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October 11, 2008

Batsmen v bowlers

Lara v spin, and other head-to-head stats

Charles Davis
Stuart MacGill prepares to bowl, West Indies v Australia, 2nd Test, Antigua, June 1, 2008
 © Getty Images
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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.

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Posted by Waspsting on (November 2, 2010, 1:26 GMT)

Finally, I will say, that I prefered watching Lara bat to Tendulkar. The style and dash was fabulous.

Posted by Waspsting on (November 2, 2010, 1:25 GMT)

I rate Lara the best player I've ever seen. Not only do the given stats support this... but if you watched him play Warne and Murali, you'd think he was facing part time bowlers like Mark Waugh of Sehwag, so easily did he play them. He is the only player I've seen who didn't necessarily premeditate going down the pitch - if he saw the ball was thrown up, then he'd come down. and i can't ever remember him being stumped when he went down the wicket.

As for overall, though, I rate Tendulkar a shade ahead, because I think Lara had a bigger weakness against genuine pace and the short ball. That high back-lift made it hard for him to get the bat down in time. Remember him failing to reach 50 in 6 complete innings against Akram and Waqar (and this too, on very flat pitches). Tendulkar was more composed, solid and dependable against pace.

I think stats would probably verify this too. If Lara's averaging so much against spin, then he must be doing worse against pace to compensate, right?

Posted by Pankaj on (December 23, 2009, 20:24 GMT)

It is amazing how everyone's putting Lara ahead of Tendulkar. This statistic gives a fair idea of how Lara (or others) have faired but not an entire story. All (or most of the bowlers) of our times have rated Tendulkar better than Lara. Wouldnt that be one of the best judgements? Secondly, there has been a thought that with Lara, bowlers always had a change, which was tough to find against Tendulkar. Lastly, if you leave a few dominent innings that Lara played, what else has he achieved? He has (as a captain/team player) won less matches than Tendulkar, couldnt take his team close to winning a world-cup, has won less man of the match/series award than Tendulkar... Sorry for responding so late, but I couldnt stop myself from commenting after reading these naive comments from the users..

Posted by jonny on (April 14, 2009, 18:38 GMT)

Great article, I was looking at this the other day. Has anyone dominated McGrath or Warne as much as Lara did to Murali? I'm sure I read somewhere that Vinod Kambli dismantled Warne in a game or two, but over a long period of time I'm not too sure. I'm suspecting the best combined record against the two is VVS - for Mcgrath he averages 169.4 when he played against him which drops to 82.4 in innings dismissed by him (5 times in 10 matches).

Posted by sazam on (March 19, 2009, 18:52 GMT)

in all reallity if some people think there is a better batsman than brian lara besides donald bradman then i would assume they have to be crazy. lets first talk about TEST CRICKET. brian lara have 34 hundreds 7 behind sachin tendulkar who have played 26 more matches than brian did secondly brian has the second most double hundreds 9. 3 vserses australia 2 verses sri lanka 2 verses england 1 verses palkistan and 1 verses south africa. be aware he has none against bangladesh and zimbabwe where sachin tendulkar has scored 2 of his 4 double centuries against. third brian lara is the second batsman after donald bradman to score 2 triple centuries but lara even went further than bradman for he scored a quadruple and it was scored against an england attack which was the best attack in the world at the time HARMISON FLINTOFF HOGGARD and JONES. fouth lara has the most runs off a single over in test cricket 28 and if that is not enough he has the 3rd most 26

Posted by eddy on (November 3, 2008, 14:55 GMT)

cont.... so statisically and technically Lara's 8 tons in wins out of 131 matches and 232 innings is better than Tendulkar's 13 win tons out of 153 matches and 250 innnings.

