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