January 18, 2013

Analysing Test dismissals across the ages

A detailed look at various forms of dismissals in Tests, and their frequency over the years

The percentage of bowled dismissals has dropped steadily over the years in Tests © AFP

It has always been my desire to carry out a complete analysis of run-outs in Test matches covering every aspect of this fascinating form of dismissal. Since I have never looked at Test dismissals as a single topic, I decided to take an overall look at dismissals and subsequently go to the next level.

The initial analysis is an in-depth look at dismissals across various periods following the usual classification. The Pre-WW1, Between-wars, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s were automatic selections. On this occasion, I have tweaked the remaining years. Tendulkar, who frequently gives his wicket to debutants, was also the first victim of TV umpires who made their debut in 1992 at Durban. Hence I decided to have 1980-1992 as a period followed by three more: 1993-1999, 2000-2006 and 2007-2012. This ensures decent number of Tests in each period.

Let us begin with the base table of number of dismissals in each period. This analysis covers the period until 31 December 2012. Even though three Tests have since been played, all my table work was done before Test no 2069 was incorporated into the database.

Number of dismissals by period

Dismissal type187719201946196019701980199320002007All Tests
WK Caught3734328599201058184815851946132210343
Fldr Caught18091639233223252647396834924436319925847
Run Outs1791472412322183252923722262232

This table has been shown just for information. There is very little insight to be drawn from this since the number of Tests varies between periods. However the data is available if anyone wants to do some work.

Now the first of two special tables. The first shows the % of dismissals by dismissal type across periods.

Dismissals analysis: % of total dismissals

Dismissal type187719201946196019701980199320002007All Tests
WK Caught8.3010.3413.5015.8917.2218.5818.8618.2117.4516.27%
Fldr Caught40.2439.2236.6640.1643.0939.8941.5641.5042.2240.65%
Run Outs3.983.523.794.013.553.273.473.482.983.51%

Bowled: This type of dismissal has varied drastically across the ages. During the first period about 37% of batsmen were bowled. The figure dropped below 30% soon and remained around this figure until after the WW2. The next three periods exhibit further drops till it stabilized around 16% during the past three periods covering 20 years. The current figure is well below half the initial figure. How does one explain this? Can we infer that the batsman’'s defence was suspect? Or that the bowler was looking for the most direct form of the dismissals? Could it have been the effect of the uncovered pitches? Or the need to score quickly in 3-day matches? I will let the readers have a field day.

LBWs: This type of dismissal has moved in the other direction. Starting from a very low 6%, the LBW share doubled in the next period. Afterwards the figure remained reasonably steady but took a higher turn in 1980s. It was around that figure until a significant drop during the last period. What does it convey? Possibly that until the change of LBW laws, one could pad away with impunity. Did technique have an effect on these changes? During the past 5 years there is an increase of about 0.4%. This could be due to the partial implementation of DRS. Again let the readers come in with their comments.

WK Catches: Similar to LBWs, at 8% in the first period, followed by a slight increase between the wars and then steady increase until the peak was reached during the 1990s. Then, inexplicably, there has been a drop and now the figure is around 16%.

Fielder Catches: It is a great surprise that, irrespective of the period and whether the batsmen were out bowled or LBW, the fielder catches figure remains either side of 40%, the variation no more than 5% during most of these periods. Taking cognizance of the fact that 40% represents the highest share of all dismissal types, I am as surprised with this revelation as the drastic movement in Bowled and LBW dismissals.

Now we come to two very similar dismissals based on a batsman straying out and failing to reach home.

Stumpings: During the first three periods, the stumpings dismissal share remained at just over 3%. Then it dropped to nearly half and reached a low of 1.3% during 1980-92. It has picked up since and is around 2% these days. Can the current increase be attributed to the more attacking instincts of the batsmen? Third umpire came to the party during 1992. This meant a significant increase during the next three periods. Good spinners have always been around during all these periods.

Run Outs: Surprisingly the Run Outs % has remained steadily at around 4% right through the ages. The value dropped to 3% during 2000-2006, despite the introduction of third umpire. Perhaps the third umpire reversed more decisions in favour of the batsmen.

An analysis of dismissal percentages in Tests
© Anantha Narayanan

Dismissals analysis: Dismissals per match

Dismissal type187719201946196019701980199320002007All Tests
WK Caught2.
Fldr Caught13.511.711.212.513.411.712.712.913.212.5
Run Outs1.

Now for an alternate form of representation. This one relates to the specific numbers instead of percentage values. Though quite similar, they offer different insights.

The total number of dismissals was quite high to start with. 33 dismissals per Test. Then the value dropped and has stabilized at around 30. So these numbers are relevant indeed.

Notice how the average number of bowling dismissals has dropped over the periods and has stabilized now. On the other hand, LBW dismissals kept increasing and are slightly above the Bowled figure now. Wicket keeper catches increased steadily with a slight drop in recent years. Look at fielder catches which have remained either side of 12 catches per Test. Stumpings have dropped significantly and plateaued. The average number of run outs has more or less remained unchanged.

