The tightest draws in Test cricket
This is the follow-up to the article on Test results. The initial article covered results and this one will cover the fascinating area of ties and draws. It is my personal opinion that there is as much excitement in saving a tough match as there is in winning a close match. The techniques required are different yet comparable. If you ask a captain which is tougher: scoring 150 in 40 overs to win a Test or survive the final day to draw the Test? Many captains would vote for the later task.
Unfortunately, the obsession with winning, the American dicta that there has to be a winner and winning is everything, and similar attitudes have made the cricket followers look down on Test cricket. Someone asked me "How can any one play for five days and not have a result?", I would ask him "You are ready to spend two hours watching a football match and eulogize a 3-3 result, why not this?". Availability of time is relative. Five days might be too long for some people, two hours too long for some others, 30 minutes too long for someone else. One should not put down tradition just because one does not have time to appreciate it. Or because one does not have the patience. Or because there is a crowd of 5,000 in a Test match and 50,000 in an IPL match. Or because there has to be a winner in every contest. And so on.
It is necessary to respect tradition while paving the way for the new elements. If we do not respect tradition and the old school, and allow the new to completely bull-doze the old, we will be left with high-budget, colourful, glitzy and vacuous shows. As someone succinctly put it, these are "time-pass" matches, to be put on par with the three-hour action thriller films which come out, three a week. If we allow Test cricket to fade away, the result would be similar to the disappearance of classic films like "Citizen Kane", "Casablanca", "Rashomon", "Seven Samurai", "Bicycle Thief", "Do Bigha Zamin", "Mother India", "Do Aankhen Barah Haath", "Nirmalyam", "Desadanam", "Pava Mannippu", "Punnagai", "Kappalottiya Thamizhan", "Thanneer Thanneer!", "Sagara Sangamam", "Tabarana Kathe", "Shyamchi Aai", "Nagara Haavu", "Sudi Guntalu", "Apur Sansar", "Charulata", "Aparajito" et al. We will be left with three-hour extravaganzas, mind-numbing, watch-and-forget, form-over-content types, both on field and on screen, with an unseemly alliance between both.
Has Tennis gone the cricket way? No. They have not replaced the five-set matches with single-set winner-takes-all contests, as dictated by the Television demands; or introduced 31-point tie-breaker sets so that the match could finish in 60 minutes. They are ready to have matches going 5-6 hours and beyond. And these are watched by 15,000 in the stadia and billions around the world. They might have changed the racket material and got in tie-breakers, but have remained true to the basic game. Let me also state that there are five-set classics such as Nadal-Federer, Borg-McEnroe, Graf-Sanchez and Federer-Roddick at Wimbledon, Djokovic-Murray, Djokovic-Nadal and Djokovic-Wawrinka at Melbourne, Santoro-Clament at Paris did not warrant a loser. A draw would have been an appropriate result. For that matter let us not forget Isner-Mahut at Wimbledon.
Draws are part of the Test match scenario. Of course, quite a few of the draws are dull and dreary, as can be seen in later classifications. But there are many draws which are hard-fought and no quarter given either way. I would any day view a gripping draw which finished in the last over than a 3-day drubbing of a hapless team by a strong one.
The comments for Part-1 were very revealing. Most readers only saw the anecdotal part of the article, pushing in their own memories, but almost no one commented on the analytical aspects of the article. My suggestion is "do both". Otherwise, these articles lose their value. Is it because of the new restrictions imposed that many readers have stopped sending in their comments? Anyhow, because of the lack of response to the tables and new ideas, I will present these with minimal comments. You readers have made this small corner of Cricinfo wonderful and you have to continue to do so, irrespective of the fact that I have had to move house, so to speak.
First, let me talk about the ties. It is a totally fascinating facet of the game. I love the way Milind has coined the phrases "perfect" and "imperfect" ties. Once we understand the terms, we wonder why we did not think of it. This interpretation was also needed by us for our contribution project.
Let us define these words. A perfect tie is one in which all available resources have been exhausted during the match, not just the last innings. In other words, all 40 wickets have been captured. The overs resource does not matter since the match ends when the last wicket is captured. No more deliveries can be bowled. The Brisbane tie during the 1960/61 season is an example of a perfect tie. More on this match in the later anecdotal section. Okay, the "ultra-perfect" tie, coined by me during the past minute, is one which finishes off the last available ball.
Now any reader can figure the other one by himself. The imperfect tie is one in which fewer than 40 wickets have been captured. The second tie, the Chennai match played during 1986, was an imperfect one. Australia lost only 12 wickets because they declared in both their innings. Some resources have not been used. Now, where it matters is in the team and batting/bowling allocations. For the Brisbane tie, both teams would get equal points and the batsmen and bowlers of both teams would get equal points. For the Chennai match, the Indian bowlers would get fewer points than the Indian batsmen. This match is also covered later.
