“Ben Stokes may average 33.12 with the bat, but if you take out his 258 against South Africa, it’s much lower.”
That caveat to Ben Stokes’ current Test average is bandied out a fair bit nowadays.
Sure, his average does go down to 28.24 if we disregard the time he marmalised South African bowlers around Cape Town in January 2016.
But…he still did score 258 runs off 198 balls. It was one of the greatest Test innings of all time, and it takes a special player to pull it off.
This innings was a one-off in significance, but not in style. Stokes’ scores of 92 and 101 against New Zealand at Lord’s in May 2015 were just as impressive in quality, if not quantity.
His second highest Test score is only 120, scored on debut against Australia, but it’s highly likely that he will bridge the gap as his career progresses*.
Credit: Dan Heap
This argument got me thinking.
I wanted to know, from the 20 best run-scorers in Test cricket, who had the highest average if we disregard their centuries.
The top 20, in order of runs scored and with all runs considered, is as follows:
Sachin Tendulkar (15,921 @ 53.78) Ricky Ponting (13,378 @ 51.85) Jacques Kallis (13,289 @ 55.37) Rahul Dravid (13,288 @ 52.31) Kumar Sangakkara (12,400 @ 57.40) Brian Lara (11,953 @ 52.88) Shivnarine Chanderpaul (11,867 @ 51.37) Mahela Jayawardene (11,814 @ 49.84) Allan Border (11,174 @ 50.56) Steve Waugh (10,927 @ 51.06) Alastair Cook (10,688 @ 46.87) Sunil Gavaskar (10,122 @ 51.12) Younis Khan (9,663 @ 53.98) Graeme Smith (9,265 @ 48.25) Graham Gooch (8,900 @ 42.58) Javed Miandad (8,832 @ 52.57) Inzamam-ul-Haq (8,830 @ 49.60) VVS Laxman (8,781 @ 45.97) Michael Clarke (8,643 @ 49.10) Matthew Hayden (8,625 @ 50.73)
But how do the averages change when ton-plus scores are ignored?
Kumar Sangakkara might top the overall pile, but Allan Border is the man for consistency with 7,594 century-free runs at 37.04.
The biggest riser? VVS Laxman finds himself in fourth place, having scored only 17 centuries to go with 56 half-centuries in 134 Test appearances.
Sachin Tendulkar plummets from fourth to 18th place, relying on a paltry 51 Test centuries.
But fortunately, every score counts. And Ben Stokes’ average is 33.12, not 28.24.
*Matthew Hayden’s top scores were 380, 203 and 197. Does that make 380 an outlier that should be removed? What about Andy Ganteaume? Think about Andy Ganteaume!