Test cricket is arguably the ultimate format, where the players’ real skills are tested. Even though the team’s fortunes are often decided by the bowler’s ability to pick 20 opponent wickets, it is the batters who put their team in the driver’s seat.
In the history of Test cricket, several great batters have scored a bulk of centuries, but very few have done it at a remarkable pace.
In this article, we will look at the top 10 batters who are the fastest to 30 Test centuries in terms of innings batted and how their batting significantly impacted their team’s success.
#10 Mahela Jayawardene (SL) – 214 innings
Mahela Jayawardene was known for his stylish and graceful batting style, as he made batting look easy with his superb timing and excellent footwork. He could attack any spin bowler on slow and turning pitches, which makes him even more destructive. Also, he had superb eyes, which helped him pick up the length of the ball very quickly, aiding him to play with precision and control. He is also among the very few cricketers who has scored centuries in all three formats.
Jayawardene’s 30th Test ton came when England visited Sri Lanka in 2012. It wasn’t easy for England to match the supremacy of Sri Lankan spinners at their den. However, the in-form Mahela was an even bigger threat to them than the conditions. In the first innings of the game, Mahela brought a wonderful knock of 180 runs in 315 balls with the help of 22 boundaries and 3 maximums, making him the 10th fastest to reach that magical figure of having 30 Test centuries. Sri Lanka won that game by 75 runs.
#9 Brian Lara (WI) – 205 innings
Brian Lara’s achievement of reaching 30 Test centuries in 205 innings demonstrates his natural talent and skill as a batsman. He was known for his flamboyant batting style, as he always looked to take on bowlers and play his shots. He had an excellent eye and superb timing, which enabled him to play a range of shots easily.
In the Test where he registered his 30th-century knock, a Lara masterclass was expected for the West Indian side to pose a challenge against Pakistan. Lara didn’t disappoint as he scored a daddy hundred, a knock of 153 runs in just 233 balls with the help of 20 boundaries and 2 maximum, reaching his 30th hundred-plus score in just 205 innings. However, his effort was unsuccessful, as Pakistan won that match by 136 runs.
#8 Jacques Kallis (SA) – 200 innings
Jacques Kallis has been a master of elegant cover drives, straight drives, and pull shots. He perfectly executed those shots, thanks to his height and power advantage. Being a solid middle-order batter, a gun fielder, and a consistent bowler, made him a valuable asset to the team.
Against India on 3rd April 2008, Kallis made his 30th Test century – a knock of 132 runs off 275 balls with the help of 14 boundaries and a six, making him the 8th fastest to register thirty centuries in the longest format of the game.
#7 Kumar Sangakkara (SL) – 186 innings
Kumar Sangakkara had a fearless approach to scoring runs. He was particularly strong on the leg side, playing elegant flicks and drives to score runs. He was the master of scoring runs on either slow or fast pitches.
Sangakkara walked in to bat against Pakistan in his 186th Test innings, in which he scored his 30th Test ton. In response to a huge total posted by Pakistan, 551 runs were declared. The Lankan No. 3 formed a formidable partnership with Tillakaratne Dilshan. The wicket-keeper batsman fell just short of his yet another double hundred by 8 runs. Check where Sangakkara ranks in the list of the world’s top ten double centurions in Tests.
#6 Younis Khan (PAK) – 180 innings
A Pakistani Test batting legend, Younis Khan, was known for his excellent footwork and sharp cricketing brain. He has often helped his team come out of tough situations and has been instrumental in leading Pakistan to many important wins.
Not very far ago, against Sri Lanka in 2015, Khan had 29 centuries to his name. With Sri Lanka posting a huge total to chase in the second innings for Pakistan, 377 was the target, and it could not have been possible without Khan’s determination and grit. Once again, he came to the rescue as he recorded his 30th Test century with a knock of 171 runs composed of 18 boundaries.
#5 Sunil Gavaskar (IND) – 174 innings
Sunil Gavaskar was known for his excellent technique, ability to play the ball late, and incredible powers of concentration. He was also a master of spin bowling and could score runs on difficult pitches against some of the best spin bowlers in the world. You can understand how great a player Gavaskar is by reading these 5 astonishing cricket records still held by the little master.
It was against West Indies in 1983, in a home Test in Chennai, when Sunil reached this milestone of 30 Test hundreds. On replying to the total of 313 as posted by West Indies, this Indian batting legend came in at 4. He notched up a double hundred, a knock of 236 runs off just 425 bowls, reaching that magical figure of having 30 Test centuries in just 174 innings. The match ended in a draw.
#4 Ricky Ponting (AUS) – 170 innings
Adding to this list is an aggressive batsman, the legendary Ricky Ponting. Even though he had several signature shots, back-foot punches and cuts were particularly effective. He was also strong off his front foot and could easily drive the ball through the covers and mid-off. He had been an equally good player of pace and spin and could take on fast bowlers with pull shots and hooks.
It was the second Test match against South Africa when Ricky was at his elemental best. He hit his 29th Test century in the first innings of the game, and in the same game, he registered his 30th hundred as well. He hit a knock of 116 off just 182 deliveries with the help of 2 maximums and 12 boundaries which made him reach this record and stand tall in this list at the 4th position.
#3 Matthew Hayden (AUS) – 167 innings
Matthew Hayden was known for his explosive style of batting, where he combined power and precision to score runs quickly and efficiently. As an attacking opener, his approach was based on attacking the bowlers and putting pressure on the opposition from the outset.
Hayden, the third fastest 30-century reacher, played his milestone innings in a Test against India at Adelaide Oval in 2008. It was also his last Test century. With India posting a huge first-innings score, pulling out and putting the Australian side up in the game was a task. Matthew brought up his best game and gave the best possible start by notching up his 30th Test century in his 167th innings.
#2 Steve Smith (AUS) – 162 innings
Steve Smith’s success in Test cricket is built on his unorthodox technique, incredible powers of concentration, and ability to handle different conditions and situations. He is known for his quirky movements at the crease, shuffling across his stumps and standing almost side-on to the bowler.
It was very recent when Smith smashed his 30th century in Test against South Africa. It was the third Test of that home Test series. He scored 104 runs off 192 balls, a knock with 11 boundaries, and two big hits. Only two players have more centuries than Smith, and with much more cricket left for Smith, it would be interesting to see how he would progress with the last part of his career.
#1 Sachin Tendulkar (IND) – 159 innings
Sachin Tendulkar is known for his exceptional technique, impeccable timing, and unrivaled ability to score runs against the best bowlers. Scoring 30 centuries in just 159 runs is a testament to his skill, determination, and longevity, and it is a source of inspiration for aspiring cricketers worldwide.
In August 2002, when he came into the match with 29 centuries to his name and running in good form, he was expected to achieve an unbroken record. In the match’s first innings, Sachin looked in sublime touch as he reached his century in style with a glorious cover drive. He ended up scoring a memorable 193 runs helping India register huge first innings total in the match and eventually helping India win.