December 23, 2009

Spectacular but all too brief

Shane Bond only played 18 Tests, but he still managed to conjure several matchwinning moments for New Zealand

And so the body finally gave up on him. After battling injuries almost relentlessly through a decade, Shane Bond has finally decided that Test cricket is too much strain for him, and New Zealand are without a strike bowler yet again.

Bond in full flight was an utterly spectacular sight, which makes it doubly sad that the cricket world has seen so little of him, especially in a form of the game that allows him to attack without fear. It's almost unfair that his decision means he'll continue to play in formats which will curb those attacking instincts and force him to bowl defensive lines to defensive fields with the onus on saving runs.

The series which stands out for me in a brief Test career was the one against India at home in 2002-03. Admittedly conditions were tailormade for seam and swing, and none of the batsmen got runs consistently, but the manner in which Bond prized out India's much-vaunted batting line-up made for superb viewing. The second innings of the Wellington Test was the most memorable, when he removed Sehwag, Dravid, Ganguly and Tendulkar with high-class seam and swing to win the match for New Zealand. That series remains his most successful against the top teams.

The stat that best sums up Bond's effect in the New Zealand team is the team's results in matches in which he played and in the ones he didn't. The difference, it turns out, is huge. In the 18 Tests he played, New Zealand won ten (though four of those were against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe). They lost only twice, to Sri Lanka and South Africa. During the period since Bond's Test debut, they played 49 times without him, and managed to win only ten, and lost 24. New Zealand's bowling average was ten runs lower, and their strike rate was 20 balls better, when Bond was in the line-up.

New Zealand with and without Shane Bond since his debut
  Tests Won Lost Drawn Bowling ave Strike rate
With Bond 18 10 2 6 26.71 51.6
Without Bond 49 10 24 15 36.51 71.1

It's also interesting to see the effect that Bond had on his bowling mates. Among the specialist bowlers, it seems Bond's absence effected Daniel Vettori and Daryl Tuffey more than the others - Vettori's average went up from 24 to 37 in Tests when Bond didn't play, which indicates the pressure he put on batsmen helped the others bowlers too. Similarly, Tuffey averaged 21 when he played with Bond, and 32 when Bond wasn't around.

NZ bowlers in Tests with and without Bond
Bowler With Bond - Tests Wkts Ave W/O Bond - Tests Wkts Ave
Daniel Vettori 18 62 24.74 46 144 37.11
Chris Martin 10 29 31.72 36 119 35.37
Jacob Oram 7 20 19.25 26 40 39.95
Chris Cairns 4 17 25.82 8 24 33.37
Daryl Tuffey 6 17 21.35 12 38 32.28
James Franklin 6 13 35.76 18 60 33.28

Another stat that demonstrates his match-winning ability is the number of Man-of-the-Match awards he has won - is just 18 matches he won the award four times, including, quite fittingly, in what turned out to be his last Test. (Which makes a good quiz question - how many players have won the match award in their last Test? I don't the answer myself, but will try and find out. In the meantime, do send in your answers.)

I wish he'd played more Tests against Australia and improved his record against them - in two Tests he averaged 96.33, but those were his first two Tests, so he deserves some slack (and he bowled better than those figures suggest).

He enjoyed his matches against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe - as did most bowlers - but even after removing his games against them, his stats still look good - an average of 26.22, with a wicket every 43.6 balls. For New Zealand's sake, here's hoping they find a like-for-like replacement soon.

Bond against B'desh, Zim and the rest
Opposition Tests Wickets Average Strike rate 5WI/ 10WM
B'desh & Zim 4 24 11.25 25.7 1/ 1
Other teams 14 63 26.22 43.6 4/ 0
Career 18 87 22.09 38.7 5/ 1

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter