December 5, 2012

Numbers

The ultimate guide to seduction

Andy Zaltzman
Faf du Plessis pulls during his half-century on debut, Australia v South Africa, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 3rd day, November 24, 2012
Faf du Plessis' recent success will help you gain lifelong bliss  © Getty Images
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There is no point pretending today's blog is something that it is not. It will not tell you who will win the Kolkata Test, and why. Nor will it even attempt to preview that much-anticipated match. This blog will not throw shafts of revelatory light onto the intricate Shakespearean drama of five-day cricket. It will not make enliven your morning with wistful paeans to the timeless beauty of the cover drive, or the wondrous majesty of the well-organised drinks break. No. This blog is a deluge of stats.

If you do not think that you can handle the numerical onslaught that I am about to unleash, please turn your computer off, and move slowly away from your desk with your hands on your head. This blog is not for you. But if you have the intestinal fortitude to be power-hosed with a concentrated statistical shower, then read on. These stats will not only bring irrelevance to your soul, but they will also enable you to successfully seduce an intended romantic partner. If - and only if - you follow the seductory strategy outlined below, The Confectionery Stall guarantees you at least a first date.

Phase 1: The foundation Approach your intended date. Make eye contact - not physically, unless you are a French rugby player marking out your territory ‒ then announce your name, age, reference number (if you do not have one, make one up; most people in the world today want their romances to be administratively sound), favourite cricketer, and annual salary. Then, before they can reply, unleash the following stats about the recent Mumbai Test match, using these exact words, and whilst retaining a close-range visual on your target throughout:

Stat 1: Hello. Pay attention. In Mumbai, Kevin Pietersen moved to joint-top of the list of Most 150-plus Innings By An England Batsman. His Wankhede Wowitzer was his 10th, placing him alongside Wally Hammond and Len Hutton.

Stat 2: Those three England stars are 13th equal on the all-time world list of 150-plus scorers, which is led by Tendulkar (20), Lara (19) and Bradman, who score 18 in 80 innings. That is a rate of one 150-plus score every 4.4 innings. Do you agree that that is the hallmark of a handy batsman? Good, otherwise we have no future together.

Stat 3: In successive Tests, Alastair Cook and Pietersen became the 5th and 6th Englishmen (and the 27th and 28th overall) to make four century-and-a-halfs in away Tests, and the first since underappreciated 1970s stalwart Dennis Amiss.

Stat 4: What is more, sir/madam (delete as you consider applicable), just days later, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers became the 29th and 30th names on the world list.

Stat 5: Hey, you look like the kind of girl/guy/person/crone (delete as advised by friends) who has a hankering for some more stats on England's perfect partnership, the Cook-Pietersen left-hand-right-hand-accumulato-aggressive-utilitarianioflamboyant pairing. Their match-marmelising stand of 206 in the second Test was just the fifth double-century partnership by English batsmen in Tests in India.

Stat 6: Of the 84 pairs of batsmen who have batted together in 20 or more partnerships for England, Cook and Pietersen have the third highest average partnership, 65.9 in 52 stands (in half of which they have added at least 50 (that's another one), behind Barrington and Dexter (66.6 in 36) and Hobbs and Sutcliffe (87.8 in 39).

Stat 7: Let's pop another lump of sugar in that frothy stattuccino. Of the 49 pairs from any nation who've batted 50 times together in Tests, Cook and Pietersen have the second best average stand, only just behind Hayden and Ponting, who averaged 67.1 in 76 partnerships.

Stat 8: But enough about England. Did you know that India's mistimed soufflé of a second innings in Mumbai was only the fourth time that ten Indian batsmen have failed to pass 11 runs in a Test innings.

Stat 9: Let's take a magic bus to one of the more irrelevant suburbs of Statsville. It was also only the third time in all Tests that ten players in a team have all failed to reach 12 without any of them bagging a duck.

