I haven’t watched much cricket on Channel Nine this summer, but I managed to watch one tea segment that really had me thinking.
Commentator Michael Slater mentioned that former Test captain Ian Chappell had averaged over 50 batting in his favourite number three position, compared to a career average of 42.
In view of Ricky Ponting announcing his retirement from Test cricket, I took the liberty to trawl the careers of various Australian Test batsmen and compare their average in their most played (and/or favourite) position with their career average.
I restricted my published results to only those players where the discrepancy was roughly four batting points or more.
Let’s start with Ponting. Going into his last (and 168th) Test he has batted 285 times for an average of 52.21. His best batting position is no.3, where he has averaged 56.27 in 196 innings.
What about skipper Michael Clarke? In 85 Tests to date Clarke is averaging 52.16 from 141 innings. Contrary to those arguing Clarke should bat at no.4, his most productive position is actually no.5. Here he has averaged a whopping 63.41 from 91 innings.
Simon Katich, the guy who once grabbed Clarke by the throat in the dressing room and pinned him to the wall (and may have helped make Clarke the better person he is today) averaged 45.03 in 56 Tests and 99 innings.
But it is as opener where he excelled, averaging 50.48 from 61 innings.
Justin Langer is one of the gutsiest players to represent Australia, and deserves a mention here. In 105 Tests he averaged 45.27 from 182 innings. Opener, though, was his true position where he averaged 48.23 from 115 innings.
The unconquerable Steve Waugh averaged a very impressive 51.06 in 168 Tests and 260 innings. His best position was no.5, where he averaged a truly impressive 56.28 from 142 innings.
Allan Border the indomitable is worth a mention here despite the fact he was consistent across three middle order positions. Border averaged 50.56 in 156 Tests and 265 innings. He batted 88 innings at no. 4 averaging 50.44. However, he did slightly better in positions five (70 innings) and six (63 innings), averaging 52 for both.
At the top of the post we mentioned that Ian Chappell averaged 50.94 in 91 innings batting at no.3. This is considerably higher than his overall career average of 42.42, acquired in 75 Tests and 136 innings.
Greg Chappell vies with Ponting for the honour of Australia’s second best batsman after Bradman. He averaged 53.86 in 87 Tests and 151 innings. His best position was no.4 where he averaged an imposing 59.12 from 86 innings.
Bobby Simpson was just another reasonably good batsman until he was promoted to opener. In 62 Tests he averaged 46.82 from 111 innings. But it was as an opener that he finally excelled, averaging 55.52 from 70 innings.
I’ve sometimes wondered what all the fuss was with Norm O’Neill. In 42 Tests he averaged 45.56 from 69 innings. Solid stats, but hardly earth-shattering. However, batting at no.4 he averaged an impressive 57.43 from 41 innings.
The great all-rounder Keith Miller played in 55 Tests in which he averaged 36.97 from 87 innings. His favourite position was no.5, where he averaged 41.98 from 52 innings.
Bill Ponsford is often acclaimed as one of our greatest openers, and indeed he was. In 29 Tests he averaged 48.23 from 48 innings. However, he excelled at opener, averaging 54.18 from 31 innings.
Some cricket fans might be surprised at all the fuss made over Charlie Macartney. In 35 Tests he averaged 41.78 from 55 innings. Solid, but not spectacular stats. However, Macartney excelled at no.3 where he averaged a stupendous 59.35 from 28 innings, mostly post-WW1.
Finally, we look at two of the batting greats of Australian cricket, whose stats provide some contrasting surprises.
The revered Victor Trumper is often acclaimed as our premier opener, despite an overall average of only 39.05 from 48 Tests and 89 innings. Indeed, as an opener he only averaged 33.00 from 52 innings.
Statistically, his best positions were numbers five and six, where he averaged 57.61 from a combined 21 innings. However, keep in mind Trumper batted in the ‘golden age’ from 1899 to 1914 when it was much more difficult batting on pitches than today.
Finally, we come to the great man himself, Sir Donald Bradman. What can I tell you that you don’t already know? A batting average of 99.94 from 80 innings in 52 Tests is standard fare for most cricket fans.
But get this, he did average over 100 batting at no.3. Indeed, Bradman averaged 103.63 from 56 innings. Curiously though, he was a mere mortal batting at no.4, where he averaged “only” 53.89 from 10 innings!
I guess the moral to this post is that there is often much more that meets the eye in the first glance at stats.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia