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October 12, 2009

Tests - bowling

How far ahead is the top one - part II

Anantha Narayanan
Dale Steyn rejoices after striking in the first over, South Africa v Australia, 1st Test, Johannesburg, 1st day, February 26, 2009
 © AFP
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How far ahead is the top player in any list is a key point to answering the question of whether a high mark set by a player will be reached. I had earlier done a similar analysis for batting. Now I have taken a few Test bowling measures and created a table of the Top-100, subject to qualifying criteria, and assigned each position a percentage relative to the top position. A perusal of these tables will give an idea of the degree of permanence of the top places.

If an active player is at the top of an all-time list, he keeps on widening the gap on the second placed player, unless otherwise the top two or three are also active. This true of the aggregate type of measures. On the other hand in performance related measures, it does not matter since it is possible for later players to catch up with the particular measure.

The tables are shown in a standardised format. The first five entries are shown to get an idea, not just of the top entry, but also the ones immediately following the top. When required, more entries are shown. Then the 50th entry, exactly at mid-point, is shown to get an idea of the % drop. Finally the 100th entry is shown to get a further idea of the table's distribution of the key measure.

1. Table of Bowling averages (minimum 100 wkts)

SNo.Bowler             Type  Cty    Runs Wkts   Avge     %

1.Lohmann G.A RFM Eng 1205 112 10.76 100.0 2.Barnes S.F RFM Eng 3106 189 16.43 65.5 3.Turner C.T.B RFM Aus 1670 101 16.53 65.1 4.Peel R lsp Eng 1715 102 16.81 64.0 5.Briggs J lsp Eng 2095 118 17.75 60.6 6.Blythe C lsp Eng 1863 100 18.63 57.8 7.Wardle J.H lsp Eng 2080 102 20.39 52.8 8.Davidson A.K LFM Aus 3819 186 20.53 52.4 9.Marshall M.D RF Win 7876 376 20.95 51.4 10.Garner J RF Win 5433 259 20.98 51.3 ... 50.Tate M.W RFM Eng 4055 155 26.16 41.1 ... 100.Doshi D.R lsp Ind 3502 114 30.72 35.0

Lohmann is nearly as far ahead in Bowling average as Bradman is so far as Batting average is concerned. Notwithstanding all the underlying factors (uncovered pitches, 3-day tests, average amateur batsmen etc), this is a huge difference since we are looking only at the raw numbers here. In fact the top 6 bowlers are all pre-WW1 bowlers.

Then come Wardle, a 50s bowler, Davidson, a 60s bowler and two modern West Indian giants, Marshall and Garner. I would say that the best any modern bowler can hope for is an entry into the top-10, as Muralitharan and Steyn are trying for.

Note how far off the 50th placed bowler, Tate and Doshi, at no.100, are.

To view the complete list, please click here.

2. Table of Wickets per Test (minimum 100 wkts)

SNo.Bowler           Type  Cty  Mat  Wkts    WpT    %

1.Barnes S.F RFM Eng 27 189 7.00 100.0 2.Lohmann G.A RFM Eng 18 112 6.22 88.9 3.Muralitharan M rob Slk 129 783 6.07 86.7 4.Turner C.T.B RFM Aus 17 101 5.94 84.9 5.Grimmett C.V rlb Aus 37 216 5.84 83.4 ... 50.Wasim Akram LFM Pak 104 414 3.98 56.9 ... 100.Giffen G rob Aus 31 103 3.32 47.5

The wonderful thing in this table is not the presence of Barnes and Lohmann at the top, that is taken for granted, but how close Muralitharan is to Lohmann. In modern times, to have a wickets per Test of greater than 6 is simply amazing. Let us forget about wickets captured against weaker teams and appreciate the true greatness of this genial giant.

The 50th placed bowler is well above 50% indicating a clustering on top.

To view the complete list, please click here.