Stat 10: We'll take a quick break after this one. Those ten Indians between them scored 68 runs ‒ the most by ten batsmen who have all failed to reach 12 in an innings. So, in the little-discussed realm of teams who failed dismally to support a lone player by all not scoring more than 11, India actually batted superbly.

So. Glass of wine? Red or white?

Phase 2: The intrigue You have grabbed the undivided attention of your impending paramour. The heart-gates are open - it is time to fill them with facts. The imminent light of your life will almost certainly have watched the Australia v South Africa series with considerable interest. Let him/her see how you are about more than just India v England - you are a person with a global perspective, and a deep-seated appreciation of Hashim Amla.

Place one hand on the shoulder of your interlocutor, and, aggressively but with a hint of sweetness, tell them:

● South Africa's backs-to-the-wall-then-foot-to-the-throat series win in Australia featured some spectacular scoring rate extremes. In Adelaide, Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers' partnership of 89 off 408 balls was the slowest recorded partnership of more than 250 balls in Test history, considerably slower than the previous record, Herschelle Gibbs' and Neil McKenzie's 1.46-per-over drudge-grind against West Indies in 2001.

● De Villiers has also been involved in the slowest recorded opening partnership of more than 20 overs (when he and Graeme Smith added 46 in 35 overs in another South African turgeathon to save a Test in Guyana in 2005)…

● … as well as the second and third fastest recorded partnerships of 200 or more in Test history, the faster of which was also the fastest-ever first-wicket partnership of more than 150, albeit only against a depleted Zimbabwe.

● You want more on de Villiers? Of course you do. He played the second slowest recorded innings of 30 or more in Adelaide, followed by the second fastest 150-plus score by a South African in Tests in Perth. He has gears as a batsman, and he's not afraid to use them. Even if the clutch sometimes jams, leaving him either in neutral or in overdrive.

● That innings, since you were about to ask, was also the second 150-plus score by a South African wicketkeeper, following Denis Lindsay's 182 v Australia in 1966-67.

● Are you an economics graduate? Thought so/not (delete as applicable). But what economy we saw in Adelaide, where Nathan Lyon's 3-49 off 50 overs was the first time a bowler has bowled more than 40 overs for less than one run per over since Chris Old took 4 for 41 off 41.4 against Pakistan at Headingley in 1978.

● Lyon, by the way, was the first Australian to do so since Ken "Slasher" Mackay, against Pakistan in Dhaka, in 1959-60.

● He also was the eighth bowler in Test history to bowl 50 overs for less than one per over, and the first since New Zealand's Bryan Yuile against Pakistan in 1964-65.

● Lyon sent down 31 maidens ‒ the most in a Test innings since Dilip Doshi joined the dots 31 times against England in Chennai in 1981-82.

● However, and it is a big "however", in the second innings of his next Test in Perth, Lyon was clonked for 128 off 22 overs… that's the third most expensive analysis of 20 overs or more ever by an Australian, after Mitchell Johnson's and Xavier Doherty's recent Ashes debacles at Lord's and Adelaide respectively…

●… and the most expensive second-innings analysis of 15 overs or more ever in the baggy green.

● Can you please stop trying to dial for help on your mobile, I am talking to you. Imran Tahir… no, I don't have the heart… not only recorded the most expensive 20-over-plus analysis in the more-than-2000-match history of Tests, but then…

●… his replacement in the next Test, Robin Peterson, snuck straight in behind him into third place on that list, after some tail-end tonk left him with figures of 3 for 127 off 20 in the second innings in Perth.

● But, sweetcheeks, what are numbers? 3 for 127? The "3" were more important than the "127", and gave the left-armer match figures of 6 for 171 off 28.1 overs. And you don't need me to tell you that makes him the first South African spinner to take six wickets in a match for 20 Test matches over two and a half years…

● … and only the third South African spinner in the last 100 years to take six wickets in a Test in Australia, after Hugh Tayfield (twice in 1952-53) and Claude Henderson, 11 years ago.

