Propelling New Zealand to their first ever pole position in the ICC Test rankings is an incredible home run that witnessed six consecutive wins—the longest in their history—and an unbeaten streak in 17 Tests since an eight-wicket loss to South Africa in March, 2017. Kyle Jamieson, who made his debut against India last year, is justifiably in the limelight after his latest match-winning 11-wicket haul. Delivering promising pace and more than acceptable returns with the bat, Jamieson could be another addition to New Zealand’s long legacy of all-rounders. But he has still not played away from home.
Central to every team’s greatness is its invincibility at home. In fact, ascents to the summit of Test rankings are rarely achieved on the back of overseas triumphs. Australia have twice won 16 consecutive Tests (1999-2001 and 2005-2008), the most prolific streak by any team, and both those records featured 11 wins at home.
And more often than not, home streaks are shaped by batsmen who can single-handedly maroon the tourists with marathon innings.
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Kane Williamson, leader of the ICC Test batsmen rankings, has done something similar here. His scores in his last three Tests read 251, 129, 21 and 238. He has four double centuries to his name, all scored at home. Three of them came between February, 2019 and now, coinciding with New Zealand’s pristine home run.
It’s another thing that the doubles have come against Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, West Indies and Pakistan, teams that tend to struggle the most in New Zealand. Statistically, however, every century counts.
It inevitably raises the question: Who has been the best batsman at home in the last five years? Of the current top five nations (New Zealand, Australia, India, England and South Africa) in the ICC rankings, David Warner has scored 1819 runs (from 16 Tests), the most for an Australian at home, followed by Steve Smith with 1604 runs (18 Tests) but there is a contention that had it not been for the ban after the ball tampering scandal, they would have averaged more. Dean Elgar has accumulated more runs (1976) for South Africa in the same period but he has a far lower average (43.91) compared to Warner (75.79).
Similarly, Joe Root (2346 runs) has been England’s best batsman at home in the last five years but has a middling average (44.26). Williamson has more runs than all of the above, 2262 with an average of 68.54 in 24 Tests, but he is topped by Virat Kohli, with his phenomenal aggregate of 2499 runs in 22 Tests at an average of 86.17.
At the heart of this home supremacy is the batsmen’s ability to stick around and convert the big scores. Williamson (nine hundreds and eight fifties) and Warner (six hundreds and five fifties) have shown above-par conversion for batsmen of their league, scoring a hundred for every second fifty. But Kohli has been peerless in this category, having missed out on scoring a hundred on only three out of the 13 occasions he crossed the fifty-run mark at home in the last five years. Breaking down the India captain’s record even further, eight of Kohli’s 10 centuries came in wins.
That’s a winning percentage of 80, more than Williamson’s 66% (six out of nine centuries in winning cause).
Only Warner, with a winning percentage of 83.33 (five out of six centuries in winning cause) is marginally better than Kohli.
Kohli’s overall numbers are staggering, especially when you consider that the last Test he played at home was in November 2019. Between September 2016 and the pink-ball Test against Bangladesh, the only opponent he missed out on scoring even a fifty was Australia in the 2017 series. But Kohli took a heavy toll on every other bowling attack, be it quality teams like New Zealand, England and South Africa or inexperienced and depleted ones like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and West Indies. Six out of Kohli’s seven double centuries came between October 2016 and October 2019, coinciding with the time India were also the No 1 Test team.
Across generations, only Sir Don Bradman probably had that kind of dominance at home (overall 33 Tests in Australia, 18 centuries and 10 fifties).
Williamson, inarguably, joins the pantheon of the best Test batsmen playing right now, but Smith and Kohli continue to dominate that list. Compare the three on away runs for the same five-year period—the Kiwi captain averages 38.13 in 10 Tests with one century; Kohli averages 45.62 in 24 Tests with six hundreds and Smith shows that he doesn’t really care whether he is home or away with an average of 63.84 in 18 away Tests featuring eight hundreds.