November 17, 2016

Why the Rajkot draw was a win for numbers

And why the Australians may soon turn into a side feared by every other team in the world

Adil Rashid is the first English legspinner to take seven wickets in an overseas Test in nearly 70 years © Associated Press

The old-school Test match draw is not quite an endangered species, but is certainly seen less often than in its mid-to-late-20th-century prime, those not-especially-glorious days when 17 out of 26 Ashes Tests were drawn in five series from 1962-63 to 1970-71, when 33 of the first 44 Tests between India and Pakistan ended in stalemate, when Ravi Shastri played 80 Tests and drew 49 of them, partly because 100% of those matches involved Ravi Shastri.

The first India-England Test was a good-quality draw - bowlers were competitive despite the high-scoring, individual stories and collective subplots emerged that may shape the series, and a positive result hoved temporarily into view on the final day. As Disc One of a five-DVD box set, it was an intriguing slow-burner, rather than a rampaging all-action gore-fest.

England could have accelerated sooner than they did, given the depth and potency of the batting they left unused, but constructed a fine team performance to which almost everyone made a strong contribution. Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad took only a wicket apiece, but were constantly probing and controlled. Ben Duckett was the only batsman to fail, but, in his short innings, helped convey the sense that England were not going to be supine against the Indian spin. India began with possibly the worst display of fielding ever seen in the first six overs of a Test.

All in all, as bat-dominated draws go, it was excellent, especially from an English point of view. And there were stats. There are always stats. But there were some seriously succulent stats to start the series.

Among them:

● Five different England players made scores of 80 or more in the match - only the 14th time that five players on the same team have made 80-plus scores in a Test, and the first achieved by a visiting team in Asia. (Full lists here and here).

● Three different England spinners took three wickets in the match for the second time in three Tests - Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid and Gareth Batty did so in Chittagong, and the first two plus Zafar Ansari in Rajkot. Unsurprisingly, three different spinners taking three wickets in a Test for England has been a rare occurrence, given that three different spinners playing in the same Test for England has been a rare occurrence, and, at times, one England spinner taking three wickets would have been considered the height of exoticism. There have now been five such three-tweakers-taking-three instances since the Second World War - Brian Close, legspinner Robin Hobbs and Ray Illingworth took four, five and six wickets respectively in a victory against India at Edgbaston in 1967; John Mortimore, Fred Titmus and Don Wilson took three expensive wickets each in a drawn Test in Delhi in 1963-64; and Jim Laker (four), Tony Lock and Johnny Wardle (three each) took ten between then in victory over West Indies in Guyana in 1953-54.

● Rashid became the first English legspinner to take seven wickets in an overseas Test since Doug Wright took nine at the SCG in 1946-47. (Wardle, the left-arm spin wizard who mixed fingerspin and wristspin, took seven or more three times in the 1950s.)

● Joe Root's century was the seventh time in 11 series since his recall after a one-match dropping in 2014 that he has scored 80 or more in the first innings of the series. He has also had a couple of 40s, and followed his only two first-knock-of-the-series failures (24 v South Africa, 0 v Sri Lanka) with scores of 73 and 80 in his second innings. Root's scores in the first innings of his five most recent Second Tests Of Series are, in reverse order: 56, 254, 80, 50, and 88. Ten of Root's 11 Test hundreds have been in the first innings; as have 11 of the 13 tons Virat Kohli has scored in five-day cricket, 14 of Steve Smith's 15, and 10 out of Kane Williamson's 14.

● India's bowlers had a collective match average of 59.5, their worst in a home Test since February 2010, when South Africa scored 558 for 6 in an innings victory.

● This was the 35th time that six or more hundreds have been scored in a Test. Cook's 130 was the highest of those six - only once previously had six tons been made without anyone passing 130, when Frank Woolley's 123 was the highest of six hundreds at the SCG in the 1924-25 Ashes. Rajkot was only the fifth Test in which six scores of 115 or more have been made.

● Woakes became the fifth pace bowler to bowl 30 or more wicketless overs in a Test innings in India, whilst conceding under two runs per over. The last man to do so was Pakistan's Fazal Mahmood in January 1961.

Ten thousand Test runs, 31 hundreds, but have you seen his first- and fourth-innings averages in the last six years? Appalling © Associated Press

● In their four and half Tests in India since being bowled out for 191 in the first innings of the series in Ahmedabad in 2012-13, England have now scored 2920 runs for 60 wickets, an average of 48 runs per wicket, and have lost a wicket every 100 balls.

● Alastair Cook's 30th Test hundred was the 12th that he has scored in the third innings of Tests, tying him with Kumar Sangakkara for most third-innings Test tons. Cook has scored seven hundreds in the opening innings of Tests, nine in the second innings, and two in the fourth. It was the third time in four First Tests Of A Series In India that Cook has scored a third-innings century. He also did so on his debut in Nagpur in 2005-06, and in Ahmedabad four years ago, an innings that, although it failed to avert defeat, was a critical factor in shifting the series England's way.

Cook's statistics are, as with most players who have played a vast amount of cricket, full of quirks and curiosities. Since the start of the English summer of 2010, when England have batted in the opening innings of a Test, Cook has averaged 32.5 in 37 first innings, with three centuries; and he has averaged 32.3 in 33 fourth innings, with a highest score of 79. In the second innings of Tests in that time, he averages 62.2, and in the third, 63.9.

His middle-innings average since May 2010 (62.9 in 77 innings) is second only to Adam Voges (68.1, from only 14 innings). Counting only players with a minimum of 20 innings in the top seven in the batting order, Cook is top out of 68.