3. Table of Career wickets captured

SNo.Bowler            Type  Cty  Mat  Wkts      %

1.Muralitharan M rob Slk 129 783 100.0 2.Warne S.K rlb Aus 145 708 90.4 3.Kumble A rlb Ind 132 619 79.1 4.McGrath G.D RFM Aus 124 563 71.9 5.Walsh C.A RF Win 132 519 66.3 ... 11.Ntini M RF Saf 99 388 49.6 ... 50.Hughes M.G RF Aus 53 212 27.1 ... 100.Cork D.G RFM Eng 37 131 16.7

This is a pure longevity based table. Muralitharan is ahead by 10% and counting. Since the next active bowler is Ntini and he is 50% off, it is safe to say that Muralitharan is going to add more wickets to his name and keep this achievement a never-to-be-beaten one.

The career wickets tally drops off so drastically that the 50th placed bowler is only at 27%. Also the 100th placed bowler is 83% away.

To view the complete list, please click here.

4. Table of Bowling economy (minimum 1000 overs)

SNo.Bowler             Type  Cty  Overs  Mdns  Runs   RpO    %

1.Goddard T.L LFM Saf 1956.0 706 3226 1.65 100.0 2.Nadkarni R.G lsp Ind 1527.3 665 2559 1.68 98.4 3.Verity H lsp Eng 1862.1 604 3510 1.88 87.5 4.Wardle J.H lsp Eng 1099.3 403 2080 1.89 87.2 5.Illingworth R rob Eng 1989.0 715 3807 1.91 86.2 ... 22.Edmonds P.H lsp Eng 2004.4 613 4273 2.13 77.4 ... 50.Statham J.B RFM Eng 2676.0 595 6261 2.34 70.5 ... 100.Reid B.A LFM Aus 1040.4 244 2784 2.68 61.7

Bowling accuracy was probably more valued in Tests during 50s and 60s. Goddard and Nadkarni are 50s/60s bowlers and have unimaginable accuracy rates. Can we even imagine an analysis of 32-27-5-0 which Nadkarni essayed in 1964. The best modern bowler in this regard is Edmonds, who is 23% away.

The clustering at the top is so pronounced that Statham, at no.50, is only 30% away. And the 100th placed bowler is less than 40% away.

To view the complete list, please click here.

5. Table of Bowling strike rate (Min 100 wkts)

SNo.Bowler             Type  Cty   Balls Wkts  St Rt     %

1 Lohmann G.A RFM Eng 3821 112 34.12 100.0 2 Steyn D.W RF Saf 6676 170 39.27 86.9 3 Barnes S.F RFM Eng 7873 189 41.66 81.9 4 Waqar Younis RFM Pak 16223 373 43.49 78.4 5 Briggs J lsp Eng 5332 118 45.19 75.5 ... 50 Harmison S.J RFM Eng 13375 226 59.18 57.6 ... 100 DeFreitas P.A.J RFM Eng 9838 140 70.27 48.5

Lohmann, as expected is on top. But what is surprising is the second place of Steyn and fourth place of Waqar Younis. Steyn is only 14% away but is likely to slip back as he plays more Tests. But one must give credit to Steyn who is second in an all-time list where the pre-WW1 bowlers are expected to reign supreme. No less is Waqar Younis' achievement.

To view the complete list, please click here.

A table of the best bowling performances in a Test or innings does not belong to this analysis since that is a specific single innings/match event and does not warrant such a comparison. For 10 years, no one might reach 10 or 19 wicket mark, and in one week, two bowlers might go past it.

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 alex on (November 3, 2009, 8:41 GMT)

Abhi and Zeeshan - statements like, to quote, "the fact is Gavaskar is better batsman" ... that is not a fact but an opinion. Anantha's blog, I believe, is to bring out more facts.

In 31 tests 59 innings, AB scored 2052 runs with 3 centuries and 14 half centuries at an average of 39.6 against the formidable WI attack. In early 90's, Ambrose, Bishop, and Walsh were almost as good as the original pace quartet!