● Peterson went for 6.07 per over in the match, the highest runs per over ever conceded by a bowler who has taken six wickets or more in a Test, and, more remarkably, the fourth most expensive of the 9875 match analyses by bowlers who have taken three or more wickets in a Test. It's a funny old world we two will be growing old together in.

● But Peterson's match strike rate, much more important in the context of the game, was a wicket every 28 balls ‒ the best by a South African spinner who has taken five or more wickets in a Test against a major Test nation since 1935…

●… and the fourth best by any spinner in an away Test in Australia since the First World War, behind immortal spin legends Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, Hedley Verity and Upul Chandana. Stop screaming, you heard me right. Yes, that Upul Chandana. He took ten wickets in 45 overs in a Test in Australia, in which I believe is one of the surest signs of an impending apocalypse. If you remove that statistical miracle from Chandana's record, in his last 11 Tests, he took 12 wickets, averaged 73, with strike rate of a wicket every 23 overs. What on earth happened? Are we sure it wasn't Shane Warne in an Upul Chandana outfit? Absolutely sure? Can we be sure of anything in this world? Other than the eternal power of love?

Phase 3: The contract
Your seductomentum is now unstoppable. The groundwork having been successfully executed, all that remains is the formality of asking for a date. Your by-now-likely future spouse will at this stage have lost all desire to resist. But do not ask immediately. Instead, soften the blow with a final catalogue of cricketing calculations. As follows:

● Anyway, let's not rush into things. Let's take the example of Faf du Plessis. He faced 535 balls on his debut, the second most in debuts where balls faced have been recorded, behind Sri Lankan non-legend Brendon Kuruppu (201 off 548).

● Du Plessis was the first South African, and 15th player overall, to score a century and a half-century (or two centuries) on debut…

●… and then became the first player ever to pass 70 in both innings of his debut and in the first innings of his second Test.

● And that all set the stage for Amla and Smith in Perth, the Beauty-and-the-Beast of Batsmanship. Their 178-run stand at 6.98 per over was the third fastest 150-plus stand recorded in Tests.

● Did you know that Amla has reached 50 in 29 of his 60 innings in one-day internationals, that's the highest ratio of fifties to innings of anyone with more than eight fifty-plus ODI scores? Of course you did. You're not an idiot.

● And he contributed to the fact that of the fastest three team innings of over 500 have been scored in this one just-concluded series.

● South Africa's 569 off 111 was the fastest second-innings score of 350 or more ever scored, and the first time a team has scored anything over 350 in its second innings at more than five runs per over.

● And, like our chance meeting here tonight that has changed the course of our lives so profoundly, there was little to suggest it would happen. South Africa had only scored at more than four an over, let alone five an over, twice in their previous 74 innings in Australia, and both of those innings only lasted about 40 overs.

● Three Australian bowlers went for more than five per over from more than 15 overs - only the fifth time that has happened to three bowlers in the same innings, and the first that hasn't been either Bangladesh (three times) or Zimbabwe (once, also in Perth, when Hayden scored his 380).

● So… dinner?

Phase 4: The logistics Your mastery of the conversational arts has proved romantically irresistible. You must now choose a suitable location for your courtship to begin. And make it statistically relevant on a cricketing level.

● Why don't we go out in Mumbai? After all, it was in that famous city that Monty Panesar recently became the 12th non-Indian player to take five wickets of both innings of a Test in India, and the first since Saqlain Mushtaq did so twice in successive Tests for Pakistan in the 1998-99 series.

● Virender Sehwag's second-innings 9 in Mumbai was the first time for 15 innings in home Tests, dating back two years that the Delhi Dambuster has been out for less than 25.

