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ESPNcricinfo's stats editor S Rajesh looks at the stories behind the stats

The Numbers Game

Inzi's milestone, and top-order baiters

Perhaps numbers do never reveal the full story, but they tell a large part of it fairly well

S Rajesh

December 5, 2003

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

Inzi on a roll
The third one-day international between Pakistan and New Zealand was fairly unspectacular, but it was a special occasion for Inzamam-ul-Haq, who joined a select - but fast growing - band of players to have played 300 one-day internationals. Of the seven players in the list, six are from the subcontinent, which is a fair indication of the sizeable number of one-dayers played by India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. (Steve Waugh, with 325 matches over a 16-year career, is the only exception.)

Five of the six subcontinent players are batsmen, and a comparison of their batting stats are quite revealing. All of them show a distinct preference for batting in the subcontinent, but the contrast in most stark for Inzamam: an average of 29.55 shoots up to over 50 when playing on the flat pitches of the subcontinent. Six of his eight centuries have been scored there, with four of them coming in Sharjah. It's an entirely different story when he plays in Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand - in all four countries, he averages below 30.

Batsmen from the subcontinent in the 300-ODI club
   
In subcontinent
Outside
 
Career Ave
ODI
Runs
Ave(1)
ODI
Runs
Ave(2)
Diff (2-1)
Tendulkar 45.14 190 7869 47.69 131 4816 41.52 -6.17
Inzamam 38.98 148 5485 50.32 152 3871 29.55 -20.77
Azharuddin 36.92 221 6229 38.21 113 3149 34.60 -3.61
Aravinda 34.90 189 6146 38.65 119 3138 29.33 -9.33
Jayasuriya 31.96 184 5685 33.64 124 3487 29.55 -4.09

Inzamam in countries outside the subcontinent
In
Matches
Runs
Ave
100s
50s
Australia
37
732
20.91
-
2
New Zealand
18
453
25.16
-
4
England
22
517
28.72
-
4
South Africa
26
668
29.04
1
4

* * * * * *

Crumbling against pace
Not only did New Zealand get walloped in two of the first three one-dayers against Pakistan, an old weakness resurfaced as well. Mohammad Sami's amazing burst of 5 for 2 at Lahore, as New Zealand crumbled from 155 for 4 to 157 all out, was only the latest in a spate of collapses that the New Zealanders have suffered against Pakistan in recent years.

In fact, in Sami's debut Test, at Auckland in 2000-01, New Zealand collapsed just as spectacularly, losing their last eight wickets for 10 runs, with Sami taking five of those wickets to end up with the Man-of-the-Match award. In the one-dayers which preceded the Tests on that tour, New Zealand had been at the receiving end of another blitz at the same venue, this time by Shoaib Akhtar, who took 5 for 19 - his career-best ODI figures at the time - and destroyed the tail, as New Zealand lost their last five wickets for seven runs.

Shoaib wasn't quite done, though. When New Zealand came to Pakistan for that ill-fated tour in 2002 which was curtailed due to a bomb blast, Shoaib wrecked more havoc. In the first ODI, he surpassed his Auckland performance, taking 6 for 16 at Karachi. Less than two weeks later, New Zealand -reeling from Inzamam's mighty triple-hundred - succumbed meekly to yet more Shoaib thunderbolts, as his 6 for 11 doomed them to a humiliating innings defeat in the only Test of the series. That was also Shoaib's first - and so far his only - Test against New Zealand. Add Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis to the list and, as the table below shows, New Zealand have had more than their fair share of problems against Pakistan's pace attack.

New Zealand - clueless against Pakistan's pace
Tests
ODIs
Ave v NZ
Career Ave
Ave v NZ
Career Ave
Shoaib Akhtar
1.83
25.09
18.36
21.58
Waqar Younis
19.60
23.56
15.84
23.84
Wasim Akram
17.01
23.62
18.54
23.52
Mohammad Sami
30.62
44.23
17.00
22.98

* * * * * *

Top-order baiters
The scalp of a No. 11 batsman is - at least statistically - worth just as much as that of a top-order player, but ask any top-class bowler and he'll tell just how much more satisfying it is to dismiss a recognised batsman. So who are the bowlers who have the highest percentage of wickets comprising of the top six batsmen? Among bowlers with at least 250 Test wickets, Allan Donald leads the way, with Brian Statham and Glenn McGrath following closely. In fact, very little separates the top 10 in this list, among whom Derek Underwood is the only spinner. Imran Khan (top-order percentage of 63.26) and Waqar Younis (62.73) just miss out on a top ten spot, while Bishan Bedi (62.03) is the second-highest spinner in the list at No. 14. As the table below indicates, the leading modern-day spinners' tallies are made up of a significant number of tail-end victims.

Best bowlers against the top order
Wkts
% of top six victims
1
Donald
330
67.27
2
Statham
252
66.27
3
McGrath
430
66.05
4
McDermott
291
65.98
5
Willis
325
65.54
6
Underwood
297
64.65
7
Kapil
434
64.29
8
Ambrose
405
63.70
9
Lillee
355
63.38
10
Marshall
376
63.30

Where some of the modern-day bowlers figure in the list
Rank
Wkts
% of top six victims
Waqar
12
373
62.73
Pollock
13
310
62.58
Kumble
20
358
59.50
Muralitharan
22
459
56.21
Akram
23
414
56.04
Warne
24
491
55.40

S Rajesh is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.

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S Rajesh Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.

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