February 4, 2012

Tests during 2011: an alternate look

An analytical look at individual and team performances in Test cricket played in 2011

This review of the year should have come out a few weeks earlier. However I was caught up in completing the series of articles on Bowling and Pitch quality and hence this slight delay. Anyhow the year is still fresh in our memory and here we go. I also do not want to hear the words Bowling/Pitch quality for a month or so.

England: went through 2011 without a single defeat © AFP

1. A look at performance of teams during 2011

New Zealand500210010153.0
South Africa520010020045.0
West Indies1010120220240.0
Sri Lanka1100122211237.3

This is the traditional 2-1-0 method of evaluating team performance. I have analyzed the matches from home-neutral-away points of view. I have used the 2-1-0 values for the neutral matches and weighed the home matches down by 10% and the away matches upwards by 10%. For another website ratings work I do an additional measure of the team rating points (my famous 100 point split between the two teams). However for this I am going limit myself to the traditional 2-1-0 valuation only.

If one forgets the January disaster for England in the desert, they fully deserve the top position. Their overall record of 6-2-0 is outstanding and the best by any team. Pakistan has only a slightly inferior record of 6-3-1 indicating a welcome resurgence, continuing on to 2012. Just for information, the UAE matches are treated as neutral. Australia left the Ashes trauma of 2010 behind and compiled a 4-2-3 record. New Zealand and South Africa played the minimum of five Tests and compiled identical 2-1-2 records. Then comes India, somewhat fortuitously placed at no.6. They had a 3-4-5 record. They are indeed still lower down if one takes the defeat margins. And let us not forget that the next 3 Tests in 2012 have been thumping losses.

2. An alternate look at performance of teams during 2011

TeamOwn RpWOth RpWDifferenceOwn WpTOth WpTDifference
South Africa3026.53.518.216.41.8
West Indies27.733-5.315.818.4-2.6
New Zealand25.832.2-6.415.219.6-4.4
Sri Lanka29.740.8-1112.617.3-4.6

I can hear that strident caller saying "Cut the crap. This is what my ten-year old son/nephew/sister/cousin/.. does in 15 minutes flat on a Sunday afternoon. Where is this "alternate look"? Ah! that is coming now. Why were the teams successful? Good bowling and batting and fielding is fine. But what are the numbers? In this table I look at two sets of numbers to throw light on the success of certain teams and failures of the others.

First the RpW (Runs per wicket) values. I have compiled the "own RpW" and "other RpW" values and got the difference. This difference will indicate the success or lack of of the teams. England's own figure is 59.2 (amazing number - indicating an average innings of nearly 600) and 28.5. The "other RpW" is less than half of the "own RpW". The difference is a mind-boggling 30.7. Pakistan has a very respectable 41.6 and a tight 26.7, giving them a difference of 15.2. No wonder these two teams are so far up on the top. Then after a lot of daylight comes South Africa with a difference of 3.5. Australia is the only other team with a positive difference, viz., 1.1. Those who are surprised to see Zimbabwe placed above India, please be reminded that, leaving the Napier disaster aside, they have made a determined return to Test cricket. Their scores since their return are 370, 291, 412, 141, 313 and 331. Very creditable indeed. Compare this with India's sequence in England, viz., 286, 261, 288, 158, 224, 244, 300 and 283. No wonder Zimbabwe, have a difference of 0.8 are placed above India, with a difference of -4.7. One could also say India were lucky enough to play six Tests against West Indies.

The other comparison I have made is between "own WpM (wickets per match)" and "other WpM". After all a team has to take 20 wickets to win. Once again England and Pakistan are way up with a differential of 7.6 (18.5 vs 10.9) and 7.2 (19.6 vs 12.4) wickets respectively. South Africa has 1.8. India has a flat 0.0. Surprisingly Australia have a negative value of 0.9. This is no doubt due to their heavy defeat against England, narrow win over Sri Lanka, the 47 and the loss of 20 wickets in Hobart and Melbourne. Sri Lanka have done poorly in both measures. However let us not forget that they won a Test and two ODIs in South Africa.

3. The top team performances

2003 2011 Eng 87.45 vs Ind 12.55 England won by an innings and 242 runs
2022 2011 Pak 85.66 vs Bng 14.34 Pakistan won by an innings and 184 runs
1989 2011 Eng 82.55 vs Aus 17.45 England won by an innings and 83 runs
2023 2011 Saf 82.49 vs Slk 17.51 South Africa won by an innings and 81 runs
2001 2011 Eng 82.18 vs Ind 17.82 England won by 319 runs
2017 2011 Ind 80.46 vs Win 19.54 India won by an innings and 15 runs
1994 2011 Eng 80.43 vs Slk 19.57 England won by an innings and 14 runs
2004 2011 Eng 80.25 vs Ind 19.75 England won by an innings and 8 runs

These are the eight imposing wins during 2011. The criteria for selection is match rating points of 80 and above for the winning team. This is secured by any innings win or huge run-margin wins. Only one such win qualifies. This methodology has been explained in my September 2010 article. India has been at the receiving end quite often during 2011. The heaviest win was recorded by England over India (innings and 242 runs). Two other wins by England also fall in this category. Thus India has lost three matches heavily. India's home win over West Indies was achieved comfortably. In terms of winners, this was, without any question, England's year. 5 of these 8 wins have been achieved by them.

