Trivia - batting February 16, 2009

Does the tail wag more inTests now?

During the last few Tests of 2008 I got the feeling that late order batsmen were playing rear-guard innings far more effectively than they normally do

During the last few Tests of 2008 I got the feeling that late order batsmen were playing rear-guard innings far more effectively than they normally do. Look back at

Clarke with tail in Sydney, Duminy with the tail at the MCG, Nash with the tail in Napier, Haddin with the tail in Perth, Dhoni/Harbhajan at Chepauk, Taylor

in Dunedin, McCullum with the tail in Adelaide, Katich with the tail in Brisbane, Dhoni/Harbhajan in Nagpur, Harbhajan/Zaheer in Bangalore et al. All these

and other such instances happened during the last three months of 2008.

I felt that this deserved a detailed look. As normally happens, the scope of the article expanded and I have covered the Test tail-enders' batting in depth.

How do we define late order batting? I have decided to be quite conservative and defined a tail-end batting effort as starting from 7 wickets down. While

theoretically the late order might start from no.8, I am influenced by the fact that a score of xyz for 6 still represents a reasonable position while xyz

for 7 signifies the start of the end. Also, seven down means the two batsmen at the crease are one good batsman with a no.9, or no.8 and no.9 batting

together. Thus any batting effort at this juncture is bound to be extremely valuable.

The other criterion I have is that the late order wickets should have added at least 50% of the score at which the seventh wicket fell. Incidentally this

also translates to more than 33.33% of the final score. To avoid peculiar situations such as a team, tottering at 20 for 7, having a biff or two or three and

trebling the score to 60 all out, I have also excluded the 36 innings which have ended as sub-100 all-out situations.

Let us first do a summary of these situations to determine whether there has been a spurt in late order batting exploits.

Period  Tests  # of instances  Frequency
> 50% of runs    (Tests)
added for
last 3 wkts

All: 1906 641 2.97

2000s: 424 157 2.70

2000: 46 14 3.28 2001: 55 21 2.61 2002: 54 9 6.00 2003: 44 13 3.38 2004: 51 31 1.64 2005: 49 22 2.23 2006: 46 19 2.42 2007: 31 6 5.16 2008-9: 50 17 2.94

Overall the late order batsmen have been successful once in 3 Tests. This figure has improved slightly for the 157 Tests played during the current decade.

During 2002 the tail did not wag at all and the 8-9-10-11 batsmen just came in and went. During 2004, it was impossible to dislodge the tail. They stuck like

leaches.

During 2007 again the tail has just folded up. However during 2008-09, the frequency has been the same as the all-time Test figure and is in fact slightly

higher than the 2000s decade. However I have also found out why we get the feeling of a strongly wagging tail. Out of the 17 instances, 11 have occured

during the last 3 months (out of 20 Tests). Hence it is true that during the last three months the bowlers found it difficult to disllodge the late order

batsmen.

Let us do one more basic analysis. This is to look at the frequency of such innings by country.

Country       Tests  # of instances  Frequency
> 50% of runs   (Tests)
added for
last 3 wkts

Australia 705 118 5.97 Bangladesh 59 22 2.68 England 880 122 7.21 India 427 80 5.33 New Zealand 348 76 4.57 Pakistan 335 56 5.98 Soouth Africa 341 66 5.17 Sri Lanka 182 23 7.91 West Indies 451 56 8.05 Zimbabwe 83 22 3.77

First point to remember is that the two frequency values are not comparable, since the number of Tests played by the countries adds to twice the number of

Tests played. So the frequency numbers have 50% value.

Bangladesh has the best late order batting record with a very low frequency of 2.68 Tests per such innings. Next comes Zimbabwe, the other weak team with

3.77 Tests. That's probably expected with the poor manner in which these two teams' top orders have batted. New Zealand, South Africa, India, Australia and

Pakistan then appear. The other end of the table sees England and Sri Lanka, whose tails have been the poorest of the lot.

Having got a 641-innings database, I have worked on couple of tables, across all 130 odd years of Test cricket.

The first one is a table ordered by the quantum of runs added for the last 3 wickets.

Table of late order batsmen successes: By Runs added

MtNo Year For Final Score Runs % of 7 wkt Added score

0609 1966 Eng 527 for 10 from 166 for 7 361 217.5% vs Win 0098 1908 Aus 506 for 10 from 180 for 7 326 181.1% vs Eng 1336 1996 Pak 553 for 10 from 237 for 7 316 133.3% vs Zim 1800 2006 Nzl 593 for 8 from 279 for 7 314 112.5% vs Saf 1902 2008 Saf 459 for 10 from 184 for 7 275 149.5% vs Aus 0209 1931 Eng 454 for 10 from 190 for 7 264 138.9% vs Nzl 1139 1990 Nzl 391 for 10 from 131 for 7 260 198.5% vs Ind 0078 1903 Eng 577 for 10 from 318 for 7 259 81.4% vs Aus 1573 2001 Nzl 534 for 9 from 281 for 7 253 90.0% vs Aus 1676 2003 Nzl 563 for 10 from 314 for 7 249 79.3% vs Pak 0160 1925 Aus 489 for 10 from 253 for 7 236 93.3% vs Eng 0914 1981 Ind 487 for 10 from 254 for 7 233 91.7% vs Eng 1380 1997 Pak 456 for 10 from 230 for 7 226 98.3% vs Saf 0066 1902 Aus 353 for 10 from 128 for 7 225 175.8% vs Eng 0905 1981 Eng 356 for 10 from 135 for 7 221 163.7% vs Aus 0136 1921 Aus 499 for 10 from 282 for 7 217 77.0% vs Eng 1681 2004 Saf 532 for 10 from 315 for 7 217 68.9% vs Win 0621 1967 Pak 354 for 10 from 139 for 7 215 154.7% vs Eng 1066 1987 Pak 487 for 9 from 273 for 7 214 78.4% vs Ind 1397 1998 Saf 517 for 10 from 305 for 7 212 69.5% vs Aus

The first is an amazing match. After dismissing a strong West Indian side for 268 and against Hall/Griffith/Sobers/Gibbs, England were 166 for 7, there would

have been very few takers on England saving the match. Then Graveney, who scored a masterly 165, with support from Murray, who scored 112, took the score to

399 for 9. To add insult to injury, Higgs and Snow, both reaching their 50s, added 128 for the last wicket. England reached 527 and the strong but

demoralised West Indies, were all out for 225, losing by an innings.

