Lara v spin, and other head-to-head stats
The increasing scope of available Test match data in recent years creates new opportunities for cricket statistics. One area where we have more information than in previous years is specific player versus player data. Just how well does a batsman do against a specific bowler? This sort of question has long been of interest to commentators, but in the past this could only be answered in general terms by statisticians.
I have extracted a few player vs player extremes from Cricinfo’s data (either in specific player v player form or as ball-by-ball text commentary), supplemented by other sources (hat tip to Andrew Samson) so that the record can be extended back to the 1998-99 Ashes series. The data covers over 450 Tests, and is about 99.5% complete, with a majority of the gaps being in some Zimbabwe Tests. This forms a new class of cricket records.
Most of the records below are based on a qualification minimum, with minimum of either 200 balls bowled, or five dismissals, in encounters between specific bowlers and batsmen. A ‘recognised’ batsman is one with an average batting position of less than 7.1.
Some Player vs Player Records 1998 – 2008
Most balls bowled by one bowler to one batsman: 736 N Boje to DPMD Jayawardene (410 runs). Boje bowled 221 balls to Jayawardene in one innings during Jayawardene’s 374 at Colombo in 2006, a single-innings record.
Most runs by one batsman off one bowler: 441 BC Lara off SCG MacGill (4 dismissals, batting average 110.3).
Most runs by one batsman off one bowler (single innings): 130 in 161 balls by BC Lara (400*) off GJ Batty, St John’s 2004. (Note: Garry Sobers scored 133 of his 365* off Khan Mohammad in 1957-58)
Most balls bowled by one bowler to one batsman without dismissing him: 556 Harbhajan Singh to S Chanderpaul (196 runs), in eight matches.
Most runs scored by one batsman off one bowler without dismissal: 223 by RS Dravid off SCG MacGill (354 balls in five matches)
Highest batting average: 238.0 by JH Kallis off DL Vettori (238 runs for once out).
Lowest batting average (recognised batsman): 1.00 by Matthew Bell (NZ) off J Srinath. This is a remarkable case. Srinath dismissed Bell (an opening batsman) five times in Tests and only conceded five runs in 103 balls bowled.
Most dismissals: 11 by SK Warne bowling to AG Prince (164 runs, batting average 14.5). Greater numbers can be found going further back than 1998. For example, Mike Atherton fell to Glenn McGrath 19 times in Tests, including pre-1998 matches: a full analysis is not yet available. Atherton’s vulnerability to McGrath is well-known; perhaps less well-known is his failure against Chaminda Vaas, against whom he averaged just 6.6 with five dismissals.
Highest batting strike rate 104.3 Runs /100 balls RT Ponting off AR Caddick (batting average 72). This does not include earlier encounters of these two players in 1997, which would take the strike rate down to 91.6. Chris Cairns had a strike rate of 103 against Brett Lee, although his batting average was only 13.4. Shahid Afridi has scored 202 runs at a strike rate of 93.1 against Anil Kumble.
Highest Bowling Strike Rate (recognised batsman) Makhaya Ntini dismissed Nathan Astle six times in just 92 balls bowled to him, conceding 37 runs. Glenn McGrath took Sanath Jayasuriya’s wicket five times in just 76 balls, twice dismissing him with the first ball of an innings, but these figures don’t include the Adelaide Test of 1995-96, where Jayasuriya got the better of McGrath.
Ajit Agarkar faced only two balls from Mark Waugh, and was dismissed both times. Agarkar was also out to his first two balls from Brett Lee, and has been out three times in the five balls faced he has faced from Lee.
A final curiosity: If it needed any confirmation, take a look at Brian Lara’s head-to-head batting averages against some leading spin bowling since 1998: vs M Muralitharan 124.0 vs SK Warne 74.0 vs SCG MacGill 110.3 vs Danish Kaneria 86.7 vs N Boje 212.0 vs A Kumble 22.3
Kudos to Anil Kumble, who seems to have a much stronger record against Lara than other spinners(though data from their encounters in 1994-96 is not available).
Over time, it will be possible to extend this data to earlier Tests. However, chances are that earlier data will be more incomplete, as there are quite a few Test matches even in the 1990s for which complete scorebooks have not yet been located. If any readers, especially in India, Pakistan, and the West Indies, know of the existence of detailed Test match scores (not necessarily official ones) from the 1990s or earlier, please get in touch with me through this blog.