There were a few matches which came close to another tie. The Mumbai Test between India and West Indies, a couple of years back, was the closest. If Ashwin had gone for a single off the penultimate ball and got out and the last ball result was repeated, it would have been the "ultra-perfect tie". The Adelaide Test between Australia and West Indies, which finished as a one-run win for West Indies, was equally close. Many of the one-wicket wins could have finished as ties.
This article is as much form as content. This is not the usual table-centric article. I have to present the analysis-data in different forms. As I normally do, let me say that most of the data presented here will be available through Cricinfo's stats and some further work. Only thing is you might need quite a few queries and results will not be available in this clear, concise format.
How does one analyse drawn matches. I have tried to separate the draws into the following five categories.
1. Could have ended in a result with one more ball. 2. Very close matches. Could have gone either way and/or great saves. 3. Close matches. Some slack in the matches. 4. Fair draws with some level of competition. (You would have to let the spectators in free) 5. Dull-dreary-dead drawn matches (DDD). 7/8 days to produce results. (Spectators would have to be paid to come in)
The description of these classifications is self-explanatory. The first group of draws occurs when a team has lost nine wickets in the fourth innings, the fourth innings target is six (or fewer) runs away or the team has lost nine wickets in the third innings and is still in arrears. Twenty six draws fall into this group. The second classification is a combination of miscellaneous factors: wickets, leads, RpW/BpW, resources available, et al. Too detailed to describe here. 80 Tests in this category. The third classification occurs when lot more resources are available and it is difficult to predict anything. The BpW/RpW combination also plays a part.
The fourth is the most populated one. All single-innings matches, most two-innings matches and a few three-innings matches fall under this umbrella. The last is the classification any cricket follower dreads. An example. India: 537/8. Sri Lanka: 952/7. India declared because this was a 5-day Test. Else they could have gone on. Sri Lanka could have gone past the 1000-run mark. Finally, how was the pitch? India was quite capable of scoring 500 more in the second innings. This is the perfect example of a level 5 draw. Another example: Aus-656/8. Eng-611ao. Aus-4/0. 59 Tests are in this classification. For obvious reasons, no four-innings matches will feature in this classification. We can't call a match dull and dreary if the fourth innings is in progress.
Easier said than done. How do I handle this split? It cannot be through inspection. By now I would have had to visit an asylum. So I used a judicious combination of the following five factors to separate the drawn matches. I cannot explain everything. Suffice to say that I used these factors to identify low-scoring vs high-scoring matches, dead vs live matches, unlikely wins vs probable wins et al. The key is to remember that all high scoring matches are not dull matches. I had to distinguish among a 500-500-200-190/8 match, a 500-500-300-90/1, a 500-500-200/1-150/1 match, and a 500-500-390 match.
Let me also say this. I have used a combination of the five measures, listed below, to do this classification. There is no guarantee that everything would be fine. A match or two may be out of place. For that matter what is a DDD draw might be a wonderful match for someone else because a world record was broken/attempted etc. So take these classifications with a pinch of salt. A list of all 720 drawn matches, with the classifications, can be downloaded using the link provided later in the article. I would advise readers not to split hair to the nth degree, but to examine and wonder at the wonderful world of Test draws.
- Match RpW. - Match BpW. - Batting resources still available, at close of play. - How far ahead or behind the third batting team is, at close of play. - How far away is the winning target for the fourth batting team, at close of play.
|Period||Tests||Draws||% Draws||1-ball away||%||Very Close||%||Competitive||%||Fair Draws||%||Dull-Dreary-Dead||%|
We have already seen in Part-1 that the 1949-79 period had the highest percentage of drawn matches, closely followed by the 1980-1999 period. In these tables I have looked at the five classifications of draws within these four periods. We get a lot of additional insights. The current period has had the maximum percentage of the first and most exciting of draws. 10 draws during the identified period would mean one every year. If we take the first two classifications together, surprisingly, it is the 1949-79 period which stands out, with 18.1%, followed by the current period, with 15.2%. It seems to be a wronged period. This is further confirmed by the low % values for 1949-79 period of the fifth classification. When we look at the numbers it is clear that the 1980-99 period is the one with fewer exciting draws and more dull draws. Maybe because there was one stand-out team and other lower level teams.
