Cricket is one sport where statistics, and averages in particular, count for everything, and Australian Test captain Ricky Ponting is edging ever so close to a batting average that will enable him to claim second place on cricket’s Test batting averages table.

But the way another member of the Australian team is batting, it is a record Ponting will have to continue in top form to hold! If the benchmark of ten Tests were accepted, Mike Hussey would already have claimed second place behind the greatest of them all.

But Hussey has only played 12 Tests (for 20 innings) and he will need to more than double that to have his average measured against the greats of cricket. His current average is a staggering 76.56, and while it will no doubt drop, he is on target for a career average that is 50+ and that puts him alongside Allan Border, Greg Chappell and Steve Waugh.

Back to Ricky Ponting. His average stands at 59.52, having risen a full 1.3 runs as a result of his First Test scores.

He currently ranks behind the great Graham Pollock (South Africa) on 60.97, George Headley (West Indies) on 60.83 and England’s Herb Sutcliffe on 60.73.

On current form, the Australian captain will pass all three sometime during this series. And, given that he will only turn 32 on December 19, his career is likely to run for another four or five years, so there is no reason why he can’t end his career with an average well into the 60s.

What is also interesting is how much his average has improved since he met his wife, Rianna (and he regularly gives her a large slice of the credit for his success), and, more significantly, since he assumed the One Day captaincy in 2002 and the Test captaincy in 2004.

The mantle of the captaincy, sometimes regarded as the “second most important job in Australia”, has clearly not detracted from his batting. Prior to being Test captain his average was 55.97; since it has been 67.22.

Another century in Adelaide in the Test starting tomorrow, or even a couple of high scores, will lift his average above 60. By comparison, Sir Garfield Sobers, widely regarded as the finest runs scorer of the post-Bradman era, had a Test average of 57.78.

But there is one more statistic that highlights Ponting’s greatness. During the First Test he equalled Steve Waugh’s number of Test centuries – 32. Waugh achieved his record in 168 tests and 260 innings. Ponting did so in just 106 tests and 176 innings.

What’s more, Ponting did it batting for almost his whole career at number three, arguably the most important position in a batting lineup.

Peter Fray

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