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Sleep-inducing run-fests and exciting droughts

Series with the highest runs-per-wicket yields and those with the lowest

Travis Basevi and George Binoy

March 11, 2009

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The double centuries by Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera were the start of the run glut during Sri Lanka's recent tour of Pakistan © AFP
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The abundance of runs in recent Test matches around the world got us thinking: which series have been dominated most heavily by the bat? And which ones have had wickets falling by the dozen? We ranked series according to the average runs per wicket to produce a list of contests with the highest mean, and another with the lowest. DVDs of the series in the first table could work as a substitute for sleeping tablets.

Sri Lanka's tour of Pakistan, which was cut short by the terror attack on the visitors' team bus last week, had the highest average runs per wicket among all Test series with at least two Tests. Before the Lahore game was abandoned, both teams had scored a total of 2269 runs for the loss of only 29 wickets in seven days of play. There were three hundreds, three double-centuries and a triple in five innings; the only two without a hundred were only 31 and 23.4 overs long. A wicket cost 78 runs and came 21 overs apart on average.

Seven of the top nine entries in the table below involve India. Their last tour to Pakistan, in 2005-06, was tedious until the third Test in Karachi. During the first two Tests, in Lahore and Faisalabad, the batsmen scored 2791 runs and the bowlers scraped together only 36 wickets, at an average of nearly 78 per breakthrough. That figure plummeted to 56.68 after the third Test, though. Irfan Pathan began that match with a hat-trick in the first over, and Mohammad Asif too helped redress the imbalance between bat and ball.

The five-Test series between West Indies and England, which ended on Tuesday, also appears in the table, at No. 17. Stuart Broad was frank in his assessment of the pitches on the tour, which according to him "have been terrible" to bowl on. The batsmen scored 17 hundreds, the second highest aggregate for a five-Test series, while the bowlers took only four five-wicket hauls. The average runs per wicket for this series was 46.71, and that after England collapsed for 51 to lose the first Test at Sabina Park, and West Indies were 114 for 8 in the final innings in Trinidad.

Highest average of team runs per wicket in a Test series (minimum two matches)
Series Mat Runs Wkts Balls R/W R/6B B/W Result
Sri Lanka in Pakistan, 2008/09 2 2269 29 3659 78.24 3.72 126.1 drawn 0-0
India in Sri Lanka, 1997 2 2892 46 5244 62.86 3.30 114.0 drawn 0-0
Zimbabwe in India, 2000/01 2 2789 48 5192 58.10 3.22 108.1 India 1-0
India in England, 1990 3 4640 81 7766 57.28 3.58 95.8 Eng 1-0
India in Pakistan, 2005/06 3 4138 73 5764 56.68 4.30 78.9 Pak 1-0
South Africa in Zimbabwe, 2001/02 2 2390 44 4938 54.31 2.90 112.2 SA 1-0
New Zealand in India, 2003/04 2 2511 47 5289 53.42 2.84 112.5 drawn 0-0
Australia in India, 1986/87 3 2880 55 5450 52.36 3.17 99.0 drawn 0-0
India in Pakistan, 1984/85 2 2129 41 4648 51.92 2.74 113.3 drawn 0-0
Pakistan in New Zealand, 1988/89 2 2189 43 5181 50.90 2.53 120.4 drawn 0-0
South Africa in New Zealand, 1998/99 3 2981 60 6634 49.68 2.69 110.5 SA 1-0
India in Pakistan, 1978/79 3 3892 80 6779 48.65 3.44 84.7 Pak 2-0
Warne-Muralitharan Trophy, 2007/08 2 2470 51 4218 48.43 3.51 82.7 Aus 2-0
Border-Gavaskar Trophy, 2003/04 4 5651 117 9080 48.29 3.73 77.6 drawn 1-1
Sir Vivian Richards Trophy, 2004/05 4 4557 97 9240 46.97 2.95 95.2 SA 2-0
Sir Vivian Richards Trophy, 2003/04 4 5583 119 9225 46.91 3.63 77.5 SA 3-0
The Wisden Trophy, 2008/09 5 5279 113 9712 46.71 3.26 85.9 WI 1-0
England in South Africa, 1938/39 5 5930 127 14553 46.69 2.44 114.5 Eng 1-0
England in New Zealand, 1974/75 2 1717 37 3778 46.40 2.72 102.1 Eng 1-0
India in New Zealand, 1989/90 3 2962 64 5471 46.28 3.24 85.4 NZ 1-0
Trans-Tasman Trophy, 2001/02 3 3454 75 5805 46.05 3.57 77.4 drawn 0-0
India in England, 2002 4 5151 112 8959 45.99 3.44 79.9 drawn 1-1
India in Pakistan, 1989/90 4 4404 96 8381 45.87 3.15 87.3 drawn 0-0
England in New Zealand, 1932/33 2 1540 34 3007 45.29 3.07 88.4 drawn 0-0
New Zealand in India, 1955/56 5 4890 108 13262 45.27 2.21 122.7 India 2-0

