Sunday, December 27, 2009

Kallis v Sobers?

As the Test series between South Africa and England continues, comparisons have been drawn between the home team’s all-rounder Jacques Kallis and arguably the greatest-ever in that field – Sir Garfield Sobers. As Kallis moves towards the end of his career, what do the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings say about him and how he compares to the West Indian legend? As Sobers only played one ODI (and was dismissed for a duck in that match) we’ll just look at their Test careers to begin with, although we will examine Kallis’s career in the shorter format of the game at the end of the article.

Kallis: Highest Rating: 935 (2007). Highest Ranking: 1st (40 matches). Average: 715
Sobers: Highest Rating: 938 (1967). Highest Ranking: 1st (189 matches). Average: 781

At first glance, they appear to have had similar peaks with both among the top ten batsmen in the history of the game in terms of points. While Kallis spent 40 matches and 281 days on top of the batting tree, Sobers truly dominated the 1960s spending a total of 189 matches as the number one batsman – more than anyone else in the history of the game. His nearest challengers in that respect are both fellow countrymen – Viv Richards (179) and Brian Lara (140).

Kallis: Highest Rating: 742 (2003). Highest Ranking: 6th (2002). Average: 529
Sobers: Highest Rating: 715 (1966). Highest Ranking: 4th (1964). Average: 483

Similar returns for the two all-rounders here. While both would probably freely admit that batting was their stronger suit, both were good enough bowlers to reach the higher echelons of the bowling tree too. At Kallis’s peak he was part of a strong South African pace-bowling attack that featured Shaun Pollock in second place and Makhaya Ntini just starting to dominate in seventeenth. Sobers made a slow start to his bowling career in which he only took 45 wickets in his first 35 Tests. However, he made the breakthrough in the famous 1960/61 series in Australia and never dipped below 600 points in his last 49 Tests – spread over eleven years, peaking at number four.

Kallis: Highest Rating: 616 (2002). Highest Ranking: 1st (370 matches). Average: 404
Sobers: Highest Rating: 669 (1966). Highest Ranking: 1st (213 matches). Average: 400

Sobers’ peak Rating of 669 is the highest ever achieved by an all-rounder in either format of the game. At that stage of his career he had a batting rating of 936 – top by nearly a hundred points from Bill Lawry – and also stood eighth in the bowling ratings with 715 points – trailing the leader Lance Gibbs. Kallis has topped the Test all-rounder table for more matches than anyone else and achieved his peak points when he had a batting rating of 848 placing second behind Matthew Hayden and a bowling rating of 726 – good enough for seventh place behind leader Glenn McGrath. Ian Botham is the only other all-rounder to break the 600 point barrier in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test all-rounders which illustrates how great these two players are. It is truly remarkable that their average numbers of points are so similar given that Sobers played 93 Tests and Kallis has so far played 131.

Coupled with these figures, it should not be forgotten that they were fielders of some brilliance too. Sobers retired with 109 Test catches and Kallis is so far up to 148 – ninth best all-time. Sobers also captained his country on 39 occasions, ending with a surprisingly disappointing record of 9 wins, 10 defeats and 20 draws. Kallis has only been called upon to captain South Africa twice – a defeat to Australia by 2 wickets in 2006 and an innings victory over the same opposition in 2009.

The One Day International game came too late for Sobers who only took the field once for the West Indies – against England at Headingley in 1973. He didn’t distinguish himself either – being dismissed by Chris Old for a duck and taking 1-31 and conceding the winning run as England sneaked home by 1 wicket in the final over. However, it has been a different story with Kallis. A veteran of 295 ODIs – the best part of 10 months-worth – he spent 58 matches in the number one position in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for ODI batsmen in 2004 and 2005. He was less successful with the ball – peaking at 15th position in early 2001. However, his combined threat meant that he has spent a total of 432 matches as the top-rated ODI all-rounder in the world, more than anyone else apart from Kapil Dev. So he can truly be considered a great in that format of the game too.

So why is it that Sobers is often looked upon as the finer player when these two are compared? The West Indian shades the Test batting stakes average-wise, but Kallis edges the bowling by a similar margin. And then there is the South African’s ODI career too. Could it be that Sobers was considered a more swashbuckling batsman? He had a Test batting strike rate of 52.5 runs per hundred balls faced, whereas Kallis is down at 44.2, meaning that an average Sobers century would take some 36 deliveries fewer than one by Kallis. There were those six sixes in an over too which added to the Sobers legend!

Perhaps Kallis suffers from being a right-arm seamer in an era when South Africa were blessed by many of that kind. Donald, Pollock, Steyn, Ntini and Nel all spent considerable time in the world’s top ten, while Sobers could alter his mode of attack depending on the match and pitch conditions.

2571 men have now played Test cricket. Who is anyone to argue that these two are among the greatest to play the game? You could toss a coin to determine who was the greater, but it would be a tough man to decide between the two.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Spinning it on the Highveld

Almost un-noticed, Paul Harris has sneaked his way into the world’s top ten in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test bowlers. Helped by his match figures of nine for 161 against Australia at Cape Town this March, he now sits pretty on 669 points – the highest-rated left-arm spinner in the world. He was even higher in May of this year – peaking at seventh place before the resurgence of Mohammad Asif and Shane Bond in the recent series in New Zealand. A veteran of only 24 Tests since his debut in January 2007, he has so far taken 71 wickets, so is still qualifying for a “full” rating.

South Africa has hardly been a hot-bed of spinning talent since their return to the international cricketing fold in 1991. In fact, over that period of time, just 15% of all the Test wickets taken by their bowlers have gone to spinners. In contrast, over the same period of time, spinners for the other Test playing nations have taken 34% of their total wickets – more than twice as many. This is partly due to the lack of high-quality spinners in South Africa, but also due to the exceptionally high standard of the pace-bowling in that country. Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock and Dale Steyn have all spent time at the top of the bowling tree in recent years, Makhaya Ntini reached number 2 and Jacques Kallis and Andre Nel both featured in the world’s top ten at various stages of their careers.

The pickings have been slimmer slow-bowling-wise. In fact, Harris is the first South African spinner to reach the top twenty – let alone the top ten – since their re-admission. Paul Adams and Nicky Boje both played more than forty Tests and took more than a hundred wickets each, but never made a big impact on the rankings. Adams peaked at 588 points and 23rd position while Boje managed 545 points and 22nd position. So – if Harris is unchallenged as the top achieving South African tweaker in recent years, if we push the boundaries back, how does he stack up historically with his fellow countrymen?

Six bowlers from the Rainbow Nation have topped the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test bowlers – the three mentioned above plus Peter Pollock, Aubrey Faulkner (who uniquely topped the batting Rankings too!) and Hugh Tayfield . Tayfield first achieved top spot after the 1955 Oval Test in which he took 8 wickets, and really made his name by bowling a record 137 dot balls in a row to the England batsmen in the Durban Test of January 1957. He ended his career with 170 wickets in 37 Tests – still the leading wicket-taker among South African spinners – having spent a total of 24 Tests at number one.

So if Tayfield is the pre-eminent spinner – although Faulkner topped the bowling ratings for 7 matches – how does Harris compare? His current points tally of 669 places him 17th among all South African bowlers. However, only three spinners are above him: Tayfield – who peaked at 895 in 1957, Bert Vogler (750) and Cyril Vincent (713). Of them, only Vincent was a slow-left-armer like Harris. So – already early in his career, he can be considered one of the leading South African exponents of spin bowling.

All things considered, the recent South African attack is a far cry from arguably the most famous one in their history. For the first Test of the 1905/06 series with England at Johannesburg, the Proteas picked four leg-spinners - Faulkner, Vogler, Reggie Schwarz and Gordon White. They would go on to record their first-ever series victory 4-1 with the four leggies taking 43 wickets between them. However Schwarz and White died young in the First World War so it was very much a case of what might have been with them.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Keeping it real

A total of 241 men have taken the gloves in Test Match cricket and 203 in One Day International cricket. Historically it has always proved very difficult to combine both jobs of batting well and keeping wicket. However, a number of players have bucked the trend in these forms of the game and here we pay tribute to them.

The rapid onset of the one-day game in the recent years has persuaded international teams that they need to consider their wicket-keeper more as a front-line batsman, with the admission that they wouldn’t necessarily take the chances that the pure stumpers of old may have done. Long gone are the days of the wicket-keeper hidden away down the batting order in case of emergencies.

One of England’s finest glovemen was Bert Strudwick who played 28 Tests between 1910 and 1926 but ended with a Test batting average of 7.93 and a highest batting rating of just 104. George Duckworth replaced him in the team and held his place for most of the next decade but he ended with an average of 14.62 and a highest rating of 127. Other examples of the ‘all-field, little-bat’ keeper include Ken James (highest rating 41 in 11 Tests), Gil Langley (highest rating 223 in 26 Tests), and Narendra Tamhane (highest rating 251 in 21 Tests).

To illustrate this paradigm change, in the 1980s Test wicket-keepers averaged 23.61 with the bat. In the 1990s it was 27.29 and in the 2000s it had risen to 30.76.

Of course, some have flourished despite keeping wicket for the vast majority of their careers. Andy Flower managed to combine his role as key batsman and wicket-keeper and became the first keeper to reach the number one spot in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test batsmen in 2001. He was followed the following year by Adam Gilchrist, who hit 17 Test centuries and single-handedly revolutionised the way wicket-keepers are viewed in the longer format of the game.

Despite the current trend to choose fast-scoring wicket-keepers, especially in the shorter format of the game, only two have ever reached top spot in ODI cricket. Unsurprisingly, the first was Gilchrist who first topped the pile in February 2004 and spent a total of 396 days as the number one. The next to achieve the feat was the current incumbent – MS Dhoni. An innings of 96 against England at Jamshedpur in April 2006 took him to number one – a mere 16 months after his international debut for India. He has currently spent a total of 428 days on top of the world.

