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Analysing Australia’s Test cricket winners: Ian Chappell, Bill Lawry, Kim Hughes, Graham Yallop and Monty Noble

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Roar Guru
16th October, 2020
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In this series I have been examining how Australian players have performed in Test match wins, both how many career wins they have compared to losses and how they have performed in those wins.

This time I am going to look at a selection of Australian captains. One is celebrated as a great tactical leader and man manager. Another led his team by bloody-minded example.

I have added in two captains who had less than stellar turns at the helm to see what can be gleaned from their performances and I’ve rounded it out with a very brief look at a pioneer captain who was definitely a man for a crisis.

Ian Chappell
35 wins, 2379 runs at 43.25 with five centuries (losses: 25.83, draws: 58.17). Top-six comparison: 50.69 (losses: 27.1, draws: 44.11).

Chappell did not do particularly well in wins. His average is nearly 15 per cent worse than his peers in those matches. He does not make Australia’s top 50 and the closest winning average to his belongs to Shaun Marsh.

In losses Chappell performed 0.08 runs better than his younger brother, but was still 4.7 per cent worse than his peers. He did however score three centuries from his 18 losses but he also threw in seven ducks – one every five innings in losses.

It was in drawn matches that the captain excelled, with his average being the tenth best of all Australians (minimum ten drawn matches) and 15 runs or 32 per cent more than his peers. Chappell scored six centuries in 22 draws, including his highest score of 247 not out.

Some notable Ian Chappell performances include the following.

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In the Boxing Day Test of 1968 against the West Indies, Graham ‘Garth’ McKenzie took 8-71 in the first innings to restrict the tourists to 200. After an early wicket, Chappell and Bill Lawry combined for a 298 stand for the second wicket to set up an innings victory.

At the Oval in 1972 the Chappell brothers put on a 201 third-wicket stand in Australia’s first innings with each scoring centuries. This partnership, combined with a ten-wicket haul from Dennis Lillee, set up a tough five-wicket win. The Chappells scored the only centuries in the match.

In the Adelaide Test of 1972 against Pakistan Chappell amassed an aggressive 196 from only 243 balls. Rod Marsh also scored 118 from just 124 balls. That set up an easy innings victory. Ashley Mallett took eight-second innings wickets.

In Port of Spain in 1973 Australia led by 52 after the first innings. In Australia’s second innings Chappell manufactured a tough 97 with no other player reaching 45. The West Indies fell just 44 runs short of the 334-run target despite a classy 91 from Alvin Kallicharran.

In the first Test at the Gabba of the 1974-75 Ashes series Chappell held his team together with a first innings 90, his only support being his brother’s 58. The modest 309 total was enough as the English were introduced to Jeff Thomson, who took nine wickets for the match and scared the living daylights out of the tourists.

Bill Lawry
20 wins, 1853 runs at 54.5 with seven centuries (losses: 35.58, draws: 50.48). Top-six comparison: 46.16 (losses: 27.56, draws: 49.63).

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‘The Corpse with Pads’ was an uncompromising half of one of our greatest opening partnerships, with Bob Simpson. Lawry was very consistent and extremely hard to dislodge.

His average in wins was 18 per cent better than his teammates and is in the Australian all-time top 20. In draws Lawry performed almost exactly on par with his peers.

But remember from previous articles it appears that openers generally have it slightly harder than their middle-order compatriots, so these results have great merit, especially setting up a platform for wins.

Bill Lawry

Bill Lawry is one of Australian cricket’s greatest ever openers. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

In losses, I see Lawry in a great light. His average of more than 35 is sixth over all time. If you look at players who experienced at least as many as the 18 losses that Lawry played in, then only Steve Waugh and David Warner have better marks. Lawry performed at 29 per cent better than his teammates in losses. He was a leader by example indeed.

Here are some of Lawry’s best.

In the second Ashes Test of 1961 at Lord’s, Lawry stood out in an otherwise low-scoring match. After Alan Davidson had shot out England for 206 in their first innings, Lawry top scored with 130 in Australia’s reply as the tourists reach 340. England again struggled in their second innings, this time to 202 as Garth McKenzie took five wickets. Australia wobbled horribly in reaching their modest 69-run target, losing 4-19 before Peter Burge and Bob Simpson steadied the ship. Apart from Lawry, no other player in the match reached 70.

