Australian Test batting averages

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Tell you which two players have scored most runs for Australia over the last ten or fifteen years: Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne. Stick with us on this.

‘He averages 40 plus’

We have this belief that Australian Test batting averages have been deceptive for a good few years now. We’re not big on gauging a player solely by his average at the best of times. Some people do and those people think that Matthew Hayden is one of the all-time great Test batsmen.

Matthew Hayden is not one of the all-time great Test batsmen.

He’s a good one – we’re not so irreparably prejudiced that we can’t admit that – but his Test average of 52.43 flatters him. Michael Clarke averages 45, Ricky Ponting 58, Andrew Symonds 44, Mike Hussey 67 and all their predecessors in the top six all average comfortably over 40 as well.

Do Australia produce more top quality batsmen than other nations? Yes, they probably do, but are they all THAT good?

Bowlers decide Test matches

Australia’s batsmen have had it easy for years. They knew that in Warne and McGrath they had the bowlers to defend any total and this affected their approach. They were relaxed in the first innings and in the second innings they tended to have a lead. They batted for declarations with the field spread and even when things didn’t go according to plan, they could convince themselves that a lead of 150 might be enough.

But it’s not like that now. Witness Australia’s collective failure at Mohali. India make 469 and Australia reply with 268. At this point, without any magic bowlers, Australia have to watch as India calmly set them a target.

Australia have to chase 500-and-odd and batting seems harder than it did for India. That’s because it is.

India were setting a target. It didn’t take long before Australia were effectively complicit in that. India were batting with a 200 run lead and if they’d been bowled out for 100, it would have still been a stiff target. Once they’d got a good start it was pretty much plain sailing.

In contrast, for Australia’s innings, India’s bowlers were fired up. Australia’s batsmen won’t admit it, but they will have been feeling a bit pessimistic. It’s a different situation and while runs are harder to score, they only contribute to the batsmen’s averages the same amount.

So how many runs do you have to subtract?

It really is a team game and you can’t just go off the numbers. Australia had two of the best bowlers of all time and they created situations where batsmen could cash in.

It’s impossible to quantify something like this as there are so many factors involved. However, at a conservative estimate, it makes Matthew Hayden a worse batsman than Alan Mullally.

You can use that as a rule of thumb.


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  1. I wrote a post on related topics earlier this year (see especially Kartikeya’s comment).

    If you wanted to use the boldest possible interpretation of those graphs, then you could say that Warne and McGrath being replaced by bowlers who average 45 and 35 cost the Australian batsmen about 10 runs each in terms of average.

    That’s a really wild estimate though.

  2. Now there’s a man who knows that a batting average doesn’t tell the whole story; that it’s but the tip of the iceberg.

  3. My head hurts with all these stats and figures! I read this for light banter and ridicule of the cricketing world. Though i do like stats, when i was a lad, i used to play Graham Gooch’s Test Cricket on the commadore 64 and keep the averages!

  4. I think Hayden’s one of the all-time great Test batsmen. Certainly among bear-like, orphan-eating fuckheads, anyway.

  5. Am always a smidgen disappointed when it’s a read more link – somehow expect something a little ruder or more outrageous to be revealed…

  6. so the fact that I’m not the world’s greatest batsman is all because I don’t play in the same team as the worlds greatest bowler. Interesting. I always thought it was because I’ve got the coordination and grace of a beached manatee.

  7. Surely another important factor with Aussie batsmen is that they play half their tests in Australia which are far easier to bat on than English pitches.

  8. A while back, when the NZ-Eng series was on, I stated (elsewhere) that it would be a really good thing if Daniel Flynn had his head knocked off. This sort of happened. A tooth, at least. Sadly it never, ever happens with Hayden, which just makes me hate him more and more and more. I don’t think this blog hates Hayden enough, actually.

  9. perhaps he should watch out for me… (does “in season” pertain to cricket or rugby? because right now I’m in cricket season.)

  10. Who the hell writes this crap!? Is there a cricketing nation that wouldn’t have liked to have Matthew Hayden in the opening position for them in the past ten years? I don’t think so! He’s sadly out of touch at the moment and may not ever regain his dominance over bowlers, but in his prime he was murderous against opposition bowlers and breathtaking to watch – unless you were one of the said bowlers.

  11. What a funny article, saying that Ponting & Hayden’s averages aren’t a true reflection. Perhaps Andrew Strauss (who has an a current Test average of around 43) average is really worth 60 because England’s bowlers aren’t that great. Let’s reduce all Australian batting averages & increase English batting averages, therefore obviously England has better batters. Let’s adjust averages to “pressure”.
    Conversely you could say that Australia’s good batters make their bowlers look good, because if Australia gets a first inning score of 450 – 500 this takes the pressure off the Aussie bowlers who can bowl more relaxed, therefore maybe Warne & McGrath’s averages aren’t a true reflection because the batters with their big first innings lead took the pressure off them. On top of that the opposition batters would have been in a pessimistic frame of mind chasing such a big total & therefore got out because of the pressure or hopelessness of the situation. So Warne & McGrath’s real test bowling average should be about 35-40.
    Thanks for the laugh, you must be Irish. Obviously you’re right both Australian batting & bowling averages are very deceptive.

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