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April 10, 2010

Test cricket

A Test series for the gods - part 2

Anantha Narayanan

Malcolm Marshall: 32 wickets in five Tests a an average of 17.18 © Getty Images
An intriguing title to an article radically different from my normal analytical efforts. I can assure the readers that they would not be disappointed.

During early 1990s we had developed a series of complex and unique Test and ODI simulation systems. We had simulated for Sportstar a ODI World Cup. We had also conducted an inter-school tournament between the top schools letting the children captain various teams. Also we had done some innovative pre-match simulation of the matches during the 1999 World Cup.

During 2002, I undertook a very different and unusual exercise with Times of London, in conjunction with Wisden On-line. This was to simulate a series of 5 Tests between an all-time England XI and all-time World XI. For various logical reasons we restricted ourselves to the post-war players. These matches were to be played at Lord's, Bridgetown, Cape Town, SCG and Calcutta. The two teams were selected by Christopher Martin-Jenkins with inputs from us. The actual simulation was done in Bangalore over a few days.

The results were published in London times, with comments by Steven Lynch, between 26 July 2002 and 3 August 2002.

Since most readers might not have seen these articles, I felt I ought to do an article on this unique exercise. In the first part I talked about the simulation methodology and the teams which were selected. In the second part I will cover the actual "Test" match scores and the original match reports as sent by us to London Times. I am sure the readers would find these worthwhile to peruse.

In the first part, I had laid the foundation of this unique Test series. In this follow-up article I have given the scorecards and match reports.

First Test: played at Lord's, London (ROW won by six wickets)

England Post-war XI: First  innings -
292 (Hutton 129*, May 89, Marshall 5/46)
R O W   Post-war XI: First  innings -
440 (V Richards 85, Lara 75, Tendulkar 59, Gichrist 95*, Statham 4/86, Underwood 4/84)
England Post-war XI: Second innings -
302 (Hutton 136, Cowdrey 63, Warne 5/84, Muralitharan 4/74)
R O W   Post-war XI: Second innings -
156/4 (Gavaskar 57*)
To view the scanned scorecard properly, please right-click here and download the file.

Viewing on the browser may not be clear since most browsers reduce the picture sizes. This applies to all jpg files. It is suggested that readers download the files and peruse at leisure.

To view the scanned match report properly, please right-click here and download the file.

Alternately, to view the match report in browser-friendly html format, please click here.

Second Test: played at Bridgetown, Barbados (England won by 43 runs)

England Post-war XI: First  innings
308 (May 92*, Botham 73, Marshall 4/67, Lillee 4/79)
R O W   Post-war XI: First  innings
339 (V Richards 103, Lara 50, Trueman 3/70, Statham 4/60)
England Post-war XI: Second innings
299 (Botham 101*, Dexter 46, Marshall 6/81)
R O W   Post-war XI: Second innings
223 (B Richards 62, Sobers 53*, Trueman 3/46, Statham 4/57).
To view the scanned scorecard properly, please right-click here and download the file. Viewing on the browser may not be clear since most browsers reduce the picture sizes.

To view the scanned match report properly, please right-click here and download the file.

Alternately, to view the match report in browser-friendly html format, please click here.

Third Test: played at Cape town, South Africa (ROW won by 55 runs)

R O W   Post-war XI: First  innings
485 (Gavaskar 145, Lara 75, Sobers 89*, Gilchrist 66)
England Post-war XI: First  innings
150 (Hutton 48, Marshall 4/30, Warne 5/35)
R O W   Post-war XI: Second innings
150 for 3 decl (Gavaskar 57*)
England Post-war XI: Second innings\
430 (Hutton 113, Gooch 104, May 64, Muralitharan 5/118).
To view the scanned scorecard properly, please right-click here and download the file. Viewing on the browser may not be clear since most browsers reduce the picture sizes.

To view the scanned match report properly, please right-click here and download the file.

Alternately, to view the match report in browser-friendly html format, please click here.

