The Confectionery Stall stat-vent calendar, week three
While India and England prepare for the final Test of what has been an unusually gripping and competitive one-sided clobbering, here is your next batch of pre-Christmas stats. This series has certainly been one of the most closely fought clobberings I can remember, involving, last week in Mumbai, a fascinating match that began with three days of classic, momentum-shifting, undulating cricketing tug of war, and ended with rampant, high-skilled Indian dominance, and a baffling display of white-flag English batting. Should anyone ever write an instruction manual entitled How to Lose a Test Match After Scoring 400 Batting First on a Turning Pitch, this match would be Example A. Further examples would not be required.
Four years ago at the Wankhede, as India subsided rapidly to defeat against England's spinners, Virat Kohli had clonked a filthy Graeme Swann full toss straight to mid-off in what will always remain a compelling challenger for Worst Shot of the Third Millennium, a shot of such complete mistiming that it made a noise reminiscent of a catapulted tortoise landing on the roof of a cheap wooden shed. If memory serves. This time, he created a masterpiece of the art of batsmanship, a performance of such near-flawless technical and tactical brilliance that England could have bowled him a hand grenade disguised as a Rubik's Cube and he would have defused it, solved it, signed it, and deposited it effortlessly to the extra-cover boundary. R Ashwin's gradual hypnosis of England's batsmen completed the Test's transformation: from level pegging on the judges' scorecards to Rocky Marciano pummelling the daylights out of a stuffed toy penguin.
It has been another odd year for England in the Test arena, a cocktail of personal and collective successes and failures. In their intensive 31-Test deluge since April 2015, they have (a) won an Ashes, (b) drawn three series in which they had held a lead, (c) triumphed in South Africa, and (d) failed to construct a sequence of more than three matches without defeat. This constitutes England's longest period without a four-match unbeaten run since 1997-2000.
[PS: It was on this day in 2008 that India chased down 380 to beat England in Chennai, despite Andrew Strauss' two centuries. I have powerful memories of that day. Not entirely related to that Test match.]
As has been widely noted, England were only the third side to lose by an innings after scoring at least 400 batting first. There have only been three more instances of a team scoring 375 or more and losing by an innings. Mumbai illustrated how a first-innings score of around 400 is no longer the platform for success (or at least, the platform for avoiding failure) that it once was.
This millennium, teams batting first and scoring between 380 and 420 (inclusive) have won 26, lost 23, and drawn 16. Before the year 2000, such a first-innings score led to 54 victories, only ten defeats, and 59 draws.
A 400-ish opening innings has become sub-par in Asia, where since December 2009, teams batting first and scoring between 380 and 430 have won two, lost nine and drawn five; against India in their home conditions, the record is: played six, lost six.
Today is Ashwin day. The Chennai Conjuror's fifth wicket in Mumbai made him the first player to achieve a 200-run, 20-wicket series double since Andrew Flintoff and Shane Warne in the 2005 Ashes.
Ravindra Jadeja needs 27 runs and four wickets in Chennai to join the list, and provide the fourth instance of two players on the same side registering a 200-20 double series (after Jacques Kallis and Shaun Pollock for South Africa in West Indies, 2001; Ian Botham and Geoff Miller, England in Australia 1978-79; and Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller, Australia v West Indies 1951-52). (If you want another impending potential stat to keep an eye out for during the fifth Test, if Jadeja scores those 27 runs, and Jayant Yadav takes one more wicket, India will become only the third team in Test history to have three players score 200 runs and take ten wickets in a series, after Australia in the 1907-08 [Warwick Armstrong, Charlie Macartney, Monty Noble], and Australia again in the West Indies in 1955 [Ron Archer, Richie Benaud, Keith Miller].)
Ashwin needs 11 runs to register the eighth 250-run-25-wicket double in a series, and the first since Botham in the 1985 Ashes. (There have been some near-misses. Warne fell short by one run in 2005, and Flintoff by one wicket; Imran Khan was three runs away against India in 1982-83; Malcolm Marshall needed six more runs in India in 1983-84; and Tony Greig took 24 wickets to go with his 430 runs in the West Indies in 1973-74.)
Ashwin is also 61 runs and three wickets away from the fourth ever 300-30 series double. He would follow Botham in 1981 against Australia, Benaud for Australia in South Africa in 1957-58, and Benaud's baggy-green predecessor George Giffen, in the 1894-95 Ashes.
His two six-wicket innings in Mumbai made Ashwin only the fourth player ever, and the second since the First World War, with three 50-plus scores and three five-wicket hauls in a series. Giffen's 1894-95 Ashes was the first instance; England's Frank Foster achieved the feat in the 1911-12 Ashes; and Botham in the 1981 Ashes, when he also crammed in 12 catches, three ducks, a resignation/sacking from the captaincy, and a heroic beard, into his hectic schedule.