In the fourth Ashes Test in Manchester in 1961, Australia struggled in their first innings to 190 all out. Lawry top scored with 74, with no other player reaching 50. England took a commanding 177-run lead on the first innings. In Australia’s second innings Lawry spearheaded a spirited team performance with 102 as the side reached 432 and set England a testing 256 for victory. From 2-150, England crumbled to fall 55 runs short, with Richie Benaud taking six second innings wickets for one of Australia’s finest wins.

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In Melbourne in 1964 against South Africa, Lawry’s first innings 157 as part of a 219 opening stand with Ian Redpath laid the foundation for a comfortable eight-wicket victory.

In 1966 and 1967 the great Lawry-Simpson partnership was in full swing. In the Adelaide Ashes Test of 1966 and again in the Melbourne Test of 1967-68 versus India, the openers put on massive opening stands in the first innings to pave the way for innings victories. In the Boxing Day Test of 1968 against the West Indies, Simpson fell cheaply, but Lawry this time combined with Ian Chappell for 298 runs to force another comprehensive victory, with Lawry scoring 205. He even hit a six in that innings!

Lawry is one of the few openers to carry his bat twice and both were in forlorn second innings efforts. In Dehli in 1969 Australia achieved a 73-run first innings lead. In the second innings they were destroyed by spinners Bishan Bedi and Erapalli Prasanna. Lawry remained not out on 49 as the side fell for just 107. Again in Sydney in 1971 Australia were staring down the barrel as England left them chasing 416 runs for victory. Australia fell for just 116 with John Snow taking 7-40. Lawry batted through for 60 not out over four and a half hours, scoring over half the team’s runs.

Kim Hughes
18 wins, 836 runs at 34.83 with two centuries (losses: 28.63, draws: 53.27). Top-six comparison: 43.66 (losses: 26.16, draws: 44.14).

Kim Hughes was considered to be one of the most talented batsmen of his generation. His stint as captain was blighted by disharmony and the West Indies juggernaut and it all ended in tears.

As a batsman Hughes’ average in wins is poor. Just below him in the rankings is Mr. LBW himself Shane Watson and just above him sits bowler Paul Reiffel (from a similar number of matches). He performed 20 per cent worse than his peers in these matches, so contributions to wins was not a forte.

However, Hughes’ average in losses is very good and ranks just outside Australia’s top 20. On average he contributed 9.5 per cent more than his teammates, so he certainly tried to lead by example. Hughes’ overall average is padded by his performance in draws, where he ranks 17th all time and was 20.7 per cent better than his peers.

So Hughes was not always a winner, but he wasn’t a loser either. Here are some of his best efforts.

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In the first Test of the establishment Ashes series of 1978-79 at the Gabba, the undermanned Australian side were destroyed for just 116 in their first innings and England proceeded to rack up a 170 first innings lead. Australia subsided to 3-49 in the second innings before Hughes joined captain Graham Yallop for a vital 170-run stand. Hughes was eventually last man out for a marathon 129 from 411 balls, unexpectedly leaving England a tricky 170-run target. Dereck Randall guided the visitors home by seven wickets.

On the 1979-80 tour of India, the young establishment Australian side was outmatched, but managed four draws from six Tests. Hughes was the top-scoring batsman from either side with 594 runs at 59.40. He passed 50 in seven of 12 innings.

Hughes’ highest score of 213 came in a draw against India in Adelaide in 1981 and he was last out in the hosts’ first innings of 528. A second innings 53 helped to set a target of 331 for India and Australia reduced them to eight wickets down before time ran out. India’s Yashpal Sharma scored a mighty 13 from 169 balls to help the tourists survive against Lillee, Len Pascoe, Rodney Hogg and Bruce Yardley.

Kim Hughes’ most celebrated performance was on a terrible pitch against the mighty West Indies in Melbourne in 1981. Hughes scored exactly 100 not out from Australia’s first innings scored of only 198 against Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Joel Garner and Colin Croft. No other player reached even 22. That effort proved to be the difference as Australia eventually prevailed by 58 runs in a low-scoring match.

Graham Yallop
Ten wins. 727 runs at 48.46 with two centuries (losses: 32.34, draws: 49.7). Top-six comparison: 48.63 (losses: 22.48, draws: 52.03).

If there is a captain less celebrated than Kim Hughes it is possibly Graham Yallop. Yallop was thrown into the deep end by the establishment during the World Series Cricket war and suffered accordingly.

