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Analysing Australia’s Test cricket winners: The best bowlers and overall teams

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Roar Guru
25th November, 2020

In previous articles I have been looking at our great bowlers and their performances in Test match wins.

In this article I will reveal the best bowlers and combine with my previous series on the batting side of things to produce our ‘best’ teams in wins, losses and draws.

See my previous articles for detailed discussion of the batting performances.

Remember that the Peer Difference Percentage is a comparison of how a player performed in wins, losses and draws compared to the other batsman and bowlers in those same games.

The Victors (i.e. best performers in wins, minimum ten matches)
Sid Barnes (batting average 70.76, Peer Difference Percentage +14.8%)
Bill Ponsford (62.83, +18.1%)
Don Bradman (130.08, +182.8%)
Steve Smith (81.0, +56.5%)
Greg Chappell (70.49, +64.1%)
Adam Voges (153.85, +143%)
Adam Gilchrist (54.83, +2%)

Alan Davidson (bowling average 16.04, Peer Difference Percentage +26.76%, wickets per test 5.56)
Dennis Lillee (18.27, +24.80%, 6.55)
Graham McKenzie (19.49, +27.54%, 6.22)
Bill O’Reilly (14.95, +25.58%, 6.5)

This is a well balanced attack.

Lillee provides the unparalleled strike rate, Davidson and O’Reilly suffocate the opposition while still taking wickets and McKenzie provides a mix and plenty of wickets per Test.

Australia's best-ever Don Bradman

Donald Bradman. Decent batsman. (PA Images via Getty Images)


If there is a spinning pitch we could throw Keith Miller in at 6, then Clarrie Grimmett or Hugh Trumble could replace McKenzie.

Aside from Grimmett and Trumble, those bowlers unluckiest to miss out include old time all rounders George Giffen and Monty Moble, the metronomic twins Glenn McGrath and Stuart Clark for overall excellence and English Bogeyman Mitchell Johnson for pure strike power. Remember this is solely for performances in wins.

The Burning Deck Team (i.e. best performers in defeats, minimum 10 matches)
Victor Trumper (batting average 41.52, Peer Difference Percentage +65.2%)
Bill Lawry (35.58, +29.1%)
Don Bradman (43.27, +58.0%)
Stan McCabe (36.36, +35.7%)
David Warner (37.22, +61.9%)
Steve Waugh (37.77, +45.4%)
Tim Paine (28.36, +13.4%)

Mitchell Starc (bowling average 29.72, Peer Difference Percentage +17.43%, Wickets per Test 4.15)
Hugh Trumble (23.86, +12.00%, 4.18)
Glenn McGrath (23.89, +29.43%, 4.35)
Rodney Hogg (22.25, +35.80%, 4.25)

Rodney Hogg comes in from outside my previous articles. In a weak team he kept his side competitive and for a short time was a simply great bowler.


Mitchell Starc’s strike rate of 49.8 is brilliant, McGrath is his usual self with an excellent average and economy rate. Hugh Trumble just shades Shane Warne by a bare margin.

Tim Paine

Tim Paine (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Interestingly, if these three extra bowlers had just lost one or two more matches they would have been the pace attack in this line up: Alan Davidson (8 losses – 17.13 bowling average), Keith Miller who obviously could slot in the top 6 (9 losses – 22.08) and Pat Cummins (9 losses – 22.33 bowling average and 44.8 strike rate).

Other players who were close include 19th Century star Charles ‘Terror’ Turner, Western Australian swing man Terry Alderman, current star Josh Hazlewood, the legendary DK Lillee and cult hero Mervyn Hughes.

