July 1, 2014

Stats gems you couldn't unearth even if you made them up

Andy Zaltzman
Did England selectors of the '90s suffer short-term memory loss, or did Phil De Freitas just love the early English summer?  © Getty Images
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Any great Test match churns out statistics like an England exit from a football World Cup churns out angry calls to radio phone-ins. Sri Lanka's tumultuous penultimate-ball win at Headingley certainly power-hosed out the numbers, in varying levels of interest and relevance, and New Zealand's victory over West Indies in the Caribbean, further evidence of a team that ought soon to be able to challenge the best, given a fair run with injuries and the discovery of some opening batsmen, added plenty of stats of its own.

Here, chosen at random by the Confectionery Stall Official Statistical Rummaging Committee, are some of those stats.

WARNING: THIS BLOG CONTAINS AN INADVISABLE QUANTITY OF STATS. CONSUME WITH CARE.

Some Illustrious-Company Stats
* Angelo Mathews was the fifth visiting captain to score two centuries in a series victory in England. The previous men to do it have been undeniably useful Australian run-scorer Don Bradman (1948), Garfield Sobers (the undisputed "West Indian Mark Ealham") (1966), Steve Waugh (2001), and Graeme Smith (2008).

* Mathews' 160 was the highest second-innings score by a visiting batsman in a Test in England since Gordon Greenidge scored 214 not out to win the Lord's Test for West Indies in 1984. It was the highest by a tourist in the second innings at Headingley since Arthur Morris (182) and Bradman (173 not out) flayed England to defeat in 1948. No visiting batsman had scored a second-innings Headingley hundred since Dilip Vengsarkar's unbeaten 102 for India in 1986. Not too many village-level sloggers in that list.

* Kane Williamson's match-turning undefeated 161 in Barbados was his seventh Test hundred. He turns 24 next month. His seven hundreds to date put him equal fourth on the all-time list of Most Test Hundreds Scored By The Age Of 24, behind the handy trio of Bradman (12), Sachin Tendulkar (11) and Sobers (9), alongside Alastair Cook, Graeme Smith and Javed Miandad.

Some Come-From-Behind-Victory Stats
* Archaeologists digging up the scorecards from the Headingley Test may well spend long years in their laboratories trying to decipher how on earth England managed to lose from the position of almost total dominance they had achieved when 50 ahead with seven first-innings in hand. It was only the third time since the First World War that England had lost after taking a three-figure first-innings lead - they also did so against Pakistan in Multan in 2005-06, in an Ashes-euphoria-puncturing fourth innings subsidence to Shoaib Akhtar, Danish Kaneria and Mohammad Sami (yes, that Mohammad Sami); and against a Benaud-inspired Australia at Old Trafford in 1961.

It was also the second Test Sri Lanka have won having conceded a first-innings deficit of 100 runs or more (the previous occasion was in Faisalabad, against Pakistan, in September 1995).

* New Zealand's win in Barbados, after conceding a not-especially-intimidating first-innings lead of 24, was the second time they have won having gone into bat in the third innings of a Test facing a deficit.

A Personal Improvement Stat
* Since August 2012, Tim Southee has taken 81 wickets in 17 Tests, at an average of 22.0. Prior to that, he had taken 42 in 17 matches, at an average of 44.7. Of the 44 bowlers who have taken 15 of more wickets since August 1, 2012, Southee's average is the third best, behind Mitchell Johnson (74 at 17.4) and Ryan Harris (56 at 21.6).

A Three Men From The Same Team Scoring Their First Test Hundreds In The Same Series Stat
* Ballance, Robson and Moeen Ali combined to create statistical history for English cricket. They combined to create the first-ever instance of three England batsmen scoring their maiden Test centuries in the same home series.

The last time three England players reached three figures for the first time in one series was on the tour of India in 1972-73, when Tony Lewis, Tony Greig and Keith Fletcher made their first Test hundreds.

The last time any team had three or more maiden centurions in a home series was when New Zealand beat England in 1983-84, helped by first hundreds by both Crowe brothers, Jeremy Coney and Ian Smith.

The last time it happened in an away series was in 2008-09, when Phil Hughes, Marcus North and Mitchell Johnson all troubled the batting honours board for the first time on Australia's tour of South Africa.

That took more time than it was worth.

Some Personal Inconsistency Stats
* In his last 21 Test innings, since May 2013, Brendon McCullum has reached 40 just three times. On those occasions, he has scored 113, 224 and 302. In the other 18 innings, he has averaged 13.2. (In his previous 39 innings, he had reached 40 on 14 occasions, but had a highest score of 84.)