Even Flower occasionally hung up his gloves as Wayne James and Tatenda Taibu took the gloves in eight of his 63 Tests. However, Zimbabwe was possibly better served with their premier batsman sharing both duties as he averaged just 35.45 in those eight Tests as opposed to 53.70 when he combined both roles. This flies in the face of the other two recent players to play a significant number of matches as both batsmen and keeper. Kumar Sangakkara averages 40.48 with the gloves on and 72.79 without and Alec Stewart 34.92 with and 46.70 without. Back in 1948, Sir Clyde Walcott started his career behind the stumps and played his first fifteen matches in that position, but with a Test batting average of 40.36 he gave up the gloves and averaged 64.66 in his remaining 29 Tests.

So – which wicket-keeper has achieved the highest rating in terms of points in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings? Well – there are several answers to that question depending on how you define the word “wicket-keeper”

If we look at players who were picked as wicket-keeper for every match they played, the answers are:

Adam Gilchrist (874)
Alan Knott (650)
Brad Haddin (623)

MS Dhoni (837)
Mark Boucher (622)
Rod Marsh (559)

How about those players – like Sangakkara, Flower and Stewart – who were picked as wicket-keeper for their side in at least half their total matches?

Kumar Sangakkara (938)
Andy Flower (895)
Adam Gilchrist (874)

MS Dhoni (837)
Adam Gilchrist (824)
Kumar Sangakkara (755)

Before anyone says anything – early in his career, Gilchrist played five matches purely as a batsman while Ian Healy kept wicket.

Lastly, we should reserve a special place for the Honourable Alfred Lyttelton. He was picked as England’s wicket-keeper in all four of his Test Matches in the 1880s, but ironically is best remembered for an inspired bowling spell. In his final match, at The Oval in 1884, he was the tenth bowler tried in a massive Australian first innings. However, he proceeded to take four wickets for just 19 runs in 12 overs as Australia was bowled out for 551. That effort gave him a bowling Rating of 158 – the highest for anyone who has played exclusively as a Test wicket-keeper.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

England v South Africa – a tale of Number One’s

As England prepares to take on South Africa in their ODI series, there is little doubt that the home team start as favourites, despite their disappointing showing in the recent ICC Champions Trophy 2009. Little more than a month ago, England upset the Proteas by 22 runs at Centurion in that competition to extend their unbeaten run against them to six matches, their best-ever.

However, despite those recent reversals, South Africa still holds a healthy 22-16 lead in the ODI matches between the two teams, with one match tied and two no-results. It is also very much the case that South Africans have dominated the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings far more in recent years than their English counterparts.

It could be argued that England’s best days in terms of ODI Rankings performances are long behind them. When the shorter format of the international game first started in the early 1970s England players dominated with both bat and ball. Keith Fletcher and Dennis Amiss had a near-monopoly on the number one position for batsmen in the four year period from 1973 to 1977, and it was John Snow, Geoff Arnold and Chris Old who were the pre-eminent bowlers over an even longer period – stretching all the way to late 1979. However, that was as good as it got for English bowlers, and none have been able to look down on the rest of the world since Andy Roberts usurped Old in December 1979. With so little to choose between the current top ten bowlers, could Stuart Broad be the first English bowler to reach top spot for more than three decades?

For South Africa, the pickings bowling-wise are even slimmer. Admittedly, the rest of the world had already played 685 matches by the time they returned from the international wilderness in Kolkata in 1991, but only one bowler from that country has reached top spot. However – once he reached it, he spent more matches than anyone else in that position. Shaun Pollock first reached number one in December 1997 and was in that position when he retired in February 2008 after spending 844 matches – and 1,964 days on top of the world. Hopes are high that Dale Steyn – currently in sixth place and still qualifying for a full Rating – will be able to emulate his former team-mate.

Since that initial dominance from Amiss and Fletcher (and the solitary match John Edrich had as number one after the very first ODI of all) three other England batsmen have spent fleeting amounts of time on top. First was Allan Lamb, who had a brief moment in the sun after slamming 91 against India at Kanpur in October 1989. Next was Marcus Trescothick who enjoyed a fortnight at the top after scoring heavily in the home series with South Africa in the summer of 2003. And most recently it was Kevin Pietersen who achieved the feat during the 2007 World Cup and stayed there for five months.

Four South African batsmen have enjoyed the number one spot. The first was Hansie Cronje – a four-match stay in late 1994 in an era dominated by Brian Lara. Surprisingly, the honour of the highest number of batting points by any South African – and the only man to reach 900 - goes to Gary Kirsten. He achieved this after an unbeaten innings of 105 against Australia at Indore in 1996 – at the end of a period in which he hit six centuries in 21 matches. Since then both Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith have enjoyed 60-odd matches in top spot and with a good series against England, AB de Villiers could become the fifth Protea to reach the batting pinnacle.

It is in the all-rounder stakes – however – that the South Africans really come into their own. Between them, the foursome of Kallis, Pollock, Cronje and Lance Klusener have racked up 1,211 matches in top spot – all of them among the top six in the history of the game in terms of matches spent at number one. England also boasts four all-rounders who have been number one (plus John Snow who was top for two days after the second ODI ever played). However, the sum total of matches that Messrs Old, Botham, Greig and Flintoff spent there comes to just 316 in reply.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Test 800ers

A couple of months ago, we examined the players who had remained above the threshold of 800 points for the longest in One Day International cricket. Now, as Test Match hostilities commence between Sri Lanka and India it is time to investigate their Test Match equivalents.

The first player to reach 800 batting points in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings was Clem Hill. After scoring 119 in Australia’s second innings against England in Sheffield’s only Test in July 1902, which helped his team to a convincing triumph by 143 runs, he reached 827 points, good enough to lead the batting charts by more than one hundred points. He remained the only player to have reached this high level until team-mate Victor Trumper three years later.

The bowling mark was first crossed much earlier. In fact, nine different bowlers had achieved 800 points by the time Hill did, and a tenth – Monty Noble – reached the landmark in the same Test. However, someone had to be first and that man was Joey Palmer. At Old Trafford in 1886 England may have won a narrow victory by four wickets, but Palmer took 3-41 and 1-11 in the match to follow-up his great successes on 1884 when he took 14 wickets in the three-Test series. Palmer didn’t have a long wait for company as Fred ‘the Demon’ Spofforth took 4-73 in 56 overs in the following match at Lord’s to move up to 803 points.

Since those initial trailblazers, a total of 86 batsmen and 81 bowlers have achieved that landmark of cricketing greatness – 800 points in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings. Some had fleeting moments in the sun like Marcus Trescothick who enjoyed a brief 8-day period at this level in late 2005. Or John Ferris, who managed to represent both England and Australia, and enjoyed an even briefer, 5-day stay at the end of his career.

So what can the Rankings tell us about supposed ‘Golden Ages’ of cricketing batsmen or bowlers? Three times there have been nine batsmen above 800 points – all relatively recently. Matthew Hayden led the way in April 2004, Jacques Kallis led a nine-pronged attack the following year, and most recently it was Ricky Ponting whose 936 points in January 2007 headed eight other batsmen over 800 points. The last time no Test batsman enjoyed such a high standing was in February 1995 when Jimmy Adams’ 786 points were good enough for top spot.

With the ball, seven bowlers have topped 800 points at two separate times in Test history. The first was in early 1984 when Geoff Lawson, Richard Hadlee, Imran Khan, Bob Willis, Kapil Dev, Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding were the leading seven. Not a spinner among them! In fact the leading spinner at that time was Pakistani Iqbal Qasim down in 13th place with 619 points. The other occasion bowlers ruled the world was in February 1998 when the men were Curtly Ambrose, Glenn McGrath, Allan Donald, Shane Warne, Shaun Pollock, Mushtaq Ahmed and Wasim Akram. There has always been at least one bowler above 800 points since August 1978 when Bob Willis briefly topped the charts with 792 points.

So – who of all these players managed to spend the longest time at this level of performance? Can anyone topple Donald Bradman in the batting charts and how do the modern greats compare? Here are the top ten batsmen in terms of days spent above 800 points:


Total days

Donald Bradman


Jack Hobbs


George Headley


Garry Sobers


Walter Hammond


Viv Richards


Brian Lara


Neil Harvey


Sachin Tendulkar


Ricky Ponting


Both Tendulkar and Ponting will have opportunities to move further up this list, whereas at the top it is very close for first place, but Bradman just holds off Jack Hobbs by a mere two months. Here are the bowlers:


Total days

Muttiah Muralitharan


Bill O'Reilly


Glenn McGrath


Curtly Ambrose


Johnny Briggs


Richard Hadlee


Ray Lindwall


Malcolm Marshall


Lance Gibbs


Imran Khan


Here, as with the batsmen, we have a nice mix of past and present stars with Sri Lankan world Test wicket record-holder Murali on top. He first moved above 800 points after taking 16 wickets at The Oval in 1998 and has scarcely dropped below that level since then. With plenty of time to go on his career, and having overtaken Bill O’Reilly earlier this year, he has the opportunity to put this particular record way out of reach.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

One-match Wonders

International cricket is littered with players who were only fortunate enough to represent their country on one occasion. As it currently stands, there are 386 One Test wonders, 173 One ODI wonders and 65 women have played just the solitary One Day International match. Of course, some may yet continue their international careers, but here we present a tribute to those cricketers who achieved the highest Reliance Mobile ICC Player Ranking after their fleeting moment in the sun.