The Stalemate Team (i.e. best performers in draws, minimum 10 matches):
Charles Macartney (batting average 77.0, Peer Difference Percentage +117.10%)
Arthur Morris (63.94, +44.2%)
Don Bradman (111.9, +135.4%)
Michael Clarke (75.66, +57.1%)
Allan Border (68.7, +62.2%)
Mike Hussey (64.63, +44.2%)
Brad Haddin (52.5)

Richie Benaud (bowling average 32.52, Peer Difference Percentage +12.07%, Wickets per Test 3.52)
Ray Lindwall (27.84, +21.77%, 3.42)
Jeff Thomson (24.07, +28.57%, 4.42)
Bruce Reid (27.03, +45.34%, 3.56)

Again Shane Warne just misses out, this time to Richie Benaud. Thommo’s stats in draws are simply outstanding and Reid was a huge distance ahead of his peers. Lindwall provides the consistency.

Other bowlers unlucky to miss out include wonky legged workhorse Max Walker, yet again the ultra-consistent Alan Davidson, Dennis Lillee again, Garth McKenzie, 1990s attack leader Craig McDermott and speed gun breaker Brett Lee.


The only bowlers to be mentioned in all three categories are Alan Davidson and Dennis Lillee. Others like spinners Bill O’Reilly, Clarrie Grimmett, Hugh Trumble and current star Pat Cummins, would also have that honour except that they haven’t played at least 10 games in each category.

Allan Border batting

Allan Border (Adrian Murrell/Getty Images)

It’s difficult to come up with a Rest of the World Victors XI just based on raw batting and bowling averages, etc without doing the full Peer difference Percentage Analysis, as averages over time and in different countries are just too variable.

But if I had to do it, using a balance between winning averages, wickets per Test and high numbers of wins, it might be something like this:

Jack Hobbs (ENG) (batting average 68) – 28 wins
Saeed Anwar (PAK) (66.29) – 23 wins
Kumar Sangakkara (SL) (71.69) – 54 wins
Younis Khan (PAK) (74.39) – 46 wins
Inzamam-ul-Haq (PAK) (78.2) – 49 wins
Garfield Sobers (WI) (75.35) – 31 wins. Plus a bowling average in wins of 24.04 and 3.4 wickets per test.
Andy Flower (ZIM) (84.5) (but only 7 wins), otherwise Sanga takes the gloves and we add Kane Williamson (71.36) – 33 wins.

Imran Khan (PAK) (bowling average 14.5, wickets per test 5.96) – 26 wins. Plus a batting average in wins of 36.0.
Richard Hadlee (NZ) (13.06, 7.86) – 22 wins. Plus a batting average in wins of 30.38.
Sid Barnes (ENG) (13.58, 8.85) – 13 wins
Muttiah Muralitharan (16.18, 8.11) – 54 wins.

Other very, very strong contenders would be England’s 19th Century star George Lohman (bowling average 9.67, 6.27 wickets per test – 15 wins), New Zealand’s brilliant but injury prone Shane Bond (14.81, 6.5 – 10 wins), old time slow left armer Johnny Briggs (13.01, 4.42 – 19 wins) and famous English offspinner Jim Laker (13.65, 5.32 – 19 wins). You could also throw in fiery South African quick Dale Steyn (16.6, 6.35 – 48 wins) and also Malcolm Marshall (16.78, 5.91 – 43 wins) and Curtley Ambrose (16.86, 5.2 – 44 wins) as the best of the West Indian pace battery.

Just a quick note on one of my favourites: Richard Hadlee only tasted victory 22 times in his career and they mostly came from his outstanding performances, taking 173 wickets at a bowling average of 13. In those wins Hadlee took 10 wickets in a match 8 times from 22 wins and 5 wickets in an innings 17 times. Throw in 790 runs at 30.4 and Hadlee was the winner for New Zealand.


And let’s also celebrate the great Imran Khan. Those numbers above are extraordinary, given he was often bowling in sub-continental conditions. Three of our top 6 batsmen are from Pakistan, which likely indicates batting was an easier business and yet Imran took 6 ten wicket match hauls and 11 five wickets in an innings in only 26 wins.

Next time in the final article I will try to see if this win contribution analysis can provide any additional insights into our great allrounders.