In a recent series of articles, I examined Australia’s most successful Test cricketers, both in terms of their number of wins as a proportion of all matches played and then by analysing players’ performances in wins compared to their peers. Check out the all-rounders entry.
Now it’s time to turn our attention to the 50-over game.
As of December 2020, Australia have played 955 one day internationals, winning 579, for a winning percentage of 63.35 (second only to South Africa at 63.92). There are 40 Australians who’ve played in at least 50 ODI wins. There have also been 20 players who achieved a career winning percentage of better than 70 per cent (minimum ten wins).
If we combine these two measures, there are only seven Australians in history to win more than 50 matches and also achieve a success rate greater than 70 per cent. These special players in descending order of wins are:
Adam Gilchrist (1996-2008): 201 wins
70.3% success rate
The great Gilchrist. Readers of my previous articles might remember he has the greatest winning success rate in Tests by a very wide margin, more than 35 per cent better than any other player in Test cricket history. Here, his success rate in ODIs is ranked 7th for players with more than 50 ODI wins.
In the 50-over game, Gilchrist’s 201 victories are second only to Ricky Ponting, whose remarkable longevity yielded 261 wins. Ponting’s winning percentage was 69.8 per cent, so he falls agonisingly short of the top seven, one of an additional five players with 50 Test wins and a winning percentage of 69 per cent or more.
Damien Martyn (1992-2006): 153 wins
73.6% success rate
Anyone who saw Australia’s 2003 World Cup final win knows the value of Damien Martyn as a limited-overs player. Martyn’s silky smooth skills gave him a 40.8 career batting average and over 5,300 runs. His mastery of spin bowlers kept Australia’s scoring rate ticking through the middle overs in a manner the current side has been trying to recapture for some time.
Andrew Symonds (1998-2009): 152 wins
76.8% success rate
Andrew Symonds was a destructive limited-overs batsman. He scored over 5500 career runs at an average of just under 40 and a strike rate over 92. Symonds’ success rate of 76.8 per cent is the best in this analysis. No other player with 50 ODI wins has a success rate better than 75 per cent.
In fact, it is the best for any Australian player with more than even 20 ODI victories. You have to go right down to fairly anonymous bowler Brad Williams, with only 20 wins from 25 appearances, to find a better success rate. The all-round package of destructive but high averaging batsman, useful seam up and off spin bowler and electric all-round fielding makes Andrew Symonds possibly Australia’s most valuable ever ODI package.
Matthew Hayden (1993-2008): 118 wins
73.8% success rate
Matthew Hayden was a bludgeoning, destructive force at the top of Australia’s batting order. His finest ODI performances were probably in the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies, where he scored 659 runs at an average over 73 and strike rate over 101.
Darren Lehmann (1996-2005): 84 wins
71.8% success rate
Darren Lehmann was a late bloomer in terms of selection but provided excellent value. Yet another in the mid-1990s to mid-2000s era when Australia were the most dominant country in all forms of cricket, Lehmann added a canny left-handed option and an aggressive attitude against spin, as well as some useful filthy left arm spin.
Nathan Bracken (2001-2009): 82 wins
70.7% success rate
Nathan Bracken is the only player in this list not to debut in the ’90s. His left arm variety was good enough to force his way into a champion team at its peak.
He averaged under 25 with the ball with an economy rate less than 4.5 runs per over and was an automatic pick through much of the 2000s when fit.
Ian Harvey (1997-2004): 54 wins
74% success rate
Ian Harvey, “The Freak”, was a bowling all-rounder in our ODI team during the 1990s and 2000s. His batting was good for some lower order impetus with a strike rate over 88.
His bowling was reasonably economical during the middle overs at around 4.7 runs per over and he took 1.2 wickets per match. What Harvey provided was valuable balance to a five-man attack, plus the ability every now and then to produce something out of the box.
Just missed out
Earlier I mentioned another five players who just missed out on my arbitrary 70 per cent winning rate cut off. These fine players still had a success rate more than ten per cent better than Australia’s overall performance:
Ricky Ponting and Brett Lee are bona fide ODI greats, but I doubt the other three would have been the first thought of for a list like this. Cameron White was a colossus at domestic level who never seemed to nail down a permanent national spot.