Posted by eddy on (November 3, 2008, 14:20 GMT)

following Md. Nayeemuddin(Minhaj) Kohir(Hyderabad) comments and Charles Davis' reply, i myself would like to add something. Charles is right, Lara's match winning knocks did happen some time ago i.e. 153, 213 etc, But what i think Md. Nayeemuddin(Minhaj) Kohir(Hyderabad) felt is that so many of Lara's knocks SHOULD have been match winning i.e if he had played in a better team. His 277, 375, 400 were all draws. And we will never forget 688 runs in 3 tests...all were lost! If fact only 8 of lara's 34 tons were 'match winning'. Tendulakr has 13 out of 39. Simple maths show that Lara and Tendulkar both score a hundred every 3.9 matches. Between Tendulkars 39 tons and Lara's 34 i believe many many of Lara's will be remembered than Tendulkars but that doesnt mean they were match winning!

Posted by Md. Nayeemuddin(Minhaj) Kohir(Hyderabad) on (November 2, 2008, 14:53 GMT)

LARA was the greatest batsman of his time ahead of Ponting, Tendulkar, Inzimam and many others. Lara was the best not only against spin, but also pace, but he played spin far better than other players. Other batsman who was specially outstanding at playing spin was Mohammed Azharuddin. When it comes to match winning capabilities,Inzimam, Ponting, and Pieterson would be there right at the top. One could have gauaged Lara's match winning abilities had he been a part of at least a decent team, but he still won matches singlehandedly. Tendulkar is a genius, but a failure under pressure. Among Indian, Kapil, Azhar, Dhoni, Yuvraj, Kaif played better under pressure. Vivian Richards, Inzimam, Javed Miandad, Imran Khan, Steve Waugh, Arvinda De Silva, were greater match winners than Tendulkar even though Tendulkar is a genius. But for the pure batsmanship, Lara scores over every other batsmen of his time and may be right there at the top with Viv Richards and Bradman.

Posted by Md. Nayeemuddin(Minhaj) Kohir(Hyderabad) on (November 2, 2008, 14:13 GMT)

BRIAN LARA was a superior batsman than Tendulkar. Players as distinct as Lara, Viv Richards and for that matter Imran Khan are born once in the lifetime of the game. Tendulkar is great player, but not quite a Lara. Tendulkar can be compared to Ponting, Inzimam, Sehwage and the likes. Tendulkar can claim any number of records for his age and ability, but can never bat like Lara. Since 1970's Richards and Lara have been the greatest batsmen. Tendulkar is genius, but cricket has produced many more capable match winners than Tendulkar. Scoring more does never mean winning more matches. Sometimes those runs could have been scored by anyone. In fact if it comes to the match winning capabilities, Richards, Inzimam, Steve Waugh, Javed Miandad, Bevan, Ponting, would outsmart Sachin Tendulkar.Among Indians Azhar played better under pressure. For pure batsmenship, if one has to pick a player in last 16 years, it is LARA. LARA was the best and different from rest of his time.

[Response: if you are going to argue for Lara, you should avoid areas like "match-winning ability". In Lara's last 33 Tests, West Indies won only twice, and one of those was against Bangladesh. West Indies have actually done a bit better since he retired.]

Posted by Rishi on (October 31, 2008, 21:14 GMT)

I pulled out Sachin's stats from 2001 (after India-Australia series in India). Could not find a way for earlier data in Cricinfo.

Against spinners BAW Mendis 57.00 (strike rate of 86.36!) Danish Kaneria 151.00 DL Vettori 22.00 GB Hogg 138 runs w/o any dismissal (and at a strike rate of 89.61!) M Muralitharan 16.80 (Most of failures are from the recent Test series in SL) Saqlain Mushtaq 45 runs w/o any dismissal SCG MacGill 114.00 Did not face Warne during this period

Against Pace bowlers A Flintoff 117.00 B Lee 40.40 DW Steyn 27 runs w/o any dismissal GD McGrath 5.00 (He faced him only during 2004-05 series in India. He scored just 5 runs against him getting dismissed once) M Ntini 23.50 SE Bond 33.00 Shoaib Akhtar 39.50 SM Pollock 28.33 WPUJC Vaas 24.00

This data is till Mohali test.

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