November 7, 2008

Test cricket

A summary of Test cricket by period (Part 2)

Anantha Narayanan
Adam Gilchrist equals Mark Boucher's record of most Test dismissals, Australia v India, 4th Test, Adelaide, 2nd day, January 25, 2008
 © Getty Images

In the first part we saw the way the numbers related to Matches, Innings, Results, Partnerships and Extras have changed over the 130 years of Test cricket. In this second part we will cover Batting, Bowling, Keeping and Dismissals.

Let me emphasise that some of this information can be garnered using Cricinfo's excellent Statsguru. Mine will offer a different perspective and is a summarised analysis using my database.

Batting will be analysed by right- and left-hand batsmen. Bowling will be analysed by pace and spin bowling. All dismissals would be analysed. As far as the keepers are concerned, byes have already been analysed in Part 1. Here the two wicketkeeper dismissals would be covered.

1. Batting analysis 1 (average - left & right)

Period     R-Avg  L-Avg  T-Avg

Pre-WW1 22.73 25.33 23.06 WW1-WW2 31.68 29.73 31.40 40s-50s 28.44 30.98 28.81 1960s 29.72 35.37 30.82 1970s 30.29 32.86 30.79 1980s 29.65 33.61 30.44 1990s 28.21 33.32 29.45 2000s 28.99 37.89 31.68

All Tests 28.77 34.19 29.92

All->1000R 37.34 39.46 37.90

First the period changes. After a relatively difficult first period, the other seven periods have seen very little variations in batting average. The current decade has seen the best batting average of all times. This is almost 5% above the all-test average.

However the real shock comes when we see the right and left-hand figures. Barring a single period (the period in between the World Wars - no doubt caused by Bradman & Co), left-handers have consistently averaged between 10 and 30% more than the right-handers. Across all Tests there is a 15% variance. Look at the current decade. Left-handers have averaged nearly 30% more than the right-handers. I have no explanations. The readers will certainly have a few.

This is borne out by the following facts. This may explain "how" but not "why".

1. As per my records, 440 players have batted left-handed. This, out of 2525 players. A frequency of approximately one in six.
2. In the list of top 25 batting averages, there are seven left-hand batsmen. This is a much higher frequency of one in every 3.5. It explains why left-handers have a much better average. Extending it further, 107 out of 400 top averaging batsmen are left-handed. One in four!
3. In the list of top 25 run-scorers, there are eight left-hand batsmen. This is a much higher frequency of one in every three. They not only average more but score more also, it seems. Extending it further, 101 out of 400 top-scoring batsmen are left handed. Again, one in four.

I have not done any analysis on centuries since I strongly feel a century is only a personal milestone and does nothing more for the team, other than, of course the 100th run. A 99 will serve the team as much as a 100. There is a lot of unnecessary hype over a century. At least I will ignore this measure.

It can be clearly seen that the difference between Right and Left handers is less pronounced when I do a separate analysis of only batsmen who have scored greater than 1000 runs, thus clearly excluding the real tail-enders. Many thanks to Hariharan Sriram's observation.

To view the complete table, click here.

2. Bowling analysis 1 (average - pace & spin)

Period    P-Avg  S-Avg  T-Avg

Pre-WW1 23.24 25.00 24.02 WW1-WW2 32.15 33.10 32.56 40s-50s 28.78 31.20 29.96 1960s 30.41 34.47 32.11 1970s 30.19 35.01 31.94 1980s 29.93 37.71 32.07 1990s 29.84 35.62 31.51 2000s 32.94 35.43 33.76

All Tests 30.27 33.72 31.51

All->100w 26.75 29.25 27.67

The bowling average is analysed between pace and spin. First the period analysis. Barring the first period and the 1940s-1950s (just barely) the bowling average has been in excess of 30. The all-Test average is still higher at 31.51.

Now the split between pace and spin. The average for pace is about 5% below the all-Test average and 10% below the spin average. This is as expected and does not offer any surprises.

Since this involves every wicket taken, I have done an alternate measure. This is to consider the averages only for bowlers who have taken 100 wickets and more. For obvious reasons this can be done at a total level only and not by period.

