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

The Numbers Game

Fleming's appetite and Murali's new weapon

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

S Rajesh

December 26, 2003

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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:

Fleming's batting graph on the upswing
For much of his career, Stephen Fleming the captain got a much higher rating than Stephen Fleming the batsman. Over the last 18 months, though, Fleming the batsman has - rather belatedly - come to the party, scoring not just pretty half-centuries, but converting them into substantial hundreds. Before New Zealand's tour to the West Indies last summer, Fleming had 36 scores of fifty or more from 119 innings, but had converted only three of them into centuries. In his next 16 tries, he went past the half-century mark four times, and made three of those knocks count - 130 against West Indies at Bridgetown, that monumental 274 not out against Sri Lanka at Colombo, and 192 against Pakistan at Hamilton in the first Test of the ongoing series. The only time he didn't convert a fifty into a hundred in this period was in the second innings of that Colombo Test, when he remained undefeated on 69. Clearly, here is a man keen to make up for the opportunities missed in the first part of his career.

Fleming before June 2002

Tests
Innings
Runs
Ave
50s
100s
69
119
4042
36.08
33
3

Fleming since June 2002

Tests*
Innings
Runs
Ave
50s
100s
9
16
860
61.42
1
3

* Excluding current Test against Pakistan at Wellington

* * * * * *

The hunger for hundreds
Fleming's newfound hunger for runs might be impressive, but he has a long way to go before he can be a part of the list below - the six names listed here are the only ones, among batsmen with at least ten Test hundreds, who have more centuries than fifties. Don Bradman and George Headley have an amazing ratio of two hundreds for every fifty, while among the rest of the players, Matthew Hayden has the best conversion rate.

More Test centuries than fifties
Player
Tests
100s
50s
100s per 50
Bradman
52
29
13
2.23
Headley
22
10
5
2.00
Hayden
48
16
12
1.33
Vaughan
40
10
8
1.25
Walcott
44
15
14
1.07
Azharuddin
99
22
21
1.05

With ten ducks and six centuries (excluding the second Test against Pakistan at Wellington), Fleming is well poised to make his way into another select band, though - batsmen with at least ten Test hundreds who have scored more ducks than centuries. Marvan Atapattu leads the list, thanks primarily to his horrendous start in Test cricket, when he failed to open his account in six of his first nine innings.

More Test ducks than centuries
Player
Tests
0s
100s
0s per 100
Atapattu
68
19
11
1.73
Gatting
79
16
10
1.60
Atherton
115
20
16
1.25
Jayasuriya
83
14
10
1.40
Amarnath
69
12
11
1.09
Hussain
91
14
13
1.08

* * * * * *

Smooth starter
Mark Richardson had a modest match at Hamilton, but once again showed his ability to get off to a start, scoring 44 and 15. In 45 innings as an opener, Richardson has been dismissed for less than ten only nine times - that's 20% of the innings he has opened in (include his knock in the first innings at Wellington, and the figure drops further). Among all openers since 1995, that is the lowest percentage - a figure he shares with Michael Vaughan. In fact, England have four openers in the top 10, but Michael Atherton isn't one of them. As the table below shows, his innings-under-ten percent is a fairly high 31.47.

How do some of the old-time openers compare on this parameter? Sunil Gavaskar was dismissed below ten 57 times in the 203 innings he opened (28.08%), while Gordon Greenidge (53 out of 182, 29.12%), Desmond Haynes (50 out of 201, 24.87) and Geoff Boycott (47 out of 191, 24.61) all had their share of early dismissals against the new ball. Admittedly, though, those batsmen came up against top-class new-ball attacks far more often than the current crop of openers. The fact that Gavaskar ended up with a fifty-plus average speaks of his ability to convert a start as well.

Openers with least sub-10 scores
Tests
Innings
Innings
< 10
% innings < 10
Richardson
27
45
9
20.00
Vaughan
27
50
10
20.00
Stewart
45
77
16
20.78
Hayden
48
81
17
20.99
Hathurusingha
24
42
9
21.43
Trescothick
43
80
19
23.75
Boon
36
63
15
23.81
Gibbs
46
76
19
25.00
Slater
74
131
33
25.19
Gooch
100
184
48
26.09

How some of the other openers have fared
Tests
Innings
Innings < 10
% Innings below 10
Saeed Anwar
54
86
24
27.91
Taylor
104
186
52
27.96
Jayasuriya
65
109
32
29.36
Gayle
31
54
16
29.63
Langer
29
47
14
29.79
Atherton
108
197
62
31.47
Kirsten
84
149
50
33.56
Atapattu
58
98
35
35.71

* * * * * *

Turning it around
England's openers didn't have much starting problems in Sri Lanka, but they ran into a new, improved Muttiah Muralitharan, who unveiled a weapon to which England's batsmen had no answer. The table below suggests that batsmen the world over had, over the last year and a half, devised ways to keep Murali out. In three of his last five series (excluding a series against Bangladesh), Murali's strike-rate was well over 70. Batsmen didn't score too many against him - he still went at under two and a half per over - but against an attack which relied so much on Murali to deliver, keeping him out was most of the battle won.

Muralitharan's diminishing returns
Against
Home/Away
Overs
Wkts
Ave
Strike rate
England (2002)
Away
126
8
37.12
94.5
South Africa (2002-03)
Away
101.5
7
35.85
87.2
New Zealand (2003)
Home
161.5
13
24.61
74.6

Enter Murali with his new weapon, and the strike rate improved drastically. Graham Thorpe, who handled Murali fairly well the last time England toured, came off clearly second best in their personal battle, being dismissed by him five times in six innings, often because of his inability to read the one that turned back into him.

Thorpe v Murali
Balls Runs Dismissals
Ave
In 2000-01
121
59
2
29.50
In 2003-04
266
50
5
10.00

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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