Ellis: Ten boom or bust batters

There are relentlessly consistent batsmen – Joe Root springs to mind – and then there are those that have more ups and down than a last day pitch. Here are C365’s top 10 boom or bust batters, past and present..

JP DUMINY (South Africa): Duminy is the archetypal boom or bust player

JP enjoyed a blistering start to his Test career with 166 at the MCG in 2008, soon followed by seven single figure scores in ten innings. A two-year hiatus followed but he returned with an unbeaten century at Wellington in 2012, then again failed to back it up. His recent 141 at Perth last month looked like it was another signal to kick on, but this was followed by three more failures.

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MARVAN ATAPATTU (Sri Lanka):

“Marvellous” Marvan Atapattu went into retirement with reputation intact and a decent Test average of 39. After his first six Test innings, he had compiled the grand total of one run. He possesses an unwanted record for an opener of 22 career Test match ducks and four pairs.

In the early stages of his career, the joke around was: “We can’t remember his face, because we hardly get to see him at the crease.” Atapattu showed no little skill to score six double centuries during the rest of a career, a feat only bettered by Don Bradman, Wally Hammond and Brian Lara.

IAN BOTHAM (England): When the great Beefy scored a 100yduring the opening Ashes Test in Brisbane in 1986, it seemed like he would feast on he weaknesses of his favourite opposition again. It proved to be his last Test century. The hero of the ‘81 series against the Aussies may have scored 149 at Headingley and 118 at Edgbaston, but also registered six scores of between 0 and 3 in the same summer. Beefy’s remaining 16 games after the 86/7 Ashes were spread over six years of injury and selectorial whimsy, bringing just one 50.

Botham admitted: “Retiring for good was not difficult. I was no longer capable of achieving the standards set myself and there was no light at the end of the tunnel.”

MATHEW SINCLAIR (New Zealand): The perennial problem of finding a consistent Kiwi top-order batsman is summed up perfectly by the case of Mathew Sinclair. Sinclair started with a double at Wellington against the West Indies in 1999 but then followed up with four single figure scores in the next two matches. Having gone 12 innings without a 50, he “falsely” boosted the average again with a 150 at Port Elizabeth in December 2000 and another unbeaten double at Christchurch against Pakistan four months later. The next 34 innings spread over nine years brought a paltry return of three fifties, giving a final Test average of 32.

SHAHID AFRIDI (Pakistan): “Boom Boom” lived up to the name in his 48 Test innings, blazing merrily away in the hope that a rambunctious Twenty20 approach might just extend beyond a cameo. Afridi did manage five hundreds, including 156 at Faisalabad against India which involved six sixes and twenty fours at a strike rate of 121 and 107 at Lahore at a strike rate of 128. Such hitting proved unsustainable, however, and in half of those innings he never made it past 20.

With my temperament I can’t play Test cricket,” said Afridi after he had slogged straight to midwicket in his last Test against Australia at Lord’s in 2010. He gave up the captaincy and retired immediately afterwards.

Boom or Bust

SHAUN MARSH (Australia) : Marsh started with a bang in Sri Lanka with 141 and 81 but was then bamboozled by Indian spin in 2011 returning 17 runs in 6 innings. After two years in exile, he scored 148 at Centurion and then, typically, followed up with a pair at Port Elizabeth. Being thrown into the Nottingham Test carnage against Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad in 2015 was cruelty personified as he returned scores of 0 and 2. The last three Tests have hinted at more reliability with scores of 182, 130 and 63 and his Test average has moved into the 40s. Shame his little brother is going the other way….

KRAIGG BRATHWAITE (West Indies): Brathwaite’s recent epic efforts at Sharjah in October – where he carried his bat for 142 and 60 – has exaggerated his hit and miss efforts further in terms of run-scoring . He made three ducks in each of his first three Test matches. In his opening seven Tests he scored an aggregate of 303 runs in the first innings and 46 runs in the second. That’s more uneven than the bounce at Sabina Park..

CHRIS GAYLE (West Indies): Gayle has said: “The life I try to live is a carefree life. It’s like you don’t care but you do care.” That’s how the statistics pan out, with 48 of his 103 Test matches coming in at under an aggregate of 50 runs with some whoppers in between, like the 204 v New Zealand in 2002, 317 against South Africa at St John’s in 2005, 197 at Napier in 2008 and the 333 at Galle in 2010.

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BRENDON MCCULLUM (New Zealand): Kevin Pietersen once remarked: “I’m not scared of getting out. I don’t fear failure” This same philosophy appeared to be behind McCullum’s approach to batting. In the 2015 World Cup final he played in the same manner that had destroyed previous opposition, but was out third ball to the Australians. So be it. In his final Test match, he smashed the fastest ever Test hundred off 54 balls against the same opposition. The Kiwi skipper truly lived and died by the sword.

BEN STOKES (England) Stokes has a batting average around the mid thirties and the volatility of the performances throw a similar parallel to Beefy’s career. There was the 120 at Perth in his second match in 2013, soon followed by three consecutive ducks at home against a modest Indian attack. Two crunching 50s against Australia in the home series last year were then nullified by a slump of seven Tests averaging eleven before the blazing 258 at Cape Town.

By Tim Ellis