The results of his team overshadowed Yallop’s own performances and probably resulted in him playing fewer Tests than he really should have.

Graham Yallop

(S&G/PA Images via Getty Images)

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Yallop somehow managed to play in ten wins and his average of 48.5 there was almost exactly the same as his peers. In draws Yallop’s contributions were about 4.5 per cent less than his teammates, but still good enough to be all-time top 30.

But it was in his 16 losses that Yallop comes into his own and his average of 32.34 is 15th on Australia’s all-time list, ahead of players such as Steve Smith, Matt Hayden and the Chappell brothers. He scored three centuries in losses and his output was a whopping 43.8 per cent better than his teammates.

This percentage difference puts him eighth on Australia’s list of players who stood up most when others failed – the two players he just follows are Steve Waugh and Chris Rogers. For comparison, that great carrier of teams Allan Border had an output 34 per cent better than his teammates, significantly less than the underappreciated Graham Yallop.

Here are some of Yallop’s efforts.

In the 1978 home series to India, without the World Series Cricket defectors, Yallop scored 121 as the hosts put on 505 first innings runs (the returning Bob Simpson also scored a century). India fell 236 runs behind on the first innings and despite a mammoth second innings of 445 they fell just 47 runs short of what would have been a record victory.

The depleted national side played an away Test series against a full strength West Indies in 1978 and were predictably destroyed. Against Roberts, Garner and Croft in the first Test Australia scored under 300 across two innings combined. Yallop’s second innings 81 was nearly double the next best innings by any Australian. By the fourth Test the West Indies were also shorn of their stars but the result was the same. Again, Yallop was the only Australian to pass 50 in either innings with 75. Depressingly, his second innings 18 was also the top score for that innings.

By the sixth Test of the 1978-79 Ashes, captain Yallop had just about had enough. He scored a polished 121 in a first innings total of just 198 (61 per cent of runs scored). The next highest score was 16.

Yallop continued to be the stand-out batsman of the establishment team. In the fith away Test against India in 1979, his first innings 167 was the only century by either side in a fairly boring draw. He also top scored with half centuries in the first innings of two other comfortable defeats on tour.

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By 1981 Yallop was a member of the full strength side and he was still scoring centuries in losses, this time a sparkling 114 from just 125 balls in the second innings at Manchester in the fifth Ashes Test, as Australia fell 100 runs short of victory. In contrast Allan Border batted until the end for 123 from 356 balls.

In 1983 in the first Test against Pakistan in Perth, Yallop combined with Wayne Phillips for a 259-run second wicket partnership to drive Australia to an easy innings victory. Both players scored over 140, no other Australians got past 32 and highest score by the opposition was just 48.

Yallop’s final flourish came in the fourth Test in Melbourne in 1983. Replying to Pakistan’s first innings of 470, Yallop came in at 1-21 and left at 9-553, having scored 268 in a marathon 716 minutes. Pakistan safely batted out the draw, which allowed the experimental left-arm spin of Rod Marsh and the something of Kepler Wessels to be showcased for the final few overs.

Two Tests later, Graham Yallop was gone.

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To finish off, here is a note on Monty Noble, one of Australia’s captains during the early part of the 20th century.

Monty Noble
21 wins, 890 runs at 26.17 with no centuries (losses: 36.73, draws: 32.7). Top-six comparison: 37.43 (losses: 23.97, draws: 32.05).

Monty Noble is the only Australian player in history to average more in losses than wins (minimum ten losses and loss average of 30) and the difference was a massive ten runs. Only four other players even come close to achieving this.

• Geoff Marsh 36 in wins versus 33 in losses (32 in draws). Marsh was a limited batsman and it looks like he just played how he played.
• Victor Trumper 46 versus 41 (23 in draws). You can refer to my previous article for the Trumper legend of brilliance in lost causes.
• Stan McCabe 43 versus 36 (87 in draws). McCabe’s stats are heavily influenced by his slashing, defiant 185 not out during the Bodyline Ashes.
• Shane Watson 35 versus 30 (45 in draws). Well, who would have thought it?

Noble also averaged more in losses than draws, so he was obviously a man for a crisis. He might not have won his team many games with the bat, but he sure did his best to stem the tide. Noble was of course an all-rounder and I will return to him in this context later in the series.

Next time I will finish with our batsmen by providing tables for the top 20 in wins, losses and draws and see how this stacks up around the world.