Ashes August 20, 2009

Fancy England scoring 1003 to win

 
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It increasingly seems that when England pick Steve Harmison, they essentially pick a myth © Getty Images
 

Sit down. I have some stats that may or may not be relevant to the Oval Test.

• Australia are averaging 13 runs per wicket more than England – 46 to 33 – meaning that, statistically, they have dominated this series more than they did the series of 1990-91, 1994-95 1997 or 1998-99 which they won comfortably without having to sully their baggy green hands with an important final Test, and more even than in the famous 4-1 Lillee-and-Thomson-ignited drubbing of 1974-75. Nevertheless, thanks to Monty Panesar’s unbreachable bat, they have failed to translate this obvious superiority into champagne-spraying exultation.

As an incidental substatistic, at the equivalent stage of the 2005 series, Australia and England both averaged 30.87 runs per wicket – though, when an extra decimal place is thrown into the equation, England had a clear advantage of 3 thousandths of a run per wicket over. Good, close series, that one, with hindsight.

• If England do win (and assuming they do not hand Australia a 1938-style innings-and-500 drubbing), they will become only the 2nd team since 1902 to win an Ashes series despite averaging less than their opponents − in 1981, England won 3-1 despite averaging fractionally lower than Australia (26.38 to 26.52). Botham’s aura evidently made a 0.15 runs-per-wicket difference then – can Flintoff’s overcome a 13-runs-per-wicket deficit this time?

• If England drop Graham Onions for Flintoff, they will attempt to take 20 wickets with five bowlers who, in the last two Ashes series, have taken 65 wickets at an average of 50.12, with a strike rate of a scalp every 83 balls. If they continue on this form, they will need 277 overs to bowl Australia out twice for a combined total of 1002 runs (excluding leg-byes and byes).

England will therefore have to score 1003 in around 170 overs to win. The best tactic on winning the toss would be to insert Australia, bowl them out for 501 by mid-afternoon on day two, then smash a quick run-a-ball 1003 for 9 declared by just after lunch on day four, and bowl Australia out for 501 again to win with the last ball of the match. The only potential flaw in this plan is that the 11 batsmen who would have to do this have, over the same time span, averaged 30, and scored at three per over. Still, stranger things have happened. Albeit, not in cricket. Or reality.

• It increasingly seems that when England pick Steve Harmison, they essentially pick a myth. Either side of his annus mirabilis – from October 2003 to September 2004, when he took 70 wickets in 12 tests at an average of 19.8, against Bangladesh, West Indies and New Zealand – he has harvested just three wickets per Test at a Malcolmian, Prabhakaretic, sub-Pringlesque average of 37.5.

If you then remove four further ‘Tests’ against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, that average creeps above 40, into the realms where Madal Lals, Ashley Gileses and Guy Whittals roam. If you then get a bit cheeky and whip out his 11 for 76 on a bouncily helpful wicket at Old Trafford against Pakistan, England are now relying on a bowler who for the vast majority of his career against top-class opposition on non-trampolining pitches averages 43 – slightly worse than the career averages of fast-bowling legends such as Champaka Ramanayake, Nixon McLean, Pramodya Wickramasinghe and Nathan Astle. Most players’ careers can be statistically picked apart in some way, but these are ugly numbers in anyone’s notebook, particularly if that person is using their notebook to plot a series-clinching Test win against Australia.

There you go. You can’t argue with facts. Particularly when the facts are arguing with themselves.

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • aditrs on September 24, 2009, 13:46 GMT

    I, for one, would like to see an England team coached by Mr Andrew Zaltzman. I'm sure that with his clearly superior match analysis (demonstrated in this masterpiece of an article) could very well lead the team to the top.

  • Alex_C on August 24, 2009, 15:02 GMT

    With hindsight it didn't seem to be all that disparate - Total Aussie runs = 2882; Total Brit runs = 2869 (hope that's right). Given they had the majority of the batting in the badly weather-beaten test it's not all that far out. I reckon you're pretty much right in that we had 2 tests a piece where one side had the ascendancy with one washout and it was only the tail hanging in there that won it for us.

    Looking forward to SA and Broads continuing metamorphosis into what it is to be hoped Freddie but the figures to back up the reputation...

  • Mal on August 22, 2009, 19:11 GMT

    They don't call him Steve Harmless-one for nothing.

  • Amol on August 22, 2009, 4:06 GMT

    you have been proved wrong..better luck next time for your prediction.

  • Dr Ima Gnu on August 21, 2009, 16:20 GMT

    In the Times podcast before Headinglay, someone said "I'd love to see a 3 1/2 day thriller with wickets falling all over the place." You idiot, Zaltzman - look what you did!

