The Numbers Game April 22, 2005

Subcontinental giants, and runs in defeats

A look at teams visiting in the subcontinent, and Brian Lara's continued run-spree in West Indian defeats

Perhaps numbers never do reveal the full story, but they tell a large part of it. Every Friday, The Numbers Game will take a look at statistics from the present and the past, busting myths and revealing hidden truths:

Surviving in the subcontinent
In response to last week's column, which looked at performances of subcontinental teams outside their own comfort zone, readers responded with queries asking for an analysis of the reverse situation - how non-subcontinental teams have fared when they've come to India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Here's an attempt to answer that query, looking at the results of Australia, New Zealand, England, South Africa and West Indies in all Tests played in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka since 1995. (Zimbabwe and Bangladesh have been excluded from the analysis, but it includes the five games played at neutral territories - four in Sharjah, and one, Pakistan versus Australia, in Colombo.)

As in any team analysis in cricket, Australia come out on top in this one as well. They've lost four series in that period - three, including a one-off Test, in India and another in Sri Lanka - but they've also managed more Test wins than losses, and are the only side with a higher batting average than bowling average.

In Ind, Pak, SL, Sharjah Win/ Loss/ Draw Batting ave/ Bowling ave Difference
Australia 11/ 7/ 5 33.19/ 29.45 3.74
South Africa 5/ 6/ 6 30.08/ 32.07 -1.99
England 3/ 3/ 6 29.22/ 35.75 -6.53
New Zealand 2/ 6/ 8 28.25/ 38.97 -10.72
West Indies 0/ 10/ 1 24.21/ 45.77 -21.56

Next in line, in terms of series wins and results, are England, who, under Nasser Hussain registered two famous back-to-back series wins in Pakistan and Sri Lanka in 2000-01. South Africa are marginally behind England, but their record has been spoilt by their recent slump - they've lost three of their last four series. South Africa's lean trot, though, is nothing compared to what the West Indians have been going through: they've been beaten in all four series in the subcontinent since 1995 (excluding the tour to Bangladesh) and have lost ten of the 11 Tests. The difference between their batting and bowling average, 21.55, tells the story.

The table below shows the top performer in the subcontinent for each country since 1995. Brian Lara's magnificent display on the tour to Sri Lanka in 2002 puts him on top of the heap in terms of averages, while Stephen Fleming's subcontinent numbers are much better than his career stats. And among the bowlers, Shane Warne is easily the most successful, despite his ordinary record in India - against Pakistan and Sri Lanka he's been prolific, and his overall subcontinent stats are extremely impressive: 95 wickets at less than 26, with a wicket every 51 balls.

Leading overseas batsmen in subcont
(excl. matches in B'desh)
Tests Runs Ave
Lara 6 817 68.08
Fleming 17 1340 60.91
Hayden 13 1322 57.48
Kirsten 13 1131 53.86
Thorpe 10 821 48.29
A Flower 15 1137 47.38

Leading overseas bowlers in subcont
(excl. matches in B'desh)
Tests Wickets Ave
Warne 18 95 25.73
McGrath 17 65 21.74
Pollock 14 52 23.13
Vettori 11 38 40.00
Gough 6 24 22.58
Walsh 3 14 21.86

The lone ranger
Ten days back at Port-of-Spain, a familiar story repeated itself: Brian Lara scored a century, and West Indies lost. It was the tenth time that happened, and given Lara's awesome form and the team's wretched run, that's likely to happen many more times in the near future.

After the second Test against South Africa, Lara had amassed 4312 runs in matches lost by West Indies; no other player has even managed 3000. Lara is also the only batsman with ten Test hundreds in defeats; in fact, no other player has more than Sachin Tendulkar's eight. (Alec Stewart, in second place in aggregate terms, scored 23 fifties in defeats but never managed to covert even one of them into a century.) Among the top ten run-getters in defeats, Lara's average is second only to Andy Flower, another outstanding player in a mediocre side.

Most runs in defeats Tests Runs Ave 100s/ 50s
Lara 52 4312 41.46 10/ 21
Stewart 54 2993 29.93 0/ 23
Border 46 2771 33.39 5/ 13
A Flower 34 2713 43.06 7/ 15
Gower 42 2581 32.26 4/ 15
Tendulkar 35 2558 36.54 8/ 9

The only player to score 50 runs per innings in losses was Len Hutton (minimum qualification 1500 runs), who averaged exactly that much from 20 matches. Even with Lara's incredible run-spree, that's one record he'll find tough to equal.

Highest average in defeats
(Min qual: 1500 runs)
Tests Runs Ave 100s/ 50s
Hutton 20 1700 50.00 3/ 12
Hobbs 22 1889 46.06 6/ 9
A Flower 34 2713 43.06 7/ 15
Lara 52 4312 41.46 10/ 21
S Waugh 36 2380 37.78 5/ 9
Tendulkar 35 2558 36.54 8/ 9

Let us know what you think

S Rajesh is assistant editor of Cricinfo. For some of the data, he was helped by Arun Gopalakrishnan, the operations manager in Cricinfo's Chennai office.