Starting in the Test arena, there is a surprising name at the top of the list. Drafted into England’s team for the final Ashes match this summer, Jonathan Trott distinguished himself with 41 in the first innings before becoming the eighteenth Englishman to make a century on his Test debut second time around. That double enabled him to reach 445 points and 52nd place overall. Of course, when he plays his next Test – in all likelihood on England’s upcoming tour of South Africa – the record will revert to New Zealander Rodney Redmond, who reached 434 points after scoring 107 and 56 against Pakistan at Auckland in February 1973. He couldn’t adapt to wearing contact lenses and never represented his country again.

With the ball, it is far more clear cut. Charles “Father” Marriott was picked to play the final Test for England against the West Indies at The Oval in the summer of 1933. Things didn’t look so good when he was dismissed for a duck by Manny Martindale, but he roared back to take 5-37 and 6-59 with his leg-breaks as England triumphed by an innings and 17 runs. Marriott turned 38 before England toured India the following winter, but he wasn’t selected for any of the Tests and never played again. In a distant second place is Aubrey Smith – the only England captain to star in a Hollywood film with Elizabeth Taylor – who reached 262 points after taking seven wickets in England’s first-ever Test in South Africa in 1889.

The late 1980s and early 1990s was a time when the England selectors were notoriously fickle with their selections, so it is perhaps unsurprising that two more Englishmen top the respective lists in the shorter format of the game. Kim Barnett only played one ODI which was against Sri Lanka at The Oval in September 1988. His innings of 84 from 146 deliveries enabled England to chase down their target of 243 with fourteen balls to spare. He was rewarded with the man-of-the-match award and a Reliance Mobile ICC Player Ranking of 243, one point clear of Ashok Mankad who made 44 for India against England at The Oval in 1974.

For David “Syd” Lawrence, his career was very much a case of what might have been. Often considered too wild to be viable in limited overs cricket, he was playing just his fifth Test when his knee gave way against New Zealand at Wellington in early 1992 at the age of just twenty-eight. His solitary ODI came the previous summer against the West Indies at Lord’s when he took 4-67 in eleven overs in a West Indies total of 264-9. Graeme Hick and Neil Fairbrother added a memorable 213 as England cantered home by seven wickets. Lawrence achieved 211 points for his effort, clear of Lonwabo Tsotsobe’s 188 for his 4-50 against Australia at Perth this January.

Looking at the women’s game, the same player heads both batting and bowling charts. Patricia Whittaker made her only One Day International appearance for the West Indies against England at Worksop in July 1979. Her 3-36 in ten overs helped restrict the home side to 167-6 and she followed up with an unbeaten 40 to help her side to a narrow two-wicket victory with just two deliveries to spare. After that sole appearance her batting rating stood at 216 and her bowling rating 128. However, that was the Caribbean team’s last taste of international action until the Women’s World Cup 1993 and so thirty years on from her moment in the sun, Whittaker is still top of both tables.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Associating with the Best

It is a tough life being an Associate cricketer. Twenty-five representative teams have played official One Day Internationals, and it is often in just the major tournaments that the smaller nations have the opportunity to pitch themselves against the big boys. In that respect, it is especially hard for those players to make an impact on the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings as the matches they play are so few and far between. However, by virtue of their performances on the highest stage of all, some have managed to make their presence felt in the higher reaches of the tables.

Perhaps the greatest sustained performance by any Associate Member was Kenya’s staggering effort in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2003. Buoyed by victories over Canada, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, it reached the semi-finals before it was out-gunned by a Sourav Ganguly-inspired India at Durban. It was in that tournament that opening bowler Martin Suji achieved the highest-ever Rating by an Associate Member player. He ripped out the Zimbabwean top order at Bloemfontein on his way to figures of 3-19 in eight overs to set up a convincing seven-wicket triumph. By doing so, he lifted his bowling rating to 646 – good enough for twelfth place overall in a list headed by Shaun Pollock.

Suji’s team-mate Peter Ongondo is the only other Associate player to have reached the lofty heights of 600 points with either bat or ball. In October 2007, he sneaked up to 610 after taking 3-16 and 1-10 in consecutive victories against Bermuda in Nairobi. He is still hovering around the 500-point mark with young left-arm spinner Hiren Varaiya close behind him who could possibly be the man to challenge Suji’s long-standing record. Another one to watch is Kyle McCallan of Ireland who is also currently in the top fifty with the ball.

Moving to the batsmen, one player currently stands head and shoulders above the rest and that is the Netherland’s Ryan ten Doeschate. He reached 1,000 runs in One Day International cricket in just 23 innings – a feat only surpassed by Viv Richards and Kevin Pietersen – both of whom took twenty-one. He currently stands 32nd with the bat with 593 points – the second-highest by an Associate player in the history of the game only behind Zimbabwean David Houghton.

Long before Zimbabwe were elevated to Full Member status, its batsman/wicket-keeper achieved the giddy heights of 597 points and 29th position overall after making a half-century against New Zealand at Kolkata in the Cricket World Cup 1987. Third on that particular list comes Canadian tyro Rizwan Cheema, whose big-hitting to the tune of twenty-one sixes in just eleven ODIs saw him rise to 551 points and 39th overall in August this year. In fourth is Steve Tikolo – long regarded as possibly the finest batsman outside the Test arena. The mainstay of the Kenyan batting for more than a decade, he has been incredibly consistent over that period, peaking back in 1999 at 535 after an innings of 67 against South Africa at Nairobi.

One final word on ten Doeschate. Not content with achieving the highest-ever batting Rating by a Dutch player, his bowling Rating of 473 after he bowled his side to a narrow eight-run victory over Afghanistan at Amsterdam this August is also the current national record. This unique double is without parallel for any of the other countries to play ODI cricket.

So we should celebrate these fine cricketers who – despite limited exposure to big-time cricket – have put together some great performances and thrilled crowds around the world.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Number Ones to Watch

The ultimate achievement for any international cricketer is to be ranked number one in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings. Not many have managed it but the upcoming Champions Trophy in South Africa will give viewers the opportunity to watch some of the all-time greats of the game who have dominated over the past decade or more. So here we present the ‘number ones to watch’ – in other words – the players who will be featuring in South Africa who at some stage have topped the ODI batting, bowling or all-rounders table, ranked by the length of time they spent at the number one spot in terms of days:


Ricky Ponting (547 days). He first hit the top spot after his unbeaten 57 against the West Indies at Kingston in May 2003 and fell from the number one place for the last time in March 2008 after three consecutive scores of one in the space of five days against Sri Lanka and India.

MS Dhoni (379 days). He had a one-match stay on top sandwiching Ponting and Adam Gilchrist from 19-22 April 2006 after scoring 59 against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi, but returned to the number one spot in August 2008 with a vengeance and has hardly been bettered since.

Sachin Tendulkar (338 days). He became the youngest player to top the ODI Batting Ratings as a 22-year-old in February 1996, and after a four-year gap managed to return to the top of the tree for five days in March 2008 after scoring 91 against Australia at the Gabba.

Michael Hussey (177 days). Mr Cricket first reached number one in September 2006 when his batting average stood at 81.75! But after a six-month stay on top his form started to dip and he fell behind team-mate Ponting and England’s Kevin Pietersen.

Graeme Smith (168 days). An unbeaten century against Bangladesh in Chittagong in early March 2008 sent the South African powerhouse to number one, and he held the position unchallenged until Dhoni snatched it away from him in August.

Jacques Kallis (150 days). Ratings-wise the 2004-5 period was Kallis’s golden period as an ODI batsman. He nudged ahead of Adam Gilchrist in February 2004 after scoring 95 not out and 139 in consecutive matches against the West Indies. He enjoyed his last day on top was in July 2005.

Sanath Jayasuriya (142 days). The original pinch-hitter really made his name in the 1996 World Cup but it wasn’t until 2002 that he topped the World Ratings. By April 2003 his time in the sun had come to an end, but he continues to ply his trade very effectively at the age of forty.

Mohammad Yousuf (2 days). Blink and you would have missed it. On 10 and 11 October 2003 the world had a new number one after the Pakistani maestro scored 60 against South Africa at Rawalpindi. However, he was out for a duck in the next match, and that was that.


Muttiah Muralitharan (687 days). No spinner has spent as long as the ODI number one bowler as the Sri Lankan wizard. He reached top spot following his seven for 30 against India at Sharjah in October 2000 and he was eventually overtaken for the last time by long-term team-mate Chaminda Vaas four years later.

Nuwan Kulasekara (199 days). The surprise package on the list, he has led since 3 March this year despite never having managed to break the 750 point barrier. Whether or not this points to a lack of depth in ODI bowling talent nowadays, he still enters the competition on top of the world.

Nathan Bracken (196 days). 2008 was very much Bracken’s year as the Aussie one-day specialist rose to the top of the tree in late June after an excellent series in the Caribbean. Not quite as dominant this year, but a good Champions Trophy could push him back into contention.

Daniel Vettori (189 days). The first Kiwi spinner to top either Test or ODI Bowling Ratings, he achieved this feat on 12 February 2008 during the home series with England. He was top for most of the rest of the first half of the year, before returning for another month on top in early 2009.

Brett Lee (21 days). Lee managed to upset the Glenn McGrath / Shaun Pollock double act in early 2006 albeit very briefly. Five for 22 against South Africa at Melbourne did the trick and four for 30 against the same opposition a fortnight later also helped, but Pollock recovered his form and Lee’s time at the top was done.


Jacques Kallis (1175 days). The world’s leading all-rounder of the decade first reached number one in March 2000 and held onto that position for the vast majority of the next three and a half years, before finally relinquishing it to Andrew Flintoff in November 2003.

Sanath Jayasuriya (336 days). His pinch-hitting exploits coupled with some canny left-arm spin carried him to the number one spot in March 1997 and he stayed there for most of the next year. However, after Shaun Pollock’s retirement in February 2008 he became the oldest man ever to top the ODI all-rounder list at 38.

Shoaib Malik (172 days). It was a Pakistani double-act for the first half of 2008 with the former captain the first to reach the number one position after a sequence of excellent performances against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. He regained it briefly from team-mate Afridi before slipping below Andrew Flintoff and Jacob Oram.