Fourth Test: played at SCG, Sydney (England won by 5 wickets)

R O W   Post-war XI: First  innings
242 (B Richards 72, V Richards 74, Underwood 3/34, Laker 3/26)
England Post-war XI: First  innings
429 (Hutton 182, Dexter 82, May 69, Murali 5.91, Warne 4/91)
R O W   Post-war XI: Second innings
261 (B Richards 53, Lara 84, Botham 4/74)
England Post-war XI: Second innings
76 for 5 (Marshall 5/33).
To view the scanned scorecard properly, please right-click here and download the file. Viewing on the browser may not be clear since most browsers reduce the picture sizes. Pl note that this scanning has been done off the original newspaper.

To view the scanned match report properly, please right-click here and download the file.

Alternately, to view the match report in browser-friendly html format, please click here.

Fifth Test: played at Calcutta, India (ROW won by an innings and 52 runs)

England Post-war XI: First  innings
282 (Dexter 132, Marshall 3/56, Lillee 3/66, Sobers 3/64)
R O W   Post-war XI: First  innings
616 for 4 decl (Tendulkar 200*, Lara 106, Sobers 102*)
England Post-war XI: Second innings
282 (Hutton 56, May 102, Marshall 3/71, Muralitharan 3/40).
To view the scanned scorecard properly, please right-click here and download the file. Viewing on the browser may not be clear since most browsers reduce the picture sizes.

To view the scanned match report properly, please right-click here and download the file.

Alternately, to view the match report in browser-friendly html format, please click here.

In addition to the five Test series, a one-off "Test" was played between the team selected by a lucky reader (P.J.Mickleburgh) and an eleven selected by Christopher Martin-Jenkins.

To view the scanned scorecard properly, please right-click here and download the file. Viewing on the browser may not be clear since most browsers reduce the picture sizes.

A statistical summary:

Runs scored:      Hutton scored 744 runs.
Batting average:  Hutton's average was a Bradman-like 93.0.
Wickets captured: Marshall captured 32 wickets.
Bowling average:  Marshall's bowling average was a miserly 17.18.
Hundreds:         Hutton scored 4 hundreds.
Four-wkt hauls:   Marshall had 5 four-wkt hauls.
Highest score:    Tendulkar's unbeaten 200 in the last Test.
Best bowling:     Marshall's 6 for 81 although his devastating
spell of 5 for 33 when England needed only 76 to win
probably the bowling performance of the series.
Summing up this has been a Hutton-Marshall dominated series.

To view all five scorecards/simulation reports, please click/right-click here and view/download the file. Viewing on the browser may be fine since this is only a MS Word file.

Download this document and read the simulation reports at leisure. You will get a clear insight into the rationale behind the game development and the way it is played. Do not miss the last bit of the fourth Test where England chases 76 to win and almost comes a cropper due to wrong strategy adopted by the simulation captain.

Many readers have expressed their surprise at the non-inclusion of Barrington. If the readers peruse the simulation reports carefully, they will notice this sentiment expressed in more than one place. I myself was quite surprised at the preference of Cowdrey, no more than competent, to Barrington, among the best of defensive batsmen.

The final image. To view the scanned Player selection report of CM-J properly, please right-click here and download the file. Viewing on the browser may not be clear since most browsers reduce the picture sizes.

Truly this was a series for the Gods. If these teams were made into all-time XIs, Bradman, Barnes SF and Hammond might have replaced B Richards, Statham and Cowdrey. My hunch is that that team, immeasurably strengthened with the arrival of the great man himself, would probably win 4-1. Possibly not. Who knows, Barnes was well-nigh unplayable on many pitches and Hammond has a 14-run lead over Cowdrey.

Even in this series the presence of Barrington might (or might not) have tilted the scales. Readers must remember that if Barrington was playing, the role-playing captains might have attempted alternate strategies.

A few people have asked whether some simulation exercise can be done now. Unfortunately the programs were kept in cold storage in 2002. The database was also a manually created one since I was not able to link the simulation with my established and dynamic database in 2002, mainly because of time constraints. That exercise is a massive one, as also the one of fine tuning the simulation to fit in with today's 75+% result and 3.5+ rpo Test environment. I promise I will do it one day. At least let me see whether I can wake the Simulation suite of programs from their Rip van Winkle-like slumber.

