Tests - bowling October 12, 2009

How far ahead is the top one - part II

I had earlier done lists of how far ahead leading Test batsmen were from the second-places ones in various attributes

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