Ashes 2013: battles within the war
This is the first attempt at a new type of analysis. I have done an analysis of the head-to-head confrontations during a specific series: the 2013 Ashes, to start with. Since this is a venture into uncharted seas, we will improve as we go along. I will make this a regular practice before important series, the ones coming to my mind now are the Ashes series in Australia later this year and the South Africa - India series around the same time.
There are no preambles to this analysis. There are no cut-offs and every single ball bowled is covered. The uploaded Excel sheet covers every single combination. In the main article I have selected four bowlers and six batsmen from each team and developed the tables. Otherwise the article will become too long.
The players selected are given below. The reasons are obvious. The best bowlers and the top-order batsmen, barring a minor variation make the cut.
Australia Bowlers: Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc
and Nathan Lyon. Batsmen: Chris Rogers, David Warner, Shane Watson,
Michael Clarke, Steven Smith and Brad Haddin
(for want of a suitable batsman).
England Bowlers: Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Stuart Broad
and Tim Bresnan. Batsman: Alastair Cook, Joe Root, Jonathan Trott,
Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell and Jonny Bairstow.
Let us move on to the tables now.
1. The best Australian bowler has to be Harris, with no one else coming close. Even leaving aside 24 wickets at sub-20 average in four Tests, look at how Harris has performed against the English top order. He has done very well against Cook (three wkts at 24), dominated Root (four wkts at 9.5) and Trott (four wkts at 12) and performed very competently against Pietersen, Bell and Bairstow (five wickets at below-30). Sixteen of his 24 wickets are those of top-order batsmen. For once we can say with certainty, based on these macro-level figures that Harris was the bowler of the series.
2. Siddle has been less dominating. Root and Trott have played quite well, with averages exceeding 40. Cook and Pietersen have, to an extent, been taken care of by Siddle. However look at Bell. He has totally and overwhelmingly dominated Siddle. No wicket conceded in 239 balls. It is also relevant that only nine of Siddle's 17 wickets are those of top-order batsmen.
3. Mitchell Starc has done well against Trott and Bairstow. The other batsmen have all played him very well. However, it must be acknowledged that nine of his 11 wickets are those of these top-order batsmen.
4. Root and Bairstow struggled against Lyon. No one else did. But Lyon had to his credit only two lower-order wickets.
|Harris||24||980||464||3 / 168 / 71||4 / 141 / 38||4 / 82 / 48||2 / 102 / 51||2 / 158 / 56||1 / 77 / 29|
|47.3||19.3||42.3 / 23.7||27.0 / 9.5||58.5 / 12.0||50.0 / 25.5||35.4 / 28.0||37.7 / 29.0|
|Siddle||17||1144||522||1 / 117 / 20||2 / 168 / 87||2 / 135 / 85||3 / 134 / 64||1 / 239 / 117||0 / 85 / 18|
|45.6||30.7||17.1 / 20.0||51.8 / 43.5||63.0 / 42.5||47.8 / 21.3||49.0 / 117.0||21.2 / 0.0|
|Starc||11||725||344||1 / 109 / 42||1 / 108 / 32||2 / 51 / 21||2 / 163 / 78||1 / 136 / 78||2 / 45 / 20|
|47.4||31.3||38.5 / 42.0||29.6 / 32.0||41.2 / 10.5||47.9 / 39.0||57.4 / 78.0||44.4 / 10.0|
|Lyon||9||709||303||0 / 79 / 36||1 / 42 / 11||1 / 93 / 38||2 / 124 / 84||1 / 125 / 45||2 / 70 / 33|
|42.7||33.7||45.6 / 0.0||26.2 / 11.0||40.9 / 38.0||67.7 / 42.0||36.0 / 45.0||47.1 / 16.5|
|Swann||26||1494||755||6 / 230 / 79||1 / 68 / 38||1 / 138 / 81||0 / 251 / 147||3 / 153 / 92||4 / 149 / 80|
|50.5||29.0||34.3 / 13.2||55.9 / 38.0||58.7 / 81.0||58.6 / 0.0||60.1 / 30.7||53.7 / 20.0|
