July 2, 2012

A tale of two halves

Analysis of Test batting and bowling performances in each half of a player's career

Anil Kumble achieved a near perfect split of wickets across the two halves of his career © AFP

I had scheduled the Test Bowlers vs Countries/Innings article at this point. Then I realized that I could squeeze in this totally different one so that there is a welcome change of scene.

The mid-point of a Test career. A perfect symmetrical point to look back and forward. In real life, no single Test player would have known that he was at the mid-point. Barring (and stretching a lot) a two-Test player who knew with certainty that he was never going to be selected again at the end of the concerned Test. However, looking back, with the aid of the massive database, the mid-point is obvious, even for the currently active players. In this article I am going to separate the player careers into two equal halves and compare these. I hope that readers do not bring in the usual across-players comparisons in this analysis since all comparisons are within the player. Title courtesy Milind !!!

What is the expectation? In the first half of a player career, he is younger, fitter, (possibly) faster in his actions and does not have to conserve himself. However he is inexperienced, learning the trade and susceptible to selectorial whims. In the second half he is settled, might even set his own destiny, master of the trade, carries a great reputation behind him and knows his adversaries well. However he is also aging, has a non-syncing body and mind and has to compete with younger players. Which half player is more expected to deliver. The younger, fitter but inexperienced one or the wily, wiser but older player. Very difficult to generalise since so many other factors come into play. Let us see.

First, a few analysis criteria.

1. The half is determined exactly as it is defined as. For batsman, the mid-point is based on innings and for bowlers, innspells. So, for a qualifying all-rounder, the batting mid-point may be different to the bowling mid-point. This effectively takes care of the Imran Khan / Vettori type situation.
2. The overall criteria is 3000 runs for batsmen and 100 wickets for bowlers. 162 batsmen and 160 bowlers qualify. There is a nice symmetry about these numbers. For current players, it is obvious that the last Test they played could very well be their last Test ever. If I do this analysis couple of years hence, the numbers for the current batsmen would undergo a change.
3. In addition there is a special analysis of batsmen (mostly bowlers) who have played 40 or more innings and scored below 1000 runs.
4. For batsmen, both Runs and Batting average figures are analysed independently. There is expected to be a strong correlation between these two. A batsman who scores 5000 runs at 50 with a first half compilation of 2000 runs is more likely to score these at an average around 40 since there is a settling of the number of innings played over a number of matches.
5. For bowlers, both Wickets and Bowling average figures are analysed independently. There is expected to be less correlation between these two. A bowler who captures 200 wickets at 25 with a first half compilation of 120 wickets could capture these at 22 or 27. 22 is more likely though.

I have some other interesting points for analysis based on the career and these would come in a later article. Surprisingly there are quite a few outliers, some of them very well established players, to make this article very interesting and illuminating.

First an overall summary.


It is amazing and eerie. These values apply to the creme de la creme of batsmen, the 162 selected ones, who have scored 45% of the total runs scored. The average of average % of runs scored in the first half of career stands at 50.09%, almost perfect middle point. An alternate measure, which is the average of runs scored in the first half divided by the average of career runs, stands exactly at 50.0%. This is unbelievable. These batsmen have scored exactly 50% of the runs at mid-point. All career related variables have been cancelled out between the two halves. The average of the batting averages for the first half stands slightly lower at 98.9% and the average of batting averages for the second half stands at 101.4%.


For the 160 bowlers there is a slightly different picture. The two averages of averages for the first half work out to 51.4% and 51.2% leading to a value of 51.3%. The second half is thus 48.7%. So there is a clear change between the first and second halves: maybe only 5% but a clear difference and evidence that the bowlers tend to drop off as their career progresses. The bowling averages drop off significantly: 103.1% to 97.6%, more of this caused by the spinners.

Readers might ask how this varies between pace bowlers and spinners. For the 97 pace bowlers the first half figure works out to 50.9% and the second half figure is 49.1%. For the 63 spinners the first half figure works out to 51.8% and the second half figure is 48.2%. This indicates that the pace bowlers tend to drop off less, by about 3.5% in the second half while the spinners tend to drop off by more, about 7%. Somewhat surprising, this difference is. One would have expected the spinners to be the steadier of the two classifications.

The bowling average variation is more pronounced. The spinners go from 105% to 95%, a very significant drop indeed. Again, quite surprisingly, the pace bowlers drop off very little, 101.4% to 99.1%. What could be the reason, I wonder. Fine, let the readers explain this.