If only footage from the 19th century existed: highlights of the series in our next table would make for far more interesting viewing than those above. The four series with the lowest average runs per wicket are from the 1800s - the Ashes in 1886-87, 1888 and 1890, and England's tour of South Africa in 1888-89. The Tests in those four series were of three days' duration, but eight out of the nine matches finished in two. The average runs per wicket in each of those series was less than 15, while bowlers rarely had to wait longer than 45 balls for a wicket.

The troubles the Indian batsmen faced on their tour of New Zealand in 2002-03 received a lot of attention ahead of their ongoing visit to that country, and with good reason. That series is the only one from the 21st century to appear in the table of 25 series with the lowest averages. There were two totals of less than 100 in the two-Test series and only one in excess of 200. The Hamilton match, in which India and New Zealand collapsed for 99 and 94, is the only Test in which both teams fell for less than 100 in the first innings. Nobody scored a hundred and only three batsmen managed half-centuries in the whole series. The average runs per wicket for the series was only 16.14, and the strike-rate of 34 balls per wicket was lower than even the Ashes contests of 1886-87 and 1890.

Lowest average of team runs per wicket in a Test series (minimum of two matches)
Series Mat Runs Wkts Balls R/W R/6B B/W Result
The Ashes, 1888 3 1111 100 2775 11.11 2.40 27.7 Eng 2-1
The Ashes, 1886/87 2 984 80 3228 12.30 1.82 40.3 Eng 2-0
England in South Africa, 1888/89 2 810 62 1810 13.06 2.68 29.1 Eng 2-0
The Ashes, 1890 2 1007 71 3217 14.18 1.87 45.3 Eng 2-0
India in New Zealand, 2002/03 2 1072 66 2246 16.24 2.86 34.0 NZ 2-0
England in New Zealand, 1954/55 2 987 60 2885 16.45 2.05 48.0 Eng 2-0
England in South Africa, 1898/99 2 1366 80 3017 17.07 2.71 37.7 Eng 2-0
South Africa in England, 1912 3 1776 100 3878 17.76 2.74 38.7 Eng 3-0
England in South Africa, 1895/96 3 1798 100 3312 17.98 3.25 33.1 Eng 3-0
England in Australia, 1876/77 2 1417 75 3560 18.89 2.38 47.4 drawn 1-1
New Zealand in India, 1969/70 3 2192 115 6375 19.06 2.06 55.4 drawn 1-1
The Ashes, 1882/83 3 1927 101 5009 19.07 2.30 49.5 Eng 2-1
West Indies in Pakistan, 1986/87 3 2029 105 4950 19.32 2.45 47.1 drawn 1-1
New Zealand in England, 1958 5 2708 137 7785 19.76 2.08 56.8 Eng 4-0
South Africa in England, 1907 3 1946 98 4101 19.85 2.84 41.8 Eng 1-0
The Ashes, 1886 3 1909 96 5623 19.88 2.03 58.5 Eng 3-0
The Ashes, 1896 3 2268 111 4776 20.43 2.84 43.0 Eng 2-1
England in South Africa, 1956/57 5 3953 192 13239 20.58 1.79 68.9 drawn 2-2
Sri Lanka in New Zealand, 1982/83 2 1331 64 3003 20.79 2.65 46.9 NZ 2-0
West Indies in Pakistan, 1958/59 3 2102 100 5284 21.02 2.38 52.8 Pak 2-1
Zimbabwe in West Indies, 1999/00 2 1457 69 3972 21.11 2.20 57.5 WI 2-0
The Ashes, 1902 5 3041 142 6545 21.41 2.78 46.0 Aus 2-1
Pakistan in England, 1954 4 2356 110 5735 21.41 2.46 52.1 drawn 1-1
West Indies in New Zealand, 1955/56 4 2810 129 7904 21.78 2.13 61.2 WI 3-1
The Ashes, 1912 3 1405 64 3608 21.95 2.33 56.3 Eng 1-0

