Cricket Statistics: Kumar Sangakkara Getting Better with Age in Vintage 2014

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Cricket Statistics: Kumar Sangakkara Getting Better with Age in Vintage 2014
Eranga Jayawardena/Associated Press

Kumar Sangakkara continued his blistering run of form on Friday, cruising to an unbeaten 102 against Pakistan in Galle to leave Sri Lanka at 252-2 when rain stopped play on Day 3 of the first Test.

After Younis Khan's 177 had steered the visitors away from early trouble and into a strong position, the graceful Sangakkara again proved to be his side's key man, reaching his 10th century against Pakistan in just 20 Tests—the fifth-highest number of triple-figure scores against one opponent in history. 

Remarkably, the esteemed left-hander continues to pile on the runs, despite being in—theoretically, at least—the twilight years of his glittering career. 

Already in 2014, the 36-year-old has struck hundreds against Bangladesh (319 and 105), England (147) and now Pakistan (102 not out), having also reached a pair of fifties during Sri Lanka's recent series against South Africa. 

Indeed, a quick look at Sangakkara's record for the current calendar year leaves one wondering how long the sixth-highest run-scorer in Test history can continue in this manner.

Kumar Sangakkara's Test Record in 2014
Mat Runs HS Ave 100s 50s
9 1210 319 86.42 4 7

ESPN Cricinfo

Perhaps what's most impressive is that the Sri Lankan currently sits as the No. 1 batsman in Test cricket in 2014 for both total runs and batting average, even after difficult series against England and the Proteas. 

And it's not as though Sangakkara has been without challengers: England's Joe Root and Gary Ballance have continued to impress, Angelo Mathews has gone to another level as captain, Kane Williamson has been outstanding for New Zealand, Brendon McCullum struck an unforgettable triple-hundred, Steve Smith's emergence has kept snowballing and Mahela Jayawardene has proved as timeless as his trusty teammate.

But with characteristic elegance, Sangakkara has quietly outperformed them all. 

Leading Test Run-Scorers in 2014
Player Mat Runs HS Ave 100s 50s
Kumar Sangakkara 9 1210 319 86.42 4 7
Mahela Jayawardene 9 915 203* 70.38 3 4
Angelo Mathews 9 846 160 76.90 2 5
Kaushal Silva 9 711 139 44.43 1 5
Gary Ballance 7 665 156 60.45 3 2
Brendon McCullum 5 622 302 62.20 2 0
Joe Root 6 599 200* 85.57 2 2
Kane Williamson 5 583 161* 64.77 3 1
David Warner 4 575 145 71.87 3 2
AB de Villiers 5 462 116 46.20 1 2

ESPN Cricinfo

Eranga Jayawardena/Associated Press

References of Sangakkara being something of a fine wine may, of course, be cliche, but they are nonetheless accurate.

Since making his Test debut 14 years ago in 2000, the left-hander's batting record has grown more and more formidable as the years have passed. 

Although his career average hovers around an imposing 58, the Sri Lankan's statistics since passing the age of 35 are nothing short of extraordinary.

Kumar Sangakkara: Getting Better with Age
Age Mat Runs HS Ave 100s 50s
22 - 24 24 1717 230 49.05 4 8
25 - 29 43 3775 287 57.19 10 14
30 - 34 44 4380 219 60.00 16 17
35+ 16 1895 319 72.88 7 11

ESPN Cricinfo

To put that average of 72.88 since his 35th birthday into perspective, only the incomparable Sir Donald Bradman has ever been better with the bat after reaching the same point on the timeline. 

Superior in that regard to names such as Tendulkar, Kallis, Ponting, Sobers, Lara, Border, Waugh, Gavaskar and Pollock, Sangakkara is continuing to ascend into rarefied air. 

Highest Test Averages with 1000+ Runs After 35 Years of Age
Player Mat Runs HS Ave 100s 50s
Sir Donald Bradman 15 1903 234 105.72 8 5
Kumar Sangakkara 16 1895 319 72.88 7 11
Eddie Paynter 13 1249 243 69.38 4 4
Shivnarine Chanderpaul 35 2838 203* 61.69 8 11
Gary Kirsten 14 1231 137 61.55 5 6
Imran Khan 18 1037 136 61.00 2 7
Ken Barrington 21 1731 148 59.68 6 8
Bruce Mitchell 10 1072 189* 59.55 3 6
Jacques Kallis 26 2163 224 56.92 10 5
Sir Jack Hobbs 33 2945 211 56.63 10 12

ESPN Cricinfo

Of course, the veteran has been particularly brutal on Pakistan during his Test career; Misbah-ul-Haq's men likely feeling that Groundhog Day grips their existence when faced with the relentless Sri Lankan.

The minnows of Test cricket—Zimbabwe and Bangladesh—have also copped their fair share from Sangakkara.

Yet, only serving to enhance the 36-year-old's reputation further is that he averages more than 40 against every opponent in the game.

Kumar Sangakkara's Test Record by Opponent
Opponent Mat Runs HS Ave 100s 50s
Australia 11 878 192 43.90 1 7
Bangladesh 15 1816 319 95.57 7 7
England 22 1568 152 40.20 3 9
India 15 1257 219 57.13 5 2
New Zealand 10 672 156* 48.00 3 2
Pakistan 20 2588 230 83.48 10 10
South Africa 17 1534 287 47.93 3 7
West Indies 12 918 157* 54.00 3 5
Zimbabwe 5 536 270 89.33 2 1

ESPN Cricinfo

The question now facing Sangakkara is: How much heavy lifting can he continue to do for his nation, given that his longtime companion Mahela Jayawardene is preparing to exit the international arena? 

Eranga Jayawardena/Associated Press

With the former captain set to play his final Test in Colombo next week, the burden shouldered by the left-hander will only increase. 

Most Test Runs as a Partnership
Partnership Inns Runs High Ave 100s 50s
Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar 143 6920 249 50.51 20 29
Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes 148 6482 298 47.31 16 26
Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara 118 6411 624 56.73 18 27
Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer 122 6081 255 51.53 14 28
Alastair Cook, Andrew Strauss 132 5253 229 40.40 14 21
Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting 76 4765 272 67.11 16 22
Marvan Atapattu, Sanath Jayasuriya 122 4533 335 39.41 9 24
Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag 87 4412 233 52.52 11 25
Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar 71 4173 281 61.36 12 16
Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman 86 4065 376 51.45 12 14

ESPN Cricinfo

In Jayawardene's absence, Mathews will need to maintain his newly discovered level, Kaushal Silva's second coming must keep going, Kusal Perera will need to make the next jump and Kithuruwan Vithanage must build on his solid start.

But the bulk of the scoring will still likely have to come from Sangakkara.

Based on the evidence of 2014 and on a record that only seems to become more impressive by the year, that shouldn't be a problem. 

 

All statistics courtesy of ESPN Cricinfo.

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