Boland by the numbers: How cult hero’s average is making the legend

Scott Boland is not your average bowler. Nothing about him is average. Not even his bowling average.

It took 20 years of unrivalled excellence for Don Bradman to be defined by his batting average of 99.94. For Boland, it has taken only a few games for fans to associate him with his bowling equivalent.

Scott Boland’s stunning bowling average is capturing the imagination of his teammates as well.Credit:Getty Images

If a minimum of 25 wickets is used as a qualifier, only England’s George Lohmann, whose 112 wickets from 1886-96 came at 10.75 apiece, has a lower mark than Boland’s 12.21.

His average is both rare and in rarefied air. To say he is among lofty company would not be right. Some of the game’s greatest bowlers average double Boland.

If he was not to add to his six Tests, which fans sincerely hope is not the case, future generations of cricket lovers looking through the game’s records will scratch their heads at how a bowler with such numbers played so few games.

Their answer will come as they scan down the averages list and reach the names of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, whose careers have largely overlapped Boland’s.

Boland’s cult hero status was borne from a rapid rise 11 years in the making. His bowling average is contributing to the legend of the one-time state battler.

The Age and the Herald have charted his average after each of his 28 wickets. Starting at a scarcely believable 38 when he captured his first victim on debut in the 2021 Boxing Day Test, it hit a best of 6.11 after he dismissed the then England captain Joe Root in the first innings in Sydney.

Lately, it has resembled the time of a male Olympic 100-metre sprinter, oscillating between the nines and 10s. In Melbourne, it blew out beyond 12. His average should not move past the teens for a while yet. Even if he was to deliver twin 0-100s in Sydney, it would remain under 20.

Sporting pitches and some questionable opposition have no doubt assisted in Boland becoming a statistical anomaly but let’s not be curmudgeonly.

Numbers do not mean much in the Australian dressing room, even if careers can ride on them, but the players themselves are as fascinated with his average as the fan in the outer.

“We laugh about it in the slips cordon, it’s a funny thing,” David Warner said.

Warner, seventh on Australia’s Test runs list, stands at first slip. Next to him at second slip is Steve Smith, one of only six male batters averaging above 60 (with a minimum of 20 innings).

“We don’t usually talk about averages or anything like that,” Warner said. “The boys are actually taking a keen eye on his average.

“It’s amazing when you get a bowler who gets a ball in his hand and you think he’s going to get a wicket every ball, it’s ridiculous.

“In slips we’re waiting, so switched on waiting for that nick because we know it’s coming.

“It’s a weird feeling. He’s been unbelievable, he’s been absolutely superb. Moving forward, it’s going to be tough decisions for selectors, that’s for sure.”

There is a silver lining if Boland is dropped. He will stay in rarefied air.

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