Adam Voges © Getty Images
Is Adam Voges really as good as his numbers suggest? © Getty Images

Adam Voges is only the second batsman in the history of Test cricket with a minimum of 1,000 runs to average more than 90. He is behind only Don Bradman, a figure so legendary that his batting average of ‘99.94’ is essentially a part of cricketing lexicon. Bradman played for 20 years from 1928 to 1948. It has been nearly seven decades, but few have made it to the 1,000-run club with an average in excess of 90. Before Voges the closest anyone had got to even remotely challenging The Don’s batting average in recent times was a man they called Mr Cricket, but the height of Michael Hussey’s post 1,000-run average was 86.33, a far cry away from 99.94. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: New Zealand vs Australia, 2nd Test at Christchurch

At present Voges is not only in the vicinity of Bradman — he averages 94.78 at the time of writing — he has a realistic chance of going past him in the near future. The advent of Voges has pushed no less a batsman than Wally Hammond, The Don’s biggest rival (if there was one), out of the top 10 batting averages in Test history. To put that in perspective, batsmen not in the top 10 include Garry Sobers, Jack Hobbs, Len Hutton, Kumar Sangakkara, Jacques Kallis, Sachin Tendulkar, and Brian Lara, among others. READ: Adam Voges briefly betters Sir Don Bradman Test average of 99.94

Voges has batted in 20 innings, so the sample size is not as tiny as seems (it is certainly more than Andy Ganteaume’s). His average has been helped by the fact that he has remained unbeaten in six of these innings. He has also scored two big double-centuries, further enhancing his reputation. READ: Adam Voges surpasses Don Bradman, Sachin Tendulkar

Below is the list of the top 20 batsmen in Test history by batting average with a cut-off of 1,000 runs:

Name

Country

Period

M

I

NO

R

HS

Ave

100s

50s

Don Bradman

Australia

1928-1948

52

80

10

6996

334

99.94

29

13

Adam Voges

Australia

2015-2016

15

20

6

1327

269*

94.78

5

4

Sid Barnes

Australia

1938-1948

13

19

2

1072

234

63.05

3

5

Graeme Pollock

South Africa

1963-1970

23

41

4

2256

274

60.97

7

11

George Headley

West Indies

1930-1954

22

40

4

2190

270*

60.83

10

5

Herbert Sutcliffe

England

1924-1935

54

84

9

4555

194

60.73

16

23

Steven Smith

Australia

2010-2016

41

74

10

3799

215

59.35

14

15

Eddie Paynter

England

1931-1939

20

31

5

1540

243

59.23

4

7

Ken Barrington

England

1955-1968

82

131

15

6806

256

58.67

20

35

Everton Weekes

West Indies

1948-1958

48

81

5

4455

207

58.61

15

19

Wally Hammond

England

1927-1947

85

140

16

7249

336*

58.45

22

24

Garry Sobers

West Indies

1954-1974

93

160

21

8032

365*

57.78

26

30

Kumar Sangakkara

Sri Lanka

2000-2015

134

233

17

12400

319

57.4

38

52

Jack Hobbs

England

1908-1930

61

102

7

5410

211

56.94

15

28

Clyde Walcott

West Indies

1948-1960

44

74

7

3798

220

56.68

15

14

Len Hutton

England

1937-1955

79

138

15

6971

364

56.67

19

33

Mominul Haque

Bangladesh

2013-2015

17

30

4

1456

181

56.00

4

9

Jacques Kallis

South Africa, ICC

1995-2013

166

280

40

13289

224

55.37

45

58

Joe Root

England

2012-2016

39

72

10

3406

200*

54.93

9

19

Charlie Davis

West Indies

1968-1973

15

29

5

1301

183

54.20

4

4

Now let us look closely at Voges. He has played 15 Tests, five each against West Indies, New Zealand, and England. A break-up of his runs tell an interesting tale:

Opposition

M

I

NO

R

HS

Ave

100s

50s

England

5

8

1

201

76

28.71

0

2

New Zealand

5

8

2

584

239

97.33

2

2

West Indies

5

4

3

542

269*

542.00

3

0

The immediate stat that stands out is the inhuman average of 542 (no, that is not a typographical error, there is no misplaced dot anywhere) against West Indies, by far the weakest of the top Test nations in the world. He has scored three centuries in four innings against them, including his highest score of 269 not out. He has been dismissed by the West Indians just once, which explains the gargantuan average. READ: Adam Voges vindicates Australia’s faith in seasoned campaigners for Test cricket

He has also been prolific against New Zealand, averaging a superb 97.33 against them with one innings still to go in the ongoing Test. He has scored two centuries and two fifties in eight innings, which includes his second Test double ton. 

However, it is against England that Voges’ batting average crashes to human levels. He averages less than 30 against the arch-rivals, which is a massive departure from his usual standards. He struggled in The Ashes 2015 on surfaces where Steven Smith, Chris Rogers, and David Warner did well. READ: Adam Voges displays batting prowess, and how!

This begs the question of whether or not Voges is actually as good as his numbers suggest. West Indies are without doubt the weakest that they have ever been in their Test history. A bowling attack comprising of Jason Holder, Jerome Taylor, Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, and Jomel Warrican is not likely to give an ‘A’ side nightmares, much less Test cricketers. READ: Test cricket records: The “oldest” to everything

Also bear in mind that barring his top class 130 not out on debut, Voges rarely succeeded when those around him failed; when he scored 269 not out at Hobart he had Joe Burns (33) and David Warner (64) softening the bowling and Shaun Marsh (182) giving him company. Then when he scored 106 not out at MCG his was the fourth century of the innings. READ: Adam Voges: Oldest to score a century on Test debut

Likewise he had Usman Khawaja (140) and Steven Smith (71) for company when he scored 239 — and let us not forget he was bowled off a no-ball that wasn’t early in his innings — against New Zealand at Wellington. When he scored 83 not out against New Zealand at The Gabba it was after centuries from Warner and Khawaja, a fifty from Burns, and a 48 from Smith. When he scored 119 against New Zealand at Perth Smith scored 138 at the other end.  This is not a criticism of Voges, merely a point illustrating the fact that he has usually succeeded when Australia were already doing well. The one time he missed out on a run-fest was at Lord’s, when he scored 25 out of the team score of 566 for 8. READ: Brendon McCullum’s 5 fastest international centuries

On the other hand, when Australia were bowled out for 136 and 265 at Edgbaston Voges contributed 16 and 0. He was dismissed for 1 at Trent Bridge when Australia infamously crashed to 60 all out. At Cardiff he made 31 and 1 when even Mitchell Johnson scored 77. On a seaming Adelaide wicket in the Day-Night Test he scored only 13 and 28.

There is no doubt that Voges is an excellent batsman who is making complete use of the opportunities he has got. Whether or not he deserves to be No. 2 in the list of top averages in Test history does not matter. The fact remains that he is. The question is whether he can sustain it when Australia take on Pakistan and South Africa at home and more importantly when they tour India.

(Shiamak Unwalla, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek who loves cricket more than cricketers. His Twitter handle is @ShiamakUnwalla)