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Is Warner the luckiest batsman ever? Twitter thread compiles list of close shaves

Is David Warner The Luckiest Batsman In History?
Ben Gardner by Ben Gardner
@Ben_Wisden 2 minute read

Is David Warner the luckiest batsman in history, as one Twitter thread suggests? Ben Gardner crunches the numbers.

Let’s start by saying that David Warner is a brilliant batsman. One of the few to be legitimately world class in Test, ODI and T20 cricket, he has an outside claim to being the greatest all-format batsman of his time. It’s as a Test opener where he has arguably stood out most, as one of only a handful of batsmen in history to succeed consistently while trying to attack the new ball. Only Ricky Ponting has more hundreds for Australia in international cricket.

All of that is true, but a Twitter thread from @absycric asks if it might also be true that Warner is the luckiest batsman there has ever been.

The thread lists several fortuitous reprieves for the Aussie opener, including seven occasions on which he has been called back after being dismissed off a no-ball. Now, in a lengthy career, you would expect a few slices of fortune, so we crunched the numbers to figure out if Warner has actually been luckier than you would expect. Bear with us, because it’s about to get mathematical.

First we need to figure out how likely any single delivery is to be a no ball. Since the start of 2010, there have been 1,838,604 balls bowled in men’s international cricket, and 6,759 no balls called in that time, meaning roughly one in every 272 deliveries is a no ball. This equates to about two per ODI or day of Test cricket.

The thread doesn’t claim to be exhaustive, but even seven no-ball overturns would appear significant. Warner has been dismissed 467 times in Test, ODI, T20I and IPL cricket. By the above calculation, you would expect one in every 272 wicket-taking deliveries to be overturned due to a no-ball. However, Warner has been given out at least 474 times, adding his 467 dismissals to his seven or more overturns, and at least seven of those have been overturned.

So Warner has survived on at least one in every 69 occasions on which he has been ‘dismissed’, making him nearly four times as lucky as you would expect.

Perhaps there are explanations here. Warner is a pugnacious, combative batsman who invites his opponents to strain every sinew in an attempt to get him out before he wreaks further damage. Could he, in reality, be earning some of these no-balls by virtue of the psychological impact he has on opposition bowlers?

A more prosaic, but also more likely explanation is that the actual rate of bowlers overstepping is much higher than one in every 272 deliveries. Until recently, when the TV umpire started checking every delivery for infringement off the field, oversteps would often go unpunished until they resulted in a wicket, meaning that the chance of a wicket-taking delivery being called a no ball was actually higher than that of a non-wicket-taking delivery.

Still, there’s little explaining away Warner’s other lucky escapes, with the thread also listing three occasions on which the Australian survived despite the ball hitting his stumps, with the bails staying in place. These include one instance of the ball brushing the stumps when bowled by a quick bowler without Warner having struck it first. There are, unfortunately, no stats which can help work out how rare this event is, but it feels pretty unlikely.

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