|Location||Tests||Draws||% Draws||1-ball away||%||Very Close||%||Competitive||%||Fair Draws||%||Dull-Dreary-Dead||%|
|ICC World XI||1||0||0.0%||0||0.0%||0||0.0%||0||0.0%||0||0.0%||0||0.0%|
This is as expected. West Indies, England and Australia have played the most exciting draws. They are followed by South Africa and New Zealand. India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have had the most dull and dreary draws. That is expected. The 1950s and 60s in the sub-continent was a nightmare.
|Team||Tests||Draws||% Draws||1-ball away||%||Very Close||%||Competitive||%||Fair Draws||%||Dull-Dreary-Dead||%|
Australia not only produces least percentage of draws, it also produces the most exciting and competitive of draws. Pakistan is the worst in this table. More than 61% of the draws are of the uninspiring type. New Zealand is next with 59% and India follows with 51%.
Here comes the interesting part. The list of fascinating and exciting Test draws. The key word is the first word. I have gone through the first two categories and selected what I feel would fit into this selection criteria. There is no personal bias since I have not looked at individual scores. It is clear that West Indies, Australia and England feature most in these matches simply because of the fact that they have played more exciting Tests than the others. So my suggestion to readers is not to ask "why have you (not) included this Test?" I will not answer those. Rather, post your own alternatives, and if possible, with a 2-3 line summary of the Test.
A list of close drawn matches: Not necessarily a complete list
1. 0498: Win-453ao Aus-505ao Win-284ao Aus-232ao
The first tie ever, that too the "perfect tie". A hundred and thirty two runs by Garry Sobers and four supporting 50s took West Indies to 453. Alan Davidson captured five wickets. Norm O'Neill scored 181 and Bob Simpson 92, to give Australia a good lead. Frank Worrell scored 65 to take West Indies to a competitive score, Davidson captured 6 wkts and Australia had a target of 233. Australia were 92 for 6. Davidson (80) and Richie Benaud (52) contributing the bulk of the runs. Last wicket fell with one ball to go. Wes Hall captured 5 wkts.
2. 1052: Aus-574/7 Ind-397ao Aus-170/5 Ind-347ao
The second tie, but an "imperfect" one. Australia declared at 574/7, thanks to Dean Jones' 210, David Boon's 122 and Alan Border's 108. Kapil Dev made a quick 119 and three other fifties were scored. But India finished nearly 200 runs in arrears after the first innings. Greg Matthews captured 5 wickets. In their second innings, Australia declared at 170 for 5, setting India a target of 348 to win. Sunil Gavaskar scored 90 and there were useful contributions all-around. India were dismissed for 347 in their second innings. Matthews and Ray Bright captured 5 wickets each.
3. 2019: Win-590ao Ind-482ao Win-134ao Ind-242/9
Nearly a tie. Would have been a perfect tie also. Darren Bravo's 168, and 5 other 50s take West Indies to 590. R Ashwin captured 5 wickets. India, despite four top-order 50s, were in trouble at 331 for 6. Then Ashwin scored his maiden Test hundred and India finished 108 behind. Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha dismissed West Indies for 134. In their second innings, India needed 243 to win. Virender Sehwag and Virat Kohli scored fifties. India were 241 for 8 with two balls to go. Ashwin, aware of a potential loss, plays carefully on the fifth ball, ensuring India don't lose the Test. Then takes a single off the last ball of the match and, after a ponderous turn, is run out. Could have ended as a tie.
4. 1345: Zim-376ao Eng-406ao Zim-234ao Eng-204/6
A rather ordinary match that became a cliff-hanger. After two good first innings, with centuries from Andy Flower (who else?), Nasser Hussain and John Crawley, Zimbabwe were dismissed for 234 in the third, leaving England a comfortable fourth innings target of 205, in about 65 overs. One ball before tea, England were at 202 for 5 and Nick Knight was batting on 94. He sent the ball long, took two runs and was run-out going for the winning run. Then heavens opened up and the match came to a dead-stop. Although England scored at 5.5 runs per over, one must find fault with Hussain, Crawley, Graham Thorpe and Darren Gough, who, as a group, scored 13 runs in 22 balls. Shades of the World Cup 2003 match between South Africa and Sri Lanka.
5. 0544: Win-301ao Eng-297ao Win-229ao Eng-228/9
Two average first innings either side of 300 and a below-par third innings by West Indies meant England needed 234 to win. They finished a single stroke short. This was the famous match in which Colin Cowdrey walked in when the ninth wicket fell, with his fractured hand bandaged, ready to bat left-handed, if required.
6. 0311: Win-286ao Ind-193ao Win-267ao Ind-355/8
After three rather below-par scores, India were left 361 to win. Aided by a Vijay Hazare century, they finished at 355 for 8, again a single stroke short. Let us not forget that this was a great result for India since they were just finding way in the wonderland of Test cricket.
