percentages:

  • Chappell by 64 per cent
  • Walters by 51 per cent
  • Hussey by 26 per cent
  • Harvey by 29 per cent

These are great numbers, especially for Greg Chappell and Doug Walters. Don Bradman (183 per cent), Adam Voges (143 per cent) and Steve Smith (56.5 per cent) are the only other players to have contributed at a rate more than 50 per cent better compared to their teammates in wins, and Bob Simpson and Clem Hill are the only others over 40 per cent.

Obviously when Australia won between the late 1960s and the early 1980s Walters and Chappell had a large hand in the team’s success.

These four batsmen are also top shelf in draws – Chappell and Hussey are top ten while Walters and Harvey are top 20. The greatest contributor in draws compared to his teammates is Neil Harvey at 29 per cent, but all contribute 15 per cent or more compared to their peers.

It’s losses where one of the four comes into his own. Neil Harvey has the 12th all-time average for Australians in losses of 33.17. None of the other three even make the top 30. Harvey’s output in losses was 50.5 per cent more than his peers in those losses. This is remarkable consistency – around 30 per cent better in each of wins and draws, rising to 50 per cent better if the opposition got on top.

In contrast the output of the other three in losses compared to their teammates was:

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  • Chappell: 4.8 per cent less
  • Walters: 3.1 per cent less
  • Hussey: 15 per cent less

So in summary, Neil Harvey continues to be the underrated player when greatest-ever middle orders are chosen, suffering I suspect from being the closest in playing era to Don Bradman. The Don still casts a long shadow, so I can only imagine what that was like in the 1950s.

Chappell and Walters were the great winners.

Hussey’s output on raw numbers is on par with this trio, but in a period of high batting averages, his comparison to peers is just a little lower, plus he was a great frontrunner but had less influence when his team was struggling. Or there is always the interpretation that when Hussey came through his team didn’t lose.

Here are a selection of great winning performances by these four champion players, plus a couple of top-shelf efforts in losses by the great Neil Harvey.

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Greg Chappell
In the second Test of the 1972 Ashes at Lord’s, England put on a creditable 272 in the first innings despite eight wickets from surprise packet Bob Massie. Australia gained a 36-run first-innings lead solely due to Chappell. Coming in at 2-7, Chappell scored 131, with the next highest score being his brother’s 56. Massie’s second-innings eight-wicket haul was even better than his first effort and Australia celebrated an eight-wicket victory.

In the first Test of the West Indies 1975 tour of Australia the visitors opened with 214. Chappell top-scored with 123 in Australia’s reply, and they took a 152-run lead. Centuries to Lawrence Rowe and Alvin Kallicharan left Australia with a tricky 219-run target, but the Chappell brothers combined for an unbeaten 159-run stand to settle the issue, with Greg scoring 109. In the fourth Test of the series Australia were tottering at 4-103 in reply to the West Indies’ first-innings 355. Chappell scored 182 of the next 302 runs, securing a 50-run lead before Jeff Thomson ran through the Windies batting with six second-innings wickets.

On three separate occasions against India and Pakistan Chappell scored mammoth first-innings runs to secure easy victories for his side. Firstly, in Sydney in 1981 his first-innings 204 was better than the entire Indian first innings, and no other Australian reached 70. In Brisbane in 1981 against Pakistan it was 201, with no other Australian reaching 75, but they still secured a ten-wicket victory. In Chappell’s final Test in 1984 it was 182 against Pakistan. Again, no other Australian reached 80 and again the side secured a ten-wicket win.

Finally, against New Zealand in Christchurch in 1982, after being sent in at 2-53, Chappell scored a beautiful 176 from just 218 balls of an Australian total of 353. Graeme Wood scored 62 and no-one else passed 25. New Zealand subsided to scores of 149 and 272 following on as Australia cantered to victory.

Neil Harvey
In wins
In 1949-50 in Cape Town, Australia batted first and Harvey scored 178 runs of 8d-527. No other player reached 90 and Australia ran out comfortable eight-wicket winners.

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Later on that tour in Durban, South Africa opened with 311 in their first innings. Australia were destroyed by Hugh Tayfield for just 75, but then nine wickets from Ian Johnson and Bill Johnston in South Africa’s second innings limited the chase to a still highly unlikely 336. Harvey came in at 3-59 and hit 151 not out to guide the tourists to an amazing five-wicket victory. No other player in the chase reached 55.

In 1953 South Africa were touring Australia. They struggled to 175 in their first innings in the third Test in Sydney. Australia were 2-49 when Harvey came in. He left having top-scored with 190 of 443, leading to an innings victory. No other player in the entire match reached 72.

In Kingston in 1955 the West Indies scored 355 in their first innings thanks to 155 from Clive Walcott and 50s from the other two Ws. Australia responded with a mammoth 8-758. Harvey’s 204 was the highest of five centuries scored in the innings. Walcott stood alone with a second century for the match but Australia still recorded an innings victory.