Jacob Oram (103 days). The gentle giant of Kiwi cricket enjoyed a brief week-long stay on top in February 2008 during the home series victory against England. However he returned for a longer stint after some great performances in Bangladesh in October the same year.

Shahid Afridi (18 days). Another fleeting stay for the mercurial Pakistani all-rounder whose career has been littered with innings which could be similarly described. Three for 19 against Bangladesh at Dhaka on 8 June 2008 was enough to take him top, but eighteen days later it was all over, as team-mate Shoaib Malik nudged him down to second.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Past ICC Champions Trophies – a Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings Review

At the first competition in Bangladesh in late 1998, it was two victorious South Africans who took advantage of the low, slow conditions to make the biggest impact. Jacques Kallis’s match-winning unbeaten 113 against Sri Lanka enabled him to leap ten places to 11th and Pat Symcox – revelling in being thrown the new ball – found the conditions in Dhaka much to his liking as he moved up to within touching distance of the top ten in the bowling rankings.

New Zealand were the surprise winners when the show moved to Kenya in 2000. Their hero was diminutive left-hander Roger Twose, whose three excellent innings moved him up to fourth place. Tournament top-scorer Sourav Ganguly closed the gap on top-placed Michael Bevan to just twelve points, and an average of 209 was a welcome return to form for Saeed Anwar who ended the tournament knocking on the door of the world’s top ten. The competition saw the debut on the world stage of Brett Lee as he entered the world’s top twenty for the first time, despite his Australian team being beaten by India in their only game.

India and Sri Lanka shared the trophy in 2002 and Virender Sehwag’s 271 runs lifted him twenty-nine places to eleventh. Team-mate Zaheer Khan’s eight wickets saw him ruse to his career-best position of seventh. The top two at the time – Muttiah Muralitharan and Glenn McGrath – continued their domination of the bowling Rankings with healthy hauls of wickets and the gap between second placed McGrath and Shaun Pollock in third grew to over 150 points by the end of the competition.

England came within a whisker of winning the competition on home soil in 2004. Their hero with the bat was Marcus Trescothick who scored nearly a hundred more runs than anyone else, and rose to second in the world, just seven points behind Jacques Kallis. Played late in the season, it was not surprising that pace bowlers made the biggest impressions with Shaun Pollock, Andrew Flintoff, Makhaya Ntini and Shoaib Akhtar making strides. Steve Harmison – showing no ill effects with the white ball which were to plague him later in his career – took eight cheap wickets and moved into the world’s top twenty for the first time.

Back in the subcontinent in 2006, three left-handed openers became the batting stars. Chris Gayle slammed three centuries to move up to second in the world, behind only Michael Hussey. Sri Lanka’s rookie Upul Tharanga hit two centuries of his own to move into the world’s top twenty, and not to be outdone, Shahriar Nafees hit a then-National record unbeaten 123 to move into the top forty. With the ball, Ian Bradshaw continued his love affair with the Champions Trophy to reach his career-best second place. Jerome Taylor lit up the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai with a memorable hat-trick against Australia to move into the world’s top thirty, alongside Lasith Malinga.

It remains to be seen who the stars of the 2009 competition will be, but if past tournaments are anything to go by, it is a golden opportunity to make an impact on the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The ODI 800ers

In mountaineering they are known as the 8000ers – the fourteen summits in the world which rise to more than eight thousand metres. Seventeen people have managed to make it to the top of all of these peaks – no mean achievement.

The Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings have a similar threshold of greatness – the achieving of 800 points in either the batting or bowling tables. Less rare than the mountaineering achievement above, these players still form a select band as only 43 batsmen and 26 bowlers have attained this level of success in One Day International cricket.

First, we need to examine what 800 points in the Ratings actually means? The first batsman to achieve this mark was Greg Chappell back in December 1980 when his innings of 48 against New Zealand at Melbourne saw him rise to 803 points. His Australian team-mate Dennis Lillee had the honour of being the first ODI bowler to reach this level – on 31 January 1981 – when he took two for 25 in eight overs also against the Kiwis at the M.C.G.

As more matches have been played, naturally more players have achieved 800 points. The ‘golden age’ of ODI batting came in early February 1985 when there were a record nine batsmen above this level: Viv Richards, Zaheer Abbas, Allan Lamb, David Gower, Kepler Wessels, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Clive Lloyd and Javed Miandad.

For bowlers, the peak came the previous year – in April 1984. At that time, eight bowlers stood at this level: Richard Hadlee, Joel Garner, Ewen Chatfield, Bob Willis, Geoff Lawson, Michael Holding, Kapil Dev and Malcolm Marshall. By way of comparison, as we currently stand, only MS Dhoni with the bat is above 800 points and no bowler has reached the magical 800 figure since Shaun Pollock hung up his boots in February 2008.

So – in the shorter format of the game – who has spent the longest time at or above 800 points? Does this measure produce a true measure of the greatest ODI players of all time? Here are the figures – and there is no surprise who tops the batting charts:


Total days

Viv Richards


Dean Jones


Allan Lamb


Desmond Haynes


Brian Lara


Michael Bevan


Sachin Tendulkar


Gordon Greenidge


Javed Miandad


Graham Gooch


No real surprises there – as all of these players can be considered among the greatest batsmen to play One Day International cricket. Perhaps some may be surprised to see Allan Lamb in third place but he ended his career with an average of 39 and a strike rate of nearly 76 in an era when scoring rates were far lower than they are today. Who can forget his 18 from Bruce Reid’s last over at the S.C.G. in January 1987.

Here are the bowlers:


Total days

Shaun Pollock


Joel Garner


Richard Hadlee


Glenn McGrath


Muttiah Muralitharan


Curtly Ambrose


Ewen Chatfield


Michael Holding


Malcolm Marshall


Kapil Dev


Again – plenty of familiar names here and only one spinner. Shaun Pollock is far ahead of the rest – his miserly economy rate of 3.67 runs per over was achieved in an era when the overall economy rate was 4.82. The one surprise in the top ten is New Zealand’s Ewen Chatfield. Often playing second fiddle to Richard Hadlee, Chatfield had his brief moment in the sun when he topped the Ratings for just two days in March 1988, but he spent a large part of the 1980s above 800 points in second place to Joel Garner. Even in that era, his final bowling average of 25.84 and economy rate of 3.57 were superb.

The average for the top ten batsmen is 2,181 days and for the top ten bowlers 1,624 days perhaps illustrating the fact that top-class bowlers spend less time at the peak of their form than batsmen due to the wear and tear on their bodies.

Next time, we’ll look at the equivalent tables for Test cricket. Can anyone topple the Don?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Botham v Flintoff

As the Ashes merry-go-round moves on to Leeds, memories will no doubt be stirred of the great deeds from twenty-eight years ago when first Ian Botham and then Bob Willis upset the odds of 500/1 to give England the most unlikely of victories.

While Bob Willis’s eight for 43 was crucial in applying the coup de grace, it was Ian Botham’s unbeaten 149 which really captured the imagination and secured his status as a true legend of the game.

Fast-forward to 2009 and the headlines are again being made by a weighty all-rounder whose off-the-field exploits often provide tabloid headlines – this time Andrew Flintoff. As if his Herculean efforts of 2005 were not enough, he bowled throughout the morning session in the second Test at Lord’s to give England their first victory over Australia at Headquarters since the Hedley Verity-inspired triumph of 1934 – when the average house price in England was a princely £515.

So – how do the two of them compare Ratings-wise? As Flintoff comes to the end of his Test career, what can the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings tell us about these two greats of the modern game?

Botham: Highest Rating 811 (1982). Highest Ranking 3rd (1982). Average 586
Flintoff: Highest Rating 646 (2006). Highest Ranking 20th (2006) Average 468

Not much comparison there on first inpection. Botham was a good enough batsman in his own right to reach the top three in the world and it is often forgotten that he scored fourteen Test centuries and ended with an average of 33.54. However, Flintoff’s average is just a fraction less at 32.06 but with just five centuries. One area in which Freddie has suffered is while Botham converted 39% of his fifties into centuries, Flintoff has only managed 16% and so he hasn’t posted the eye-catching big innings which his predecessor managed.

Botham: Highest Rating 910 (1980). Highest Ranking 1st (60 matches) Average 687
Flintoff: Highest Rating 810 (2005). Highest Ranking 4th (2005) Average 485

Botham first topped the bowling tree in August 1978 after taking eleven Kiwi wickets in just his eleventh Test. He stayed there for most of the next two years before he was nudged out of the top spot by Joel Garner. Only seven bowlers have ever surpassed his career-best Rating of 911 which he achieved after his thirteen wickets in the Golden Jubilee Test at Mumbai in February 1980. While Flintoff has had his moments, a career-haul of just three five-wicket hauls compares disappointingly with Botham’s then-record of 27. Missing numerous Test Matches due to injury hasn’t helped his cause, but even had he stayed fit for all of those, he still would have struggled to close the gap on the 1980s star.

Botham: Highest Rating 646 (1980). Highest Ranking 1st (120 matches) Average 415
Flintoff: Highest Rating 501 (2005). Highest Ranking 1st (6 matches) Average 259

Botham’s peak Rating of 646 really deserves a second look. With a Batting Rating of 709 and a Bowling Rating of 911 it has only been surpassed by one man in the history of the game – Garry Sobers. There is no denying the fact that at the time, he was the most dynamic cricketer in the world. He was also able to top the all-rounder charts for 120 Tests despite the presence of the other three greats of the time – Richard Hadlee, Imran Khan and Kapil Dev. Flintoff did have his moment in the sun – not surprisingly in his annus mirabilis of 2005, but a certain Jacques Kallis has dominated ever since.

