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Analysing Australia’s Test cricket winners: The best of the best

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Roar Guru
22nd October, 2020
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In previous articles 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 the overall best performing batsmen in wins, losses and draws and also see how this compares to the rest of the world. Please refer to my previous articles for detailed analysis of around 20 top players’ performances in wins.

Firstly here is a team of the best performers in wins in rough batting order (minimum ten wins).

Sid Barnes (average 70.76, difference to peers +14.8 per cent)
Bill Ponsford (average 62.83, difference to peers +18.1 per cent)
Don Bradman (average 130.08, difference to peers +182.8 per cent)
Steve Smith (average 81.0, difference to peers +56.5 per cent)
Greg Chappell (average 70.49, difference to peers +64.1 per cent)
Adam Voges (average 153.85, difference to peers +143 per cent)

No wicketkeeper made the top 20 but I can safely assume the name of Adam Gilchrist would feature.

Steve Waugh and Doug Walters are the two who just miss out, while Bob Simpson has strong claims as an opener. His average of 59.26 is lower than both Barnes and Ponsford, but he batted in tougher times and contributed a whopping 48.7 per cent more than his peers. So there is a very strong case to drop Ponsford or Barnes out. An already strong slips cordon just got stronger!

Also, if Marnus Labuschagne continues his rich run of form, after his next two Test wins he will relegate Greg Chappell out of that batting order. He currently averages 81.92 in wins, slightly more than Steve Smith.

Marnus Labuschagne

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Other notables in the top 15 averages in wins include Ricky Ponting, Mike Hussey, Usman Khawaja, David Warner, Michael Clarke and Matt Hayden.

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There are also players whose raw average in wins is not top 15 but who have a very high per cent difference compared to their peers. Three players who contributed over 30 per cent more than their peers in wins are all from the distant past: Clem Hill, Warwick Armstrong and Victor Trumper . This makes sense. Averages were lower pre-WWI so their raw numbers didn’t make the cut, however they really stood out as the finest bats of their day.

What if I opened this up to the rest of the world? Only one player would drop out and that’s Greg Chappell. His likely replacement would be West Indian great Clive Walcott, who averaged 79.5 across 12 wins. Alternatively, for team balance I might consider the incomparable Garry Sobers (West Indies), who averaged 77.42 in wins and would of course have his bowling as a very big bonus.

Andy Flower (Zimbabwe) would certainly have come into consideration for the keeper’s slot having a winning average of 84.5, however poor Flower was only ever involved in seven victories for Zimbabwe across a long career.

Andy Flower and Clive Walcott are the only overseas players to feature in the top ten averages for both wins and losses (criteria: minimum five wins and five losses and excluding Australians).

Next, here is a team of the best performers in losses in batting order (minimum ten losses).

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Victor Trumper (average 41.52, difference to peers +65.2 per cent)
Bill Lawry (average 35.58, difference to peers +29.1 per cent)
Don Bradman (average 43.27, difference to peers +58.0 per cent)
Stan McCabe (average 36.36, difference to peers +35.7 per cent)
David Warner (average 37.22, difference to peers +61.9 per cent)
Steve Waugh (average 37.77, difference to peers +45.4 per cent)
Tim Paine (average 28.36, difference to peers +13.4 per cent)

I had to move David Warner down the order to include Lawry. If I had stuck to a strict batting order and left Lawry out, the next four players on this list were all mostly openers in Tests: Bill Woodfull, Ian Redpath, Chris Rogers and Simon Katich.

Tim Paine made the raw list so takes the keeper spot. An argument could have been made for 1980s batsman-keeper Wayne Phillips, who averaged a very creditable 30.95 in losses, but his keeping was dead ordinary.

I covered this fully in a previous article, but once again check out those numbers for Victor Trumper – on par with Don Bradman as the best Australian player in history in lost matches.

victor-trumper-jumping-out

Victor Trumper (George Bedlam, National Portrait Gallery)

Other players to just miss out include Allan Border, Neil Harvey, Geoff Marsh and Ricky Ponting.

Ricky Ponting, Don Bradman, Steve Waugh and David Warner are the only players to feature in the top 15 for both wins and losses.

Marnus Labuschagne again has ridiculous numbers: an average of 47.33, which is four more than Bradman. However he has only played in three losses so far.

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If I opened this up to the rest of the world I have a very different picture. A world top seven would look something like this.

Herbert Sutcliffe (England) (average 54.45)
Jack Hobbs (England) (46.07)
Len Hutton (England) (50.0)
Don Bradman (Australia) (43.27)
Brian Lara (West Indies) (42.19)
Vijay Hazare (India) (42.95)
Andy Flower (Zimbabwe) (43.06)

I suspect Trumper’s per cent difference to peers might still get him a start.

The three great Englishmen at the top of this table all have averages better than any Australian in losses. Andy Flower and Brian Lara both have impressive records given the number of losses they suffered.

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And finally, let’s look at that best performers in draws in batting order (minimum ten draws).

Charles Macartney (average 77.0, difference to peers +117.10 per cent)
Arthur Morris (average 63.94, difference to peers +44.2 per cent)
Don Bradman (average 111.9, difference to peers +135.4 per cent)
Michael Clarke (average 75.66, difference to peers +57.1 per cent)
Allan Border (average 68.7, difference to peers +62.2 per cent)
Mike Hussey (average 64.63, difference to peers +44.2 per cent)

No wicketkeeper made the top 20 but Brad Haddin sits just outside, averaging 52.5 from 12 draws, so he takes the slot.

Matt Hayden, Bob Cowper and the Chappell brothers just miss out.

Steve Smith needs just one more draw to qualify and he currently averages a cool 106.75, so Mike Hussey will soon make way.

Steve Smith.

(Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images)

If I open this up to the world, on raw numbers I end up with Allan Border and Mike Hussey dropping out in favour of West Indian duo Everton Weekes (average 87.23) and Jimmy Adams (75.0). However the great South African all-rounder Jacques Kallis averages 74.9 in draws, so I’d definitely replace Adams for Kallis’ bowling prowess. While he only kept part time, Kumar Sangakkara averaged 71.7 in draws so he could take the gloves.

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And I guess I should finish with the worst Australian batting averages in wins, losses and draws (minimum ten matches).

In wins, the honour goes to Terry Alderman with an average of 6.66 from 16 wins, just ahead of Glenn McGrath.

In losses, the prize is taken by… Terry Alderman! He has an average of 4.06 from 12 losses. Runner-up is renowned batting great Jim Higgs.

In draws, Glenn McGrath powers through with an average of 4.18 from 20 draws, narrowly defeating the beanpole Bruce Reid.

Next time I move onto the bowlers and look some of our genius spinners. These could take a while, so at this point I’d like to thank the hardy souls who have followed this series so far. Like me, you may just need a life!