|Anderson||22||1235||647||2 / 240 / 105||2 / 59 / 33||1 / 179 / 126||2 / 120 / 67||1 / 170 / 89||2 / 138 / 56|
|52.4||29.4||43.8 / 52.5||55.9 / 16.5||70.4 / 126.0||55.8 / 33.5||52.4 / 89.0||40.6 / 28.0|
|Broad||22||1122||595||1 / 220 / 104||1 / 65 / 49||3 / 146 / 74||5 / 161 / 84||2 / 122 / 45||2 / 64 / 24|
|53.0||27.0||47.3 / 104.0||75.4 / 49.0||50.7 / 24.7||52.2 / 16.8||36.9 / 22.5||37.5 / 12.0|
|Bresnan||10||547||290||0 / 90 / 63||2 / 34 / 18||4 / 88 / 46||0 / 94 / 65||2 / 85 / 24||0 / 28 / 18|
|53.0||29.0||70.0 / 0.0||52.9 / 9.0||52.3 / 11.5||69.1 / 0.0||28.2 / 12.0||64.3 / 0.0|
1. Despite Swann's 26 wickets, this was a mixed series for him. He totally dominated Rogers (6 wkts at 13) and Haddin (four wickets at 20). However, Clarke had the total measure of Swann. Somewhat similar to Bell's handling of Siddle. No wicket in 251 balls at an excellent scoring rate. Whatever one can say, it must be agreed that Clarke has enhanced his reputation as the best player of spin in the world. Swann dismissed 15 top-order batsmen.
2. Anderson had a mixed series also. Only ten top-order wickets. Domination of Warner was off-set by the way Watson performed brilliantly and aggressively against Anderson. Smith also played very well against Anderson. On the true Australian pitches, it is possible that Anderson might struggle. Anderson started brilliantly at Trent Bridge but then fell off.
3. Broad's mastery over Clarke must have one of the major reasons for England's success: five wickets at 17. Broad was also very good against the other top-order batsmen, barring Rogers, who had the complete measure of him (one wicket at 104). However, it can be said that Broad had a better series than Anderson. His Durham spells will go into the Ashes legends.
4. Bresnan performed better than expected. Ten wickets in three Tests, out of which eight were top-order ones, speak quite highly of his performances. He totally dominated Warner, Watson and Smith. All these wickets were captured at sub-12 averages. His breakthroughs were timely and crucial.
1. Rogers was a revelation. Sheer guts and commitment and a burning desire not to fritter away the last chance provided motivated him. He had a horrid time against Swann but handled all other bowlers very competently. Scoring 367 runs at an average of 40+ in a comeback series is not something to be ignored. He should do equally well on familiar pitches back home a few months hence.
2. Barring against Broad, Warner was at sea against all other bowlers. He may get the nod at Brisbane, but not beyond.
3. Watson was a much-maligned batsman who performed much better than people gave him credit for. A big hundred, a fifty and quite a few starts were better than what many other Australian batsmen achieved. He handled Swann and Anderson very well, scoring quickly and not losing his wicket cheaply. He was outstanding against Anderson. However he struggled against Broad and surprisingly, Bresnan.
4. Clarke performed outstandingly well against Swann (0 wkt in 251 balls) and miserably against Broad (five wkts at 17). Two extremes, impossible to understand. He was competent against Anderson and did well against Bresnan. Overall a fair series.
5. Smith had his moments against Swann and did very well against Anderson. He was quite poor against Bresnan.
6. Broad troubled Haddin most but he was competent against the other bowlers, but who cares when one sets a world record. Nearly six dismissals per Test meant that the difficult-to-understand experiment with Wade was abandoned. Haddin would take his rightful place behind the stumps over the next year or two.