Again let me re-assure the readers that this is not an attempt to plug any of our company products since I have nothing to sell, no products, no services, nothing !!! I have been driven by nostalgia and the need to share unique experiences with enlightened readers.

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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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Singhe on (June 1, 2010, 1:55 GMT)

Guess, I am a few late on reading this!!! Magnificent job on the simulation and selection: I could not imagine a more accurate result. One stat stood out for me: two players in the RTW from the tiny island of Barbados. I remember the 1970 RTW team had 3 players from tiny Guyana: Kanhai, Gibbs, and Lloyd. hmmmm,,,,,

Posted by Engle on (April 20, 2010, 20:14 GMT)

Point : Quality is 1st, variety is 2nd.

However, if theres a small difference between 2 players, lean towards the one that brings a new set of skills to the table. That's why we have LH, RH batsman or defenders/attackers. Imagine a batting lineup of RH blockers or LH smashers. Wouldn't work.

Similarly for bowling. In fact, this diff is more pronounced for bowlers, since they are selected for the type of wkt being played upon (tho never batsman)

So, in an AT XI when you only have XI at your disposal, cover the broad spectrum. e.g. for an AT WI XI, L.Gibbs should walk in over C.Walsh

Posted by Alex on (April 20, 2010, 14:57 GMT)

Ananth-Engle-Xolile: So which was the better team --- the all-specialist WI circa 1980-85 or the balanced Aus circa 2000-05? Aus had at least 2 batsmen who could bowl decently (the 2 Waughs, Symonds, Lehman, etc.), an all-time great all-rounder in Gilchrist, a well-balanced attack that had at least 3 great bowlers (McGrath, Warne, Lee/Gillespie). For WI, only Viv & Gomes could bowl a bit (IMO, Dujon almost cancels Gilly).

I feel that, in the long run, a well-balanced team with a balanced attack will adapt & fare better in varied playing conditions. Evolution of life supports it, as does the current WI plight (unthinkable in Lloyd's glory days): after producing at least 10 all-time great fast bowlers over an 16-year period starting 1972 (Roberts) and ending 1988 (Bishop), they have not produced even one great fast bowler ... some blame could be cut out for its cricket board but not all.

Posted by Xolile on (April 20, 2010, 7:17 GMT)

@ Engle

The Aussies under Waugh/Ponting usually picked just four specialist bowlers. Of the regulars only McGrath was a genuine tail-ender. Lee, Warne and Gillespie all averaged between 17 and 21.

They also relied on batting all-rounders to provide back-up bowling, e.g. Symonds, S Waugh and Lehman.

And do not forget Gilchrist who is possibly one of the five finest all-rounders in the history of the game.

As for variety: well there are bound to be exceptions, and few people would argue that the Lakers example is not exceptional. You shouldn’t read too much into outliers such as this.

My research suggests that in Test cricket high quality fast bowlers are the most effective in every country and on just about every surface. The one exception is spin bowlers late in Test matches when they can target foot holes which are not available to pace bowlers. For that reason I would include one spinner in the side; preferably a top leggie such Warne, Kumble or O’Reilly.

Posted by Xolile on (April 20, 2010, 7:17 GMT)

@ Engle

The Aussies under Waugh/Ponting usually picked just four specialist bowlers. Of the regulars only McGrath was a genuine tail-ender. Lee, Warne and Gillespie all averaged between 17 and 21.

They also relied on batting all-rounders to provide back-up bowling, e.g. Symonds, S Waugh and Lehman.

And do not forget Gilchrist who is possibly one of the five finest all-rounders in the history of the game.

As for variety: well there are bound to be exceptions, and few people would argue that the Lakers example is not exceptional. You shouldn’t read too much into outliers such as this.

