Viv Richards
Viv Richards: His 56-ball century is not his highest Strike Rate Impact innings.

What is the relevance of scoring fast in Test cricket? It cannot just be pleasurable viewing and bravado. It also cannot be restricted to romantic assessments of a batsman’s individual genius and gifted ability. Surely, in a team sport there is a larger picture. And that is nothing but whether scoring at a high rate favorably affects the outcome for the team. Also significant should be the conditions in which a batsman scores quickly and how his scoring rate compares with the norm in the match.

This is where the concept of Strike Rate Impact comes in.

Strike Rate Impact (unlike conventional strike rate which just measures the scoring rate of a batsman relative to the number of balls he faces) measures the scoring rate of a batsman relative to the scoring rate of other batsmen in the match thus giving every performance a context. It also takes into account team totals and the average run rate of the match.

In Test cricket, for obvious reasons as compared to ODI and T20 cricket, it is given in more exceptional circumstances and when the performance helps the respective team to a victory or draw (and not in a loss).

Brendon McCullum, in his farewell Test against Australia in Christchurch in February, 2016, broke the record for the fastest hundred in Test history when he hammered a ton in just 54 balls. His 145 in just 79 balls in the first innings is the second-highest strike rate innings of all-time in Test cricket (minimum of 50 runs scored and 50 balls faced). New Zealand scored 370 in 65.4 overs in the first innings and Australia replied with 505 in 153.1 overs.

But McCullum did not get any Strike Rate Impact for this record-breaking performance as his high scoring rate did not favorably affect the final outcome of the match for New Zealand. Australia went on to win the match by 7 wickets.

Even if New Zealand had gone on to win or managed a draw, McCullum would have got a low Strike Rate Impact for his performance as both, the average run-rate (a touch over 4 runs per over) and the average runs scored per batsman (approximately 40) were high for the first and second innings.

We mention below the five highest Strike Rate Impact performances (in an innings context) in Test history.

1. Hugh Massie: 55 in 60 balls vs Australia, The Oval, 1882

Australia batting first, were bowled out for 63 in as many as 80 overs. England replied with 101 in 71.3 overs. Hugh Massie, the Australian opener, then blasted a counter-attacking 55 in just 60 balls out of an Australian total of 122 (in 63 overs) in the second innings. England, set a target of 85, were knocked over for 77 in 55 overs. The average run rate of the third and fourth innings was 1.69. Massie scored his runs at a rate of 5.5 per over which was much higher than the norm. Moreover, his performance helped Australia win the match.

This remained the most significant performance of his short career (nine Tests) and is remembered even today.

And thus, a performance with a conventional strike rate of just 92 is the highest Strike Rate Impact performance in Test cricket history.

2. Brendon McCullum: 195 in 134 balls vs Sri Lanka, Christchurch, 2014

Brendon McCullum’s 195 in just 134 balls in the first innings helped New Zealand amass 441 in 85.5 overs. McCullum scored 44% of his team’s total at a strike rate of approximately 146. Apart from James Neesham (85 in 80 balls), no other New Zealand batsman made any substantial contribution at a high strike rate. The fact that Sri Lanka were bowled out for just 138 (in 42.4 overs) in their first innings and the home team eventually went on to win the match by 8 wickets gave McCullum a very high Strike Rate Impact .

Brendon McCullum12
Brendon McCullum: Scored 44% of NZ’s total at a strike rate of approximately 146.

3. Richard Hadlee: 99 in 81 balls vs England, Christchurch, 1984

From 137 for 5 in the first innings, Richard Hadlee smashed 99 in just 81 balls. New Zealand were bowled out in 72.1 overs but not before they had scored 307. Hadlee’s strike rate of 122 was more than double of most of the other New Zealand batsmen. England were dismissed for 82 in 50.2 overs in their first innings and following on, for 93 in their second (in 51 overs) giving New Zealand victory by an innings. Hadlee scored a major proportion of his team’s runs at a strike rate much higher than the match norm (average strike rate of the match was 46) giving him a high Strike Rate Impact .

4. Mohammad Azharuddin: 182 in 197 balls vs England, Calcutta, 1993

Mohammad Azharuddin scored almost 50% of India’s runs (182 in 197 balls out of a total of 371) in the first innings. The next highest score was Tendulkar’s 50. While Azharuddin scored at a strike rate of 92, the average strike rate of the innings was just 50. Moreover, his individual score was more than the England team’s first innings’ total of 163 (in 100.1 overs). England were bowled out for 286 in their second innings. India went on to win by 8 wickets.

Azharudin
Mohammad Azharuddin: Scored almost 50% of India’s runs at a strike rate of 92 while the average strike rate of the innings was just 50.

5. Vivian Richards: 61 in 36 balls vs India, Jamaica, 1983

India, put in, were bowled out for 251 in 87.4 overs. West Indies replied with 254 in 116.3 overs. India could only manage 174 before being bowled out in 85.3 overs in the second innings. West Indies, set 172 for victory, were 65 for 2 when Richards joined Greenidge at the crease. He then smashed 61 in just 36 balls as West Indies went on to win by 4 wickets scoring 173 off just 25.2 overs in the fourth innings. Richards was the highest scorer of the innings and scored at a strike rate of 169 which was much higher than the combined average strike rate of the third and fourth innings of 52.

 

 

 

Nikhil Narain
Illustrations: Vasim Maner