  • Atul Bhogle on August 21, 2009, 13:38 GMT

    Boy, I shouldn't read your blog while in office. The whole floor gets up with a curious 'who is the moron laughing like that' look. As always, brilliant article. Keep them coming.

  • Henwelder on August 20, 2009, 20:01 GMT

    re saket, say what you wish about Pietersen and Trott but Bopara and Panesar are both english.

  • Ravi on August 20, 2009, 19:03 GMT

    Henceforth, I will work "Prabhakaretic" into my cricket conversations :-)....

  • ryan ojar on August 20, 2009, 18:31 GMT

    how do you come up with this stuff?! Great articles !!keep it up!! i am from the west indies and totally love it!!

  • Miten on August 20, 2009, 18:24 GMT

    Let's face it people - England is an average team in the world of cricket trying to beat the most consistent, most talented and most determined team in the world. They are trying their best, in home conditions and have just about managed to hang on. It's not surprising at all. England can only win this series if Australia hand it to them on a silver platter.

  • aditrs on September 24, 2009, 13:46 GMT

    I, for one, would like to see an England team coached by Mr Andrew Zaltzman. I'm sure that with his clearly superior match analysis (demonstrated in this masterpiece of an article) could very well lead the team to the top.

  • Alex_C on August 24, 2009, 15:02 GMT

    With hindsight it didn't seem to be all that disparate - Total Aussie runs = 2882; Total Brit runs = 2869 (hope that's right). Given they had the majority of the batting in the badly weather-beaten test it's not all that far out. I reckon you're pretty much right in that we had 2 tests a piece where one side had the ascendancy with one washout and it was only the tail hanging in there that won it for us.

    Looking forward to SA and Broads continuing metamorphosis into what it is to be hoped Freddie but the figures to back up the reputation...

  • Mal on August 22, 2009, 19:11 GMT

    They don't call him Steve Harmless-one for nothing.

  • Amol on August 22, 2009, 4:06 GMT

    you have been proved wrong..better luck next time for your prediction.

  • Dr Ima Gnu on August 21, 2009, 16:20 GMT

    In the Times podcast before Headinglay, someone said "I'd love to see a 3 1/2 day thriller with wickets falling all over the place." You idiot, Zaltzman - look what you did!

  • Atul Bhogle on August 21, 2009, 13:38 GMT

    Boy, I shouldn't read your blog while in office. The whole floor gets up with a curious 'who is the moron laughing like that' look. As always, brilliant article. Keep them coming.

  • Henwelder on August 20, 2009, 20:01 GMT

    re saket, say what you wish about Pietersen and Trott but Bopara and Panesar are both english.

  • Ravi on August 20, 2009, 19:03 GMT

    Henceforth, I will work "Prabhakaretic" into my cricket conversations :-)....

  • ryan ojar on August 20, 2009, 18:31 GMT

    how do you come up with this stuff?! Great articles !!keep it up!! i am from the west indies and totally love it!!

  • Miten on August 20, 2009, 18:24 GMT

    Let's face it people - England is an average team in the world of cricket trying to beat the most consistent, most talented and most determined team in the world. They are trying their best, in home conditions and have just about managed to hang on. It's not surprising at all. England can only win this series if Australia hand it to them on a silver platter.

  • saket on August 20, 2009, 17:48 GMT

    gr8 comment!!!!!! but i like to support an England's win as then australia will drop in test ranking & ultimately india will move up......

    Less english play cricket these days so they hav to choos players born in /related to different countries like trott,pietrson,bopara, panesar

  • jalps on August 20, 2009, 16:56 GMT

    I'm pretty sure the current selection committee aren't particularly numerate. Maybe you could join Willis and Boycott to make up the 'dream team'. At least they didn't select Panesar...

  • saatwik on August 20, 2009, 16:38 GMT

    The Times headlines for 24th August: andy zaltzman elected prime minister after brown steps to celebrate England scoring 1003 for 2 to defeat australia by an innings and 1 run mom: flintoff:900* and 20/40

  • Arvind on August 20, 2009, 15:57 GMT

    1003 in 170 overs? Well, recently Sehwag announced a spat with his state Delhi, and is planning to leave Delhi. If the England selectors had been as wise as Andy, they should have manouvered him into leaving not just his state but his country for 5 days, instead of wasting time over Ramprakash, Trott, Trescothick, Flintoff, Panesar, etc. If Sehwag scores 901 of those runs in about 134.1 overs, the rest of the team can score 102 in 33.5 overs like they did last time.

  • Dan on August 20, 2009, 15:41 GMT

    Brilliant - I love stats, and as such your articles are always hilarious.

    However, while it was obviously tongue in cheek, at least Champaka Ramanayake, Nixon McLean and Pramodya Wickramasinghe were actual fast bowlers. Nathan Astle, on the other hand, was a medium pacer at best. I remember a commentator describing his style as bowling "autumn leaves" rather than cricket balls. Surely there is another genuine quick out there with a test average of 43? Probably could even find a Kiwi to replace Astle with like for like.