Now for the graphs. These have been designed specifically for this analysis. There are four graphs. Batting: Runs and Batting average and Bowling: Wickets and Bowling average. Each graph shows the first and second half career figures of 10 players. The four on the left are the batsmen who have the highest first half values, the middle two have the perfect splits at the mid-point and the four on the right are the batsmen who have the highest second half values. Thus the graphs would be of great interest.

The first graph relates to Batting: Runs scored in each half.

Test runs scored in each half of career
© Anantha Narayanan

Look at how much of a change there has been in the careers of Adams, Harvey and Morris, the batsmen in the left half. All of them scored well over 60% of the runs in the first half of their careers and below 40% in the second halves. That is a drop of more than 50%. If these three had even a decent half, they would have finished with well over 50 average. Other than these three, only Grant Flower amongst batsmen has a 60-40 split.

Trescothick and Laxman are amazing. Their first half tally of runs has been within a cameo of the second half tally. Hobbs, Clarke, Border, Sehwag are others who are very close to a 50-50 split.

Now for the other side. Vettori has a 33.5-66.5 split. It is true: he has scored nearly twice in his second half as in the first half (2980 vs 1506). Imran Khan is the only other batsman with a 40-60 split. Samaraweera and de Villiers are two current batsmen who have scored around 50% more in their still-active second halves of their careers.

The second graph relates to Batting: Batting average in each half.

Test batting average in each half of career
© Anantha Narayanan

As expected the same four batsmen occupy the left side of the table, albeit in a different sequence. In general their averages show a huge drop, in excess of 150%. Adams has averaged only half his first innings average during the second half. The other three, well below 65%. The interesting point is that Adams' continued selection, with splits of 57-27, might very well have been because of the downhill trend West Indies were on. However in case of Harvey (61-37) and Morris (59-33), the heavy first half numbers could very well have influenced their continued selection.

The middle two show a change. Laxman's tally of runs might be similar but his average has shown a marked improvement. Currently the middle spots are occupied by two great batsmen of different eras: Trumper and Sobers. They average within a decimal point of the career averages during either halves of their careers. Haynes, Kanhai, Sehwag and Martyn are the others who have almost similar first and second half career averages.

The right half has the same four batsmen. They have averaged nearly twice in the second half. Vettori leads with 39.21 against 20.92, an amazing transformation indeed.

Let me now show the table, with no special comments, for the batsmen who have crossed 8000 runs and one honorary entry. My (totally worthless) digital autograph will be sent to the readers who correctly guess this wild card !!!

BatsmanCtyCareer FirstHalf  SecondHalf  
Ponting R.TAus1334652.75686451.4%55.80105.8%647848.5%49.8394.5%
Dravid RInd1328852.31720354.2%57.17109.3%608545.8%47.5490.9%
Kallis J.HSaf1237956.78584047.2%54.0795.2%653952.8%59.45104.7%
Lara B.CWin1195352.89575948.2%50.9696.4%619451.8%54.81103.6%
Border A.RAus1117450.56561150.2%51.01100.9%556349.8%50.1299.1%
Waugh S.RAus1092751.06525648.1%50.5499.0%567151.9%51.55101.0%
Gooch G.AEng890042.58380142.7%36.5585.8%509957.3%48.56114.0%
J MiandadPak883252.57451951.2%55.79106.1%431348.8%49.5794.3%
Hayden M.LAus862650.74481155.8%56.60111.5%381544.2%44.8888.5%
Stewart A.JEng846539.56454353.7%41.30104.4%392246.3%37.7195.3%
Gower D.IEng823144.25427051.9%45.43102.7%396148.1%43.0597.3%
Sehwag VInd817850.80410350.2%50.6599.7%407549.8%50.94100.3%
Boycott GEng811447.73412350.8%49.67104.1%399149.2%45.8796.1%
Smith G.CSaf804349.65397049.4%47.8396.3%407350.6%51.56103.8%
Waugh M.EAus802941.82429453.5%42.51101.7%373546.5%41.0498.1%
Bradman D.GAus699699.94377253.9%99.2699.3%322446.1%100.75100.8%

Now for the bowlers.

The third graph relates to Bowling: Wickets captured in each half.

Test wickets in each half of career
© Anantha Narayanan

Rhodes' career is unbelievable. 94-33 split in the two halves of his career. The others are no less: Noble 84-37, Valentine 99-40 and Tate 100-55. The other two all-rounders are understandable. They turned from bowling all-rounders to batting ones. But how does one explain Valentine and Tate. Pure bowlers suddenly have a 45% drop in wickets. Prasanna and Shastri also have had similar huge drops.