The combined values across all the periods are - 12.5 fielder catches, 6.6 bowled to 1.1 run outs and 0.6 stumpings per match totaling to about 30 dismissals per match including a few others but excluding those fancy dismissals like hitting the ball twice, obstructing the fielder, hit wicket, handling the ball etc.

An analysis of dismissals per match in Tests
© Anantha Narayanan

Here we are to where we started with. A complete look at run-outs. I wanted to look at how run outs have panned over the years: across periods, by countries, against countries et al. Nothing is gained by looking across 137 years and saying that Australia has lost 1.7% due to run-outs or has effected 1.9% of dismissals in run-outs. So the real need is to develop a four dimensional matrix: by dismissal type, by country/for country and by period. Then present the tables in an easy-to read and understandable form.

I plan to do that next. But why stop at run-outs? Every form of dismissal will throw some light on this fascinating aspect of the game. In fact I have a sneaking suspicion that this follow-up analysis could be very very interesting. We may be able to relate the numbers to famous names such as Harvey, Bland, Harper, Rhodes, Wasim, Waqar, McGrath, Alderman et al.

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

  • fanedlive on February 7, 2013, 14:58 GMT

    The big problem in India is that we are confusing showbiz with cricket. IPL is business. No IPL player should be selected to represent India unless he has a domestic record to fall back on. What has happened is the reason for India's (could fill India with Pak/SL) rise became India's fall. The Fab-8(4+Kumble+Zak+Viru+Bhajji)were together and we never looked beyond them. And it was by chance we got these 8. Beyond them, Indian cricketers were pretty average. 25 years back,it was level playing field in terms of resources. Now the world has taken fitness to the next level. Subcontinent never bothered. We never had a system, structure (all 3 SC teams). We still look upto some messiah to come and become the next SRT. We dont have a system to create more world class players. BCCI is a cash cow but the cow doesnt yield milk.

  • fanedlive on February 7, 2013, 8:33 GMT

    Well, as always, the blog has taken a small detour, although with healthy discussions. Let me add to another detour with some why's. Why, despite a decade of pounding, England emerged a set of key players. Why, despite wavering, Australia keeps challenging. Why, despite choking in smaller formats, SAF is getting the right balance more often. They have just 1 T-20 tournament. In India you have the Zonal T-20 + IPL (Now University cricket has joined the T20 bandwagon. In England, Univ crkt is pretty strong with longer formats in place.)No need to play more longer formats, but the lesser we play shorter formats, it is better. India has lost its bowlers (gone are the days we defended 127 in Sharjah, Australia, etc) to the dimnishing domestic structure and obscenely high amount of importance to T20 Cricket. SL & Pak are following the suit. [[ Excellent point, as usual, very well made. How many people know of Rohinton Baria Trophy. Once second only to the Ranji Trophy, this was the nursery of many a future international player. It was an Inter-University tournament. Swept away in the wave of shorter format tournaments. This year's Ranji Trophy was a sure pointer to what is going to happen. About 250 centuries, barely 10 of these worth anything. Triple centuries galore, but nothing worth a mention. Surely Gavaskar and co can put a full stop to the meaniingless FC matches in which a team 400 ahead in the first innings bats on for two days and sets the other team 800 to win in 2 hours. Give 5 points for a win and 1 point for a first innings lead in a drawn match. Penalize teams such as the team I have referred to above. See how desperate the captains would be to go for a win. The bowlers will get primacy again. In India what is important is the "Cattle auction". Here we have a doubtful player who can barely make it to the Australian team being bought in the auction for a million while one of the greatest of new arrivals in the past 10 years does not get a bid for 100k. An unknown and not in any South African radar player gets 600k while the current Australian captain goes for 400k. Ananth: ]]

  • fanedlive on February 6, 2013, 20:52 GMT

    @ Dr. talha

    It ALWAYS swings a lot at Wanderers. A cricket ball swings more the less density in the atmosphere (water molecule weighs less than oxygen molecule), and I think Wanderers is about 1,600 mtrs above sea level (light air). Philander is your worry in Cape Town ! (he LOVES the place - we were extremely lucky to make 49 !)

    @ Gerry

    It must be exasperating ! I know lol. We've got a guy who failed, failed, failed, and retired. Now Ponting's scoring tons for fun, not even looking like getting out in 1st class :(.

  • fanedlive on February 6, 2013, 12:05 GMT

    In batting i believe Pak needs a person who can counter-attack. You cant just simply block & wait for the bad deliveries to score. Because u may not get any loose stuff from this bowling.

    In the 90's Pak had players who could counter-attack. A.Sohail, S.Anwar, Inzi, Ejaz, S.Malik, all had this great ability. But in this current line up, under the captaincy of Misbah, this seems very difficult.

    Overall things doesnt look very bright for Pak.

    Next match is at cape town where NZL was bowled out for 45 & Aus for 47 (with Ponting, Clarke, Hussey & Watson in the side).