  • Avner on August 20, 2009, 15:35 GMT

    Many thanks Andy for your consistently incisive yet hilarious pieces. From a different angle, England should have included Monty and Onions to ensure adequate depth in nightwatchmen. Perhaps also as backup for the one-legged wonder and in case Harmison goes AWOL again. (Awful Wides Over Leg-gully).

  • shankargg on August 20, 2009, 15:25 GMT

    i hope u r well paid for all the pains u took in coming with the stats.

  • shankargg on August 20, 2009, 15:25 GMT

    i hope u r well paid for all the pains u took in coming with the stats.

  • Bill on August 20, 2009, 11:55 GMT

    the podcast doesnt appear to be available within the UK, either. Boo to the beeb

  • arvind on August 20, 2009, 10:12 GMT

    I hope Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower have read this post. But imagine the aussie team reading this post, it much more effective than Langer's Dossier.

  • rob on August 20, 2009, 9:59 GMT

    Your third bullet point is spot on. Everyone has focused on the batting after the general and middle order debacle at Headingley but the real issue is the bowlers. This attack based on the history and especially on the last two attempts - that is, form - does not have the penetration to bowl these Australian batsmen out twice on a vaguely reliable pitch. Probably the batsmen will do ok but who is going to get each of Ponting, Clarke, North and Haddin - not to mention the rest who are making fifties and hundreds for fun - out twice each quickly and cheaply enough. I'm not sure there's a selection answer to this which is perhaps why it's been rather unstated but this is a batters' series and the questions are (a) which attack is more likely to bowl to form to disruopt the batsmen's advantage; and (b) which batting line up is less likely to throw its wickets away to help the opposition take twenty wickets? Sadly the answer to both is Australia. Let's hope I'm utterly wrong.

  • Aniruddha on August 20, 2009, 9:05 GMT

    Andy may be fogiven on the count of being a formerly-failed-cricketer-successful-comedian but this piece of writing has a negative tone as well as it downplays achievements of Wikramsinghe, Giles, Prabhakar. I hope Andy regains his positive attitude and can marry that with his unmatchable sense of humour. Love you Andy but this was a passable piece of writing.

  • shoaib on August 20, 2009, 9:04 GMT

    Hilarious.. your stats rule!!

  • Aniruddha on August 20, 2009, 9:04 GMT

    Andy may be fogiven on the count of being a formerly-failed-cricketer-successful-comedian but this piece of writing has a negative tone as well as it downplays achievements of Wikramsinghe, Giles, Prabhakar. I hope Andy regains his positive attitude and can marry that with his unmatchable sense of humour. Love you Andy but this was a passable piece of writing.

  • Mr V Concerned on August 20, 2009, 9:02 GMT

    Great stat about onions. Can someone please tell the selectors about this and the real facts on Harmison before the team's picked this morning. And remember, this is a guy who also has a habit of 'giving up coz it's all too hard'!! Now England have 4 South African batsmen, maybe we should be plundering their bowling talent too.

  • Daniel Cherny on August 20, 2009, 8:57 GMT

    Another classic Andy. Keep up the fantastic work!

  • don on August 20, 2009, 8:43 GMT

    hahaha....great post!!!

  • don on August 20, 2009, 8:42 GMT

    hahaha....great post!!!

  • Aubs on August 20, 2009, 8:17 GMT

    Always love the hilarious but true stats you manage to dig up Andy!

  • Venkat on August 20, 2009, 8:16 GMT

    Pretty revealing stats eh? England might not accept, but I think the only England can win with this bunch is for Australia to wildly off the road and expected road(a remote but nonetheless chance with this current Australian team)

    My prediction - With their recent form, Aussies should be able to wrap up the match with an innings and cople of days to spare!

  • J Ahmad on August 20, 2009, 8:12 GMT

    In short, England have no chance!

  • Dave on August 20, 2009, 8:09 GMT

    Nothing to add but brilliant once again!

  • limptoff on August 20, 2009, 8:04 GMT

    lol

  • Rishabh on August 20, 2009, 8:03 GMT

    In your own way, you're saying "Drop Steve Harmison!"

    ________________________________________________ Rishabh Bablani, www.billyworm.blogspot.com

  • Rahul on August 20, 2009, 8:00 GMT

    Brilliant! Makes statistics sound like fun :)

  • phil on August 20, 2009, 7:56 GMT

    Thanks Andy, that makes everything clearer. Suddenly the whole series is making sense.

  • scorpio_on_blue_moon on August 20, 2009, 7:56 GMT

    Thats absolutely true about "Hormison" !!! He has got more than enough opportunities. England might have found another "Onions" instead.