His first-and-fourth innings average in this period - 32.4 - is the 51st best of the 61 players who have batted at least 20 times in those innings in the top seven. Undeniable, a curiosity of considerable quirk.

Before May 2010, Cook had averaged 50.4 in the opening innings of Tests, and 46.6 in the fourth innings; and 40.5 in the middle two innings. An even more curious curiosity, in the curious context of the first curiosity.

● England appear to have rectified their problem of starting away series badly. They are now unbeaten in five first Tests away from home (draws against West Indies and Pakistan, and wins over South Africa and Bangladesh, preceded this Test). They had lost four and drawn one of their previous five away series openers, and since 2005, had won one, drawn four and lost ten of their last 15 away first Tests.

****

A straw at which Australia might like to clutch following their merciless dismemberment by South Africa's Steyn-and-Morkel-less seam attack is that the last Australian team to lose by an innings against an opposition score of under 350 consisted of: Justin Langer, David Boon, Steve Waugh, Mark Waugh, Damien Martyn, Allan Border, Ian Healy, Merv Hughes, Shane Warne, Jo Angel and Craig McDermott.

The current Australian side was defeated by an innings. Allan Border's Australian side lost by an innings. Therefore this Australian side will go on to be world-beaters like Border's team © Cricket Australia/Getty Images

Angel, admittedly, did not the cricket world ablaze in his four-Test career. The other ten range from the very good to the unquestionable all-time greats of Australian cricket. Seven ended with more than 100 Test caps, and all ten scored at least 4000 runs or took 200 wickets. At the time, many of them were still some years from their peaks, but even so, that is a good side to be pancaked twice in under 60 overs, even in Curtly Ambrose and Ian Bishop were the main destroyers. This is not to say that Joe Burns is the new David Boon, or that even if Joe Mennie goes the same way as Jo Angel, then necessarily Callum Ferguson will prove to be the new Shane Warne. (A long shot.) However, as South Africa themselves have shown, two or three players emerging, or re-finding lost form, can rapidly transform an apparently fracturing team.

One of the prime agents in South Africa's fast-acting recovery from a dismal 2015-16 has been Quinton de Kock. After only three innings, he has become only the sixth visiting wicketkeeper to make three or more half-centuries in a series in Australia, and the only one of those six to end the series on the winning side. (English glovemen Alec Stewart (2002-03) and Alan Knott (1974-75), and West Indians Deryck Murray (1975-76) and Gerry Alexander (1960-61) were each part of a losing team; England's Jim Parks played in the drawn 1965-66 Ashes.)

De Kock is also only the sixth visiting player to reach fifty three times in a series in Australia batting at 7 or lower (after Murray, Knott and Alexander; plus Fred Titmus (England, also in 1965-66) and West Indies' Gerry Gomez (1950-51)).

It has been a bumper year for No. 7s. De Kock, Moeen and Jonny Bairstow have all scored more than 400 runs at averages above 50 in the position - prior to this year, only Ian Healy in 1996, Chris Cairns in 2000, Adam Gilchrist in 2001 and 2002, and Sarfraz Ahmed, in 2014 had done so. Sevens are averaging 39.75 so far this year - their highest collective average in any of the 74 years in which at least ten Tests have been played. Seven is the second highest-averaging position in the Test batting order this year so far, behind Six (average 40.70). Truly, nothing is as it should be in this strangest of years for this most baffling of planets. Middle America, Middle England, and Middle Orders have risen up.

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on BBC Radio 4, and a writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • cricfan88731154 on November 21, 2016, 11:48 GMT

    England has a very poor cricket

  • LowBouncer on November 17, 2016, 18:04 GMT

    I wouldn't call it cultural diversity if it means including people from 1 other community. As a nation, the UK is extremely diverse containing people from everywhere you can imagine. However the game of Cricket doesn't attract anywhere near as many races. Only 10 countries play at the highest level, you can't really get much diversity from such a small pool.

  •   Buvnesh Bhuvi Justin on November 17, 2016, 17:09 GMT

    Imagine this test team 1.Warner 2.Williamson 3.Root 4.Kohli(c) 5.ABD 6.Aswin 7.QDK 8.Pilander 9.Starc 10.Bhuvi 11.Y.Shah... They can win anywhere..any pitch...

  • ariez on November 17, 2016, 10:11 GMT

    All these people praising England's draw vs India are forgetting one important point. Eng had a chance to declare early and leave enough overs for their bowlers to get India out. They didn't do that. And so it might be a good draw but its also an opportunity lost. Remember Eng almost won the first test against Pakistan last year before proceeding to lose the series 2-0. So I would argue that while it was a good draw for England they could just as easily end up losing the series 4-0 or 3-0.

  • Freakyyash on November 17, 2016, 8:55 GMT

    This statement "drew 49 of them, partly because 100% of those matches involved Ravi Shastri" is just pure vintage Zaltzman

  • serubhai on November 17, 2016, 7:34 GMT

    Agree with you Cricfan but I don't think that the selection has been based on any sort of quota or reverse bias. It's simply the fact that these are the best English players at the moment. Had it been 10 of Asian origin +cook, then that would 've been the team. Cultural Diversity will always be there in a healthy, democratic society. But post-Trump's win, UK, and the US's hate crimes have gone up. So, why do you want to point it out? It's normal, it's healthy, it's not news!!

  • bedders78 on November 17, 2016, 7:31 GMT

    Another miss, highest number of hundreds in the first ever test at a venue.

  • cricfan30412468 on November 17, 2016, 6:47 GMT

    The one you missed, Four players of Asian Origin to represent England for the first time in a test match. Haseeb, Moin, Rashid and Ansari. This shows the cultural diversity of the Nation. Great for cricket Thumsup!!!

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