These figures are considerably (about 10%) below the all-bowler averages. Pace averages 26.25 while spinners average 29.25, both very reasonable figures.
To view the complete table, click here.

3. Bowling analysis 2 (strike-rate - pace & spin)

Period   P-S/R  S-S/R  T-S/R

Pre-WW1 55.2 57.0 56.0 WW1-WW2 75.6 76.7 76.0 40s-50s 75.6 82.7 79.1 1960s 72.2 92.7 80.8 1970s 68.0 89.7 75.9 1980s 63.0 90.8 70.6 1990s 63.2 82.0 68.6 2000s 62.3 72.9 65.8

All Tests 65.6 80.4 70.9

All->100w 58.9 73.1 64.1

The strike-rates follow a similar pattern to the bowling averages. The pace bowlers strike at a frequency which is about 20% below the spinners. This applies to the bowlers who have captured more than 100 wickets also.
To view the complete table, click here.

4. Bowling analysis 3 (runs per over - pace & spin)

Period   P-Rpo  S-Rpo  T-Rpo

Pre-WW1 2.52 2.63 2.57 WW1-WW2 2.55 2.59 2.57 4os-50s 2.28 2.26 2.27 1960s 2.53 2.23 2.38 1970s 2.66 2.34 2.53 1980s 2.85 2.49 2.72 1990s 2.83 2.61 2.76 2000s 3.17 2.92 3.08

All Tests 2.77 2.52 2.67

All->100w 2.73 2.40 2.59

The spinners come into their own in the runs per over measure. They are about 10-15% more economical. The surprise is the figures do not show much variation across the periods, the first one included. Note also the current decade. The bowlers have become more expensive. Even the spinners are going at nearly three runs per over.
To view the complete table, click here.

Now let us analyse the dismissals effected.

5. Dismissals analysis 1 (bowled - % and per match)

Period    Bowled  Wkts  % of Tot Bow/Mtch

Pre-WW1 1639 4301 38.1 12.2 WW1-WW2 1205 3998 30.1 8.6 40s-50s 1774 6089 29.1 8.5 1960s 1449 5546 26.1 7.8 1970s 1268 5866 21.6 6.4 1980s 1489 7504 19.8 5.6 1990s 1786 10203 17.5 5.1 2000s 2084 12278 17.0 5.1

All Tests 12694 55785 22.8 6.7

Major surprises here. The number of bowled wickets was as high as 38.1 during the first period and then fell only to around 30% during the next two periods. Now it stands at a low 17%, around one in six.

To what can this be attributed? Improvement in technique, change in bowling line, more lbws et al.

6. Dismissals analysis 2 (lbw - % and per match)

Period    Lbw    Wkts  % of Tot  Lbw/Mtch

Pre-WW1 286 4301 6.6 2.1 WW1-WW2 509 3998 12.7 3.6 40s-50s 821 6089 13.5 3.9 1960s 661 5546 11.9 3.6 1970s 716 5866 12.2 3.6 1980s 1201 7504 16.0 4.5 1990s 1755 10203 17.2 5.1 2000s 2178 12278 17.7 5.3

All Tests 8127 55785 14.6 4.3

Here it has happened the other way. During the first period, only one in 16 were lbws. Now it is one in six. Again, why? Changes in lbw laws, umpires being more liberal in giving lbw decisions, reverse-swing (?) et al.

7. Dismissals analysis 3 (caught - % and per match)

Period    Ct Others Wkts % of Tot Ct/Mtch

Pre-WW1 1809 4301 42.1 13.5 WW1-WW2 1639 3998 41.0 11.7 40s-50s 2332 6089 38.3 11.2 1960s 2325 5546 41.9 12.5 1970s 2630 5866 44.8 13.4 1980s 3154 7504 42.0 11.8 1990s 4323 10203 42.4 12.5 2000s 5314 12278 43.3 12.9

All Tests 23526 55785 42.2 12.4

These are the non-wicketkeeper catches and have remained fairly static across the years. No information is available on where the catches were taken. As such I will not be able to separate the slip/gully cathes. No doubt these would be on the increase during the later years.