Abhi - My point was that the great record vs WI is, in reality, not so great. As for seeing the new ball through, the opener should bat for at least more than 1 session. SMG managed that a whopping 20% of innings in 1983 - 1 of 9 innings in WI and 3 of 11 innings in India. He resorted to Sehwag mode as the last resort vs WI. Two of the 3 inns in India (hundred in Delhi and 90 in Ahmedabad) were in Sehwag mode. The last inns of 236* was in his old style but he, actually, was out caught behind off Marshall before crossing 40. Props to him that he converted on this good fortune. [[ Can we close this line of argument since it is not getting us anywhere and it has no relevance to the article. Ananth: ]]

Posted by Engle on (October 26, 2009, 1:59 GMT)

From Cricinfo on Wasim Raja : "In all he played 11 Tests against West Indies, against attacks including Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner and Colin Croft, making 919 runs at 57.43, an average that only Greg Chappell exceeded during that era."

In fact, he scored 402 runs at home avg. 57.42 And scored 517 runs in WI avg. 57.44

Posted by Zeeshan Ahmed Siddiqui on (October 25, 2009, 15:19 GMT)

Dear Alex, fact is that Gavaskar is better batsman. Border only score one century when attack had Robert, Croft, Garner and Holding. When he scored 100 runs only Marshall and Garner were there and in his last century none of five were there. So in actual, he scored only one century with strong WI attack. His overall batting average is only 33.94 at home versus them. If you are saying that with this record he is excellent against them, I do not think so, with 59 innings, only 3 centuries, runs per inng 34.77, very weak against them.

When Gavaskar played real WI according to you, I think he had already maintained batting average 83 so his average declined. He still maintained average 41.38 which was still more than his overall batting average.

When he scored 147 not out against them Garner, Holding, Marshall and Robert, all four were there. In his last century of 236 not out, three of them were there. So he is excellent against the better attack too in his last phase of career.

Posted by Abhi on (October 25, 2009, 14:25 GMT)

Alex, You seem to be making the cardinal sin of assuming that a bunch of stats can “prove” some point. There is always a lot of subjective context beyond a stat, which if not factored in in renders the stat relatively meaningless. Back in the day, the WI pace battery was the most feared in the world. Gavaskar was an opener, unlike the other batsmen you have mentioned. In those days the main “role” of the opener was to see the new ball through- a far cry from the Haydens and Sehwags of today.All Indian batsmen raised on slow, low pitches were assumed to be sitting ducks for the WI quicks – that too when playing in WI. It is always much more difficult to adjust from slow, low pitches to bouncier ones. (Although in some cases, such as Pontings, the reverse may hold).Gavaskar- as an opener; a batsman raised on slow, low pitches; in a team expected to capitulate meekly- was the bulwark for the team. The batting depended on him for a long time then , much as it revolved around Tendulkar through the 90s. All in all, Gavaskar has been remarkable against the quicks. Of course, you will find stats to “prove” whatever point you may chose to make…but when taken in a holistic manner ,with stats as just another prop, Gavaskars role takes on great significance.

Posted by Andrew Gray on (October 23, 2009, 9:40 GMT)

Hi, Good article. I was wondering if you good do a an article on "prolific" cricketers. This would be more in tune with all-rounders. The basis would be award "points' for runs, wickets, catches & stumpings awarded - run outs would be great but here is no depth of history on those. I fiddled around with this once and assigned 1 point per run, 20 points per wicket & 25 points for catches, (catches win matches)! Under this analysis Gilchrest was the best particularly when dividing by matches played. I think this would be a great way of marking the "worth" of a cricketer. Thoughts?

Posted by alex on (October 22, 2009, 18:53 GMT)

Ananth - this is unrelated to this thread but is to reply to Zeeshan's repeated comments on SMG.