  • jogesh99 on August 20, 2009, 7:48 GMT

    Andy, the Ashes consist largely of myths - whats one more or less? Some of the more feeble ones doing the rounds are: 1. Its the ultimate cricketing contest. Gimme a break - even Zim v/s B'desh is more gripping these days. 2. It's keeping Test cricket alive. You, dear Andy, are keeping it alive, single-handedly (i presume you are a one-finger typist, given your recent output),in spite of the insipid cricket on display. 3. The Aussies are underperforming because they can't sledge. Santa's little helper, is he, Ponting? 4. Flintoff.

  • sanjay on August 20, 2009, 7:36 GMT

    haha funny time. i laughed quite a bit i did. I found extramly funny reading. did not understood the part aboot 1003 run but funny nonethoughless.

  • jkharrylogan on August 20, 2009, 7:35 GMT

    lol and a half. i laughed quite a bit i did. I found extramly funny reading. did not understood the part aboot 1003 run but funny nonethoughless.

  • Amit on August 20, 2009, 7:23 GMT

    Hahahahhaha... Hilarious. Respect for all the bowlers you've listed.

  • nishant on August 20, 2009, 7:17 GMT

    well put....england selectors need to take a look at the stats tht u put up, then only will we c an awesome series decider.....either ways, miracles can occur so fingers crossed

  • Sujith on August 20, 2009, 7:15 GMT

    Harmison is a wuss (a majority of England Players are). Better bring on Monty, maybe this time he will work wonders with the ball in 2nd innings. Oval is supposed to turn right?

  • Arvind on August 20, 2009, 6:57 GMT

    No one supports England in cricket, not even the numbers and statistics, against any opposition.

  • Nadeem Akhter on August 20, 2009, 6:33 GMT

    As always Sir Andy, You have come up with a wonderful piece of writing. I throughly enjoyed your statistical analysis of a couple of factual realities that should come into consideration of English Selectors and supporters. Bar one match, Aussies have played much better cricket and deserve to hold the trophy. But as you said, stranger things have happened albiet not in cricket, or reality :P

  • j llo on August 20, 2009, 6:01 GMT

    Mr Zaltzman, why is your bbc podcast not available outside of the UK? please change it.

  • JII on August 20, 2009, 5:50 GMT

    Andy, Behind all that humour and sarcasm, you have brilliantly analytical and mathematical mind. Hats off. JII

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  • JII on August 20, 2009, 5:50 GMT

    Andy, Behind all that humour and sarcasm, you have brilliantly analytical and mathematical mind. Hats off. JII

  • j llo on August 20, 2009, 6:01 GMT

    Mr Zaltzman, why is your bbc podcast not available outside of the UK? please change it.

  • Nadeem Akhter on August 20, 2009, 6:33 GMT

    As always Sir Andy, You have come up with a wonderful piece of writing. I throughly enjoyed your statistical analysis of a couple of factual realities that should come into consideration of English Selectors and supporters. Bar one match, Aussies have played much better cricket and deserve to hold the trophy. But as you said, stranger things have happened albiet not in cricket, or reality :P

  • Arvind on August 20, 2009, 6:57 GMT

    No one supports England in cricket, not even the numbers and statistics, against any opposition.

  • Sujith on August 20, 2009, 7:15 GMT

    Harmison is a wuss (a majority of England Players are). Better bring on Monty, maybe this time he will work wonders with the ball in 2nd innings. Oval is supposed to turn right?

  • nishant on August 20, 2009, 7:17 GMT

    well put....england selectors need to take a look at the stats tht u put up, then only will we c an awesome series decider.....either ways, miracles can occur so fingers crossed

  • Amit on August 20, 2009, 7:23 GMT

    Hahahahhaha... Hilarious. Respect for all the bowlers you've listed.

  • jkharrylogan on August 20, 2009, 7:35 GMT

    lol and a half. i laughed quite a bit i did. I found extramly funny reading. did not understood the part aboot 1003 run but funny nonethoughless.

  • sanjay on August 20, 2009, 7:36 GMT

    haha funny time. i laughed quite a bit i did. I found extramly funny reading. did not understood the part aboot 1003 run but funny nonethoughless.

  • jogesh99 on August 20, 2009, 7:48 GMT

    Andy, the Ashes consist largely of myths - whats one more or less? Some of the more feeble ones doing the rounds are: 1. Its the ultimate cricketing contest. Gimme a break - even Zim v/s B'desh is more gripping these days. 2. It's keeping Test cricket alive. You, dear Andy, are keeping it alive, single-handedly (i presume you are a one-finger typist, given your recent output),in spite of the insipid cricket on display. 3. The Aussies are underperforming because they can't sledge. Santa's little helper, is he, Ponting? 4. Flintoff.