My research suggests that in Test cricket high quality fast bowlers are the most effective in every country and on just about every surface. The one exception is spin bowlers late in Test matches when they can target foot holes which are not available to pace bowlers. For that reason I would include one spinner in the side; preferably a top leggie such Warne, Kumble or O’Reilly.

Posted by Engle on (April 20, 2010, 2:00 GMT)

@X

Yet the 2 greatest teams of recent times, the 80's WIndies and the 90's+ Aussies barely had a decent all-rounder.

On the topic of variety, remember these are imaginary AT teams selected to play in all conditions, eras, weather, wickets, opposition. Each cricketer selected must bring something special to the table. Imagine a fastie bowling in hot, humid conditions on a dead wicket to Hanif or on a spinning track similar to the one in Eng when Laker got his 19 wkts. Besides, each country has to showcase to the world the variety of talent it has produced.

Posted by Xolile on (April 17, 2010, 8:36 GMT)

@ Abhi

I am certainly not contradicting my earlier statement. The value of all-rounders is that they both increase the bowling capacity of a side (you need to be able to bowl 1500 quality balls per match) and the batting depth (defined as the sum of the team’s batting averages). Bowling variety is a completely different matter, and as I have argued earlier, generally misunderstood

Posted by Xolile on (April 17, 2010, 8:35 GMT)

@ Alex

If you have to revert to over-rates to justify the existence of spinners you know you are fighting a losing battle ;-)

More seriously, I fully agree spinners come into their own towards the end of Tests when there are foot holes to target. But when you look at the stats it seems to be fast bowlers with good control who are the most destructive in the final innings, not spinners. Here are some 4th innings bowling averages for some of the all-time leading wicket takers: Murali 21.02; Warne 23.14; Kumble 22.39; McGrath 19.50; Walsh 19.08; Hadlee 15.63; Ambrose 16.14 ; Marshall 17.66.

Bowling all-rounders struggle towards the end of matches due to fatigue: Botham 38.55 ; Imran 42.10 ; Fintoff 33.00; Cairns 50.57.

As for the variation within the right-arm fast category I fully agree. That’s the point I was making. It’s all about subtle changes. And never are subtle changes more effective than when they are produced by the same bowler.

Posted by Alex on (April 17, 2010, 5:34 GMT)

Xolile - re April 16, 2010 1:09 PM. The wicket and the playing conditions matter. On a spinning track, a good side featuring a quality spinner will probably defeat a champion side featuring only great pace attack ... e.g., (1) Australia's solitary win over the mighty WI in 1985 (Lloyd's last test), (2) Pak's 1-1 series vs WI in late 80's courtesy Qadir (granted that they had Imran & Akram as well), (3) Hirwani's 16 wkt debut vs WI in '88. In all 3 instances, WI had a good batting line-up & great pace bowlers. WI did look for spinners in 80's (e.g. Harper) but without any luck.

Variety doesn't necessarily mean spinners & pace bowlers. Even a pure pace attack can have it: Roberts, Holding, Marshall, Croft, & Garner were quite different from each other & truly great. But I feel if 3 great pace bowlers can't be effective on a track, maybe the 4th won't either ... better to bring in a good spinner, if only to keep the over-rate in check. [[ I like these skirmishes where there is respect for the other person's views and the language used is refined. All of us increase our knowledge base at the same time not crossing the imaginary lines drawn. Ananth: ]]

Posted by Abhi on (April 17, 2010, 5:14 GMT)

Xolile It just so happens that the WI (and Aus for that matter) produces more quality fast bowlers as opposed to spinners/seamers etc. This was especially true in the period you refer to. It is rare that you have a large number of all time great fast bowlers ,all in one team ,at practically the same time. Though ,of course, the “quality” is the thing this does not necessarily mean that a quartet of quicks is more effective than say 2 Warnes and 2 Muralis…or some other combination. And you seem to be contradicting your own earlier comment- wherein you advocate more allrounders. [[ I like these skirmishes where there is respect for the other person's views and the language used is refined. All of us increase our knowledge base at the same time not crossing the imaginary lines drawn. Ananth: ]]

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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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