1. Cook did not really have a satisfactory series. Not just the scarcity of runs but also the fact that he did not really master any bowler. He handled Starc and Lyon slightly better than the others.
2. Root struggled against Harris but handled the others relatively well. But one big innings defined his future career. He handled Siddle very well.
3. Trott had an average series, like Cook. He handled Siddle well but had a very difficult time against Harris and Starc.
4. Pietersen - what does one say? One excellent century and three contrasting fifties. The last fifty was the stuff of schoolboy fantasies. He almost carried England home. And one could also see how well his rehabilitation into the team has worked. Cook and Andy Flower must take a lot of credit for that. Only against Siddle did he struggle a bit. He attacked Lyon quite well but gave him enough respect in the first innings at The Oval. His contrasting methods of play makes him all the more dangerous.
5. Bell: ah! The name rings a very sweet tone now. A defining batting performance by a complete batsman who has realised that he is now the best English batsman and should not sell himself short. Three hundreds and two fifties are ample testimony to the way Bell played and was the backbone of English batting. He never really failed in any of the five Tests. There was no discernible weakness. He handled all bowlers very well. He attacked Starc but handled Lyon with a lot of respect. He was one of the few who played Harris very well. He also played two bowlers not featured here impeccably: Watson and James Pattinson. He faced 269 balls against them and did not lose his wicket.
6. Bairstow had an average series. His contributions were below-par and he never mastered any bowler. He might get the nod at Brisbane or be replaced by James Taylor. However the one thing in his favour is that he played a minimum of 50 balls in each of the seven innings he batted in. He never gave up his wicket easily.
Some of the contrasting and absorbing contests of the series. Readers might come in with more.
1. Phillip Hughes against Swann (76 balls/9 runs/2 wkts/4.5 avge) and Hughes against Anderson (45 balls/40 runs/0 wkt). What a contrast?
2. Clarke against Broad (161 balls/5 wkts) and Clarke against Swann (251 balls/0 wkt). One change from a Goliath to David, as the speed of delivery picked up.
3. The dismantling of the hapless Kerrigan by Watson: 35 runs in 25 balls.
4. The huge success of Root as a bowler: 96 balls/34 runs/3 wkts/11.33 avge.
5. James Faulkner's misdirected barbs against England - backed by a great last day: five wickets, a cameo of 22 and some great ODI bowling to arrest England's push for a win. One bad over then might have led to a Pietersen-inspired win.
6. Agar's excellent handling of Swann: 83 balls/43 runs/0 wkt.
7. Smith's success against Bell: he dismissed him twice in 26 balls.
8. Broad's cavalier treatment of Siddle: 42 runs in 41 balls. And of Harris: 38 runs in 32 balls.
9. The maximum balls for any head-to-head confrontation was Swann's 251 balls against Clarke.
10. Watson scored 71.4% of his runs against Anderson in boundaries. Similarly Pietersen scored 71.8% of his runs against Starc in boundaries. However Bell v Pattinson was the highest: 73.9%.
11. Both Watson and Bell despatched 12.3% of the balls received against Anderson and Pattinson to the boundaries. That is one in eight balls.
Now for the readers to locate such gems.
Let me conclude. The bowler of the series was Ryan Harris. Not just for the wickets but the way he dominated the top-order English batsmen. If Harris had played at Trent Bridge, Australia might have won or drawn the series. But I hear the cynic's whisper: "Okay, then he might not have finished the series". Swann follows Harris. The batsman of the series was Ian Bell. Again not just for the 562 runs but the way he played all bowlers with ease. Pietersen is next. The allrounder of the series was Brad Haddin. In addition to a world-record 29 dismissals, he also scored 206 runs. Broad follows close behind for his 22 wickets and 179 runs. My Man-of-the-Series award goes to Ian Bell.
I have created an Excel sheet with complete head-to-head details for all combinations. To download/view the document, 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