In conclusion, there is no denying the fact that Flintoff has been a very good player for England for the past decade. However when put in context with his predecessor in the England middle-order, it really becomes clear that despite his last eight Tests coming when he was clearly past his peak (averaging 14 with the bat and 48 with the ball) Botham was a truly great player, and that Flintoff comes up some way short – as do most of the other 2,564 players to play Test cricket.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Oldies but Goodies

With apologies to those who have been waiting to discover the elder statesmen of the game who have made their mark on the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for One Day International cricket, it is a case of better late than never.

Viv Richards spent the vast majority of the 1980s on top of the ODI Batting Ratings and he also holds the distinction for having played the greatest-ever innings as calculated by the Ratings computer. His unbeaten 189 at Old Trafford has still not been bettered in the last twenty-five years which have seen a further 2,597 matches played. He first topped the charts on 23 December 1979 after his unbeaten 85 from just 77 deliveries lifted the West Indies to a nine-wicket victory over England at Brisbane and saw him sneak above Greg Chappell. Ten years later, on 19 October 1989 his very un-Richards-like innings of 24 from 48 deliveries against Sri Lanka at Rajkot saw him overtaken for the last time by Javed Miandad. However, Richards was aged 37 years and 226 days, still the greatest age at which anyone has been the number one batsman in the shorter format of the game.

With the ball, it is another of the greats of the 1980s who holds the record for being the oldest bowler to look down on the rest of the world. Richard Hadlee ended his glorious career in 1990 with a knighthood and the record number of Test wickets, but it was earlier that year that he reached the ODI number one spot for the final time. On 10 March he bowled ten economical overs against Australia at Auckland to maintain his Rating of 776 from the previous match which enabled him to enjoy the final match of his 148 spent on top of the bowling tree. However, nine wicket-less overs in a heavy defeat to the Aussies the following day saw him slip below Wasim Akram and his reign at the top was over for good. Hadlee was 38 years 250 days old at the time, and no bowler – paceman or spinner – has bettered that.

In terms of all-rounders, perhaps it is not surprising which veteran holds the honour as the oldest player to top the Ratings. Imran Khan achieved many things in his career – perhaps the highlight of which was leading his Pakistan team to victory in the 1992 World Cup. But two years earlier he took his final bow as the number one all-rounder in the world at the age of 37 years 82 days after taking 1/28 in his ten overs against Sri Lanka at Hobart. In the following match against the same opposition at Adelaide, his ten overs went for 60 and fellow subcontinent legend Kapil Dev took over.

So – it appears that the age of 38 is the upper age limit to reach the top of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for One Day International Cricket, but a number of older players have achieved greatness in the longer format of the game. They include a 49-year old topping the batting tree and a 50-year-old who managed to be rated the number one bowler, and we will unveil them at a later date.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Who will win the Ashes – a Ratings view

With the battle for The Ashes about to get underway in Cardiff, what better way to analyse who might come out on top than to use the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings. We can compare each team piece by piece to try to ascertain which of them will end up holding the urn come the end of August by summing the total Ratings for the players in each department of the game:

Opening batsmen: England 1372, Australia 1249. Edge – England

Phillip Hughes has made an astonishing start to his Test career, and Simon Katich is enjoying a second lease of life after his disappointments of the last Ashes tour to England. However, England’s pair of Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss are about to surpass Marcus Trescothick and Michael Vaughan as the most used opening pair in England’s Test history. Cook is just a few points short of his career-best Rating and Strauss will be looking to rediscover his 2005 form when he was the only batsman on either side to score two centuries in the Ashes series.

Middle order: England 2399, Australia 2654. Edge – Australia

The Australian middle-order consists of a legend of the game, two excellent players and an experienced newcomer. Ricky Ponting has spent 76 matches on top of the batting tree and Michael Hussey has also enjoyed looking down at the rest of the world even if his current form mirrors the global economic downturn. Add Michael Clarke to the mix who achieved his career-best Rating earlier this year, and Marcus North who made a debut century and has extensive experience of English conditions, and you have a pretty formidable line-up.

For England, Kevin Pietersen appears to be the class act even if his current Rating of 768 is a good deal short of his career-best 909 set two years ago. Paul Collingwood is steady rather than spectacular but he does boast an Ashes double-century – a claim to fame only seven other England batsman can share. Ravi Bopara has hit centuries in three consecutive Tests but has struggled against top-flight bowling. Matt Prior is sitting pretty at his career-best Rating but can he produce substance as well as style?

Wicket-keeper: England 530, Australia 550. Even

There is nothing much to choose between the keepers and both are capable of changing matches with the bat. However, they are also both liable to change them with the gloves too!

All-rounder: England 269, Australia 375. Edge – Australia

Andrew Flintoff’s all-rounder Rating is very much a product of the fact that he has only played in eight of England’s 21 Tests since the last Ashes series. A good, injury-free start could help level the scores in the all-rounder category. However, Mitchell Johnson is very much on the rise. His maiden century and four wickets at Cape Town sent him to his career-best Rating and he will be trying to become the first Australian to top the all-rounder charts since Alan Davidson in 1962.

Pace bowling: England 2060, Australia 2046. Even

The difference may only be fourteen points, but England’s points come from four bowlers (Anderson, Flintoff, Broad, Onions) whereas the Australian points come from three (Johnson, Clark, Siddle). Anderson, Broad and Onions are all at their career-best Ratings and will be brimming with confidence after the West Indies series. Johnson and Siddle are only just short of their peaks, but Clark has been injured of late and – although he is currently rated number four – he is a long way short of the 863 points he reached just over twelve months ago.

Spin bowling: England 598, Australia 495. Edge – England

Graeme Swann has had a meteoric rise and now stands at number 23 in the bowling charts after just seven Tests which have brought him 34 wickets. In the wings they also have Monty Panesar who – despite not being in the best form of late – is still in the world’s top 25 and was as high as number six just two years ago. Australia’s spin is in the hands of Nathan Hauritz who has played just four Tests in five years and the back-up of Katich, Clarke and North. Definitely advantage England.

So – what are the totals? England 7228 and Australia 7369, or in other words – too close to call. So the series really is anyone’s for the taking and it is also a real chance for some of the key names to make a big impression on the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Age isn’t everything

Anyone watching the Bangladesh v India match in the ICC World Twenty20 from Trent Bridge would have been aware of the commentators mentioning that Bangladesh’s Shakib al Hasan was the top-rated all-rounder in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for One Day Internationals. Amid the Yuvraj Singh-inspired carnage of the later overs in Nottingham, Shakib still managed to bowl his four overs for just 24 runs with the wicket of Rohit Sharma for good measure.

The 1980s is thought of as the ‘golden’ era of the all-rounder when the likes of Ian Botham, Kapil Dev, Imran Khan and Richard Hadlee plied their trade with both bat and ball, but it is still no mean achievement to reach top spot in a list that currently contains players such as Jacob Oram, Andrew Flintoff, Chris Gayle, Jacques Kallis and Sanath Jayasuriya – all of whom have been plying their trade around the world for the best part of a decade or more.

However, where Shakib really steps into his own is the fact that he managed to reach top spot incredibly early in his career. It is a reflection of modern-day cricket that he has already played 62 One Day Internationals, scoring two centuries and boasting an economy rate of just 4.02 – outstanding in today’s era of heavy bats and shorter boundaries. When he first reached the number one position on 19 January this year after taking three for 11 against Zimbabwe at Dhaka, he was aged just 21 years, 307 days, making him the youngest player ever to top the One Day all-rounder table. In fact, only one player has ever topped any of the three tables in the shorter format of the game at a younger age than the Bangladeshi ace, and you need to go back a decade in time to find him.

Throughout 1997 and 1998 the top spot in the bowling tree was pretty much exclusively a two-horse race between Curtly Ambrose and Shaun Pollock. However, for just one day in January 1998, Saqlain Mushtaq interrupted the pace domination. He took four for 41 for Pakistan against India at Dhaka to move to 789 points, just enough to sneak ahead of Pollock. However, after the following day’s match against the host country his initial fifteen minutes of fame were over and he was back down to number two. He didn’t have long to wait before reclaiming top spot which he did in September 1998, and he spent a total of 45 matches on top of the bowling tree. However, at the age of just 21 years 18 days, he remains the youngest player to take top spot in any of the Rating tables to date – in either Test cricket or One Day Internationals.

It will come as no surprise to discover the name of the youngest ODI batsman to head the table. Sachin Tendulkar has achieved many things and set many records in his career, and back on 29 February 1996 he added another to his resumé. That was the day that West Indies met Kenya at Pune. Brian Lara went into the match with a Batting Rating of 854 and a lead of four points over the 22 year, 316-day old Indian. However, Lara was dismissed for just eight as the West Indies slid to an ignominious defeat against the Kenyans which propelled Tendulkar to the top spot, which he initially held for just ten days before Lara passed him again.

Next time, we’ll have a look at the senior statesmen in the format of the game designed for the youngsters and discover who topped the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings table for ODI all-rounders at the age of thirty-eight!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

When England's bowlers ruled the world

This week, England picked five specialist bowlers and defeated the West Indies inside three days in the earliest Test Match ever held in England – starting a full five days earlier than the previous record-holder. Debutant Tim Bresnan only bowled seven overs despite nudging the 90mph mark on the radar speed gun, but the other four bowlers all contributed towards the victory with crucial wickets at vital times.

While on the subject of bowlers, it is possible to use the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings to try to discover which was the finest bowling attack in Test history. By totalling the bowling points for each team in each match, we can go some way to attempting to answer this question.

The first obvious candidate is the all-conquering West Indian pace-attack of the 1980s. Their bowling peak came at the end of the 1986 Test Match in Antigua when they totalled 3635 points mainly thanks to Malcolm Marshall (900), Joel Garner (845), Michael Holding (786), Roger Harper (484) and Patrick Patterson (383).

