Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Greatest Test XI

To continue our Greatest Test XI of the last century, we reveal our number three.

The statistician Charles Davis recently compared the legends of all major sports. Pele came second on 3.7, but Bradman, on 4.4, was way clear of the field. He averages more than half as much again as any other Test batsman who has played at least 20 innings; indeed, the difference (39 runs per innings) alone is more than many good Test players managed.

The legend of Bradman is well known amongst cricketing enthusiasts; the ‘boy from the bush’ who practised by hitting a cricket ball with a solitary stump and emerged as an Australian icon when the country was in the midst of the Depression. Yet, because his numbers defied all belief, it has been his fate that they have come to characterise him, in a way they do not with other legends of the game.

In fact, besides the numbers, Bradman is best remembered for his part in the Bodyline series, partly because it was such a surprise he went from unbelievable to merely outstanding, averaging 56 as his side fell to a 4-1 defeat. When Bradman batted for Australia, runs – and records – were a big story; but, for their rarity, failures, were even more of one. So, ironically, his most famous innings is his duck in his final Test; not any number of gargantuan ones prior to that, including 334 for Australia, 452* for New South Wales or several epics in Australia’s 3-2 Ashes triumph of 1936/37, coming back from 2-0 down.

He simply never tired of batting, recording 29 hundreds in just 80 innings; equally impressively, 16 of these were over 150. Of course, the numbers can never tell the story of his remarkable balance at the crease, his complete mastery of the art of batting, or his insatiable desire for runs and meticulousness in all he did. But a mere glance at them reveals what a batting giant he was. As the best batsman in the side he will, naturally, take his place at number three.

The side so far: Sutcliffe, Hutton, Bradman

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