● In both innings in Mumbai, Sehwag scored at under 70 runs per 100 balls, a positively Boycottian 30 off 43, followed by a neo-Geoff-Marsh-ian 9 off 14. These were his slowest innings in a home Test for four years, since scoring 0 off 3 in Mohali against England. His first innings was the first time he has scored more than 10 at a strike rate of less than 70 in a home Test since scoring 20 off 35 against Sri Lanka in December 2005 - seven years, 29 Tests and 38 double-figure innings previously.

Phase 5: The icing on the cake
To remove any doubt that your intentions are fleeting or flippant, prove your lasting commitment with a final hyperstat:

● Mumbai was also only the third full Test match in which pace bowlers have taken fewer than two wickets. I'll pick you up tomorrow night at 7.30.

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

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Vik on (December 6, 2012, 13:03 GMT)

Oh Andy do stop now. You had me at Stat 4

Posted by V on (December 6, 2012, 13:02 GMT)

Marry me Andy!!!

Posted by prakash on (December 6, 2012, 2:03 GMT)

Dear Andy,

I love your articles/blogs/etc., but this one is the best your worst. All I can say is Mark Twain would have been very proud of you. I'm sure you can spin a tale around that theme, but make us all laugh as you usually do. You gave enough warnings, but I thought I should press on reading because it was you writing. Desist from such attractive trash.

You're yet to rise to my earlier suggestion about why not have a six female plus five male team international cricket championship on! Would it not be an interesting cup of tea! And, drinks break, ...

Prakash

Posted by GK on (December 6, 2012, 1:52 GMT)

Rarely do I comment on Page 2, let alone on ESPNcricinfo. But this post is incredibly awesome. Took the risk of reading it while working -- big mistake! I'd to pretend that I'm coughing, and had to go out of my office to LOL to avoid weird looks from my colleagues.

Posted by Matthew on (December 5, 2012, 21:22 GMT)

Entertaining as always, but passing up the opportunity to talk about Cook and Pietersen scoring sesquicenturies was criminal!

Posted by Martin on (December 5, 2012, 19:14 GMT)

Zaltor the magnificent strikes again! Pure endurance brilliant stattory.

Posted by Andyfan on (December 5, 2012, 16:20 GMT)

Master Piece !!! Take a bow.. I will digest these stats slowly as I relish them greatfully over the next couple of days :) Thank You Andy !!!

Posted by Abhranil on (December 5, 2012, 15:47 GMT)

simply brilliant......my head s bursting with numbers and am sure i will stay awake for the rest of the week....but that s what you intended i guess....mission accomplished...:-)

Posted by Richard S on (December 5, 2012, 14:10 GMT)

This statistical barrage demonstrates 3 things. South Africa have excellent all round batsmen who are able to score quickly against tripe, and encamp in the trenches when a test is on the line. Unlike England who can only do one of those things. South Africa still have not cracked spin bowling. Tahir's stats speak for themselves, and Robin Peterson got wickets because everyone was trying to smash him out the ground, much as a bowler gets wickets in a T20 game. They should just go back to Paul Harris. He was bad, but at least fairly cheap. Australia's bowlers are terrible, to the point where they might be challenging England 90's vintage for rubbishness. Thats 2 series against decent teams, this one and the last ashes, where they have been carted to all parts of the ground for huge scores, at home.

Posted by Davidgowerlives on (December 5, 2012, 13:50 GMT)

Magic. You had me at "There is no point in pretending"

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andy Zaltzman
Andy Zaltzman was born in obscurity in 1974. He has been a sporadically-acclaimed stand-up comedian since 1999, and has appeared regularly on BBC Radio 4. He is currently one half of TimesOnline's hit satirical podcast The Bugle, alongside John Oliver. Zaltzman's love of cricket outshone his aptitude for the game by a humiliating margin. He once scored 6 in 75 minutes in an Under-15 match, and failed to hit a six between the ages of 9 and 23. He would have been ideally suited to Tests, had not a congenital defect left him unable to play the game to anything above genuine village standard. He writes the Confectionery Stall blog on Cricinfo.

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