However, judging by the ongoing one-day series between New Zealand and India, the batsmen will not be facing minefields in the Tests. The pitches have been true and the boundaries minute, and therefore the average per wicket after the first three ODIs is 43.51, while only 31 wickets have fallen. The staggering stat, however, is the run-rate for the series so far - 7.10 runs per over.

The 2006-07 Chappell-Hadlee series in New Zealand had an even higher average per wicket - 50.57 - at a run-rate of just over six. And that despite Australia being dismissed for 148 in the first ODI, a total that New Zealand overhauled with all wickets intact. The scores in the next two games, though, were 336 for 4, 340 for 5, 346 for 5 and 350 for 9.

Highest average of team runs per wicket in an ODI series (minimum of three matches)
Series Mat Runs Wkts Balls R/W R/6B B/W Result
India in Pakistan, 1982/83 4 1763 34 1770 51.85 5.97 52.0 Pak 3-1
Chappell-Hadlee Trophy, 2006/07 3 1669 33 1648 50.57 6.07 49.9 NZ 3-0
NatWest Challenge, 2005 3 1344 28 1651 48.00 4.88 58.9 Aus 2-1
Sri Lanka in Pakistan, 1981/82 3 1251 28 1272 44.67 5.90 45.4 Pak 2-1
West Indies in India, 2002/03 7 3755 85 3856 44.17 5.84 45.3 WI 4-3
India in New Zealand, 2008/09 3 1349 31 1139 43.51 7.10 36.7
Australia in West Indies, 1983/84 4 1682 39 2136 43.12 4.72 54.7 WI 3-1
Pakistan in Zimbabwe, 2002/03 5 2630 63 2784 41.74 5.66 44.1 Pak 5-0
Rothmans Sharjah Cup, 1985/86 3 1119 27 1568 41.44 4.28 58.0 WI
Pakistan in West Indies, 1987/88 5 2337 58 2573 40.29 5.44 44.3 WI 5-0
NatWest Series, 2006 5 2860 71 2851 40.28 6.01 40.1 SL 5-0
Pakistan in India, 2007/08 5 2762 69 2943 40.02 5.63 42.6 India 3-2
South Africa in India, 1999/00 5 2699 68 2945 39.69 5.49 43.3 India 3-2
Pepsi Champions Trophy, 1993/94 7 3348 85 4066 39.38 4.94 47.8 WI
Zimbabwe in South Africa, 2006/07 3 1376 35 1627 39.31 5.07 46.4 SA 3-0
Australia in Sri Lanka, 1992 3 1323 34 1740 38.91 4.56 51.1 SL 2-1
India in Pakistan, 2005/06 5 2646 68 2748 38.91 5.77 40.4 India 4-1
Australia in Pakistan, 1998/99 3 1630 42 1766 38.80 5.53 42.0 Aus 3-0
Coca-Cola Cup (Zimbabwe), 2001 7 3121 81 3956 38.53 4.73 48.8 WI
West Indies in India, 1983/84 5 2118 55 2573 38.50 4.93 46.7 WI 5-0
Texaco Trophy, 1997 3 1386 36 1721 38.50 4.83 47.8 Eng 3-0
India in Pakistan, 2003/04 5 2963 77 2933 38.48 6.06 38.0 India 3-2
Australia in Pakistan, 1982/83 3 883 23 1032 38.39 5.13 44.8 Pak 2-0
New Zealand in South Africa, 2000/01 6 2457 64 2882 38.39 5.11 45.0 SA 5-0
India in Zimbabwe, 1998/99 3 1381 36 1659 38.36 4.99 46.0 India 2-1

Three ODI series from the last five months rank among the top eight series with the lowest averages per wicket. The first was Sri Lanka's tour to Zimbabwe in November 2008, when neither team passed 200 - even though Sri Lanka batted first twice - in five matches. A total of 1310 runs were scored and 77 wickets lost.