Srinath and Caddick had perfectly matching career halves. Their splits are 118-118 and 117-117. Three other players have achieved this perfect split. These two were selected because of their 200+ career wickets. But Kumble's split is possibly more impressive. He has achieved 309-310, just a wicket separating the two halves in over 130 tests. That is some symmetry and consistency.

Two modern and two olden day bowlers have improved beyond all recognition in their careers. Intikhab Alam has a mind-boggling 39-86, almost the reverse of Rhodes/Noble. Blythe and Trumble have two contrasting halves. Yardley moved from 44 to 82. Davidson's split was 69-117. Zaheer Khan and Flintoff are close to this.

The fourth graph relates to Bowling: Bowling average in each half.

Test bowling average in each half of career
© Anantha Narayanan

Now for the bowling averages. Let us see if there is a difference unlike the batsmen graph which was almost a replica.

As expected we have different sets of bowlers who fill up the average table showing that there is less correlation between number of wickets and bowling averages. Briggs, Turner and Peel, the pre-WW1 bowlers have all had wonderful starts and have dropped off. Averages of around 10 moving to 30, 12 to 22 and 13 to 22. Boje has had a great first half and an equally poor second half. An average of 31 became 58. Botham, probably concentrating on his batting, dropped from 22.6 to 36.9.

Two current bowlers, Swann and Umar Gul have almost identiical first and second half career bowling averages. At this mid-stage in Swann's career he has proved his amazing consistency by having two almost perfect halves to his career. Same with Umar Gul. In addition, Ambrose and Gillespie had almost the same averages of 21 and 26 around their half-point mark.

At the other end, we have Intikhab Alam who moved dramatically from 51.9 to 28.7. Alec Bedser improved significantly from 33.4 to 18.7. Barnes improved from 22 to 13, leading to his phenomenal career average of 16.4. Similar change there for Blythe. Laker has had poor first half and then a phenomenal second half with a change from 27.9 to 15.9 (no doubt aided by 19 for 90). Currently Anderson has had two totally different halves with 35.7 and 25.6.

Now the table, with no special comments, for the bowlers who crossed 300 wickets in their Test career. This time the wild card is for SF Barnes.

BowlerCtyTypeCareer FirstHalf  SecondHalf  
Warne S.KAusrlb70825.4233246.925.4899.837653.125.36100.2
Kumble AIndrlb61929.6530949.927.69107.131050.131.6193.8
McGrath G.DAusRFM56321.6429852.921.7699.426547.121.51100.6
Walsh C.AWinRF51924.4422242.826.2393.229757.223.10105.8
Kapil Dev NIndRFM43429.6526360.628.84102.817139.430.8996.0
Hadlee R.JNzlRFM43122.3018743.425.4487.724456.619.89112.1
Pollock S.MSafRFM42123.1223255.120.50112.818944.926.3387.8
Wasim AkramPakLFM41423.6221952.923.28101.519547.124.0198.4
Ntini MSafRF39028.8318146.430.0795.920953.627.75103.9
Botham I.TEngRFM38328.4022859.522.62125.615540.536.9077.0
Waqar YounisPakRFM37323.5622259.521.49109.615140.526.6188.5
Imran KhanPakRF36222.8117648.625.6988.818651.420.09113.5
Vettori D.LNzllsp35934.1617849.635.1297.318150.433.23102.8
Lillee D.KAusRF35523.9218151.023.60101.417449.024.2698.6
Vaas WPUJCSlkLFM35529.5819254.128.84102.616345.930.4597.1
Donald A.ASafRF33022.2517452.723.3495.315647.321.04105.8
Lee BAusRF31030.8214546.831.8496.816553.229.92103.0
Gibbs L.RWinrob30929.0917657.024.11120.713343.035.6881.5
Trueman F.SEngRF30721.5813845.020.70104.316955.022.3096.8
Barnes S.FEngRFM18916.437137.622.0774.411862.413.04126.0

Now for a collection of late order batsmen who qualify to be talked about in this article. This table includes my favourite late order batsmen, Gillespie and the one-and-only Chris Martin. Why Chris Martin? Because Chris is someone special and rare. His innings come and go in a flash and if you blink, you could miss an entire innings. His arrival creates an expectation like no other batsman's. If you miss a straight drive of Tendulkar or a cover drive of Sangakkara or a six of Gayle, no problems. Before Shastri finishes saying "this is going to the wire" for the 167th time or "went like a tracer bullet" for the 353rd time, there would be another such shot. But if you miss the Chris Martin delivery, you have missed it forever. I have always maintained that he is the only batsman I will pay to watch.