8. Dismissals analysis 4 (stumped - % and per match)

Period    Stumped  Wkts  % of Tot  St/Mtch

Pre-WW1 152 4301 3.5 1.1 WW1-WW2 158 3998 4.0 1.1 40s-50s 207 6089 3.4 1.0 1960s 106 5546 1.9 0.6 1970s 99 5866 1.7 0.5 1980s 109 7504 1.5 0.4 1990s 148 10203 1.5 0.4 2000s 222 12278 1.8 0.5

All Tests 1201 55785 2.2 0.6

The percentage of stumpings started at quite a high value and has now come down to less than 2%. Note that it takes an average of two matches to get a stumping now. Probably there is a lot of stand and swat rather than use one's feet and move out.

9. Dismissals analysis 5 (Ct by Wk - % and per match)

Period   Ct by Wk Wkts  % of Tot CWk/Mtch

Pre-WW1 373 4301 8.7 2.8 WW1-WW2 432 3998 10.8 3.1 40s-50s 859 6089 14.1 4.1 1960s 920 5546 16.6 4.9 1970s 1053 5866 18.0 5.3 1980s 1406 7504 18.7 5.3 1990s 2032 10203 19.9 5.9 2000s 2308 12278 18.8 5.6

All Tests 9383 55785 16.8 5.0

As expected this figure has more than doubled from the first to last period. This is now a very effective manner of dismissal. More than one in six. The drop in bowled has indicated bowlers now try and get the edges. Consequently the keeper comes in more often. Without entering into the bowler-keeper argument again, let me now say most of the credit should go to the bowler, with some credit going to the keeper, especially for the difficult catches.

10. Dismissals analysis 6 (run-outs - % and per match)

Period   Runouts  Wkts   % of Tot  RO/Mtch

Pre-WW1 179 4301 4.2 1.3 WW1-WW2 147 3998 3.7 1.1 40s-50s 241 6089 4.0 1.2 1960s 232 5546 4.2 1.2 1970s 218 5866 3.7 1.1 1980s 258 7504 3.4 1.0 1990s 359 10203 3.5 1.0 2000s 419 12278 3.4 1.0

All Tests 2053 55785 3.7 1.1

There seems to be a slight drop in the percentage of run-outs over the years. Is there a possible reason that with the advent of the third umpire, in both run-out and Stumping cases, the batsman gets the benefit of technology and marginal decisions which were given with the naked eye are now not given?

I had made an offer that all this information would be available to the readers. This is going to take some time since I am preparing a comprehensive XL sheet with all the parameters for easier access and retrieval. I will make this available at a later date by providing a suitable link.

Anantha Narayanan has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket and worked with a number of companies on their cricket performance ratings-related systems

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Posted by Patrick on (November 15, 2008, 4:52 GMT)

The increase in keeper catches could also be attributed to keepers being much more athletic these days (ie more difficult, diving catches)

Posted by shrikanthk on (November 9, 2008, 8:28 GMT)

Ananth: Two reasons why LBWs remained uncommon in the early periods despite the straighter line of the bowlers (apart from the differences in rules)

- Batsmen seldom used their pads unlike in the post war period when pad play became very popular especially when facing spinners.

- Batsmen weren't too adept at flicking straight deliveries across the line, which reduced the incidence of LBWs. This is just my hunch, based on the old 1930s newsreel footage I've seen. I generally find players of that period offering the full face of the bat even to deliveries on middle stump. One day cricket has definitely improved the range of strokeplay, especially the art of hitting across the line. Subcontinental batsmen with their wristy unorthodox style have also contributed to this.

Posted by Judas on (November 7, 2008, 16:53 GMT)

Another possible measure could be the successive differences in team totals between each of the four innings which might throw light on pitch preparation; a steadily decreasing total from 1st to 4th might tell of decent pitches which deteriorated at a normal rate, huge differences between the first and second innings totals of teams might either speak of dry pitches which crumbled rapidly or damp strips which eased out under the sun; Although I understand that pitches were rarely covered until 1974 or something, so the analysis might be a bit flawed.