Another possibility is the Warne / McGrath inspired Australians of the 1990s and 2000s. Their peak was during the 1997 Ashes when they reached a total of 3755 points thanks to Glenn McGrath (878), Shane Warne (811), Paul Reiffel (652), Michael Bevan (417) and Jason Gillespie (383). Steve Waugh (331) and Mark Waugh (230) also contributed to the total. That was as high as the Aussies ever reached in their extraordinary run of success in the past two decades.

So, if those teams didn’t quite make the medal places, which were the three best attacks in Test history?

In third place we have the 1975 Australians who took the field at Headingley. The Test is mainly remembered for the sabotaging of the pitch by vandals who caused the match to be abandoned before the fifth day. However, the Australian bowling line-up was formidable and dismissed England twice for under 300: Dennis Lillee (812), Max Walker (744), Ashley Mallett (678), Jeff Thomson (608) and Gary Gilmour (410) being the prime contributors to the total of 3848 bowling points.

In second place we have the Australian contingent from the 1955 Bourda Test against the West Indies in Guyana which came in the middle of a 3-0 series win for the visitors. The home side featured the three W’s and a certain Garry Sobers in their line-up but they were humbled for just 182 and 207 to go down to an eight-wicket defeat thanks to the combined efforts of Ray Lindwall (830), Keith Miller (796), Bill Johnston (728), Ian Johnson (637), Ron Archer (444) and Richie Benaud (403) who contributed nearly all of the Australian team’s 3873 bowling points.

However, our search for the greatest bowling line-up in Test history ends with an England side. Not the 2005 Ashes-winning side that famously used five specialist bowlers to recapture the Ashes (they peaked at 3474 by the way). This team took the field nearly half a century earlier – at The Oval in August 1958 against New Zealand – in a match ruined to such an extent by rain that only twelve hours total play was possible. However, there was enough time for the visitors to be shot out for just 161 in their first innings - not surprising when you examine the bowlers on display. Opening the attack were Fred Trueman (733) and Brian Statham (693) with Trevor Bailey (727) operating as first-change. Once the shine was off the ball, it was turned over to spin twins Jim Laker (912) and Tony Lock (866) giving a total of 3931 points from just five bowlers – all of whom were rated in the top eleven of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test bowlers at the time.

So, whether they use four bowlers or five, it seems unlikely that any team will ever manage to equal the incredible talent on display all those years ago when England’s bowlers ruled the world.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dual table toppers

Aubrey Faulkner may be the only man to date to have topped both Test Match batting and bowling Ratings tables, but two players have achieved the feat in One Day International matches – one man and one woman.

The man in question is Keith Stackpole. He made his Test debut for Australia against England at the Adelaide Oval in 1966 and was a good-enough batsman to play in 43 Test Matches in total, scoring 2807 runs at an average of 37.42. He was even able to topple Garry Sobers from the top spot in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test batsmen for two matches in the summer of 1972 after a match-winning innings of 79 against England at The Oval.

His ODI career was far shorter, extending to just six matches, which included the first ever staged – a hastily-arranged match at Melbourne on 5 January 1971 after the fifth Test of the Ashes series was washed out. However, over 46,000 spectators turned up to watch the spectacle, and cricket was never the same again. Stackpole took three for 40 in eight overs with his leg-breaks to help restrict England to just 190, which Australia successfully chased down with more than five overs to spare. The result of this victory was to see Stackpole top of the bowling charts with 141 points. That was as good at it got for him, as he only bowled another thirteen ODI deliveries and Ashley Mallett took over as number one.

However, Stackpole had his batting to fall back on. Successive half-centuries at Lord’s and Edgbaston over the course of three days in late August 1972 enabled him to move above Ian Chappell into the batting lead and become the first man ever to top both Test and ODI batting trees at the same time. But once England’s Dennis Amiss scored a second century in his first four matches in July 1973, the Australian’s moment in the sun had come to an end.

The other player to have reached the top spot with both bat and ball in hand is the remarkable Enid Bakewell. Arguably the finest all-rounder that the English women’s game has ever produced, she scored three Test centuries in her first five matches and signed off from the longer form of the game with a century and ten wickets against the West Indies. She continued to play for East Midlands into her fifties and in club cricket well into her sixties.

Her One Day International career started in similar fashion – scoring an unbeaten 101 for England against the International XI in the very first Women’s ODI of all on 23 June 1973. However, her opening partner, Lynne Thomas scored 134 and kept Bakewell out of the top spot. Her innings of 118 and bowling figures of two for 28 in twelve overs were instrumental in England’s victory over Australia to win the inaugural Women’s World Cup the same year. However, three years later she managed to reach the pinnacle thanks to a half-century against Australia at Lord’s and an innings of 32 four days later at Trent Bridge, both leading to England victories. Her stay at the top was relatively short – extending to just five matches – before Thomas and Rachael Heyhoe-Flint made the number one position their own personal battle for the next four years.

She continued to bowl her left-arm spin with incredible accuracy and ended her career with an economy rate of just 2.41 runs per over from her 23 matches. It was during the 1982 World Cup in New Zealand that she reached top spot after she took three for 13 against India at Wanganui and then three for 29 against the International XI at Wellington. What made the achievement all the more remarkable was the fact that she was aged 41 for the duration of the tournament and she retired from international cricket soon afterwards.

Monday, April 13, 2009

100 Years Ago - a Unique Cricketer

Since the very first Test Match of all was played in March 1877, a total of sixty-five different men have found their way to the top of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for batsmen. Furthermore, there have been 73 players who have topped the bowling charts. However, only one man’s name appears on both lists – and it will come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the all-rounder Rankings of late to discover that he is a South African.

However, the identity of this player is somewhat harder to guess. The first obvious candidate is Jacques Kallis, who has spent the majority of the past eight years at the top of the all-rounder tree, but he has never reached higher than number six with the ball. His long-time team-mate Shaun Pollock never reached higher than number 37 with the bat, and Brian McMillan – whilst topping the all-rounder charts – never reached higher than number eight with the bat. In fact, the only man to achieve this feat was just establishing himself in the South African team exactly one hundred years ago and his name was Aubrey Faulkner.

He was born in 1881 and made his Test debut at the age of twenty-four against the touring English team at Johannesburg in January 1906. He started well, taking six wickets, and it was his bowling that kept him in the team as he failed to pass fifty with the bat in any of his first eight Test Matches. However, the turn of the decade saw a sharp upturn in his batting fortunes as he scored 545 runs and took 29 wickets in the five-Test series against England and even held seven catches for good measure.

His startling run of form continued the following winter as the Australians were put to the sword to the tune of 732 runs in the five Tests in Australia, including a career-best innings of 204 in the second Test at Melbourne. It was during this series that he reached the top of the batting tree and he spent pretty much the whole of 1911 in top spot. His series aggregate was a Test record which stood for fourteen years until England’s Herbert Sutcliffe sneaked past it by a mere two runs in the 1924/25 Ashes series in Australia.

Despite starting the 1912 Triangular Test Series in England with an undefeated century against Australia at Old Trafford which took his batting Rating to 879, by that time Jack Hobbs had started his almost-unbroken run of sixteen years as number one. Faulkner’s form with the bat fell away, and in his last seven Tests he didn’t manage to pass 25.

His seven for 84 in England’s first innings at The Oval in August 1912 helped him to rise to number two in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test bowlers at the start of the First World War – albeit a massive 348 points behind leader Sydney Barnes of England. Enlisting in the British Army, he served on the Western Front and in Macedonia, Egypt and Palestine. His bravery earned him the ‘Distinguished Service Order’ and the ‘Order of the Nile’ despite contracting malaria.

Upon the resumption of international cricket when the hostilities had ended, Barnes was now aged 47 and considered too old for Test cricket, despite continuing to pick up wickets for Staffordshire at an alarming rate. This had the effect of lifting Faulkner to the number one spot by default, a position he held for a mere six months before being overtaken by the Australian leggie Arthur Mailey.

Faulkner was recalled to play for South Africa in response to an injury crisis on their 1924 tour of England, but he was past his best and after one disappointing performance at Lord’s, he retired for good to start up a cricket school in London – the first of its type in the world. Alas, the Aubrey Faulkner story has a tragic ending, as he suffered from prolonged bouts of depression and ended up taking his own life in September 1930.

However, nearly one hundred years after he started his ascent to greatness, he remains the only member of this most exclusive of Test Match Ratings clubs. Next time, it is the turn of the two players who have achieved this feat in the shorter format of the game, and they are two very surprising names indeed.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

ICC Women’s World Cup – 'Ranking' the teams

And so England's women return home triumphantly from Australia with the ICC Women’s World Cup for the first time since 1993, having beaten New Zealand by four wickets in the final at the North Sydney Oval.

Looking at the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings it is easy to see why they emerged as champions. They ended the competition with their top four batsmen all ranked in the world's top 11, headed by Claire Taylor – who has now spent a total of 111 matches at the top of the batting tree – a total only surpassed by the two Australians Karen Rolton (197) and Belinda Clark (160).

There are an incredible six England bowlers in the top fifteen of the bowling Ratings too. Isa Guha may have slipped from her pre-tournament top spot, but the strength in depth is there for all to see with Holly Colvin, Nicky Shaw and Laura Marsh all ending the final at their highest-ever Ratings.

Another way of examining the relative strengths of the teams participating in the competition is to have a look at the total Rating points for each of them. We can then divide it up further to examine their relative batting and bowling prowess. So here are the total batting Rating points for each team – averaged over their matches in the competition:


Ave total



New Zealand






Sri Lanka


South Africa


West Indies




So – England had a narrow lead over the chasing Kiwis and Aussies with India further behind. The bottom four are pretty much as expected.