The 1906 match should not really figure in this list. Australia recovered from 180 for 7 to 506 through Clem Hill's 160. However Hill normally batted at no.3

and by no stretch of imagination a late order batsmen.

Pakistan's recovery from 237 for 7 to 553 was through a massive 257 not out from Wasim Akram and 79 from Saqlain Mushtaq. New Zealand's move from 279 for 7

to 593 for 8 was through Fleming's huge double century and an unlikely 100 from Franklin. South Africa's match and series-winning progression from 184 for 7

to 459 was through Duminy's epic 166 and Steyn's 75.

Botham's once-in-lifetime innings of 149 at Headingley during 1981, which took the post-follow-on score from 135 for 7 to 356 all out also figures late in

this table.

The second is a table ordered by the % of runs added.

Table of late order batsmen successes: By % of score at 7 wkt down

MtNo Year For Final Score Runs % of 7 wkt Added score

0186 1930 Nzl 112 for 10 from 21 for 7 91 433.3% vs Eng 0623 1967 Pak 255 for 10 from 53 for 7 202 381.1% vs Eng 0168 1927 Saf 170 for 10 from 38 for 7 132 347.4% vs Eng 0003 1879 Eng 113 for 10 from 26 for 7 87 334.6% vs Aus 0111 1910 Saf 174 for 10 from 49 for 7 125 255.1% vs Aus 0063 1899 Aus 196 for 10 from 57 for 7 139 243.9% vs Eng 0761 1975 Aus 268 for 10 from 81 for 7 187 230.9% vs Eng 0609 1966 Eng 527 for 10 from 166 for 7 361 217.5% vs Win 1459 1999 Aus 188 for 10 from 60 for 7 128 213.3% vs Slk 1450 1999 Slk 188 for 10 from 61 for 7 127 208.2% vs Pak 1139 1990 Nzl 391 for 10 from 131 for 7 260 198.5% vs Ind 0883 1980 Eng 209 for 9 from 73 for 7 136 186.3% vs Win 1096 1988 Pak 194 for 10 from 68 for 7 126 185.3% vs Win 0098 1908 Aus 506 for 10 from 180 for 7 326 181.1% vs Eng 1455 1999 Eng 126 for 10 from 45 for 7 81 180.0% vs Nzl 0066 1902 Aus 353 for 10 from 128 for 7 225 175.8% vs Eng 0669 1969 Aus 153 for 10 from 57 for 7 96 168.4% vs Ind 0327 1950 Eng 122 for 10 from 46 for 7 76 165.2% vs Aus 0967 1983 Ind 103 for 10 from 39 for 7 64 164.1% vs Win 0905 1981 Eng 356 for 10 from 135 for 7 221 163.7% vs Aus

I am aware that a 400% improvement in score could be caused by a sub-25 for 7 situation improving to 100+ all out. However let us give credit to those

hapless and less gifted batsmen who have batted bravely. This is their "15 minutes of greatness", at least as far as their batting is concerned.

In the 1930 match New Zealand were 21 for 3 and then lost 4 wickets in one over, including a hat-trick to Maurice Allom, making his debut. They recovered to

a score four times bigger, mainly through Blunt. They still lost the match, though.

Pakistan's recovery was amazing. Trailing by 224 against England at The Oval, 53 for 7 and 65 for 8 before Asif Iqbal who scored a thrilling 146, added 190

in partnership with Intikhab Alam who scored 51. They avoided an innings defeat but lost comfortably.

The next three matches are old ones.

During the 1975 Ashes Test, Australia were 81 for 7 against an England total of 315. Follow-on and a huge loss loomed ahead. Then Ross Edwards added 52 with

Walker but more importantly 66 with Lillee before he was out. Lillee carried on with Mallet and finished unbeaten on 77. Australia scored 268 and saved the

match.

Then we have the England-West Indies Test already described. Then we come to two Tests playing within a month of each other with virtually the same scoring

pattern.

First Sri Lanka, playing against Pakistan and trailing by 360+ runs slumps to 61 for 7. Tillakaratne who scored 55, in the company of the last three batsmen,

added 127 more runs.

Now, six months later, Australia, batting first, slumps to 60 for 7 before Ponting who scored 96 glorious runs, adds 128 for the last three wickets, mainly

with Gillespie. Australia, however, went on to lose the match.

What is the best ever late order recovery? It's impossible to pin-point one innings. However, if there is an imaginary gun pointing at me, I will plump for

England against Australia at Headingley during 1981. Note the order of events. Australia scored 401. England scored 174, followed on and slumped to 135 for

7, against Lillee, Lawson and Alderman. 500 to 1 were very generous odds at this point.

At this stage Botham plays his epic 149, is well supported by Dilley (56) and Old (29) and England reach 356. Still Australia needs only 119 to win. Then

Willis steps in. His best bowling effort ever, 8 for 43, makes sure Botham's stupendous effort is not wasted. It is my personal opinion that, Calcutta 2001

notwithstanding, that was the greatest recovery in Test cricket. It also happens to be the best in this current analysis. Again my personal view.

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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