With his half-century in the third Test, in Mohali, Ashwin had already become only the second player to make five 50-plus scores and take five five-wicket hauls in a year. Daniel Vettori had five of each in 2008. Ashwin has eight five-fors, and needs one more five-for to equal the record for a year of nine (jointly held by Malcolm Marshall in 1984, and Muttiah Muralitharan in 2006). His two six-fors in Mumbai tied Murali's 2006 record of six six-wicket hauls in a year.
Enough Ashwin stats. He has had, unquestionably, a good year. A better year than, for example, David Cameron or Hillary Clinton. Albeit in rather different circumstances.
In Mumbai, Moeen Ali (2 for 174) and Adil Rashid (4 for 192) provided only the 11th instance of two bowlers conceding 170 or more in the same innings, and the first in which the bowlers have been English. The last six of these 11 have all taken place in Asia. None of the previous ten had featured an attack with six front-line bowlers.
It was also:
(a) The first time for 23 years that two England bowlers have bowled 50 overs in an innings. Mark Ilott, in his second Test, and Martin Bicknell, on debut, were the victims on the previous occasion, at Headingley in 1993, as Australia piled up 653 for 4 declared, which, at the time, was considered a slightly disappointing score for the baggy greens in an Ashes Test. If I remember correctly. Some measure of vengeance for Ashwin, one of the two Indians to bowl 50 overs in Kolkata four years ago, along with Pragyan Ojha. And…
(b) The third time since 1965, and the eighth time ever, that seven England bowlers have bowled ten or more overs in an innings.
India, from 307 for 6, added 324 more runs before England could finally leave the field and start thinking about how nice it would have been to take a couple more catches. This was the 13th time a team has added 300 or more for its last four wickets, and the first either by India or in India.
Cheteshwar Pujara and Kohli, batting behind an unsettled opening partnership, and ahead of a malfunctioning five and six, have combined for 845 first-innings runs at an average of 105 (Pujara has made 341, Kohli 504). This is the most first-innings runs ever scored by India's three and four in a Test series. The all-time record Most First-Innings Series Runs by a Team's Numbers Three and Four - 1095, by the 1930 Australians in England (Don Bradman 842, Alan Kippax 239, Alan Fairfax 14) - is just about within sight.
Kohli Day. If Kohli makes 40 in either innings in Chennai, he will be the first player to make seven scores of 40 or more in a series since Nasser Hussain in the 1998-99 Ashes, since when there have been 18 other instances of a player scoring 40 six times.
In 2016, Kohli currently has 1200 Test runs at an average of 80.0, 739 ODI runs at 92.3, and 641 T20I runs at 106.8. Only one player has ever returned a year tally of 600 or more runs at an average of at least 70 in two formats - Hashim Amla, who in 2010 made 1249 at 78.0 in Tests and 1058 at 75.5 in ODIs, and in 2012, 1064 at 70.9 in Tests and 678 at 84.7 in one-dayers. Even a pair in Chennai will leave Kohli averaging over 70 in all three formats this year.
His overall all-format international tally for 2016 is currently 2580 at 88.9. Kohli could deliberately smash his stumps down first ball in both innings in the final Test and still finish the year as the only player to have made more than 2000 international runs in a year at an average of more than 80. Only three others have made even 1250 runs at 80-plus in a year - Garry Sobers (1299 at 144.3 in 1958), Sachin Tendulkar (1766 at 84.0 in 2010) and Viv Richards (1926 at 91.7 in 1976). Illustrious company.
This Asian winter, Alastair Cook has faced 580 balls of spin in six Tests, been dismissed 11 times - once every 53 balls - and scored 265 runs, for an average against spin of 24.1. In his previous 21 Tests in Asia, spaced over seven separate winters, Cook had scored 1422 for 21 against spin, averaging 67.7.
On his previous three tours of India, he made 592 for 6 against spin, and was dismissed once every 222 balls. Between them, Muttiah Muralitharan, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, the three leading wicket-takers in Tests on the world's largest continent, with more than 1300 wickets on their home landmass between them, dismissed him once in 112 overs in Asia. The old certainties have been chipped away from his batting, for now at least, by two months of unrelenting high-class tweakery.
Discover your own stat, and write it indelible ink on your screen in the space provided below.
Invent your own stat. This is the post-truth world of 2016. Make something up about a player you like whose numbers do not quite stack up, or insert yourself into a list of all-time greats.
Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on BBC Radio 4, and a writer