In losses
To show it takes more than one or two players to win a match, in the fifth Test against South Africa in 1953 Australia put on 505 in the first innings, with Harvey scoring 205. Opener Arthur Morris was run out for 99 and no other player scored over 45. South Africa responded with a team effort of 435 with no player scoring even a century. Australia could only score 209 in their second innings but would have thought they were in with an excellent chance, but South Africa reached their 297-run target losing only four wickets. Again all batsmen contributed and no-one reached 100. Harvey lost despite his first-innings score being more than double what any South African achieved.

In the second Test of the 1954 Ashes England scored just over 150 in the first innings and Australia took a comfortable lead. In the end Australia were set a target of 223, which they failed to run down. Harvey scored 92 not out but no other player even made 17 as England scraped home by 38 runs.

Mike Hussey
In 2005 when opening the batting Hussey combined with Matt Hayden for a 231-run opening stand in response to the West Indies first innings of only 149. Hussey top-scored with 137 and was also 31 not out as Australia completed a comfortable eight-wicket win.

In the third Test the West Indies put on over 400 thanks to a masterful Brian Lara double century (no-one else reached even 35). Hussey scored 133 not out in response to lead Australia to a small first-innings lead, and he was 30 not out when they completed a seven-wicket victory.

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In the 2005 Boxing Day Test against South Africa, Hussey combined with Glenn McGrath for an amazing 107 tenth-wicket stand, with McGrath contributing just 11. The first-innings 355 was enough for McGrath and Warne, and Australia won by nearly 200 runs.

In March 2006 in South Africa, after Justin Langer was felled by a bouncer facing his first ball and took no further part in the Test, Hussey top-scored with 73 in the first innings as Australia conceded a 30-run deficit. Chasing 292 to win, Hussey replaced Langer in the opening position and scored 89. After a Damian Martyn century, Australia’s final pair nervously scored the necessary 17 runs for victory.

Doug Walters
In the third Test against India at the Gabba in 1968 Walters top-scored with 93 in the first innings as Australia built a 100-run lead. In the second innings Walters contributed 61 not out from the last 98 runs scored. These turned out to be vital as the tourists fell only 33 runs short of chasing 395. Was this Australia’s weakest ever bowling attack? Walters bowled first change in both innings and batsman Bob Cowper took seven wickets for the match. The specialist bowlers were Doug Renneberg, Eric Freeman, Alan Connolly and John Gleeson.

In Sydney in 1969 against the West Indies, Walters became one of the few players to score a double century and a century in a single match. His first innings 242 pushed Australia to a mammoth first innings of 619 against a decent attack comprising Wes Hall, Charlie Griffith, Garfield Sobers and Lance Gibbs. The Windies ended up 340 behind on the first innings. Bill Lawry was never one to give a sucker an even break and after batting for 92 overs in the second innings Australia declared with a lead of 734, Walters having peeled off 103. The tourists fell slightly short.

In Auckland in March 1974 New Zealand won the toss and sent the Australians in on a juicy pitch. The visitors were 4-37 when Walters arrived at the crease, his 104 not out dragging them to 221 with no other player reaching 50. New Zealand were blown away for 112 by Gary Gilmour and Ashley Mallett. Ian Redpath carried his bat for an epic 159 not out in the second innings and New Zealand never threatened. But things could have been very different if Walters hadn’t cobbled something together in that first innings.

In the 1974-75 Ashes in the second Test in Perth England struggled to just over 200 in their first innings. When Walters came in Australia had nearly reached the target, but his 103 from just 119 balls powered them to an unassailable lead before Jeff Thomson took five second-innings wickets to seal the deal. Walters hit a hundred in a session by hooking the final ball of the day from Bob Willis for six.

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There are two other interesting cases I’d like to mention briefly. Firstly, Marnus Labuschagne has not yet reached the minimum matches to qualify for these lists, but his winning average so far from eight Tests is 81.9, slightly better even than Steve Smith. Only the anomalies (for different reasons) Adam Voges and Don Bradman have better averages in wins from as many as Labuschagne’s eight matches.

Marnus has also only played in three losses, but his average of 47.3 is better than virtually everyone, including Bradman, Trumper, Steve Waugh et cetera. Only one player has played in at least three losing Tests with a better average

That person is, secondly, Peter Taylor. To those among us who were around in the late 1980s, you might remember this off spinner as ‘Peter Who’ when he was selected out of New South Wales club cricket for the Test side and promptly helped us win a match from nowhere.

Although primarily a bowler, Taylor scored 204 runs in losses at an unparalleled average of 51. No-one else who has played in more than a single loss has done better. In contrast Taylor’s winning average was only 14.9 from six Tests and he averaged just 27 in draws.

Nest time we will tackle some of our captains who have not featured in previous articles to see if and how they led by example.