A closer look at centuries in fourth innings of Tests

Note: All data correct as of April 15, 2018. The Test involving the ICC XI in 2005 is excluded.

We first look at the best averages in the fourth innings:

4th innings averages

Boycott, Gavaskar and Hobbs top this table though there is very little difference between their averages.

We now look at those who scored the most centuries in the fourth  innings (3 and above):

Century in fourth innings

Younis Khan leads with 5 centuries, followed by Ponting, Gavaskar, GC Smith and Sarwan with 4. Bradman is also here with 3. Among current players, there is only Williamson with 3.

Now let see who disliked the fourth innings. These players made the most centuries (20 and above) without ever making one in the fourth innings:

SR Waugh (23), Mohammad Yousuf (24), SPD Smith and V Sehwag (23 each), IR Bell and MC Cowdrey (22 each), DC Boon (21) and G Kirsten (21). Of these only Smith may get a chance to change these figures.

Conversely, there are those who love batting in the fourth innings. Apart from Younis Khan and his companions at the top of the table, there are those who scored all their centuries in the fourth innings:

There are several who scored their only century in the 4th innings. The only current player is Shan Masood. And there is only one who scored his only 2 centuries in the 4th innings: W Watson (Eng) of the 1950s. Honourable mention to JB Stollmeyer (2 out his 4 centuries came in the fourth innings).

So we conclude that the 4th innings is indeed the most difficult innings to score in. Bowlers may have a different opinion about the 4th innings.

 

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Test batting averages across innings

There is often a significant difference in how batsmen perform in different innings. This is apparent when we look at those with the highest averages in Tests (for those who have batted in at least 20 innings).

Data is correct up to April 3, 2018. The ICC XI v Aus Test of 2005 is not counted.

First we look at the averages for Tests as a whole, for a minimum of 20 innings vatted across innings;

Highest batting averages in Tests (50 and above):

Overall averages for all innings

You do not need to be reminded about the man with 99.94. The next two are also well known in recent years. Some, like Kambli, are lucky to scrape through. Other contemporary players listed above include Kohli, Root, Younis Khan, de Villiers, Pujara and Williamson.

Most of those who are generally regarded as great batsmen are here-even though some like H Sutcliffe, GE Tyldesley and CA Davis never made a double century.

Now we look at the different innings. The 20-innings cutoff is applied in each case.

Highest batting averages in first innings of Tests (55 and above):

1st innings averages

Bradman and Steve Smith are still in the top 3, but then there is considerable variation. Hassett and Azhar Ali averaged less than 50 in all innings but did much better in the first innings. Voges, Graeme Pollock and Headley did not play enough Tests. Barrington and Weekes seemed to have particularly relished batting in the first innings.

Contemporary players here include Steve Smith, Azhar Ali, Pujara, Ross Taylor, du Plessis, Root and a few others.

Moving on to the second innings.

Highest batting averages in second innings of Tests (55 and above):

2nd innings averages

Bradman is still at the top, followed relatively closely by Kohli. Other contemporary players include Steve Smith, Williamson, Root, de Villiers, Younis Khan and AN Cook. Tendulkar just scrapes through the 55-mark, some distance behind Gavaskar who did not do too well in the first innings.

Now to the third innings.

Highest batting averages in third innings of Tests (50 and above):

3rd innings averages

Bradman now drops out of the table altogether, with May and Kallis taking the two top spots. Here the differences between the top players are comparatively smaller. Contemporary players here are headed by Amla and Azhar Ali.

Finally the fourth innings, where survival skills are particularly important:

Highest batting averages in fourth innings of Tests (40 and above):

4th innings averages

As we can see, it is as difficult to average 40 here as it is to average 50 overall. Boycott, Gavaskar and Hobbs are bunched together at the top. And some like Bradman did not need to do much in the fourth innings as they and their teams generally scored enough in the first and second innings. Some, such as Ranatunga, Misbah and Hutton did not even score centuries in the fourth innings and probably benefited by a number of not-out innings.

Contemporary players here include Younis Khan, AD Mathews, Misbah-ul-Haq, Warner, Ross Taylor and Mohammad Hafeez.

Comparison of centuries made in different innings will be taken up next.