The next two series were in Bangladesh in January 2009: a tri-series involving Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and the hosts, followed by a bilateral contest between Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. The average runs per wicket in both contests were approximately 18.

Lowest average of team runs per wicket in an ODI series (minimum of three matches)
Series Mat Runs Wkts Balls R/W R/6B B/W Result
India in Pakistan, 1989/90 3 457 39 683 11.71 4.01 17.5 Pak 2-0
Rothmans Four-Nations Cup, 1984/85 4 1153 70 2134 16.47 3.24 30.4 India
Sri Lanka in Zimbabwe, 2008/09 5 1310 77 2135 17.01 3.68 27.7 SL 5-0
Bangladesh in West Indies, 2004 3 751 42 1175 17.88 3.83 27.9 WI 3-0
New Zealand in Sri Lanka, 1983/84 3 953 52 1414 18.32 4.04 27.1 NZ 2-1
Zimbabwe in Bangladesh, 2008/09 3 815 44 1571 18.52 3.11 35.7 Ban 2-1
Pakistan in New Zealand, 1992/93 3 818 44 1551 18.59 3.16 35.2 NZ 2-1
Tri-Nation Tournament in Bangladesh, 2008/09 4 1265 68 1961 18.60 3.87 28.8 SL
India in New Zealand, 2002/03 7 2135 114 3359 18.72 3.81 29.4 NZ 5-2
Bank Alfalah Cup, 2003 7 2251 119 3845 18.91 3.51 32.3 NZ
Pakistan in New Zealand, 1993/94 5 1529 79 2544 19.35 3.60 32.2 Pak 3-1
Prudential Trophy, 1977 3 1071 55 1723 19.47 3.72 31.3 Eng 2-1
John Player Gold Leaf Trophy (Asia Cup), 1985/86 4 1154 58 1862 19.89 3.71 32.1 SL
New Zealand in Bangladesh, 2004/05 3 1021 51 1617 20.01 3.78 31.7 NZ 3-0
South Africa in Sri Lanka, 1993 3 903 45 1414 20.06 3.83 31.4 drawn 1-1
Bangladesh in Australia, 2008 3 886 44 1298 20.13 4.09 29.5 Aus 3-0
Bangladesh in Sri Lanka, 2007 3 1029 51 1473 20.17 4.19 28.8 SL 3-0
England in Zimbabwe, 1996/97 3 1051 52 1563 20.21 4.03 30.0 Zim 3-0
Bangladesh in Kenya, 2006 3 945 46 1441 20.54 3.93 31.3 Ban 3-0
European Championship Division One, 2008 3 803 39 1180 20.58 4.08 30.2 Ire
Singer Champions Trophy, 1996/97 7 2502 120 3960 20.85 3.79 33.0 Pak
England in Australia, 1978/79 4 836 40 1611 20.90 3.11 40.2 Aus 2-1
Afro-Asian Cup, 2005 3 1025 49 1367 20.91 4.49 27.8 drawn 1-1
Videocon Cup, 2004 3 861 40 1133 21.52 4.55 28.3 Aus
India in Sri Lanka, 2008 5 1819 84 2584 21.65 4.22 30.7 India 3-2

If there's a particular List that you would like to see, email us with your comments and suggestions.

George Binoy is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo

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George Binoy Assistant Editor After a major in Economics and nine months in a financial research firm, George realised that equity, capital and the like were not for him. He decided that he wanted to be one of those lucky few who did what they love at work. Alas, his prodigious talent was never spotted and he had to reconcile himself to the fact that he would never earn his money playing cricket for his country, state or even district. He jumped at the opportunity to work for ESPNcricinfo and is now confident of mastering the art of office cricket
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