Posted by Judas on (November 7, 2008, 16:43 GMT)

Another possible measure could be the successive differences in team totals between each of the four innings which might throw light on pitch preparation; a steadily decreasing total from 1st to 4th might tell of decent pitches which deteriorated at a normal rate, huge differences between the first and second innings totals of teams might either speak of dry pitches which crumbled rapidly or damp strips which eased out under the sun; Although I understand that pitches were rarely covered until 1974 or something, so the analysis might be a bit flawed.

Posted by Karl on (November 7, 2008, 15:30 GMT)

I don't think the reduction in run-out % is due to 3rd umpires or technology because these were only introduced in the 90s, and there is very little change from the 80s on.

I think the most likely reason would be the introduction of one-day cricket, which would have improved players' skill in running between the wicket.

Posted by Ananth on (November 7, 2008, 13:16 GMT)

A common response to the fascinating insights being provided by the readers regarding the superior averages of left-handers. All these make sense and together contribute to the overall better performance of left-handers. The comment on the angles being employed is very valid. It is true that the angle of an outstanding left-hander such as Nadal seemed to be the only way to stop, or rather slow down, the incomparable Federer. It is impossible to do a left vs left analysis owing to non-availability of ball-by-ball data.

Posted by Martin on (November 7, 2008, 13:04 GMT)

I think one of the reasons why lefties do better is that they are always going against the grain. Most bowlers are righties who have to make adjustments against batsmen lefties, ie going around the wicket. I would suggest that an analysis of tennis lefties that do well is also proportionally better than righties. I would love to compare lefty bowlers against lefty batsmen and righties against righties. Also a combination of left and right batsmen at the crease interchanging continually also destabilises the fielders, who have to adjust positions after every odd run.

Posted by sam on (November 7, 2008, 12:41 GMT)

I think one contributing factor to the higher averages of left-handers is their reduced likelihood of being dismissed lbw, considering that bowlers, just like batsmen, tend to be right-handed. Right-armers bowling to left-handers will be denied lbws more often by pitching outside leg (just as we see - but less often due to their scarcity - with left-arm quicks bowling to right-handed batsmen). Furthermore, if they go round the wicket, the angle they create means they will often be missing leg if they hit the batsman in line. In short, there's no better chance of an lbw than when a right-armer bowls to a right-hander (or left to left, but again this is far less common). Of course, I don't believe that this fully accounts for the significantly higher averages of left-handed batsmen, but I'm sure it represents a piece of the puzzle.

Posted by Sriram on (November 7, 2008, 11:15 GMT)

One more possible factor for higher averages of left hand batsmen may be bowling angle. The number of right hand bowlers is more than left hand bowlers and a right hand bowler's natural angle for a left hand batsman is to move the ball away from him. This decreases the possibility of getting out.

Posted by Marcus on (November 7, 2008, 8:37 GMT)

With regards to the high "Bowled" % in the pre-war period, I think the pitches and the style of bowling must have had something to do with it. The slow bowlers seem to outnumber the quicks in those days, with Australia having the likes of Boyle and Parker bowling with great effect and only Spofforth being really quick. Likewise England with Lockwood et al, and South Africa with Faulkner & Friends. This type of bowling, on pitches that could get good and wet and have the ball skid low, evidently did result in a lot of bowlings.

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Anantha Narayanan
Anantha spent the first half of his four-decade working career with corporates like IBM, Shaw Wallace, NCR, Sime Darby and the Spinneys group in IT-related positions. In the second half, he has worked on cricket simulation, ratings, data mining, analysis and writing, amongst other things. He was the creator of the Wisden 100 lists, released in 2001. He has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket, and worked extensively with Maruti Motors, Idea Cellular and Castrol on their performance ratings-related systems. He is an armchair connoisseur of most sports. His other passion is tennis, and he thinks Roger Federer is the greatest sportsman to have walked on earth.

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