Run Master: but would South Africa's Jacques Kallis make our final top 10 were his career to end tomorrow?
Who are the best Test-match batsmen ever in the history of the game from a purely statistical point of view and which players currently playing are able to stand toe to toe with those past legends when it comes to matching those achievements?
Well, that is what we are going to investigate here by counting down the top 10 batsmen in terms of averages in Test cricket, with there being a minimum requirement of 2,000 runs scored in a career for entry into this select band of players.
And with the game today supposedly that much easier for batsmen, what with there being covered pitches, greater protection, smaller boundaries, bigger bats and generally less out-and-out fast bowling to face, we will end with a slide detailing those batters still currently playing who would have also made the final top 10 had their careers ended tomorrow to judge whether that is actually the case or not.
A fearsome and intimidating batsman at the very height of his powers, the Bajan formed part of the now legendary three Ws during a glittering Test career with West Indies. During this time, he racked up 15 hundreds and an average that leaves him in this all-time top 10 list.
Surrey opener who formed a partnership at the top of the order for England alongside Herbert Sutcliffe that has rarely been bettered since, with The Master’s sheer love of run scoring meaning he still remains to this day the oldest man to have ever made a Test match ton, aged 46 in 1928-29.
Without doubt the greatest all-rounder the game has ever seen, however, it is testimony to the Bajan’s tremendous skills as a batsman that he finds himself at No 8 on this list. Sobers set the world record for the highest score in Test cricket of 365 against Pakistan in 1968, which stood until compatriot Brian Lara broke it in 1994.
One of the legendary three Ws, the attacking West Indian batsman was an absolute run machine during his 10-year Test career, with the highlight being a sensational world-record run of five Test centuries in a row made against India, which would have been six but for a highly contentious run-out decision in Madras.
Considered by many experts and judges alike to be England’s best-ever batsman, even if his final career average left him just short of both compatriots Sutcliffe and Barrington on the list.
In fact, the Gloucestershire middle-order batter is generally ranked alongside WG Grace, Jack Hobbs and Don Bradman as being one of the four greatest batsman the game has ever seen.
If the cap fits: a commemorative Ken Barrington cap
A jovial and larger-than-life character whose final Test average of nearly 60 needs to be taken into context in that it came from 82 Tests, unlike some of his rivals’ far smaller sample sizes.
And not only that, but the Englishman also completely remodelled his game after being dropped early on in his Test career so as to remove all risk, instead reinventing himself as a modern-day Chris Tavare in the process.
Sutcliffe formed perhaps the most famous and successful opening partnership in the history of Test cricket with Hobbs; the Yorkshireman went on to finish his career with the highest batting average ever recorded by an Englishman.
Eye-catching West Indian batsman whose career spanned both sides of the Second World War and whose admirers labelled him “the black Bradman”.
Eight of his 10 Test tons came against England, with Len Hutton claiming that he had never seen a batsman play the ball later than Headley, whose style and panache at the wicket were both a precursor to the some of the great modern batsmen to come from the Caribbean.
Brilliant and elegant left-handed South African batsman in the 60s whose exciting Test career was sadly brought to a premature end by the Apartheid era, so one will never know just how it would have panned out and whether he would have been able to sustain such an impressive average over time.
No prizes for guessing who stands at the top of the pile, the Don, whose final career average soars so far above those of his nearest challengers, it almost defies logic.
And to think that the great Australian needed just four runs from his final-ever Test match innings against England at the Oval in 1948 to finish with an average of exactly 100, only to miss a googly from Eric Hollies and be bowled for a two-ball duck.
Only one player currently still playing would make this top 10 were his career to end tomorrow, and that is Sri Lanka’s occasional wicketkeeper-captain and brilliant No. 3 batsman, who would now be ranked No. 9 on this list with a remarkably high average of nearly 57.
However, it will be intriguing to see just where the left-hander does actually end up when he eventually decides to call it quits?
Meanwhile, others in contention are South Africa’s Jacques Kallis (55.44), Hashim Amla (52.32) and AB de Villiers (51.44), Australia’s Michael Clarke (52.58), West Indies’ Shivnarine Chanderpaul (51.58) and Pakistan’s Younis Khan (51.17).