7. 0504: Win-393ao Aus-366ao Win-432/6 Aus-273/9
Three good scores in the first three innings meant that Australia were left the better part of two days to survive or get an impossible 460 to win. They were 207 for 9, couple of hours before the close of play. Ken Mackay and Lindsay Kline survived those two hours of fierce bowling and ensured that Australia won the series 2-1. The deliveries faced information is not available but it is clear that Kline faced over 60 deliveries. Since this series also had the tied Test, it was arguably the greatest series of all time.
8. 1840: Eng-298ao Ind-201ao Eng-282ao Ind-282/9
England had a lead of nearly 100 runs and set India 380 to win. India lost wickets steadily but MS Dhoni played one of his best Test innings and took India to safety. The 10th wicket partnership with S Sreesanth realized 19 runs. During recent years England saved four Tests through staunch last wicket efforts. The roles were reversed on this occasion.
9. 1908: Eng-566/9 Win-285ao Eng-221/8 Win-370/9
England posted a huge total. West Indies were nearly 300 runs behind. England batted again and set West Indies an impossible 500+ to win. Ramnaresh Sarwan's century and useful contributions by many other batsmen proved insufficient and West Indies were 353 for 9 with 10 overs to play. The unlikely pair of Daren Powell and Fidel Edwards batted out these 10 overs, scoring an inconsequential 17 runs, and saved the match.
10. 1760: Eng-444ao Aus-302ao Eng-280/6 Aus-371/9
This match was during the wonderful 2005 Ashes series. Chasing 423 to win, Australia slumped to 264 for 7, with over 30 overs left. The late order rallied, with Shane Warne, Brett Lee and Glen McGrath playing out over 100 balls. The last wicket partnership was 17 runs and more significantly, 23 balls.
11. 0277: Eng-294ao Ind-170ao Eng-153/5 Ind-152/9
In a low scoring 3-day match, England took a 124 run lead and set India an imposing 278 to win. They had no answer to Alec Bedser and were 87 for 6 and then 138 for 9. Ranga Sohoni and Dattaram Hindlekar added 14 priceless runs, possibly in 7 overs, and saved the day.
12. 0797: Pak-435ao Win-421ao Pak-291ao Win-251/9
After two above-par first innings, Pakistan were dismissed for less than 300, setting West Indies just over 300 to win. West Indies floundered against Pakistani pace men and were struggling at 217 for 8 and 237 for 9. Andy Roberts and Colin Croft added 14 and saved the match.
13. 2084: Nzl-443ao Eng-204ao Nzl-241/6 Eng-315/9
The most recent escapade. Eden Park was the scene of heart-stopping fifteen minutes. No amount of coloured tamasha will match this. New Zealand did not enforce the follow-on even though they were 239 ahead. Then batted on, for what quite a few felt, too long, and set England a near-500 target. England were in dire straits, at 237 for 7. Matt Prior and Stuart Broad battled on for 25 overs, Broad scoring a 77-ball 6. Just when everything was pointing to a draw, Kane Williamson came on and captured 2 wickets in 3 balls. Prior and Monty Panesar survived the final 16 balls. An emphatic statement that the Test cricket lives, and how?
14. 1942: Saf-418ao Eng-356ao Saf-301/7 Eng-228/9
This match was one of the four England's great escapes over the past 5 years. These matches all follow a similar pattern. Good first innings totals and a reasonable third innings meant that England were given a reasonable target of 350+. From a reasonable position of 205 for 5, they slumped to 218 for 9. Prior and Broad, the heroes at Eden Park 4 years later, both scored 0s. Graeme Swann lasted 15 balls and Graham Onions, two full overs to save the day, along with Paul Collingwood. The last wicket added 10 runs, but more importantly, lasted 4 overs.
15. 0636: Win-414ao Eng-371ao Win-264ao Eng-206/9
The pattern is similar. Two good innings and then a middling innings setting a target of just over 300. Then came the defensive rear-guard action. First Colin Cowdrey scored a patient 83. However the defining match-saving innings was that of Alan Knott, who resisted for 260 balls in a 6-hour marathon of 73. John Snow was the other partner in this odyssey, scoring 1 in 60 balls. Jeff Jones held on for 5 overs at the end.
