The Numbers Game December 12, 2003

Wresting the initiative, and Waugh the survivor

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

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.

Early domination
Over the last decade, Australia have followed a simple rule to dominate all opposition: wrest the initiative early in the piece, and keep them pinned down after that. The ploy has almost always worked, which is what makes India's performance at Brisbane even more praiseworthy: it was the first time in 16 home series - and only the fifth time in 33 series - that Australia had failed to take the first-innings lead in the opening Test. The last time that happened was in 1993-94 - when Allan Border was captain of Australia - at Perth, when New Zealand rode on Andrew Jones's 143 to make 419, 21 more than Australia's total. Interestingly, in Australia's second innings Michael Slater fell for 99, exactly as many as Matthew Hayden made in the Brisbane Test.

The Indians have every reason to take plenty of heart from this performance, but they would do well to remember what happened to New Zealand in the rest of that three-Test series: in the second match they were whipped by an innings and 222 runs, while the third Test verdict was only marginally less convincing, an innings and 96 runs, as Australia sealed the series 2-0.

First-innings lead in the 1st Test of a series against Australia
Versus
Aus total
Opp. total
Venue
Result
Series
India
323
409
Brisbane Drawn
2003-04
Sri Lanka
188
234
Kandy SL
1999-2000
England
118
478
Edgbaston Eng
1996-97
India
182
361
Delhi Ind
1996-97
South Africa
248
251
Wanderers SA
1993-94
New Zealand
398
419
Perth Drawn
1993-94

* * * * * *

Captain shows the way
If it was a memorable game for the Indians, then for Sourav Ganguly, it was arguably his most emphatic batting performance as captain. The Australians have made no bones about their attempt to target the opposing captains, and over the years it has been a fairly rewarding tactic. Before Ganguly, only 11 captains had started a series against Australia with a hundred, and nine of them had done it at home. The last time the feat was achieved in an overseas series was almost 39 years back, when Hanif Mohammad got a hundred in a one-off Test in 1964-65. Before that, Archie MacLaren, England's captain, had, on two separate occasions, scored a century in the first Test in Australia: in 1897-98, which was also the first time he led the side, and then again on the next tour in 1901-02.

Captains scoring hundreds in 1st Test in Australia
Score
Season
Venue
Result
Ganguly
144
2003-04
Brisbane Draw
Hanif Mohammad
104
1964-65
MCG Draw
MacLaren
116
1901-02
Sydney England won
MacLaren
109
1897-98
Sydney England won

* * * * * *

Survival instincts
While all the accolades were heaped on Ganguly, his opposite number had a rather more forgettable game. Steve Waugh's run-out of Damien Martyn brought into focus his tendency to be at the right end of a run-out incident. As the table below shows, Waugh has only been dismissed four times out of the 27 run-outs he has been involved in, and his survival rate of 85 percent is third in the alltime list of players who have been involved in at least ten run-outs. Interestingly, Ganguly figures just above him in the list, having been dismissed just once in the ten run-outs he has been involved in.

Player
Run-outs involved in
Self Run-out
Partner Run-out
Partner Run-out %
Chanderpaul (WI)
13
1
12
92.3
Ganguly (Ind)
10
1
9
90
S Waugh (Aus)
27
4
23
85.2
Asif Iqbal (Pak)
13
2
11
84.6
Armstrong (Aus)
11
2
9
81.8
A Flower (Zim)
11
2
9
81.8
Richardson (WI)
10
2
8
80
Richards (WI)
16
4
12
75
Walters (Aus)
12
3
9
75
Botham (Eng)
12
3
9
75

The poor sods
At the other end of the spectrum are three other left-handed batsmen who have also led their teams, but unlike Ganguly, have more often than not been at the receiving end of run-outs. Stephen Fleming, Arjuna Ranatunga and Mark Taylor are among the batsmen with the lowest survival rates.

Player
Run-outs involved in
Self run-out
Partner run-out
Partner run-out %
M Taylor (Aus)
13
9
4
30.8
Akram (Pak)
10
7
3
30
Kumble (Ind)
10
7
3
30
Ranatunga (SL)
11
8
3
27.3
Fleming (NZ)
11
8
3
27.3

S Rajesh is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.