Multistats May 25, 2012

Multistat: 588

Or why David Saker should be put in charge of the European economy

West Indies' total runs in the match at Lord's - the joint second-highest match total that England have conceded in their last 23 Tests, since Bangladesh scored 282 and 382, also at Lord's, two years ago.

In this golden period for English bowlsmanship, the only time an opposing team has scored more against them than Darren Sammy's team did at Lord's was Sri Lanka, who totalled 606 for 13 last year, also at the Home of Cricket. In England's previous 20 Tests, from December 2008 to May 2010, they had conceded more than 606 on 13 occasions.

It has been an extraordinary display of sustained excellence, illustrated by the fact that, since May 2010, all eight specialist bowlers who have played Tests for England have averaged under 27 (if we exclude Samit Patel from the list of specialist bowlers) (which does not seem entirely unfair).

Over the previous two years, 13 bowlers played Tests for England. None of them averaged under 27. And only one (Graeme Swann, 29.6) registered under 30.

In April 2010, David Saker was appointed England's bowling coach. Well done him. Perhaps he should be placed in charge of the European economy.

Also: The most balls any bowler has sent down in a single Test innings.The unlucky/exhausted/annoyed/regretful-of-ever-picking-up-a-cricket-ball man was West Indian legend Sonny Ramadhin, in first Test of the 1957 series in England, when he finished with (a) soul-sapping second-innings figures of 98-35-179-2, (b) sore fingers, and (c) a lifelong hatred of the words "over bowled".

It had all begun promisingly for the Trinidad Twirler ‒ he skittled England in the first innings, taking a career-best 7 for 49 in 31 overs, before putting his feet up for a couple of days as West Indies built a lead of almost 300. That was his tenth five-wicket haul in 29 Tests, and his tally against England stood at 56 wickets in 9½ Tests, at an average of 21.6. "I've got these guys on toast," he must have thought to himself. "In the second innings, I've going to slice them into soldiers and dip them in an egg."

Sonny then dismissed Peter Richardson and Doug Insole in quick succession early in England's second innings, taking him to nine wickets in the match. "A nice shiny ten-for coming right up," he could have been forgiven for thinking at the time. And for continuing to think, with gradually decreasing optimism, for the remaining ten hours of England's innings, as he sent down more than 80 wicketless overs in the face of a record-breaking rearguard by Peter May and Colin Cowdrey, who added 411. May declared with Ramadhin still one tantalising wicket short of his ten for the match, and the game ended with the aching spinner nervously padded up in the pavilion, after West Indies collapsed to 72 for 7.

Ramadhin, who had befuddled England throughout the 1950s, had finally been defused. He took a not-entirely-grand total of one wicket in the next three Tests, before taking four (including a couple of tailenders) in a walloping innings defeat at The Oval. He never took another Test five-for, and his record against England, from the start of that painfully distended Edgbaston tweakathon to the end of his career three years later, was 24 wickets in 8½ Tests, at an average of 41.2.

Conclusion: Bowling 98 overs in an innings can seriously damage your health.


● West Indies' over-rate in England's mammoth second innings in that 1957 Test was around 22 per hour. That's 22 overs per hour. Let me repeat that for any younger readers (below the age of around 40) who assume that must be a misprint. Twenty two overs per hour. According to reliable sources, overs were still six balls long in 1957, and, despite post-war austerity, hours still mostly lasted 60 minutes, as they do today.

I went to Lord's on the third day of this year's Test. It was an intriguing day's play, it took two hours 30 minutes to bowl the first 30 overs. That is 12 overs per hour. Let me repeat that for any older readers who have not been watching cricket for the last 40 years. Twelve overs per hour.

Admittedly, in 1957, the game was not slowed down quite so much as it now by extraneous interventions such as: DRS referrals; needless advertiser-appeasing drinks breaks on cool, cloudy-days, after drinks have been brought out anyway at every available break in play (and some unavailable breaks in play); umpires waddling around so slowly that it appeared they were trying not to disturb a rare breed of puffin that had nested in their hats; Ian Bell repeatedly not being ready to face Fidel Edwards despite Edwards having sauntered the 30-odd yards back to his marker as if walking deliberately slowly to an unwanted dentist's appointment; and armies of 12th, 13th and 14th men in natty high-visibility tabards jogging on to the pitch at every available opportunity to provide England's batsmen with (more) drinks, previously undiscovered bits of kit, personal financial advice, "Congratulations On Still Being At The Crease" cards, updates from their Twitter feeds and/or the Leveson Inquiry, a run-down of the local take-away options in case lunch proved to be a disappointment, limericks, crossword clues, shoulders to cry on, the latest gossip from whatever TV talent show is on at the moment, sundry other items required by 21st-century 12th-man duties, and horse-racing tips (the most reliable of which I have always found to be: point it forward and tell it to run fast).

But still. Twelve overs an hour. In an age when players are physically fitter than ever. It's ridiculous, completely unnecessary, and, given the price of tickets that spectators had bought in the naïve hope of seeing 90 overs in the day, tantamount to mild larceny.

● Here's another stat for you that further highlights England's excellence with the ball. Remember it well. It's guaranteed to break the ice at parties. In 11 innings this year, England have allowed the opposition's second wicket to add a total of 107 runs - 9.72 per partnership. Since the hooter sounded to mark the end of the First World War in 1918, only once has a team taken its opponents' second wickets more cheaply in any calendar year in which they have played at least three Tests - Australia, in 1958, who conceded just 51 runs in nine second-wicket stands (5.66 per partnership).

West Indies' No.5 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, magnificent player and supreme batting craftsman that he is, can say all he likes about young players only being able to learn the Test game by batting at the top of the order, but (a) he is obviously wrong, and (b) there is only so much learning they can do sitting in the pavilion watching the ball get older.

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