Who are the greatest batsmen ever – Part 2 (10-1)?
Continuing off from the Greatest Batsman of all time article, which counted down the best batsmen from 20-11, here are numbers 10-1 in reverse order, with an additional comment at the end for those Test countries not represented in my list:
10. Victor Trumper (Australia) – 48 Tests, 8 100s, 13 50s, Average 39.04, HS 214*
Widely acknowledged as the best Australian batsman before Bradman, Trumper was both stylish and versatile with a penchant for playing match-winning innings on treacherous wet wickets. After scoring 135 not out against England at Lord’s in 1899, Grace gifted Trumper his own bat with the inscription “From the present champion to the future champion.”
9. Herbert Sutcliffe (England) – 54 Tests, 16 100s, 23 50s, Average 60.73, HS 194
Sutcliffe’s name always seems to be inexplicably left on the margins when discussions as to who is the best ever English batsman. Perhaps this is because his he opened the batting with Hobbs and played in the same era as Hammond. Whatever the reasons, Sutcliffe deserves recognition in his own right – the fourth highest Test match batting average of all-time for players with at least 20 innings, a fantastic record against Australia and prodigious run scoring for country and Yorkshire alike.
8. Brian Lara (West Indies) – 131 Tests, 34 100s, 48 50s, Average 52.88, HS 400*
The man with the highest Test and First Class scores of 400 not out and 501 not out respectively, Lara is the fourth of six West Indians on the list. When he started his career, West Indian dominance was on the wane. By the time he finished it, his side was in the doldrums and as a result he spent most of his time trying to keep the West Indies afloat making his record even more impressive. Perhaps his best achievement was in 1999 in the home series against Australia, when he single-handedly won the second and third tests with scores of 213 and 153 not out after his side had been obliterated in the first test. He scored a century too in the fourth and final test, but couldn’t prevent Australia squaring the series.
7. George Headley (West Indies) – 22 Tests, 10 100s, 5 50s, Average 60.83, HS 270*
Like Brian Lara over 60 years later, Headley had to keep a struggling side afloat. He managed this scoring a staggering ten centuries in his 22 Tests with his scoring feats leading to him being dubbed the ‘Black Bradman’. Headley was noted for his phenomenal back foot play and the time he seemed to have to play the ball, with such a shrewd judge as Len Hutton declaring that he had never seen a batsman play the ball later.
6. Ricky Ponting (Australia) – 136* Tests, 38 100s, 48 50s, Average 55.88, HS 257
The outstanding batsman playing the game today, Ponting is widely acknowledged as the best Australian batsman since Bradman – high praise indeed. One of Ponting’s main strengths is his versatility in that he can score quickly, counter-attack or tough it out when the situation demands. Other strengths include his consistency and his habit of playing match winning innings.
5. Vivian Richards (West Indies) – 121 Tests, 24 100s, 45 50s, Average 50.23, HS 291
Regarded by cricket aficionados as probably the most devastating batsman in the history of the game, King Viv was absolutely unstoppable on his day. His style was a mixture of swagger and intimidation and most bowlers seemed to visibly cower when faced with an on-song Richards. It is befitting that he is the scorer of the fastest-ever Test century, from just 56 balls against England in his home island of Antigua during the 1986 tour.
4. Jack Hobbs (England) – 61 Tests, 15 100s, 28 50s, Average 56.94, HS 211
Popularly referred to as ‘The Master’, Hobbs scored more runs (61,760) and more centuries (199) than anyone else in the history of the sport – and but for the Great War these figures could have been more spectacular still. His opening partnership with Herbert Sutcliffe is considered to be the best England and maybe the game has seen. Hobbs made his first class debut against a side captained by W.G.Grace who presciently observed that “He’s goin’ to be a good’un”. Even the learned Doctor could not have realised how ‘good’ Hobbs would become.
3. Walter Hammond (England) – 85 Tests, 22 100s, 24 50s, Average 58.45, HS 336*
Throughout his career, Hammond was often compared to Bradman, which is testament to what a great player he was, and he was included in the Don’s all-time XI. His seven Test double centuries has only been surpassed by Bradman and Brian Lara, and Hammond certainly had an ability to get big scores. His most notable series came on the tour of Australia in 1928-29 when he scored an incredible 905 runs at 113.12 in the five Tests. This has only been surpassed once – by Bradman, of course.
2. Garfield Sobers (West Indies) – 93 Tests, 26 100s, 30 50s, Average 57.78, HS 365*
Widely regarded as Cricket’s greatest all-rounder, Sobers was so good with the bat that he also ranks behind only the immortal Bradman on this list. Sobers mixed elegance with power and for a long time held the record for the highest Test score until he was usurped by his fellow West Indian Brian Lara. Perhaps his best innings though came for the Rest of the World against Australia in 1972 when Sobers played an innings of 254 which was described by Bradman as “probably the greatest exhibition of batting ever seen in Australia”.
1. Donald Bradman (Australia) – 52 Tests, 29 100s, 13 50s, Average 99.94, HS 334
Who else? No self-respecting list of the greatest batsmen ever could have anyone else at its head. Has anyone dominated their sport as much as Bradman? It almost defies belief that his average of 99.94 is almost 40 runs higher than the second best for 20 completed innings (Graeme Pollock at 60.97). Of his many staggering batting feats, here are three examples. First, his consecutive triple centuries at Headingley in the Ashes tests of 1930 and 1934. Second, his 974 runs in five tests during the 1930 Ashes series in England including three double centuries – both records. Finally, his second innings knock of 270 during the Third Test at Melbourne during the Ashes series of 1936/37, which was rated by Wisden as the best test match innings of all time in 2001. It enabled Australia, who were two down in the series, to win the match and they completed a remarkable turnaround by winning the fourth (Bradman making 212) and fifth (Bradman, 169) tests – still the only time a team has come back from two down to win a test match rubber, and Bradman was the captain of course.
So, there we have it. Six West Indians, six who represented England, four Australians, two Indians and one each from South Africa and Pakistan. Obviously, a number of great players failed to make the cut and as I said yesterday it was an agonising process to get down to the final 20. Indians, South Africans and Pakistanis may feel aggrieved that their nations do not have a higher representation. Rest assured that Rahul Dravid, Jacques Kallis, Dudley Nourse, Barry Richards (ruled out by the virtue of having only played four tests), Zaheer Abbas and Inzamam-ul-Haq were all there or thereabouts.
From England, no place could be found for Denis Compton, Peter May, Ted Dexter or David Gower. On the other side of the World in Australia, Allan Border, Steve Waugh, Neil Harvey, Stan McCabe and Adam Gilchrist all failed to make the cut. And those swashbuckling West Indians Frank Worrell, Gordon Greenidge and Clive Lloyd also deserve a mention.
For those countries not represented, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Aravinda da Silva were all considered from Sri Lanka, as was Andy Flower from Zimbabwe and Martin Crowe, Martin Donnelly, Glenn Turner and Bert Sutcliffe from New Zealand. Bangladesh have yet to produce a great batsman, but undoubtedly they will as they continue to improve in the Test match arena.
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