Of tons and thousands

Posted by Fenil Desai | 4:01 AM | View Comments

Jacques Kallis scored his 34th Test hundred against India in the first Test, to draw level with two retired legends of the game - Sunil Gavaskar and Brian Lara.

Only two players are ahead of him now in the list of top century makers in Test cricket: Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting.

For a long time, Sunil Gavaskar held the record for the most Test hundreds, and his mark of 34 tons was thought to be nigh impregnable. However, the burgeoning of cricket, the increasing number of matches and the special talents of Sachin Tendulkar all combined at the right time for Gavaskar's mark to be overtaken.

However, achieving the landmark of scoring 34 Test hundreds is still an extremely special event for any cricketer, and the exclusivity of the club that have scored that many - Tendulkar, Ponting, Lara, Gavaskar and Kallis - shows how tough it is to get into.

Here is a list of the top century makers in Test cricket:

PlayerMatchesInningsRunsCenturiesInns per 100AverageCenturies total% of Runs from 100s
Sachin Tendulkar 165*26813234455.9655.37655549.53%
Ricky Ponting14224011859396.1555.675634 47.51%
Jacques Kallis136*22910799346.7455.37455542.18%
Sunil Gavaskar12521410122 346.2951.12480247.44%
Brian Lara13123211953346.8252.88588949.27%
Steve Waugh 16826010927328.1351.06434239.74%
Matthew Hayden1031848625306.1350.734092 47.44%
Donald Bradman52806996292.7699.94539377.09%
Rahul Dravid13924011395 298.2853.75439138.53%

Each batsman on the list has several traits in common - they are all without a doubt, all-time greats of the game, they have all scored mountains of runs for their countries, and they've all averaged over 50 over their careers - the hallmark of a great batsman.

Sir Donald Bradman is, of course, in a different league, but it is interesting to note that most of the other batsmen seem to average 6 to 7 innings per century. The only two who are above 8 innings per century are Dravid and Steve Waugh, and not surprisingly, they hold the record for the most nineties in Tests, having scored 10 each. Had a few of those nineties been converted to centuries, they would have been in the same bracket as the others.

Also not surprising is the fact that there is a direct inverse correlation between the number of innings a batsman takes to score a century and the percentage of his total runs that have come through centuries. The Don is once again in a league of his own, but for the others, some interesting conclusions can be drawn.

From the numbers above, it seems that amongst the great batsmen, roughly half of the total runs they score in their careers come in roughly one seventh of their innings. That is roughly 50% of their runs are scored in 15% of their innings.

However, bowlers would do well to exercise restraint before breaking out into a jig at the numbers, thinking that these great batsmen are susceptible to inconsistency. The thing is, each one of them has scored such a mountain of runs that even half of what they have scored, at the averages they score, is a not inconsiderable total.

Trivia stat of the day: The number 34 was doubly special for Jacques Kallis in this match. Not only did he score his 34th Test hundred, he also became the 34th player to reach the milestone of scoring 1000 runs against India in Test matches.

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