Brad Hogg provided sterling service for Australia, especially during the 2003 World Cup in the absence of Warne and his mum’s diet pills. Peter Taylor first came to fame for being picked for a Test from outside New South Wales’ state side, but overall his performances were much more influential in the ODI format and he is the only player from the 1980s to almost make this list.
I did mention that 40 Australian players have at least 50 ODI wins to their name and I have only mentioned 12 so far. The remaining 28 are mostly a who’s who of Australian ODI legends, with a couple of lesser lights mixed in. Here they are, grouped by the decade they mostly played in, with their number of wins in brackets:
Allan Border (145), David Boon (112), Dean Jones (98), Craig McDermott (83), Geoff Marsh (75), Simon O’Donnell (53).
Steve Waugh (196), Glen McGrath (170), Michael Bevan (155), Mark Waugh (152), Shane Warne 123), Ian Healy (101), Mark Taylor (66), Damien Fleming (58).
Michael Clarke (167), Shane Watson (129), Mike Hussey (123), Jason Gillespie (64), James Hopes (52).
Mitchell Johnson (99), Brad Haddin (79), Aaron Finch (75), Steve Smith (73), Glen Maxwell (71), David Warner (71), Mitchell Starc (61), George Bailey (51), Matthew Wade (50).
Every player in that list has a winning success rate of more than 50 per cent. The lowest are perhaps not surprisingly Allan Border (53.1 per cent) and maybe more surprisingly, Matthew Wade (53.2 per cent)
The best winning percentage records
I mentioned that Andrew Symonds has the best success rate for any player with more than 20 victories (76.8 per cent) and that as you head down the list of wins, he is overtaken only at 20 wins by Brad Williams (80 per cent success rate).
Williams holds the mantle until we get to 11 wins. 1990s Tasmanian bowler Greg Campbell then takes over with 11 wins from 12 matches, a 91.7 per cent success rate. Campbell maybe should have played more matches with a record like that, especially as he wasn’t a passenger, taking 18 wickets at 22.44 with an economy rate under 4.
We have to go all the way down to a mere four wins to find Western Australian wicketkeeper Luke Ronchi, who holds the record for the most games for Australia in ODIs with a 100 per cent winning record. Of course, Ronchi later played another 81 limited-overs matches for New Zealand, winning 47 of those. From there you get to two legspinners who played three and won three – perennial second fiddle Stuart MacGill and Victorian Fawad Ahmed.
The worst winning percentage records
To finish off, let’s look at our least successful players. Given Australia’s impressive record of winning over 63 per cent of all matches played, there are not many who struggled to maintain winning records. But here are the ones who did.
I’ve already mentioned that Allan Border, with a winning record of 53.1 per cent has the lowest success rate for players with over 50 matches to their name.
If we move down to 40 wins, we find our first players with net losing records: Kim Hughes with 45 wins from 97 matches and Rod Marsh with 42 from 92. If we drop the wins to 30, we see Geoff Lawson with a 39.2 per cent winning record from his 79 ODIs.
Other notable players with net losing records that we have passed along the way include Greg Chappell and Dennis Lillee.
Lawson holds the title until we get down to a mere 18 wins, when speedster Jeff Thomson takes over with a winning record of just 36 per cent. He doesn’t hold the record for long, as we find Travis Head with 15 wins at 35.7 per cent.
There are four Australian players who have tasted success but have a winning record of less than 15 per cent. Ashton Agar has won only 2 of his 14 matches to date. Andrew Tye and 1980s off-spinner Bruce Yardley each have 1 from 7. D’arcy Short takes the prize here with 1 from 8.
But, there is also a very select group of Australians who played a number of ODIs without ever tasting success. Most only played one game, or maybe two. However, there are three players who appeared more than five times and never tasted victory. Their names are etched in legend: Alan Hurst (eight games), Ashley Mallett (nine) and Mick Malone (ten).
What does all of this tell us? Not a lot, other than that Australians generally know how to play one day cricket.
In my next two articles, I will delve a little deeper. Who performed best in wins compared to other players in those matches? Who performed best in setting a winning target? Who came to the fore to successfully chase down opposition totals? Which bowlers set the scene bowling first and which successfully defended? And who are our greatest losers?
Stay tuned, Roarers.