16. 0645: Win-276ao Aus-533ao Win-616ao Aus-339/9
Garry Sobers' 110 helped West Indies score a moderate 276. Then every Australian batsman contributed and they took a lead of just over 250. In the second innings West Indies amassed 616. There was only one century, by Basil Butcher, but 80+ scores were recorded by three batsmen including David Holford, batting at no.9. Australia were set 360 to win, but were 21 short with the last wicket in hand. They were well placed at 304 for 3 but then lost next 6 wickets for 29 runs. There was mayhem on the ground, in the form of 4 run outs.
17. 1087: Nzl-317ao Aus-357ao Nzl-286ao Aus-230/9
No hundreds were scored in the match. However quite a few scores exceeding 70 meant that, after three innings on either side of 300, Australia were set under 250 to win. They had reckoned without Richard Hadlee and were soon in trouble at 216 for 8. Craig McDermott and Mike Whitney saved the day for them with a last wicket partnership, lasting 7 overs.
18. 1096: Win-174ao Pak-194ao Win-391ao Pak-341/9
Two below-par first innings of sub-200 scores were cancelled by much better batting displays the second time around. Viv Richards and Jeff Dujon scored hundreds and West Indies set Pakistan 372 to win. Javed Miandad's 100 was negated by 0 and 1 from Shoaib Mohammad and Imran and Pakistan were 311 for 8. Ijaz Faqih scored a patient 51-ball 10 and saved the match, along with Ijaz Ahmed and Saleem Yousuf.
These are the matches where one team was a single delivery away from a win. For the other team, it was survival.
19. 1420: Saf-552/5 Eng-183ao fo Eng-369/9
One of the most intriguing draws ever. Huge South African total, followed by a disastrous first innings by England meant that England started the third innings 369 in arrears. This time they batted much better, led by a wonderful 164 by Alec Stewart and top-quality knock of 88 from Mike Atherton. They were sitting pretty at 237 for 2, when Atherton was dismissed. Then wickets started falling at regular intervals and soon they were 329 for 8. The ninth wicket added 38 runs but England were soon at 367 for 9, still 2 behind. Then Robert Croft and Angus Fraser survived 4 overs and added 2 priceless runs. The match finished with the scores level. Technically, this is not a one-ball-away situation since two balls are now needed. One to take the 10th wicket and one to score the winning run. This is the only match of its kind in the history of Test cricket. Scores exactly equal at the end of third innings at match-end.
20. 1922: Eng-435ao Aus-674/6 Eng-252/9
How many of these last-ball situations has England had recently? England posted a very good first innings score of 435, with all batsmen contributing. With four batsmen contributing 100s, led by North, RickyPonting, Simon Katich and Brad Haddin, Australia declared at 674 for 6. England were 70 for 5 and 159 for 7. However, Paul Collingwood, helped by all members of the late order, saved the Test. Not before a 35-ball classic by Panesar and 200 balls faced by the last four batsmen.
21. 1181: Aus-313ao Ind-483ao Aus-173/8
This was Warne's "forgettable" debut Test. Australia scored a moderate 313. India, with a dour 206 from Ravi Shastri and a classic 148 by Sachin Tendulkar, posted an impressive first innings lead of 170. Australia batted indifferently and was soon at 114 for 6. Alan Border dug in, with the help of Merv Hughes to save the Test. Australia finished only 3 runs ahead.
22. 0627: Eng-568ao Win-363ao fo Win-243/8
Ken Barrington and Tom Graveney helped England reach a huge first innings total of 568. Despite a 100 by Clive Lloyd, West Indies were dismissed for 363. Those were the days of follow-ons - West Indies batted again. They barely managed to clear the arrears and finished at 243 for 8, 39 ahead. They were 180 for 8 and a ninth wicket partnership of 63 by Garry Sobers and Wes Hall saved the match for them.
23. 1129: Aus-521/9 Nzl-231ao fo Nzl-322/7
David Boon's 200 helped Australia to score 521. New Zealand were dismissed for 231 and followed on 290 behind. Mark Greatbatch played one of the greatest of defensive innings of all time, scoring 146 in 485 balls, and saved New Zealand's Test. They finished at 322/7, only 33 ahead.
24. 1806: Ind-588/8 Win-215ao fo Win-294/7
Three hundreds by Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid and Mohammad Kaif, punctuated by a 0 from VVS Laxman and 2 from Yuvraj Singh meant that India posted a huge first innings score of 588. West Indies were dismissed for 215 and followed on well over 350 runs behind. Helped by a defensive classic of 120 by Brian Lara, West Indies saved the Test. They finished 78 behind. Dwayne Bravo, Denesh Ramdin and Ian Bradshaw played important defensive innings.
To download/view the list of 720 drawn matches and the classifications, please CLICK HERE.
Anantha Narayanan has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket and worked with a number of companies on their cricket performance ratings-related systems