The Best #11 Batsman of All Time

What comes to mind when I say, “#11 batsman?”

For most of you, you think of someone who is wracked with nerves before the start of their innings, panics at the sight of fast bowlers, is completely bamboozled by ordinary spinners, and generally spends longer walking to the crease than staying there. I’m that sort of player.

I, myself, think of Ashton Agar’s 98 innings and 163 partnership with the legendary Phil Hughes at Trent Bridge in 2013.

Who is, however, the greatest #11 batsman of all time?

To do this, I’m using much the same tools as Deepu Narayara did in his analysis of the best keeper-batsman ever. Firstly:

Batting averages of all #11s to have batted at least 30 innings

 Far and away, Nathan Lyon leads this. Trent Bould is the only one who even comes close. As such, the result will be restricted to only those with an average of 10 or more.

This leaves:

  • Lyon
  • Boult
  • WA Johnston
  • JB Statham
  • AA Donald
  • RGD Willis
  • I Sharma
  • M Muralitharan
  • AN Connolly
  • JM Anderson

Another thing of importance for a #11 is to be able to stay at the crease for a long time. We worked out the average number of balls faced (a stat that, sadly, Cricinfo doesn’t keep for us). This did, however, lead to us having to disqualify Connolly, Statham, and Johnston, as their stats aren’t wholly complete. So, the results for this:

  • Willis: 18.35
  • Anderson: 13.06
  • Muralitharan: 8.16
  • Lyon: 18.81
  • Donald: 17.72
  • Boult: 15.97
  • Sharma: 12.97

We’re eliminating everyone below 15 for this, leaving us with Willis, Lyon, Donald, and Boult. Next to consider is the tenth-wicket partnership. A #11 is very good if they can enable their partner some precious time at the crease. So, the number of 50-run tenth wicket partnerships:

  • Lyon: 3
  • Willis: 4
  • Donald: 4
  • Boult: 5

Alas, our Aussie boy Nathan Lyon is eliminated. Now would be a good time to recap. Earning three points for being the best out of our final three, two points for second, and one for third, we get:

  • TA Boult: 7
  • RGD Willis: 6
  • AA Donald: 6

We do, however, now need to come up with a final, decisive analysis. We will consider their performance compared to their fellow #11s and teammates in their careers.

We will work out the difference between (Note: 10 innings required for both categories):

  1. Them and the highest averaging #11 during their career.
  2. Them and the lowest averaging teammate during their career.
  • Boult:  -12.36 to other #11s, +13.61 to other New Zealanders, +1.25
  • Willis: -18.09 to other #11s, +0.66 to other Englishmen, -17.43
  • Donald: -3.73 to other #11s, +4.12 to other South Africans, +0.39

All hail Trent Boult, the greatest #11 of all time…

For now.

Boult’s career is far from finished, and that might lead to his stats slipping below Donald’s. And, if Nathan Lyon is involved in a 50 partnership with Josh Hazlewood, I’d have to include him in the analysis.

Be warned, Boult. There’s no safety at the top.

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