Multistats April 8, 2012

Multistat: 94

Also the number of which Alastair Cook is most afraid

The number of times Kevin Pietersen had batted in a Test since he last hit two sixes in an innings. He did so in both knocks in Colombo ‒ six in his winter-saving first-innings masterpiece, two more in a match-closing second-innings frolic - but had not cleared the ropes twice in an innings since his Leeds double-hundred against West Indies in May 2007.

Pietersen began his Test career in a blaze of badger-haired brazen-batted boundary-clearing thwacks. He hit two sixes in three of his first four Test innings, then seven in his Ashes-clinching symphony of strokeplay, and two or more in nine of his first 34 innings and 18 Tests (up to end of the 2006 Test summer). Since then, he had planked two maximums only in that Headingley demolition of West Indies five years ago - once in 107 innings over 64 Tests.

After a Test winter of unbroken personal and team failure, one of cricket's most intriguing players gloriously rediscovered his daring youthful brilliance. In Colombo, his second-innings 42 not out was his fastest score of more than 40 in Tests, and his 151 his second-fastest 100-plus score. From the platform laid by Strauss, Cook and Trott's disciplined grind, Pietersen annihilated a flagging and severely limited attack with calculated aggression of the highest calibre.

Also: The ideal age for Test batsmen against the current England team. Theoretically. Since July 2010, top-seven batsmen aged 33 and over have collectively averaged 39.1 against England, scoring 11 hundreds in 106 innings, whilst top-seven batsmen aged 32 and under have averaged 23.9, with just two centuries in 177 innings.

The average age of centurions against England in that time has been 34 years and eight months, and only Azhar Ali (excitedly looking forward to his 27th birthday when he hit 157 in Dubai) and Prasanna Jayawardene (31-and-a-half) have been under 33. I do not know if much (or indeed anything) can be read into this, but experience and know-how has certainly helped Dravid, Hussey and Mahela thrive despite England's unrelenting bowling pressure. (By comparison, against all other teams in the same period, 33-and-over-year-olds have averaged 43, and 32-and-unders have averaged 37.) Conclusion: When playing England, the older, the better. Ninety-four-year-old batsmen would smash Anderson and Swann all over the shop. There is no substitute for experience. And you do not get much more experienced than being 94 years old. Over 94, snoozing and forgetfulness might start to adversely affect batting success. The West Indian and South African selectors should take note before this summer's tours.

Also: The number of which Alastair Cook is most afraid. The last three times Cook has been six runs away from a century milestone, he has been out - for 94 in Colombo, 94 in Abu Dhabi, and 294 at Edgbaston. Furthermore, the only other two Test innings he has played since July in which he has passed 35 have been his 49 in Dubai and his undefeated 49 in the Colombo second innings. All this suggests that Cook has contracted the rare medical condition enneaparatetraphobia ‒ the fear of the numbers nine and four being next to each other. It is, admittedly, not the most dangerous affliction, unless you live at a house numbered 94. Or if you are nuclear scientist (plutonium's atomic number is 94) (thank you, Wikipedia, knower of all, saviour of the ignorant, refuge of the forgetful).

Cook, however, will want to have it treated as a matter of some urgency. His latest outbreak of enneaparatetraphobia led to him becoming the joint leader in the England Batsmen Out Most Often In The 90s In Tests list - he has succumbed to the nervous 90s five times (three of them for 94), the same as Pietersen, Boycott and Barrington. Pietersen, by the way, retains his top ranking in the Most Exciting English Batsman Who Has Been Out Five Times In The 90s In Tests list.

Also: The number of people in the world who think that two-Test series are a good idea. Excluding series involving Bangladesh, the last four two-Test series have all ended one-all, intriguingly poised for a non-existent but fascinating decisive third Test. As a fan, the two-Test series is the equivalent of taking your loved one on a romantic dinner date, finding the perfect restaurant, perusing a tastebud-tingling menu, selecting a perfect meal, staring lovingly into each other's eyes, then leaving just before the food arrives, and taking separate taxis to two different hotels. Approximately equivalent, at least.

Incidentally, ten of those 94 people are cricket administrators, ten more are accountants affiliated to cricketing organisations, and the remaining 74 are from an undiscovered tribe in the Amazon rain forest who have never had any contact with the outside world.

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

Comments