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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 June, 2004, 16:00 GMT 17:00 UK
Batting's new golden age
By Scott Heinrich

Batting is changing. Or more to the point, batsmen are changing.

The current decade is witness to a scoring revolution that is threatening to change the landscape of cricket forever.

The 'noughties' Test batsman is an insatiable beast, responsible for a proliferation of massive scores.

Since the turn of the century, 47 scores of 200 plus have been achieved in 222 Tests, or one in every 4.7 matches.

Compare that to 42 in 330 Tests in the 1990s, and it suggests that a new golden age of batting is upon us.

Not since the 1930s, when Don Bradman and Wally Hammond ensured a 'double' would be struck every three Tests, has it been such a good time to bat.

Brian Lara, of course, reclaimed his Test record just six months after Matthew Hayden took it from him, by plundering 400 against England in Antigua.

In years gone by, Ramnaresh Sarwan's unbeaten 261 not out against Bangladesh earlier this week would have been a knock with which spectators could regale their grand-children.

In the current climate, it is just another statistic.

DOUBLE TONS SINCE JAN 2000
India's Rahul Dravid
4 - Dravid (Ind), Lara (WI), Atapattu (SL)
3 - Ponting (Aus), Smith (SA)
2 - Hayden & Langer (Aus), Sangakkara (SL), Tendulkar (Ind), Youhana (Pak)

"You'd have to think that attacks have weakened," former England captain and star batsman Mike Gatting told BBC Sport.

"When you think of the 70s and 80s, the West Indies, India, Australia, Pakistan and India - they all had very good attacks.

"Over the past decade, since Pakistan and the Windies lost their attack there has only really been Australia to speak of.

"But I think these things tend to go in cycles. At the moment there are more great batters around than great bowlers.

"That's the sort of conclusion you'd have to come to."

Centuries have has been synonymous with individual success since Test cricket's inception in 1877, and forever will be.

Their frequency has altered little over time.

In the last 75 years, just short of two hundreds have been scored on average in each Test, with 1.6 in the 1950s the lowest and 1.96 in the 30s and 70s the highest.

The current decade fits somewhere at the higher end of the scale. But if, as Gatting points out, present attacks are significantly weaker, shouldn't the figure be through the roof?

200s IN THE 2000s - THE TABLE
India - 9 scored, 6 conceded in 44 Tests
Australia - 8 scored, 3 conceded in 49 Tests
Sri Lanka - 8 scored, 3 conceded in 45 Tests
West Indies - 7 scored, 2 conceded in 57 Tests
South Africa - 6 scored, 3 conceded in 50 Tests
New Zealand - 3 scored, 5 conceded in 36 Tests
Pakistan - 3 scored, 6 conceded in 41 Tests
England - 2 scored, 7 conceded in 58 Tests
Zimbabwe - 1 scored, 6 conceded in 36 Tests
Bangladesh - 0 scored, 6 conceded in 30 Tests

There must be other factors at work here. The batsmen of today are no longer satisfied with scores in the low-100s. In an era of ultra-professionalism, the team always requires more.

And what of the pace of the game? What of the emergence of poorer nations like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe? What of one-day cricket's influence and the batsman-friendly rules which govern it?

"If someone bats for five hours these days, you'd expect them to be in the high-100s," Gatting adds.

"Back in the 70s and 80s, unless you were from the West Indies you would never have been near that kind of score.

"But I'm not convinced one-day cricket is the reason.

"Bowlers should have been able to adapt their game as well, like bowling in the block-hole and setting defensive fields.

"I couldn't say it's easier to bat now, or that batsmen are better today than in years gone by.

"But it's sad and disappointing to see teams like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh struggling.

"That's obviously where a lot of the runs are coming from. You can't lay it totally at their door, but it does give other sides the opportunity for cheap runs."

That may be the case, but no attack - India and Australia included - has been exempt from the ferocious attack launched by the willow this decade.

The opportunity, it seems, will go on knocking for some time to come.




SEE ALSO
Sri Lanka pile on the runs
16 May 04 |  Cricket
Lara sets Test record
12 Apr 04 |  England
Sehwag inspires India
29 Mar 04 |  Cricket
Hayden earns place in history
10 Oct 03 |  Cricket
England bow to Smith
01 Aug 03 |  Eng v SA 2003
Fleming denies himself record
26 Apr 03 |  Cricket


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