Batsman    Career       I Half       II Half
Verity     669 @ 20.91  469 @ 31.27  200 @ 11.76
(I half: 45, 40, 55, 42, 60 and 66. II - 29)

Laker 766 @ 14.06 465 @ 17.88 211 @ 9.59 (As his bowling picked, his batting fell off) ... ... Gillespie 1221 @ 18.78 432 @ 13.09 789 @ 24.66 (588 @ 18.38 before his last innings!!!)

Roberts 762 @ 14.94 209 @ 7.74 553 @ 23.04 (54, 35, 50, 52, 36 and 68 in II half) And finally, Martin CS 119 @ 2.43 64 @ 2.46 55 @ 2.39 (As consistent as Sobers/Laxman. What a batsman!!!)

To download/view the Excel sheet containing the Test Batsmen Career-Midpoint tables, please click/right-click here.

To download/view the Excel sheet containing the Test Bowlers Career-Midpoint tables, please click/right-click here.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on July 18, 2012, 12:22 GMT

    Shri - 8 of the 11 players from your Eng 50s side were all in the squad to Aus in '58. Only 2 of the 8 could be said to be "not at their best period", too.

    Final score 0-4!

    (bad umpiring, slow over rates, chucking, dragging all played a part)

    Re: greatest ever sides - Aus 00s had a killer instinct and looked for wins that WI 80s didn't (seemed content to not lose series')

    Not sure if lack of spinner was a hindrance to WI (other than esthetically).

    IMO, you don't need a spinner if you have four great fast bowlers (only someone like a Warne or Murali could get in anyway - i'd go with four quicks over say Gibbs, Bedi, Tayfield etc.)

    Roberts, Holding, Garner, Croft, Marshall ALL have better averages in 4th innings' than Shane Warne.

    I suspect enforcement of 15 over/hour also helped Aus win more as opposed to draw (that's where a good spinner could have improved their results).

    Ananth, good distinction between team "strength" and "performance" - accept it completely.

  • testli5504537 on July 18, 2012, 10:30 GMT

    @ Boll,

    Re: 2005 Ashes, “thoroughly outperformed” was a stretch from me. In my defence, however, I was speaking in relative terms – based on what followed in 2006/7 and a decade or so before that.

    Gillespie’s loss of form, Gilchrist playing the role of ‘just’ a wicket-keeper were amongst primary factors indeed. However, not even the greatest batting line-up ever assembled could score 400 on a DAY 1 English pitch against an attack with McGrath.

    Re: 2003/4, Australia was indeed without Warne too; but do you really believe that Warne would’ve made a positive impact AGAINST India? Besides, Dravid played in Aus before & after (ICC XI) 2003/4 vs McGrath. Dravid never really made useful runs vs McGrath in Aus.

    Anyway, as you said, “we ARE looking at Waugh's team with McGrath in it”, and it was one for the history books; and I totally agree with most of your observations regarding Ashes ’05 & B-G Trophy in 2003/04!

  • testli5504537 on July 18, 2012, 10:19 GMT

    Shrikanthk: [i]No test side can be "good" without a half-decent bowling attack[/i].

    Not necessarily true! 1930 Australia in England didn't have Bill O'Reilly. Well, it had the other leggie who averaged 32 with the ball for the series. He was the only Australian to take more than 13 wickets for the series. Bradman's huge 100s at rapid pace meant, ordinary Australian attack had enough runs to defend.

    The West Indian sides with the Ws, even some of the recent Indian sides managed to win with no sub-30 average bowlers.

    Anyway, with the batting line-up England had in 1948, they should not have lost 4-0 to Australia. Yes, their bowling wasn't anywhere near the ones they fielded later in the 50s; but the batting was very very good! Yet, they couldn't avoid the drubbing!

  • testli5504537 on July 18, 2012, 6:34 GMT

    The '48 Eng team was not quite the force it would be '52 through '59 but it was very good.

    No test side can be "good" without a half-decent bowling attack. Besides Bedser, that English side was very weak in the bowling department. No wonder they were trounced at home even by the West Indies team in 1950.

    I'm ambivalent even about the 50s English sides because they never really fielded their "best" side in games. Trueman, Statham, Tyson and Laker seldom featured together (Did they ever feature together?)