Here is the bowling table:


Ave total





New Zealand




South Africa


Sri Lanka




West Indies


This time Australia have a narrow lead, helped by Shelley Nitschke and Lisa Sthalekar having successful tournaments with the ball. Again, it is the “big four” leading the way.

And here is the overall table:


Ave total





New Zealand




Sri Lanka


South Africa


West Indies




Not much to choose between the top three sides, with England just shading it from the Aussies and New Zealand just behind them. These figures probably go to show that there really isn’t a huge amount to choose between the top few sides in the world. Australia did beat England in the tournament – albeit once England’s place in the final was assured – but it suggests that the hosts somewhat underachieved in the tournament as a whole given the quality of their players. On the flip side, India punched above their weight by twice defeating the Australians to pick up third place.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wither the West Indian paceman?

For the best part of two decades, there was nothing like a Test series against the West Indies to send your batting average into freefall. For those unfortunate enough to have their Test careers coincide with the four-pronged pace battery, it was a case of “what might have been” as their overall Test records were deflated somewhat by their ordeal by pace. Here by way of an example are four players who ended their Test careers with Test batting averages of more than forty, but struggled against the Caribbean pacemen:

Javed Mianded (career 52.57, v West Indies 29.78)
Mohammad Azharuddin (career 45.03, v West Indies 28.36)
David Gower (career 44.25, v West Indies 32.82)
Mark Taylor (career 43.49, v West Indies 28.11)

Even though the West Indies led the series one-nil going into the fifth and final Test with England last week at the Queen’s Park Oval, given their history of bowling strength, it was still surprising to see that they dropped a bowler in favour of a more conservative approach.

The West Indian bowling attack at Trinidad managed a total of 1725 points which is obtained by adding all the bowlers’ current Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings points. When you consider that England’s bowling attack – which featured debutant Amjad Khan and a man playing in just his fifth Test (Graeme Swann) totalled 2198 points – it is possible to see what a weak bowling attack the home team fielded, especially lacking the injured Jerome Taylor’s 670 points.

Few though 1725 points may seem, back in May 2003 at Bridgetown, the entire West Indian team which took the field against Australia at Bridgetown had a total of only 944 bowling points – their lowest total since they faced India in November 1948. Unsurprisingly, the Aussies piled up 605 for nine declared and triumphed by nine wickets as Messrs Lawson, Best, Drakes, Banks and Gayle tried their utmost, but toiled hard for more than 150 overs.

So – if that was the modern “nadir” of the West Indian bowling line-up, who comprised the strongest? With the help of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings we can offer an answer, and – funnily enough – it occurred in a match in which a batsman made most of the headlines.

Back in April 1986, the home team went into the final Test at the Antigua Recreation Ground already leading the series with England 4-0. To rub salt in the English wounds, Viv Richards made the most of his home ground to make what is still the fastest-ever Test century – from just 56 deliveries. However, Ratings-wise, this was the strongest-ever West Indian bowling attack to take the field with a combined total of 3635 Ratings points and three of the top five bowlers.



Malcolm Marshall


Joel Garner


Michael Holding


Roger Harper


Patrick Patterson


Viv Richards


Larry Gomes


Desmond Haynes


Right now, Jerome Taylor is the only West Indian in the top twenty of the bowling Ratings. What they wouldn’t give for one of the top three from 1986 in the team right now!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Australian bowling attack

Before the recent Johannesburg Test, much was made of the lack of experience in the Australian bowling attack. Going into that match, the entire team had taken a total of just 135 Test wickets between them, of which 78 could be attributed to Mitchell Johnson.

Of course, by winning the Test, they added another twenty to that total, but this does beg the question – how does this Australian attack compare to those of the past? One way of looking at it is to examine how many wickets they had going into the match. Well - the team that took the field against the South Africans at Sydney for their previous Test only had 133 wickets between them before winning that one too.

These are the lowest totals for Australia since they played Pakistan at Karachi in September 1988 when Peter Taylor, Tony Dodemaide, Bruce Reid and Tim May made up their bowling attack. By way of a comparison, when the played the Proteas at Sydney in January 2006, they fielded a team with 1573 Test wickets under their belts with McGrath, Lee, Warne and MacGill contributing the vast majority.

This is all well and good, but it is slightly skewed towards the present day in which far more Test Matches are played than was the case in the past. So what can the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings tell us about their current bowling strength compared to that of past Aussie teams.

If we total all the current bowling Ratings of the Australian team who played in the first Test at Johannesburg we obtain a figure of 1707 points from the following bowlers: Johnson 804, Siddle 427, McDonald 165, Clarke 108, Katich 85, Hilfenhaus 71, Ponting 29, North 10 and Hussey 8.

How does 1707 points compare with the Australian teams of the past? Let’s start with that January 2006 team at Sydney. At that time, the total bowling points stood at 3143 thanks to McGrath 853, Warne 842, Lee 599, MacGill 594, Symonds 218 and Ponting 37. So – that team had almost twice as many Ratings points as the recent one. Not surprisingly they won that Test by eight wickets although it was Ricky Ponting who made the headlines with twin centuries in his hundredth Test.

All this begs the question – was this Australian attack with McGrath, Warne, Lee et al their best ever? With the help of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings we can compare the total points of each bowling attack to represent the Aussies in Test history. The Sydney 2006 attack was good, but not that good! In fact, it rates just 108th in Australian Test history in terms of total Rating points out of the 706 Tests they have played up to and including the recent one in Johannesburg.

In order to find their highest-Rated attack we need to go quite a bit further back. Back all the way to April 1955 in fact. The Australian team that triumphed over the West Indies at Georgetown, Guyana had a staggering total of 3873 points shared out as follows:



Ray Lindwall


Keith Miller


Bill Johnston


Ian Johnson


Ron Archer


Richie Benaud


Arthur Morris


Neil Harvey


The Australian attack in that match featured three of the top five in the world, backed up by Johnson (12th), Archer (23rd) and Benaud (25th). Not much respite for the West Indian batsmen, who were dismissed for just 182 and 207 to go down to an eight wicket defeat.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

25 years on.....

This year sees the silver anniversary of what is generally considered to be the greatest ODI innings of all-time - the majestic unbeaten 189 by Viv Richards against England at Old Trafford back in 1984.

Richards himself rated this innings as one of the best he had ever played. But how does the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings computer see it? Last year we counted down the best bowling performances in the shorter format of the game, so now we look at the greatest innings:

10 - Saeed Anwar (Pak) 194 v Ind at Chennai in 1997
Still the World record score in One Day Internationals more than a decade later, and achieved against their deadliest rivals, the next-highest score in the innings was just 39. It could have been even higher too - Pakistan added another thirty runs after he was dismissed in the 47th over.

9 - Brian Lara (WI) 139 v Aus at Port-of-Spain in 1995
Another masterclass from Brian Lara as he scored his first century for the West Indies in his native Trinidad. His innings came from just 125 deliveries against an Australian attack which featured McGrath, Fleming, Reiffel and Warne, before the visitors fell away to be dismissed for just 149.

8 - Allan Border (Aus) 127* v WI at Sydney in 1985
He may have scored only three ODI hundreds, but this one was described by opposing captain Clive Lloyd as the best One-day innings he had seen. Rescuing his side from 64 for four against the might of Garner, Holding, Marshall and Davis, he helped lift them to a 26-run triumph.

7 - MS Dhoni (Ind) 183* v SL at Jaipur in 2005
After Kumar Sangakkara had set the tone with an unbeaten 138 to set the home team nearly 300 to win, the Indian wicket-keeper played a career-defining innings - the highest ever by a ODI wicket-keeper - from just 145 deliveries before sealing the victory with his tenth six.

6 - Sanath Jayasuriya (SL) 151* v Ind at Mumbai in 1997
India’s batsmen had found it heavy going as they managed to score just 225 in their fifty overs. Most of the Sri Lankans struggled in a similar manner; however Jayasuriya seemed to be playing a different game to everyone else. He slammed his runs from just 121 balls to win the match with nine overs to spare.

5 - Sanath Jayasuriya (SL) 189 v Ind at Sharjah in 2000
The Sri Lankan dynamo was at it again three years later as his national-record innings led his side to an imposing 299 for five in the Coca Cola Champions Trophy Final. Only Russel Arnold of his team-mates managed to score more than fifteen. A shell-shocked Indian side was humbled for just 54 in response.

4 - Kapil Dev (Ind) 175* v Zim at Tunbridge Wells in 1983
Another match to have entered cricketing folklore, With qualification for the semi-finals in some doubt, India slumped to 17 for five before Kapil began his assault, slamming sixteen fours and six sixes from just 138 deliveries. Not content with that, he followed up with an economical spell to lead India to a narrow victory.

3 - Desmond Haynes (WI) 145* v NZ at Berbice in 1985
The opener’s seventh ODI century was made against a strong bowling attack featuring Richard Hadlee and Ewen Chatfield - second and fifth in the bowling charts at the time. Eight Kiwis were dismissed bowled as they were all out for just 129, less than Haynes managed by himself.

2 - David Gower (Eng) 158 v NZ at Brisbane in 1983
The first Englishman on the list, and it is often forgotten what a successful batsman the languid left-hander was in the shorter format of the game. He entered in the ninth over and faced just 118 balls to lift England to a 54 run victory over a Kiwi side featuring five of the world's top twenty bowlers at the time.

1 - Viv Richards (WI) 189* v Eng at Manchester in 1984
So - twenty-five years on and still no-one has bettered Viv’s monumental effort. It could have been so different as he was on 96 with his team struggling at 166 for nine when last man Michael Holding strode to the crease. What followed is now history as the last wicket pair added 106 in fourteen overs and England were beaten easily.

Monday, February 9, 2009

ICC Cricket Hall of Fame - the spinners and glovemen

For our final look at the inaugural Hall of Fame class, we examine the often unsung heroes of a team – the spinners. We also tackle the players they rely on to keep the batsman in his crease – the wicket-keepers.

