By Craig Mascarenhas
Every sports fan knows the importance of averages. Cricket is no different, with the batting average being the primary yardstick most batsmen are gauged by. A hallmark of a great Test batsman has always been the golden 50, and most modern greats hover around or above there. An interesting anecdotal observation viewers often make is that “so-and-so has to get out before he faces 40 balls, else it is almost impossible”. So I set out to analyze batting averages based on the length of the innings. The methodology is simple. On the x-axis is the number of balls (or more) the innings has lasted. On the y-axis is the average for innings that have lasted at least “X” number of balls. Therefore, at x=0, everyone’s average is what their true career average is. At x=10, the y-axis indicates the average of innings which have lasted at least 10 balls or more, and so on. Obviously, as X is increased, the trend of averages is to go up, as longer innings indicate bigger scores. The few drops in an individual average as x increases is a result of innings in which the batsman hasn’t been dismissed (i.e. they are not out), which when removed, causes a drop in average.
For Test batsman, greats from the 1990s to today were included, as well as the modern leaders. While most players average between 50 and 60 as their career average, Australian Steven Smith separates himself from the pack after around 50 balls. Similarly, Rahul Dravid (India) and Joe Root (England) never seem to be really set, and separate themselves towards the bottom. What this means is this Smith is much harder to get out once he has his eye in, about after 50 balls. While this is true of most batsman, Smith’s case seems extraordinarily so, and bowlers must try to set attacking fields and get him out before he gets stuck in there. Dravid and Root paint the opposite picture, never really benefiting from spending time at the crease initially. The major caveat to this analysis is understanding of batsmen’s strike rates. Dravid is expected to feature lower down due to his slower rate of scoring, so in his case, the analysis might be slightly misleading.
The same analysis was conducted for One Day Internationals (ODIs), which threw up some interesting results. Most notably, South African AB de Villiers explodes off the chart after around 40 balls, spelling ominous signs for bowlers around the world. This definitely fits the visual storyline, where he sometimes gifts his wicket away early on in the pursuit of quick runs, but once he spends time batting, is one of the hardest in the world to dismiss.