July 23, 2011

Multistats

Multistat: 58.2

Andy Zaltzman

The average of spin bowlers in opening innings of Lord's Tests since 1975, as generously contributed to by Harbhajan Singh's 0 for 152. Indian fans should not be excessively concerned by the failure of their 400-wicket tweaker. The last time a spinner took five wickets in the first innings of a Test at HQ was when Bishan Bedi looped his way to six for lots and lots and lots in 1974. That October, I was born. And I have clearly been bad news for slow bowlers operating in the first innings of Lord's Tests. Before I reluctantly entered this world, spinners had taken their first-innings-of-a-Lord's-Test wickets at a respectable average of 32.3. Since then, they have collectively taken just 73 wickets in the 60 opening innings of Lord's Tests, at an average of 58.2. And the best innings return has been Iqbal Qasim's unforgettable 3 for 101 in 1978.

In the second innings of Lord's Tests during my lifespan to date, spinners average 30.4; in the third, 39.2; and in the fourth, 30.7. (By comparison, for pace bowlers at Lord's, the respective innings averages are: 33.52; 29.50; 32.03; and 33.26.) At all other English Test grounds combined, the respective innings averages for spinners are: 44.37; 39.55; 31.92; and 31.65.

In fact, since my evidently influential birth, of the 29 grounds to have hosted 20 or more Tests, Lord's has been the worst for spinners bowling in the opening innings of a Test. However - hold on to your scorebooks, abacuses and thermos flasks, stats fans - it has been the third-best of those grounds for spinners in the second innings of Tests.

Explain that, Captain Science. You can't, can you? No. You can't. Lord's is 23rd best of the 29 for tweakers in the third innings, and 17th best in the fourth innings.

If anyone can explain those stats, they will win a Nobel Prize, a job as Allen Stanford's accountant, and a lifetime seat on the UN Security Council. What the hell happens to Lord's in the second innings of Tests? And how on Zeus' intermittently good earth does Edgbaston leap from 17th best for spin in the first innings and 19th in the second, to the best of all in the third, before settling back to 11th in the fourth? What is going on? Are there no certainties in the world anymore? And, more pertinently, what am I doing finding all this out at 1.30am when I am supposed to writing jokes for my alarmingly-imminent-and-far-from-nearly-finished Edinburgh Fringe show? Should I tell my wife about it, or is it best that she doesn't know? Help.

Furthermore, Harbhajan is seldom at his best in first Tests. Over his career, he has averaged 39.8 in first Tests, 30.2 in second Tests, and 26.4 in third, fourth and fifth Tests combined. And the Punjab Prober's first-Test phobia has become distinctly more pronounced over the last two years - in which time he has taken 15 wickets at 77.9 in eight first Tests, a Quasimodically ugly duckling of a stat to compare with his relatively swanlike (and almost Swann-like) 59 wickets at 29.5 in twelve second and third Tests.

In summary, (a) Harbhajan will probably improve as the series goes on; and (b) it's my bedtime.

Also: I said, it's bedtime. And may Statsguru have mercy on your souls.

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

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andy Zaltzman
Andy Zaltzman was born in obscurity in 1974. He has been a sporadically-acclaimed stand-up comedian since 1999, and has appeared regularly on BBC Radio 4. He is currently one half of TimesOnline's hit satirical podcast The Bugle, alongside John Oliver. Zaltzman's love of cricket outshone his aptitude for the game by a humiliating margin. He once scored 6 in 75 minutes in an Under-15 match, and failed to hit a six between the ages of 9 and 23. He would have been ideally suited to Tests, had not a congenital defect left him unable to play the game to anything above genuine village standard. He writes the Confectionery Stall blog on Cricinfo.

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