* Stuart Broad became the fourth bowler to take a Test hat-trick without taking any other wickets in the match. England's Tom Goddard did so against South Africa in 1938-39, failing to strike with the other 301 deliveries he sent down. Abdul Razzaq skittled Sri Lanka's tail in Galle in 2000, but went 26.3 overs without a wicket in the rest of the Test. Most remarkably, Bangladesh's Alok Kapali did so against Pakistan in Peshawar in August 2003. It was his 11th Test - those three balls doubled his career wickets tally. They also proved to be the last Test wickets he ever took. He bowled six wicketless overs in the second innings, and failed to strike in his final five Tests, finishing with three wickets for 709 in the 183.2 overs he bowled either side of his hat-trick.

Even more bizarrely, Australia's Jimmy Matthews, playing against South Africa at Old Trafford in the 1912 triangular series, took a hat-trick in each innings, without dismissing any other batsman in the match.

Another Stat Featuring Alok Kapali
* Many people believe it is impossible to crowbar two Alok Kapali stats into a single blog. Those people will now have to reassess their view of the universe. Kapali stalked the Leeds Test's statistical quirks like hit TV naturalist David Attenborough trying to catch some priceless footage of a tiger laying an egg. Not only was Kapali the last man to take a hat-trick as his only wickets in a Test, but he was also the last man to be dismissed for 13 in both innings of a Test, before Kaushal Silva mimicked his unlucky double at Headingley. Silva was the 13th man to score 13 twice in a Test match (Mitchell Starc did so at The Oval last year, but was not out in the second innings). That Sri Lanka managed to overcome not only (a) England, (b) their own moderate record outside the subcontinent, and (c) the stomach-clenching nerves of two final-over thrillers, but also (d) the cosmic misfortune of this triskaidekaphobic's nightmare of a stat, makes their victory all the more impressive.

Some More Second-Innings Stats
* Sri Lanka's 457 all out was the third-highest score ever made in the second innings of a Headingley Test (India made 510 in defeat in 1967, South Africa scored 500 in their 1955 victory).

* The series-defining partnership of 149 between Mathews and Herath was the highest ever eighth-wicket stand in the second innings of a Test in England (and third-highest anywhere), beating the 117 added in the immortal Botham-Dilley stand that turned the 1981 Ashes on its head. (It was also the second highest for the eighth wicket by a visiting team in England, behind the 150 added by South Africa's Gary Kirsten and Monde Zondeki, also at Headingley, in 2003; and just the second century stand for Sri Lanka's eighth wicket in an away Test (Sangakkara and Ajantha Mendis added 100 in Chittagong earlier this year).)

Some Two-Batsmen-On-The-Same-Team-Bagging-Pairs Stats
* It was not all bad for England's bowlers. They kept not-especially-key batsman Lahiru Thirimanne very quiet indeed, and snuffed out any hopes Dhammika Prasad had of matching Ian Botham's all-round heroics at the same ground in 1981. Both men bagged a three-ball pair, the first recorded instance of a Test team registering two pairs of three balls or fewer. Thirimanne's golden and silver ducks constituted the equal worst recorded match performance by a Test No. 5, alongside Mark Waugh's similarly brief double-blob-out in Colombo in 1992.

* Sri Lanka became just the fourth team to win a Test despite two of its players bagging a pair. The last occasion was when Murali and Malinga managed 0 for 4 between them with the bat against New Zealand in Wellington in 2006-07. The zero runs Harbhajan and Nehra amassed in Trinidad in April 2002 were mathematically not at all crucial in helping India defeat West Indies. The only previous occasion in England on which a team overcame the total numerical ineffectiveness of two of its batsmen to secure a win was when Australian captain Joe Darling and wicketkeeper JJ Kelly combined to contribute absolutely nothing with the bat to their team's victory in the only Test ever played at Bramall Lane, Sheffield, in 1902.

A Stat Of At-Best Marginal Relevance Concerning Sri Lanka's Seamers
* The Headingley Test was the first time that three different Sri Lankan seamers have taken four wickets in an innings in the same Test. India (v New Zealand, in Wellington, in February this year) and Pakistan (v West Indies, in Sharjah, in 2001-02) have done so once each. It is, understandably, a more common occurrence for non-Asian teams (England 15 times, Australia 10, West Indies 6, South Africa, 6 New Zealand 5).

A Stat That I Spent Far To Much Time Working Out, Especially Given That I Am A 39-Year-Old Father Of Two, With An Impending Stand-Up Tour For Which I Should Be Writing Material
England's starting XI in the first Test of the 2014 summer contained only six players from the first match of the 2013 season (Cook, Bell, Root, Prior, Broad and Anderson remained; Compton, Trott, Bairstow, Swann and Finn had gone). The team that began the 2013 season contained eight who had played in the first Test of 2012; that team had nine of the 2011 first-Test XI, which in turn contained nine of the 2010 summer-starting side. Never before 2011 had England begun a summer with nine of the team that had played in the first Test a year earlier. (The record had been eight, most recently in 2005, least recently in 1884.)