It may be of interest to note that India has started 2012 disastrously. All three of their losses have been worse than 80-20. New Zealand's thumping of Zimbabwe comes out with a 89.2-10.8 rating.

4. The year of the debutant bowler

2016 2011 Philander V.D        Saf Aus  7.0  3  15 5 151.2 Debut
2018 2011 Cummins P.J          Aus Saf 29.0  5  79 6 140.3 Debut
2020 2011 Pattinson J.L        Aus Nzl 11.0  5  27 5 131.4 Debut
2015 2011 Ashwin R             Ind Win 21.3  5  47 6 129.4 Debut
2005 2011 Lyon N.M             Aus Slk 15.0  3  34 5 117.7 Debut
2026 2011 de Lange M           Saf Slk 23.2  3  81 7 116.3 Debut
2010 2011 Elias Sunny          Bng Win 23.0  0  94 6 112.4 Debut
2013 2011 Bracewell D.A.J      Nzl Zim 25.0  2  85 5  99.2 Debut

The selectors only had to select a bowler and he would deliver a five-wicket performance. I have not checked this out but can confidently say that at no time in history would eight bowlers, on debut, have captured five wickets or more within a calendar year. And all these happened during the last four months. The stand-out performance was Philander's match-winning effort, discussed later.

5. The debut centurions

1999 2011 Debut Edwards K.A          Win Ind 110  139.6 Debut
2007 2011 Debut Marsh S.E            Aus Slk 141   94.2 Debut

Two centuries were scored on debut during 2011, Edwards did this during their home series against India. He did reasonably well when West Indies came over to India. Marsh scored a wonderful century against Sri Lanka and then dropped like a brick against India.

6. The top batting performances

2003 2011 Cook A.N             Eng Ind 294  193.0
2004 2011 Dravid R             Ind Eng 146* 186.9
2016 2011 Amla H.M             Saf Aus 112  185.0
1997 2011 Dravid R             Ind Win 112  183.0
2016 2011 Clarke M.J           Aus Saf 151  177.3
2021 2011 Warner D.A           Aus Nzl 123* 162.9

These are the top 5 rated batting performances. Dravid essayed two of these, both away. The Oval masterpiece of 146 was the innings people would talk of for years to come. To see him losing his stumps almost every innings over the past month has been painful, to say the least. However for me the two stand-out performances have been by two Australians, both in losing causes. Clarks's 151 was a masterpiece and deserved a win. However their own meltdown prevented that. Warner showed everyone that he is not just an attacking batsman. His unbeaten century would have become Lara/Inzamam/Greenidge-esque if only they had scored seven more runs. This innings was almost similar to Tendulkar's epic of 136 except that Warner remained unconquered.

In deference to the wishes of my Sri Lankan readers, I must make a mention of Sangakkara's three top quality innings: 211 against Pakistan, 119 against England and 108 against South Africa. All against top class bowling attacks and away. The first two were match-saving efforts and the third won a rare away match.

7. The top bowling performances

1988 2011 Harbhajan Singh      Ind Saf 38.0  1 120 7 180.4
1988 2011 Steyn D.W            Saf Ind 31.0 11  75 5 164.0
2021 2011 Bracewell D.A.J      Nzl Aus 16.4  4  40 6 154.0
2016 2011 Philander V.D        Saf Aus  7.0  3  15 5 151.2
2004 2011 Swann G.P            Eng Ind 38.0  6 106 6 148.1

These were the top rated bowling performances. For me the stand-out performance was that of Philander on his debut. The match was dead and gone with Australia taking a near-200 run lead. Philander, on his debut, bowled the perfect spell, bowling 42 deliveries on the spot. He could probably have taken all 10 wickets, the perfect way he bowled. His spell paved the way for a tough but reasonable task which was achieved quite comfortably. However without Philander, there would have been no Amla/Smith. Only slightly below is Bracewell's match-winning spell at Hobart. He gave the Australians a taste of the medicine they themselves were going to administer the Indian batsmen a few weeks later.

8. A few important measures compared

Runs per wicket32.534.331.9
Runs per over3.153.222.82
Wickets per match32.630.930.7
Result %69.275.365.2
Home wins %33.34538.6
Away wins %35.930.426.6
Overs per match336329348
Balls per wicket61.863.967.9
% Inns >= 5005.410.26.7
% Inns <= 1002.83.43.8
Opening Ptshp Avge30.939.636.9
% OP >= 1006.19.29.2
% OP <= 10
2-5 Ptshp Avge157.8160.5149.6

Now for a look at various measures for 2011, the preceding decade and the 135 year period.

