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An all-rounder is a cricket player who regularly performs well at both batting and bowling. Although all bowlers must bat and quite a few batsmen do bowl occasionally, most players are skilled in only one of the two disciplines and are considered specialists. Some wicket-keepers have the skills of a specialist batsman and have been referred to as all-rounders, but the term wicketkeeper-batsman is more commonly applied to them. An all-rounder can be considered cricket's equivalent of a utility player.

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Concept

There is no precise qualification for a player to be considered an all-rounder and use of the term tends to be subjective. The generally accepted criterion is that a "genuine all-rounder" is someone whose batting or bowling skills, considered alone, would be good enough to win them a place in a first-class team. By this definition, a genuine all-rounder is quite rare and extremely valuable to a team as he effectively operates as two players.

Confusion sometimes arises when a specialist bowler performs well with the bat. For example, the great West Indies pace bowler Malcolm Marshall sometimes produced a good innings, but not often enough for him to be considered an all-rounder. Instead he would be called a "useful lower order batsman". Equally, a specialist batsmen may be termed a "useful change bowler" and a good example of this type is Allan Border who once took eleven wickets in a Test match in 1989 when conditions suited his occasionally used left arm spin[1].

One of the main constraints to becoming a recognised all-rounder is that batsmen and bowlers "peak" at different ages. Batsmen tend to reach their peak in their late twenties after their technique has matured through experience. Conversely, fast bowlers often peak in their early to mid twenties at the height of their physical prowess. Other bowlers, mostly spinners but also fast bowlers who can "swing" the ball, are most effective in their later careers.

Essentially, an all-rounder is better at bowling than batting or vice-versa. Very few are equally good at both and hardly any have been outstanding at both. Thus the terms "bowling all-rounder" and "batting all-rounder" have come into use.

One commonly used statistical rule of thumb is that a player's batting average (the higher the better) should be greater than his bowling average (the lower the better). Only three all-rounders have Test batting averages of more than 20 greater than their bowling average: Sobers, Kallis and Hammond.

Keith Miller had a good Test batting average of 36.97 and an outstanding bowling average of 22.97, so he would be termed a bowling all-rounder. Garfield Sobers had an outstanding Test batting average of 57.78 and a good bowling average of 34.03, so he would be termed a batting all-rounder. Closer to the ideal of a genuine all-rounder is Ian Botham who had averages of 33.34 (batting) and 28.40 (bowling), neither of which is outstanding. No all-rounder in history has achieved outstanding career averages as both batsman and bowler in Test cricket. Sobers is widely regarded as the "greatest-ever all-rounder"[2][3] but, as the figures show, even he was much better at one discipline than the other. However Sobers was described as a great batsman; and a very good bowler: his distinctive contribution was that he was able to bowl medium fast seam as well as wrist spin, having originally entered the West Indies team as a finger spinner. 90 out of the 100 judges of the 5 Wisden cricketers of the Century selected Sobers in their five picks.

An all-rounder who missed out on Test Cricket due to the apartheid era of the 1970's and 80's was the South African Clive Rice. His first class batting average is 40.95 and bowling average was 22.49. He won the "Silk Cut Challenge" event for all-rounders against Ian Botham and Richard Hadlee during the 1980's.

Fielding prowess

A further consideration when assessing a player's all-round ability is the standard of his fielding. Sobers, for example, was a very athletic field and a safe catcher. Frank Woolley is the only fielder to take 1000 catches in first-class cricket (i.e., excluding wicket-keepers). In addition, Woolley took over 2000 wickets at an average of less than 20 and only Jack Hobbs has scored more runs. [1][2][3]

Notable all-round feats

V E Walker of Middlesex, playing for All-England versus Surrey at The Oval on 21, 22 & 23 July 1859, took all ten wickets in the Surrey first innings and followed this by scoring 108 in the England second innings, having been the not out batsman in the first (20*). He took a further four wickets in Surrey’s second innings. All-England won by 392 runs.

On 15 August 1862, E M Grace carried his bat through the entire MCC innings, scoring 192 not out of a total of 344. Then, bowling underarm, he took all 10 wickets in the Kent first innings for 69 runs. However, this is not an official record as it was a 12-a-side game (though one of the Kent batsmen was injured).

The first player to perform the double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets in an English season was W G Grace in 1873. He scored 2139 runs at 71.30 and took 106 wickets at 12.94. Grace completed eight doubles to 1886 and it was not until 1882 that another player (C T Studd) accomplished the feat.[4]

In the 1906 English cricket season, George Herbert Hirst achieved the unique feat of scoring over 2000 runs and taking over 200 wickets. He scored 2385 runs including six centuries at 45.86 with a highest score of 169.[5] He took 208 wickets at 16.50 with a best analysis of 7/18.[6] In the same season, Hirst achieved another unique feat when he scored a century in both innings and took five wickets in both innings of the same match. Playing for Yorkshire versus Somerset at Bath, Hirst scored 111 and 117 not out; and took 6/70 and 5/45.[7][8]

George Giffen (1886, 1893 and 1896) and Warwick Armstrong (1905, 1909 and 1921) achieved the double in an English season three times, the most by members of touring teams.[9]

Alan Davidson was the first player to take ten wickets and score a hundred runs in a Test match. Playing for Australia versus West Indies at Brisbane in 1960-61, he took 5/135 and 6/87; and scored 44 and 80. He was playing throughout with a broken finger.

See also

References

  1. ^ http://www.cricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/63499.html
  2. ^ Benaud, p.119.
  3. ^ Trueman, p.294
  4. ^ Webber, p.180.
  5. ^ CricketArchive
  6. ^ CricketArchive
  7. ^ Webber, p.184.
  8. ^ CricketArchive – match scorecard. Retrieved on 26 November 2008.
  9. ^ Webber, p.180-181.

Cited sources

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