Zeeshan --- it is not about singling out a year in SMG's career ... barring 1976, that was the only time he ever faced the great WI attack. And, he was in good form that year (did quite well vs Pak). You keep citing 13 centuries in 65 innings etc --- FYI, WI attack was so poor in 1971 that players like Sardesai scored heavily! SMG scored heavily when conditions suited him whereas Border scored half centuries consistently. AB faced absolutely hostile WI attack all through his career and still managed 3 centuries & 14 half centuries in 59 outings @avg of 40. SMG has 5 centuries & 3 half centuries in 30 outings @avg of 41 against the real great WI attack. No one is deriding SMG but Gooch and Border performed better vs the real WI attack.

Posted by Zeeshan Ahmed Siddiqui on (October 22, 2009, 5:32 GMT)

Dear Alex, there is no doubt about the abilities of Sir. Bradman and he is a legend of cricket. As far as Gavaskar is concerned, I think he started his career in 1971 and in 1983 his career was near to end or in last phase. Even when he scored 236 not out against WI in 1983, in bowling attack Marshall, Robert and Holding were there. So just taking one specific year from his career is not justice in my eyes. In 1971 he faced Lance Gibbs and Sobers at that time and then later on fast bowlers of them as Robert came in 1974 and then Holding in 1975. His batting average was 83.5 before 1983 so naturally it declined.

Gavaskar scored 13 centuries in 65 innings while Border only 3 in 59 innings with batting average 39.46 as compare to his 65.45. Border never scored 150 or plus against them while he scored 5 times 150 or plus in which three time double tons.

He is the first man in test history who scored 10,000 and also first one to score 30 centuries in test matches.

Posted by Zeeshan Ahmed Siddiqui on (October 20, 2009, 6:48 GMT)

Dear Ananth, please find below some corrections.

Gavaskar played 20 innings in 11 test maches against W. Indies in 1983 with 20 or plus scores are seven that are 20, 32, 147, 121, 90, 20 and 236. Next two scores are 19 and 18. 11 scores are in double figure. I think the consistency is not too bad that we can say that it is inconsistent performance. In 20 innings three are 100 or plus and one score is 90. How can we neglect the fact the bowling line was the best for fast bowling. Bowlers are Marshall, Garner, Holding and Robert. Facing all of them together or three or two of them was very very difficult task. I think Marshall may be the best bowler that cricket has ever produced and remaining three are very near to him.

Gavaskar batting average is near to 60 in forth innings only in test matches showing his mental strength. I think Sunil Gavaskar is the best opener that cricket has ever produced.

Posted by alex on (October 20, 2009, 6:06 GMT)

Zeeshan - I only pointed out the fallacy in the commonly encountered claim of SMG's great record against the WI pace battery; Bradman belonged to a different era and, I believe, it is unfair to compare players from different eras. In the 80's, Border and Gooch played the WI pace battery much better while Vengsarkar (and Lamb, to some extent) gave comparable performances. Take it from a die hard SMG fan that he really was quite overwhelmed by the WI attack in 1983, the only time he faced the battery (barring 1976).

SMG's lasting greatness, I believe, stems from his technical perfection as well as in the professionalism and apetite for consistent big scores that he instilled in Indian cricket.

Posted by Zeeshan Ahmed Siddiqui on (October 18, 2009, 20:08 GMT)

As an example, the average of Gavaskar is only 42 in 11 tests versus the great West Indian attack in 1983 with 20 or plus scores only 4 times in those 19 innings. Yes his average was slightly down but his overall average against W. Indies is 65.45 with 13 centuries and 7 half centuries.

So many are saying he is overrating due to relatively weak attack of them but neglecting the fact that he is one of the best batsman. If he is overrating in this manner then what about Sir Bradman's centuries against England. Were not these centuries overrating or not. If people are ready to give advantage to one player, why not for other player with different era although he faced much difficult bowling as compare to him.

Gavaskar scored 5007 runs in his first 52 test matches with 42 fifty plus scores in which 20 scores are more than 100 runs on 27 different grounds.

Comments have now been closed for this article

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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