How much does the altitude at which a cricket (or baseball) match is played affect the flight of the ball? If you’re only interested in the answer to that question, then skip ahead. But there is a reason I am particularly interested in this question, and it has to do with a freakish cricket match played in 2006.
Every sport has its fables and epics, and nothing attracts a story like an outlier. In statistics, an outlier is an event that is way out on its own, deviating significantly from the rest of the population. In cricket, for example, the primary statistic that measures how good a batter is is the batting average, defined as the average number of runs per dismissal. The details aren’t required here; it will suffice to say that an average of above 50 in test cricket marks out one of the greats. Below (top) is a plot of the batting averages of all those who have played test cricket.
We see few players with an average greater than 50, and even fewer above 60. And then comes the outlier, way off to the right – Donald Bradman, with a career average of 99.94. His other career statistics are similarly off-the-scale. The premier achievement for a batter in a match is to score a hundred runs in a single innings, a century. Bradman did it 29 times in his career of 80 innings. Of the 7 batters who have scored as many or more centuries, all required at least twice as many innings. Cricket is one of the few sports in which the question “who was the greatest?” attracts little debate.
Cricket has also seen freakish matches. (more…)