It was 3.21 and 2.73 coming out to bat on January 3rd, 1925 at the MCG.
Jack Hobbs was the highest impact Test batsman 48 years of Test cricket had seen till then (minimum 25 Tests).
Herbert Sutcliffe was already very high impact and had 4 century stands with Hobbs in the 5 matches he had got to bat. It was yet to be seen though if he could maintain this high standard through his career as his illustrious opening partner had.
Despite the third successive century stand from these two in the series, England would lose this match and eventually the series too, their third successive Ashes loss. But it would also be the last loss till 1930.
England would win the next two Ashes series, and not lose to anyone else either, till August 1930, when they would lose 1-2, in what also poignantly would be Jack Hobbs’ last Test series, who would retire at the age of 47, still the greatest (and highest impact) batsman the world had seen.
During the six years they played together, they put on over 3200 runs for the opening wicket at an average of 88. In fact, they put on 50 or more runs in 25 of the 38 innings they batted together. This is as good as it has ever got in Test cricket, for any wicket.
It was 3.13 and 2.84 in the end.
At the respective end of their careers, Hobbs’ in 1930, Sutcliffe’s in 1935, Hobbs was exactly 10% higher impact than Sutcliffe.
This is very curious because even though Hobbs did have the greater reputation and the higher esteem pretty much unanimously, Sutcliffe actually averaged 61 in the 54 Tests he played, while Hobbs averaged 57 from 61 Tests.
Sutcliffe made 16 Test centuries, Hobbs 15.
If you think it was because of their reputation in first-class cricket, even there, Sutcliffe averaged 52 while Hobbs averaged 51.
Sure, Hobbs got 199 centuries but Sutcliffe got 151 too, in considerably fewer games.
Clearly, conventional numbers do not reveal Hobbs’ superiority at all.
Things take some time to become clear on Impact Index too. At first glance, the impact on almost all their batting parameters are eerily similar.
Even their failure rates, Hobbs’ 33% to Sutcliffe’s 34% are very close -both amongst the lowest batting failure rates in cricket history (only Don Bradman, Peter May and Len Hutton better than them in this respect).
But they are separated on one count.
Hobbs scored a higher proportion of runs than Sutcliffe (
This is why Hobbs is the second-highest impact batsman for England ever, and the world’s 7th-highest.
Sutcliffe, on the other hand, is England’s fourth-highest impact batsman ever, and the world’s 17th-highest.
Even the romantics of the game, who fondly hold on to their ‘acquired cricket wisdom’ would not splutter into their mythical Sherrys at this.
Sutcliffe, who named his son after Hobbs, would not dispute this. In fact, something he said gives an insight into this aspect, which has never been statistically measured before.
At the end of his career, he said, Bradman was the best batsman on good wickets but Hobbs the best batsman on bad wickets.
Art- Gokul Chakravarthy
NOTE: Impact Index has undergone an upgradation in November 2015, and though 95% of its findings remain the same, there have been some minor shifts. This piece was updated post that, and is up-to-date as of August 2016.