In fact, since 1947, the average number of England players surviving from one summer's first Test to the next year's equivalent match is 5.98. So this year's selectorial upheaval, whilst out of kilter with the centrally-contracted stability of recent years, is in fact entirely in line with English cricketing tradition.

The fewest players retained from one summer's first Test to the next is two - only the two Kens, Barrington and Higgs, remained in 1967 from the team that had begun 1966. (It also happened in 1921, when England played their first home Test for nine years, and in 1924, the next home Test summer after that.)

The only time that there have been consecutive summers with fewer than four players remaining from first Test to first Test was in the mid-1990s. Atherton, Thorpe and Hick were the only players from the first Test in 1995 to line up when England began their first Test of 1996; and from that team, only Atherton, Thorpe and Hussain were present to take on Australia in the opening Ashes encounter of 1997. Fun days for selectors.

Alastair Cook has played in nine summer-opening Tests in succession. The record is 13 (Godfrey Evans, 1947-1959); Hutton (1937-1939, and 1946-1954) and Gower (1978-89) both played in 12 in a row. The record for a bowler is nine - shared by Fred Trueman (1957-1965) and… any guesses?... one of the English greats such as Botham, Willis or Bedser perhaps?... pens down, the answer is: Phillip DeFreitas. DeFreitas played in the first Test of the English summer for nine consecutive seasons, from 1987 to 1995. He played the last Test of the English summer only twice - in 1991 and 1994. In four of the other seven summers, he appeared only in the first Test; in two more, he played just the first two; and he played the first, third and fifth of the six Tests England played in their 1988 home season. Why did I start looking this stuff up? To be honest, I cannot remember. But I did. And having done so, the only way I could justify my afternoon's labours was by inflicting the stat on you, the readers. You have my sincerest gratitude and apologies. If you are still reading this.

Here endeth the stats. Amen.

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

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Posted by Udendra on (July 2, 2014, 18:38 GMT)

@bedders78 : that was a pretty 'ducky' match, wasn't it? Altogether 11.

Posted by Udendra on (July 2, 2014, 5:28 GMT)

How on earth did you manage to dig-up that "13 related" stat?

Posted by nvngupta on (July 2, 2014, 3:59 GMT)

how does Andy do all these stuff. rightly ssid... either madness or sheer genius

Posted by   on (July 2, 2014, 3:10 GMT)

Have to applaud the description of Gary Sobers as the "West Indian Mark Ealham". Not one that had occurred to me before.

CricketPissek - Bradman played 15 of his 52 tests after WWII (10 against England, 5 against India, for a total of 8 hundreds) - so actually a pretty high proportion of the total tests he played. He played 19 (9 against England and 5 each against West Indies and Sth Africa) before turning 24, for 12 hundreds. He only played 18 tests in total after turning 24 and up to WW2, starting from the 32/33 (Bodyline) series, all against England, for 9 hundreds and an average barely over 85. They just didn't play that many tests back then, and he had some illnesses and injuries causing him to miss some that were played.

Posted by DVSK on (July 2, 2014, 1:12 GMT)

@Sir_Francis You forgot to take into account that because of the the word war Bradman did not play from 1936-1945. He would have been 30 in 1935 I think.

Posted by CricketPissek on (July 1, 2014, 21:50 GMT)

@Sir_Francis - I have full faith in AZ's analysis. Bradman's last 16 years did have that pesky 2nd World War interrupting his mojo for a good 8 years of course. Also, he only ever played in Eng and Aus. So, it's quite possible that he only played a handful of matches post WW2

Posted by Sir_Francis on (July 1, 2014, 13:04 GMT)

Some very fine investigative work Andy. But you missed one telling Bradman stat. If your claim that Bradman had scored 12 tons by his 24th birthday (and I have no reason or inclination to doubt you). Then that means he only score 17 more tons in his final 16 years of test cricket.

Also, didn't Robson, Ballance & Ali (& Stokes?) all score their maiden tons in their 2nd Test?

There may be others (Bradman?) but that's Andy's job to find out.

Good luck at Edinburgh and hurry back with The Bugle!

Posted by rohitraj97 on (July 1, 2014, 12:10 GMT)

This is a hilarious article full of interesting stats..Always enjoy reading your articles, no matter how short (read long) they are.

Posted by bedders78 on (July 1, 2014, 10:41 GMT)

I'm pretty sure the 5 golden ducks in the second ENG v SL test was a record.

Posted by   on (July 1, 2014, 6:52 GMT)

That last stat is either madness or genius.

Comments have now been closed for this article

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. 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 ESPNcricinfo.

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