Saturday, October 16, 2010

Are there any 4th innings greats at all ??

As stylish VVS Laxman crafted India's win in Mohali,I wondered which batsmen had the capability of rising under pressure and performing like he did on that occasion.

Generally,the best time to bat in a test match is considered to be the second day,followed by the third day.So,one would expect most batsmen to having a better average in the innings in 2nd and 3rd innings rather than last innings of a test,where the pitch would have deteriorated far more.To add to it,batting on the last day has to be taxing after four days of continuous cricket.

Even a champion batsman like Laxman averages a shade under 40,lesser than his career average of close to 48.However,if you take out the 103* against Sri Lanka and the recent 73* at Mohali,his average falls to 35 with just 4 fifties in 28 innings.A player of his class,definitely could do better in spite of uneasy pitches while chasing last.Two other Indian legends Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar also have a big dip in their averages in 4th innings.While Dravid's average dips by 10,Sachin's dips by almost 20.Even the swashbuckling Virender Sehwag hasn't managed a century in the 4th innings.His most memorable innings in 4th innings remains a quickfire 80-odd to set up the famous 387 Chennai win.

Pakistanis Mohammad Yousuf and Inzamam-ul-Haq also have significant dips in their 4th innings average.Yousuf,like Sehwag,hasn't managed to reach the three digit mark in the 4th innings.Saffer allrounder Jacques Kallis averages a superb 55 runs per innings in test cricket.His 4th innings average though is 45 with just 1 century. Even though is among the highest 4th innings averages for batsmen of recent times.West Indian great Brian Lara too,disappoints on this count averaging 35 in the 4th innings,way below his career average of 53.Another champion of his time,Steve Waugh's 4th innings average,25,is half of his career average.Being a big fan of Steve Waugh's determination and fighting character,this certainly came as a surprise to me.

The best averages in the 4th innings belonged to Mahela Jayawardene,Matthew Hayden,Ricky Ponting and Greame Smith.They score at 49,50,52 and 53 runs per innings in 4th innings respectively.Looking closely at Jayawardene's statistics,I find that he has done superbly at home,however,has struggled in Australia.Hayden's numbers show his dominance in Australia,India and Bangladesh.Though,he too has struggled in South Africa,New Zealand.Skipper Ponting's record shows he does well against Pakistan and South Africa,particularly at home,but in India he has struggled to reach even double digits,scoring just 24 runs in 5 innings.Smith is among the very rare batsmen whose 4th innings' average is higher than career average.His record is quite steady amongst almost all teams with New Zealand and England being his favourites.Surprisingly though,he hasn't chased in India or Pakistan even once,which surely would have been a challenge.

The analysis suggests that Ponting,Hayden,Jayawardene and Smith are among the best.But as such,batting fourth is one area many great batsmen could work on and improve.

Note:All stats are for batsmen with more than 20 fourth innings and till the end of Mohali Test.

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