The 4th innings of a Test match, is indeed the most challenging for a batsman.
For, there is the mounting pressure of a target to be chased, it would typically be the time where the cracks in the track start to open up, and on the fourth or the fifth day wicket, the ball starts spitting venom at the batsman.
How else do you explain the fact that the highest successful run chase in the history of Test cricket is only 418?
How else do you explain the fact that there has not been a single triple hundred scored in the fourth innings of a Test match?
In such a challenging period of a Test match, who are the batsmen who have stood tall? Who can rightfully claim to be the greatest batsman in the 4th innings of a Test match?
What numbers portray
In this table, let us look at the 10 batsmen who average the most in the fourth innings of a Test match.
|Player Name||Innings||Runs||Average in 4th Innings||100s in 4th Innings|
|Sir Jack Hobbs||23||979||57.59||2|
From the above table, we can see that Don Bradman towers over the other batsmen in terms of the batting average in the 4th innings of a Test.
Also, what is commendable is the fact that both Geoffrey Boycott and Sunil Gavaskar average above 58 in spite of playing more than twice the number of innings played by Bradman.
Gavaskar also has the most number of hundreds in the 4th innings of a Test, and is in fact the only batsman, alongside Gordon Greenidge to score a double century in the 4th innings of a Test.
How other greats fare?
Now, we shall have a look the top 5 highest run scorers in the history of Test match cricket and analyse their records in the 4th innings of a Test match.
The table below shows the overall Test records of the Top 5 highest run scorers in Test cricket history
Now, let us go ahead and analyse the records of these batting legends in the fourth innings of a Test match.
From the two tables, we can see that the averages of all the five batsmen in the 4th innings of a Test match is lesser than their career averages.
And, Tendulkar and Cook do not even average 40 in the 4th inning of a Test match, and Dravid and Kallis have just one solitary hundred in the 4th inning of a Test.
In fact, Ponting is the only batsman who averages a respectable 50.41 among the five batting legends and also the only batsman who has an average of above 50 in the 4th innings of a Test.
Even though Tendulkar has the most runs in the 4th innings of a Test, his average in the 4th innings of a Test is nearly 17 points below his career average.
Sunil Gavaskar or Don Bradman
Now, the toss up for the greatest batsman in the 4th innings of a Test is between Sunil Gavaskar and Don Bradman.
While on the face of it, it does seem that Bradman has the higher average between the two, and that he should be given the crown, deeper analysis reveals that Gavaskar also has certain things going for him.
Gavaskar has played more than twice the number of innings that Bradman did in the 4th innings of a Test, and has also scored nearly twice the amount of runs.
Bradman’s high average in the 4th inning of a Test is due to the fact that he was not out in 5 of the 15 innings that he played in the 4th innings of a Test.
Also, Bradman’s average in the 4th innings of a Test is 22 points below his famed career average of 99.94.
On the other hand, Gavaskar averages 51.12 in his Test career.
But in the 4th innings, the Indian batting maestro averages 58.25, suggesting that he upped his game when confronted with the challenge.
Sunil Gavaskar: The Batsman of the 4th Innings
With a run tally of 1398 runs from 33 innings at a colossal average of 58.25, including a match saving 221 in the fourth innings against England, Sunil Gavaskar edges out Don Bradman and also every other batsman to rightly claim the crown of the greatest batsman in the 4th innings of a Test.
His run tally is just 227 runs short of all time leading run scorer Sachin Tendulkar in the 4th innings, despite playing 27 innings lesser than Tendulkar.
Sunil Gavaskar stood tall between India and defeat on several occasions in his illustrious 16 year Test career, and can rightfully claim to be the greatest Test batsman in the 4th innings of a Test.