Bishan Bedi
Tests: Highest Rating 804 (1977), Highest Ranking 1st (1973-1978). 13 matches at number 1
ODIs: Highest Rating 349 (1976), Highest Ranking 11th (1977).
At times a controversial character, he has the honour of being the last left-arm spinner to reach the top spot – and that was more than thirty years ago. Despite their proud tradition of slow bowlers, Bedi remains the only Indian bowler to ever top the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test bowlers, despite the best recent efforts of Messrs Kumble and Harbhajan. His peak came during the course of a six-year stint in which he never failed to take a wicket in an innings in which he bowled.

Lance Gibbs
Tests: Highest Rating 897 (1966), Highest Ranking 1st (1964-1975). 92 matches at number 1
ODIs: Highest Rating 209 (1975), Highest Ranking 17th (1973).
Only five bowlers have spent more matches on top of the world bowling tree than Gibbs, and only one of those is a spinner – Murali. He was peerless in the second half of the 1960s and his highest points total was achieved after his ten wickets at Old Trafford in 1966. He retired having overtaken Fred Trueman’s world record of 307 Test wickets and he was still ranked number six. The One-day game came just too late for him, as he was limited to just three matches.

Jim Laker
Tests: Highest Rating 897 (1956), Highest Ranking 1st (1956-1959). 21 matches at number 1
His name will be linked forever with the Old Trafford Test of 1956 when he produced the greatest bowling performance in the history of cricket, which took him from sixth place to the top of the world. Such was his mastery of his art that he was able to spend a reasonable time on top of the World Ratings despite fierce competition from fellow spinners Hugh Tayfield, Tony Lock and Richie Benaud – all of whom had their time in the number one position in a truly golden era of spin bowling.

Bill O’Reilly
Tests: Highest Rating 901 (1946), Highest Ranking 1st (1935-1946). 24 matches at number 1
The man rated by Bradman as the greatest bowler he ever faced saw his Rating steadily climb over his Test career and he was the natural successor at the top to fellow leggie Clarrie Grimmett. Due to the six-year interruption to Test cricket for the Second World War, he actually spent nine years on top of the bowling tree, culminating in him pushing through the 900-point barrier when he took eight wickets in his final Test at Wellington in March 1946.

Derek Underwood
Tests: Highest Rating 907 (1971), Highest Ranking 1st (1969-1975). 79 matches at number 1
ODIs: Highest Rating 541 (1982), Highest Ranking 4th (1974).
His unique brand of medium-paced spin saw him dominate the world bowling scene for the first half of the 1970s when he became one of only five England bowlers to reach 900 points in the bowling Ratings. His 297 wickets are more than a hundred better than any other England spinner and he spent more matches as the top-rated bowler than any other Englishman in history. He played 26 One Day Internationals over a nine-year span, but never threatened the top spot in the shorter format of the game.

Every team has to have one, but only two wicket-keepers have been elected to the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame. Both founder members Clyde Walcott and Hanif Mohammad started their Test careers behind the stumps, but only these following two have been selected purely as a result of their glovework:

Alan Knott
Tests: Highest Rating 650 (1977), Highest Ranking 14th (1977).
ODIs: Highest Rating 375 (1977), Highest Ranking 4th (1971).
At the time of his retirement he had scored more runs than any other Test wicket-keeper, and his acrobatics behind the stumps were truly a sight to behold. For the vast majority of his career he was ranked in the top thirty Test batsmen peaking during the triumphant 1977 Ashes series. His record would have been even more impressive had he not turned his attention to World Series Cricket after playing a record 65 consecutive Tests for England.

Rodney Marsh
Tests: Highest Rating 599 (1975), Highest Ranking 19th (1974).
ODIs: Highest Rating 556 (1984), Highest Ranking 16th (1971).
95 batsmen were dismissed caught Marsh bowled Lillee and both Hall-of-Famers – having made their debuts in the same series - ended with 355 victims to their names. He became the first Australian to score a Test century and reached the world’s top twenty batsmen early in his career. His powerful striking in the limited overs form of the game saw him end his career at his highest Rating after a typical belligerent 35 against the West Indies at Melbourne.

Friday, January 30, 2009

ICC Cricket Hall of Fame - the Fast men

There is nothing like seeing a fast bowler in full flight, and ten of them have been elected to the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame. Here is how they performed in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings over the course of their careers.

Sydney Barnes
Tests: Highest Rating 932 (1914), Highest Ranking 1st (1910-1914). 22 matches at number 1
Nearly a hundred years on, no-one has managed to surpass Barnes’s career peak Rating, achieved in his final Test after taking 49 wickets in four Tests against the hapless South Africans at the age of forty. Dominating the bowling Ratings in the years immediately before the First World War, he ended with exactly seven wickets per match from his medium-pace cutters, having been selected purely on the virtue of his performances in league cricket.

Alec Bedser
Tests: Highest Rating 903 (1953), Highest Ranking 1st (1947-1954). 13 matches at number 1
His rise was meteoric, taking just eight Tests to reach the number one spot. In fact, he may be unique among all Test bowlers playing a reasonable number of matches in that he spent his entire career in the world’s top five. This culminated in a return to the top spot after taking 39 wickets during the memorable Ashes summer of 1953 at the age of 35. He is the last man alive who managed to dismiss Don Bradman in a Test Match.

Michael Holding
Tests: Highest Rating 860 (1982), Highest Ranking 1st (1982). 12 matches at number 1
ODIs: Highest Rating 875 (1985), Highest Ranking 2nd (1983).
He burst upon the scene in the summer of 1976 when his pace was as scorching as the English weather, as he tore through England’s batting to the tune of fourteen wickets at the Oval to move up to third in the world. His Test peak came later in his career and he spent the first half of 1982 on top of the world after taking 24 wickets in three Tests in Australia. He was unlucky in the shorter form of the game as Richard Hadlee prevented him reaching the top spot, and his peak Rating of 875 is the highest of anyone who never made it to number one.

Harold Larwood
Tests: Highest Rating 720 (1933), Highest Ranking 3rd (1933).
He will forever be remembered as the spearhead of the ‘Bodyline’ attack of 1932/33 but Larwood was a good enough bowler to reach third in the world at the end of that infamous series having dismissed Bradman four times. However, that was as good as it got, and he was never selected for England again. He had his moments with the bat too – some early successes took him into the world’s top thirty and his career ended with an innings of 98 as night-watchman at Sydney.

Dennis Lillee
Tests: Highest Rating 884 (1977), Highest Ranking 1st (1975-1982). 56 matches at number 1
ODIs: Highest Rating 891 (1982), Highest Ranking 1st (1980-1983). 89 matches at number 1
He dominated the world fast-bowling scene for a decade and first reached top spot during the 1975 Ashes tour of England on which he took 21 wickets in four matches. His eleven wickets in the Centenary Test at Melbourne in March 1977 sent him to his career-best Rating and he was back on top in the early 1980s after a thirty-month break for World Series Cricket. He was similarly successful in One Dayers, spending all of 1981 and 1982 on top of the tree.

Ray Lindwall
Tests: Highest Rating 897 (1954), Highest Ranking 1st (1948-1955). 72 matches at number 1
Unquestionably the world’s premier fast bowler in the years following the Second World War, he spent more than half of the next decade ranked as the number one Test bowler. He reached number one after his ninth Test and was still in the world’s top ten when he retired in 1960. He could also wield the willow to some effect, peaking at number 23 and he spent the vast majority of his career ranked second to team-mate Keith Miller in the all-rounder table.

Malcolm Marshall
Tests: Highest Rating 910 (1988), Highest Ranking 1st (1984-1991). 80 matches at number 1
ODIs: Highest Rating 891 (1985), Highest Ranking 1st (1987-1989). 58 matches at number 1
He was the spearhead of the all-conquering West Indian team of the late 1980s and even in an era of great fast bowlers, he still spent a great deal of time at the number one spot in both forms of the game. He was a dangerous lower-order batsman too and ended his career as the number 3 ranked Test all-rounder. He retired from Test cricket at the top of the world Rankings and his final wicket was fellow Hall-of-Famer Graham Gooch.

Andy Roberts
Tests: Highest Rating 891 (1976), Highest Ranking 1st (1976-1977). 16 matches at number 1
ODIs: Highest Rating 848 (1983), Highest Ranking 1st (1979-1980). 14 matches at number 1
The first of the West Indian pace quartet to reach the top spot, it was the summer of 1976 which propelled him to his peak Rating after he took 28 wickets in England. He first reached top spot in One Day Internationals soon after helping the West Indies retain the World Cup in 1979, but arguably his most memorable performance in the shorter form of the game came with the bat as his unbeaten 24 helped overcome Pakistan by one wicket in the 1975 tournament.

Brian Statham
Tests: Highest Rating 810 (1960), Highest Ranking 3rd (1955).
Despite ending his career with 252 Test wickets, he could be considered one of the finest bowlers never to reach the top spot in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings. Overshadowed by his colleagues Frank Tyson and then fellow Hall-of-Famer Fred Trueman for the vast majority of his Test career, he bowled tirelessly into the wind and was scarcely out of the World’s top ten for a decade. He gave away only 2.33 runs per over using the mantra “if they miss, I hit”.

Fred Trueman
Tests: Highest Rating 898 (1963), Highest Ranking 1st (1963-1964). 6 matches at number 1
He started with a bang when he helped to remove the first four Indians before a run had been scored in their second innings on his debut at Headingley in 1952. And despite only playing in 67 of the 120 Tests England played over the course of his Test career he still became the first man to reach the magical 300-wicket landmark. Surprisingly he was only top for a brief period in 1963 and 1964 towards the end of his career after he took 34 wickets against the West Indian tourists.