The Runs per wicket values showed a distinct downward trend from the previous decade of over 5%. It is slightly above the all-Tests figure. There were many below-par performances by fancied teams which accounted for this. The Runs per over figure was only marginally lower. The wickets were taken in about 2 balls fewer keeping with the trend of lowering Runs per wicket.

The Wickets per match numbers showed a distinct increase of about 5% from the 2000-10 decade. However the surprising fact is that this did not show a corresponding increase in Result %. On the contrary there was a drop of 6% from the 2000s. Difficult to explain this.

The Home win % showed a huge drop of 25% from the 2000s decade figure. The away wins showed an increase of about 15%. Maybe the sample size of 39 Tests for 2011 is not big enough. It is possible that the slight drop in home performance of Australia and South Africa contributed to this. It is possible that teams, sand India during 2011, also travel better.

Overs per match was only marginally higher at 336 overs. This comprised of 12 draws at an average of 367 overs (quite a few rain-affected draws) and 17 results at an average of 322 overs. Let us convert this at about 14 overs per hour (especially since dawdling India played over 35% of the Tests), this comes to 23 hours. Add to this an hour of wickets falling and innings changes, we come to around 24 hours. This is around 4 days of play. Remember this is on an average. Let me add that the 2012 has started with only 290 overs per match for the 7 conclusive Tests. That is well below 4 days play. Only one Test, the Adelaide one, reached the fifth day: That too, courtesy, Mr. M.J.Clarke.

There is a sharp drop in 500+ innings, just above 50%, the respective figures standing at 5.4 and 10.2% respectively. For that matter the year 2011 was below the all-Tests average. Quite surprisingly, the sub-100 innings also showed a drop from 2000-10 and all-Tests values. Quite inexplicable.

The Opening partnerships failed miserably during 2011. The average runs scored dropped from nearly 40 to just over 30. It was way below the all-Tests figure. Maybe the Indian openers and Strauss and Hughes contributed to this. Similarly there was a significant drop in the 100+ opening partnerships (once in 16 innings as against once in 11 innings) and the sub-10 partnerships showed a sharp increase. Maybe the new crop of exciting pace bowlers contributed to this. Pattinson, Cummins, Philander, Bracewell, Yadav, Broad et al are going to continue in this vein. Ably supported by the resurgence of Siddle, Hilfenhaus, Andersen, et al. Of course Steyn, Morkel, Zaheer are always there. The other significant reason could be the continuing Twenty-20 approach of the openers.

However the middle-order partnerships for the second, third, fourth and fifth wickets have held firm. This value of 158 is quite close to the 2000-10 value of 160.

9. My own abiding memories of 2011

These are strictly my personal selections.

The match of the year was New Zealand's sevn-run win over Australia. Warner batted as he would never have been expected to. Bracewell bowled as Hadlee did 26 years back. Until the last ball bowled by Bracewell to Lyon, the result was in doubt. As Djokovic told a few weeks later at Melbourne, there should have been two winners. Both teams fought hard to the last ball. A close contender was Australia's redeeming series-equalling win over South Africa at Wanderer's.

The innings of the year was Warner's unbeaten 123, referred to quite a few times already. Warner would go through bad patches in his career. He should only rewind the clock back to 13 December 2011 and Hobart, when he almost climbed Everest through the North face. Amazing thing is that Warner's 180 at Perth might very well be the innings of 2012 and it is going to take some beating.

The bowling performance of the year was Philander's 5 for 15 against Australia. The match was dead and gone, but for Philander. I have never seen 42 balls delivered on a coin. That was McGrath-like.

The most forgettable performance of the year was Sehwag's golden pair at Birmingham. He lasted a round 190 overs less than the 7 English batsmen. That symbolized the Indian English debacle as Dravid's loss of his stumps symbolized six months later.

The bravest performance of 2011 was by Zimbabwe on their comeback. They fought hard and four of their six innings exceeded 300. And this was against Pakistan, New Zealand and Bangladesh.

The non-stories of the year were Tendulkar's ton of tons, the various retirement stories circulated, the complete irrelevance of Champions' League (even though, as a contest, it was far superior to IPL) and the millions of words written on India's free fall (all destined to have no effect).

The Indian Test debacles have been chronicled ad nauseam. However the meltdown of the year was Sri Lanka's 24-over capitulation on the last day at Cardiff.

MS Dhoni comes in two situations next. The sporting gesture of the year was Dhoni's recall of Bell. The cop-out of the year was Dhoni's refusal to go for the win at Roseau, against West Indies.

Anantha Narayanan has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket and worked with a number of companies on their cricket performance ratings-related systems