Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What is the greatest innings this century so far?

Ashwell Prince and AB de VIlliers both played excellent innings at Headingley. As did the four Sri Lankans who all scored centuries in their one-sided match with India at the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo. But how do those innings compare with the all-time great innings? Using the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings, it is possible to compare these innings and see how they fit into the top innings played since 2000.

Each innings that a batsman plays is rated using certain criteria. The fundamental starting point is the number of runs scored, but this is then adjusted depending on a number of other factors, such as the strength of the opposition bowling attack, the level of run-scoring in the match and the result of the match.

As a result of these adjustments, none of these innings actually feature all that prominently in the top ten recent innings. This is partly due to the fact that they were all scored in relatively high totals by their teams against medium-strength bowling attacks. In fact de Villiers's innings of 174 - after all the complex adjustments - rates as precisely - 174!

So - if these are not great innings, which are?

Two of the top ten rated innings of all time since Test cricket started way back in 1877 have been played this decade according to the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings. Astonishingly - they were both played by the same man - Virender Sehwag of India.

His innings of 309 at Multan in March 2004 comes out top in this decade. Coming as it did against a Pakistan attack including Shoaib Akhtar and Saqlain Mushtaq, it took India to victory by an innings and 52 runs. Not to be outdone, his innings of 319 at Chennai earlier this year is only just behind. On that occasion, the opposing South African attack was exactly the same as the one who bundled out England twice relatively easily at Leeds this past week.

So - as good an innings as de Villiers played, it only rates as the 155th 'best' innings since 2000. Here are the top ten rated innings in Test cricket since 2000 - what is it about batting in March?

1V.SehwagIND309vPAKMultan28 Mar 2004
2V.SehwagIND319vSAChennai26 Mar 2008
3D.P.M.D. JayawardenaSL374vSAColombo27 Jul 2006
4Younis KhanPAK267vINDBangalore24 Mar 2005
5V.V.S.LaxmanIND281vAUSKolkata11 Mar 2001
6K.C.SangakkaraSL232vSAColombo11 Aug 2004
7B.C.LaraWI400*vENGSt John's10 Apr 2004
8S.T.JayasuriyaSL253vPAKFaisalabad20 Oct 2004
9Inzamam-ul-HaqPAK329vNZLahore01 May 2002
10M.L.HaydenAUS380vZIMPerth09 Oct 2003

Thursday, July 24, 2008

At what age do most Test cricketers reach their peaks?

After the Lord's Test, batsmen Ian Bell and Neil McKenzie both reached their highest-ever Ratings, as did bowlers Ryan Sidebottom and James Anderson. This begged the question - at what age do most Test cricketers reach their peaks, and is there a way of calculating this?

2518 men have played Test cricket so far, and without doubt, the best measure of current form and peak performance are the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings.

529 different players have achieved a peak Batting Rating of at least 450. These range from Don Bradman who reached 961 in February 1948 to Arthur Richardson, Graham Roope, Nick Knight, Roger Twose and Rob Key who topped out at 450. The next stage was to examine the average age of these players when they reached their peak Rating. For all 529 batsmen, the average age was 29 years 9 months. WG Grace was the oldest at 45 and Madhav Apte the youngest at just 20.

For Test bowlers, 433 bowlers have achieved a peak Rating of at least 400 from the great Sydney Barnes at 932 to William Attewell and Peter Philpott down at 400. The average age of all of these is 29 years 8 months, remarkably similar to the batsmen. Nasim-ul-Ghani was the youngest at 18 and Bert Ironmonger the oldest at 51! However, it can be taken one stage further - they can be split between pace bowlers and spinners. Pacemen reach their peak Rating at an average age of 29 years 2 months, whereas spinners are somewhat older - at 30 years 6 months.

Assuming batsmen peak at age 30, here is the current crop of players aged 27-29 who should be approaching their peak in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings:

Michael Clarke (Australia)
Chris Gayle (West Indies)
Jamie How (New Zealand)
Phil Jaques (Australia)
Runako Morton (West Indies)
Kevin Pietersen (England)
Virender Sehwag (India)
Owais Shah (England)
Graeme Smith (Graeme Smith)
Michael Vandort (Sri Lanka)

Assuming fast bowlers peak at 29, here are some approaching that age, who may make big strides in the next couple of years:

Dilhara Fernando (Sri Lanka)
Mark Gillespie (New Zealand)
James Franklin (New Zealand)
Mohammad Sami (Pakistan)
Chanaka Welegedara (Sri Lanka)
Shane Watson (Australia)

And finally, look out for these spinners aged 27-29 assuming they peak at 30:

Abdur Rehman (Pakistan)
Danish Kaneria (Pakistan)
Harbhajan Singh (India)
Paul Harris (South Africa)
Graeme Swann (England)
Daniel Vettori (New Zealand)