    So though the names are really impressive over a decade, it's difficult to single out a specific English side from 50s and ask it to challenge say the 2005 team or '84 team.

    My best "dream" English side from the 50s :

    Hutton, Washbrook, Peter May, Cowdrey, Compton, Graveney, Evans, Laker, Trueman, Tyson, Statham

    The problem was that this combination was never on the field in the 50s! But most teams from history will struggle against this English combination at its peak.

  • testli5504537 on July 18, 2012, 5:45 GMT

    last week , a great of the game and supposedly the best keeper retired. but i saw no reaction from you. just because he is from sa and not from india/aus.he keeps a low profile but is much better than your dhoni. [[ I think you are out of your flipping mind. I analyze and do not do news articles. Even otherwise, Cricinfo did an excellent job paying a tribute to Boucher. I do analytical articles and in due course would do an article on Boucher, who is one of the great keepers of all time. Surely he does not need supporters like you. Ananth: ]]

  • testli5504537 on July 17, 2012, 14:52 GMT

    @Ravi. I`d certainly agree with you that Waugh`s Australian team were amazingly dominant away from home. Just looking through the list of series whitewashes (3 tests or more) since the beginning. There have been 47. 11 of those were achieved by Australia between 1999-2006. I think there have been 6 away whitewashes - 3 of those were achieved by that Oz team (vs NZ, SL, SAf) and 4, if we include the 3-0 `neutral` victory over Pakistan in Sri Lanka and the UAE.

    Perhaps the WI `awesome foursomes` were the most feared attacks we`ve seen, but the consistent excellence, variety, and willingness to chase victory, of the Australian teams of the late 90s-mid 2000s was unparalleled.

  • testli5504537 on July 17, 2012, 14:23 GMT

    @Ravi and shrikanthk: The '48 Eng team was not quite the force it would be '52 through '59 but it was very good. The tour itself had a larger than life proportion as ashes on the backdrop of WW2. All this enhanced the aura of the '48 Oz.

    When the WI was at its peak in '84, discussions on "all-time greatest team" were rampant. Its main challengers according to the old-timers were: '48 Oz, Armstrong's Oz, '11 Eng, and '02 Oz. Most felt that '48 was tops with '84 just behind it. The only major weakness of 80's WI was the lack of a quality spinner (& an all-rounder). Still, thanks to their fast bowlers, they never lost a series even in Pak and Ind even on turning tracks.

    Dependence on McGrath is nothing to be found faults with --- we are looking at Waugh's teams with McGrath in it. He was easily the best bowler of the 1995-2007 period.

  • testli5504537 on July 17, 2012, 14:02 GMT

    @Ravi M - re.Oz `looked terrible in the absence of McGrath in 2003/4!` Again, I certainly don`t want to downplay McGrath`s importance, but Aus were also without Warne in that series. Lee played only 2 tests and Gillespie 3. Australia were seriously undermanned against an excellent Indian side. The series was also an absolute batathon - only Kumble (who must have thought he was bowling at home) averaged under 37. 11 men scored more than 250 runs for the series, 8 more than 350, 5 more than 450! and Dravid (619) and Ponting (706) set records for the ages.

    Yes, McGrath was missed, but probably wouldn`t have enjoyed the featherbeds either.

  • testli5504537 on July 17, 2012, 13:53 GMT

    he could have eased into test cricket - with the other 3 doing the bulk of the work - and been more ready to take over when Gillispe fell flat.

    Also, why they didn't take MacGill at the Oval in 05, or what they were expecting to gain out not doing so when a draw meant nothing to the Ashes... mystifies me as much now as it did then

  • testli5504537 on July 17, 2012, 13:38 GMT

    re.the great teams debate. @Ravi M. Obviously McGrath was extremely important - his consistent ability to take top-order wickets, remove the best-batsmen, and concede little gave Warne so many opportunities to bowl to new batsmen, or at the very least to bowl to set batsmen with a team in trouble. They were a wonderful partnership.

    Yes, in the 2005 Ashes, Aus lost the 2 matches McGrath didn`t play (by 2 runs and 3 wickets) despite Warne`s heroics (40 wickets at 20, SR 38)...(dare I suggest that Kasper was blatantly not out?), but I think the sudden loss of form of Gillespie (prior to that series 35 wickets at 28 in England, SR 45) was just as important. Whatever the reason, I think to say that Oz were `thoroughly outperformed` in that series (or indeed in 2009) is quite a way from the truth.

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