    Lets see what happens.

  • fanedlive on February 6, 2013, 12:02 GMT

    Ananth, you have answered your own question. Tendulkar failed against England (no use saying that he was crushed by 100th century pressure since he did not even reach 40 most of the time). He failed there, but played Australia away. He failed but played WI. He failed but played NZ. He failed but played England.He failed, but will play Australia. His failure / success will thus not be a determinant. It will be the same as before - do people have the guts to drop him / is he still a big brand? I think the last question is easy to answer - he has dropped off the charts. But the first is tough - fear public backlash (especially from his fans, who have been more determined under pressure than he himself ever was) will bea nuclear deterrent. Secondly, if he only averages 20 in six more tests, i.e. 12 innings, then 240 runs later, he will average 52.95, still very good (though after leaving our Z, BD, and Murali-less SL, it will be sub 50, no ). Why will he worry about trifles?

  • fanedlive on February 6, 2013, 11:53 GMT

    Firstly i must appreciate the way Steyn bowled.

    After so many years (perhaps since the prime of Kapil) have i seen such high class outswing bowling. Almost every ball landing in the right area, at a very lively pace. Simply Amazing!!

    Steyn was so good, that when Morrison asked Waqar & Jonty, after the match who is better Donald or Steyn, they named the latter.

    Ananth for Pak things r pretty serious.

    Unfortunately this time Ajmal is up against the best non-asian players of spin, on not so supporting pitches.

    Amla & AB has 200's in india and Kallis is a complete package. Ajmal must also get his line right. He was bowling an ODI line.

    Fast bowlers should bowl quicker than they did. I fail to understand why Junaid was bolwing in 130's. He bowled consistently in 140's against india. Even for reverse swing to be effective they should run in hard.


  • fanedlive on February 6, 2013, 9:59 GMT

    The scorecard uses "†" to indicate caught in a specialist fielding position. I guess there are too few instances of catches where "&" is used, less than one per test.

  • fanedlive on February 6, 2013, 7:35 GMT

    @ Ananth

    No question about the quality of attack - just who did what when.

    Davidson had only played 8 Tests (all against England - debuted 1953) for 11 wickets at 39.27 when Bill Johnston retired after WI in '54/55. (Ron Archer had played 7 Vs England for 17 wickets @ 18.23.)

    When Miller retired after Pakistan 1956. Davidson had played 11 Test matches for 15 wickets @ 33.53.

    Davo "came good" in Sth Africa '57/58 and never looked back.

  • fanedlive on February 6, 2013, 3:33 GMT

    In SA, I believe (unless some other series is hurriedly put in place), Tendulkar will play his 199th and 200th test. In his previous tour, in Johannesburg, when we got thrashed by an innings, Tendulkar's 50th century occupied so much attention that someone new to Indian cricket would have imagined we had won the test. So in this case also, there is nothing to worry. From a month prior to the tour, we will have 199/200 with breakfast while reading the papers, he will be on TV, there will be interviews, functions at the ground (if Graeme Smith can have Happy Birthday sung on the ground, surely it must be part of Dhoni's KRA to determine the best on-ground singer in the team, especially after Kumble, a singer, retired). And yes, there is also the matter of another possible innings defeat, but in the six day war, did not the people of both countries believe what their newspapers wrote, and both ended up thinking they had won the war? [[ My question is not the South African series. The only thing I am worried about that seies is that I have provided 200 Tests as the limit for Test batsmen and have to make quite a few changes if SRT crosses the 200 mark. The 64k$ question is what happens if Tendulkar has a poor series against Austraia, say sub-200 runs in four Tests a la England. What does he do. Risk further failures in a tough situation or call it quits. Of course, if SRt scores 300+ runs against Australia, he would have been in the top-3 amongst the Indian batsmen and there is no logical reason for him to call it quits and he wouldn't, either. Ananth: ]]

  • fanedlive on February 5, 2013, 20:36 GMT

    Great bowling by Steyn ! He has now reached his highest ever ICC bowling rating which makes him equal 13th (with Davidson) in history.

    Very very happy to see Charles "the terror" Turner honoured by CA (hall of fame). Don't get called the terror for no reason ! Much later, convincing O'Rielly (at his first NSW net practice) to ignore the "coaching" and bowl as he felt comfortable, was more than handy advice !

    @ Ananth - Davidson only played 5 tests with Johnston and really "kicked in" a few years after Johnston's retirement. Would have thought there must be an English attack of that period that was devastating. Strangely, out of Bedser, Statham, Trueman, Tyson, Loader, Laker, Lock and Wardle there doesn't seem to be a single attack that stood out. lol they must have been pioneering rotation ;). [[ For many a Test between 1949 and 1955, Australia fielded 3/4 out of Lindwall/Miller/Johnston/Davidson and in most of these Tests the Australian attack was Group 5 (the best). ALl these bowlers had sub-24 averages. Ananth: ]]

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