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Perhaps numbers never do reveal the full story, but they tell a large part of it
January 16, 2004
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.
Stutter at the start
In the first four matches of their one-day series against Pakistan, only once did New Zealand's openers put together a partnership of more than ten. For most teams, that would be a cause for concern, but New Zealand, it would seem, are used to minimal contributions from their opening pair. Since January 2000, New Zealand have played 112 ODIs, and in 55 of them - that's very nearly once every two matches - the first wicket has fallen before the team has passed ten. It's an appalling record - Zimbabwe have done considerably better, while even Bangladesh's openers have achieved marginally more success. New Zealand have lost 35 of those 55 games when their opening partnership has failed to deliver.
|Team||Matches||1st wicket at <= 10||% of failures|
Part of the problem has been the New Zealand selectors' inability to stick with an opening pair for a reasonable length of time. In these 112 matches, 23 different combinations have been tried, which means an average of fewer than five games per duo. The pair with the best credentials to succeed were Stephen Fleming and Nathan Astle, and while they survived the longest - 18 matches - even they only managed a modest 385 runs together, with nine stands of ten or less. In fact, half their total runs came in a single match, when they put together 193 against Pakistan at Dunedin in 2000-01. Take that partnership away, and they managed a mere 192 from their remaining 17 attempts. Mark Richardson has shown his ability to get off to starts almost every time in Tests - perhaps it's time for the selectors to give him an extended one-day run.
Most capped New Zealand opening pairs since Jan 2000
|ODIs||Total runs||Ave stand||P'ships <=10|
|Fleming & Astle||18||385||21.39||9|
|Astle & Sinclair||14||369||26.36||7|
|Astle & Nevin||14||329||23.5||7|
|Astle & Spearman||10||135||13.5||7|
|Fleming & Nevin||9||204||22.67||4|
* * * * * *
Fleming's fabulous five
Stephen Fleming may have been part of many of those unsuccessful opening stands, but the problem for New Zealand has often been the other opener. Fleming himself has been in splendid form of late, averaging nearly 44 in his last 20 matches. His 115 not out against Pakistan in the third one-dayer at Christchurch was his fifth ODI century. All of them have been unbeaten efforts, and scored in successful run-chases of challenging targets - the lowest total that New Zealand needed to make in those five matches was 237, against Australia at Napier.
Fleming's five hundreds
|106*||West Indies||Port-of-Spain, 1995-96||239||Won by 4 wkts|
|116*||Australia||Melbourne, 1997-98||252||Won by 4 wkts|
|111*||Australia||Napier, 1997-98||237||Won by 7 wkts|
|134*||South Africa||Johannesburg, 2002-03||307||Won by 9 wkts (D-L)|
|115*||Pakistan||Christchurch, 2003-04||256||Won by 7 wkts|
Not surprisingly, Fleming's record is significantly better when New Zealand bat second - he averages 16 more in run-chases than when batting first: among players with at least 75 caps and an average of at least 30, only Matthew Hayden and Sunil Gavaskar have a more skewed record.
Batsmen who prefer a run-chase
|ODIs||Ave||1st bat ave (1)||2nd bat ave (2)||Difference (2-1)|
At the other end of the spectrum are players who prefer to bat without the pressure of a target looming over their heads. Using the same qualifications (75 matches and 30-plus average), Damien Martyn tops that list. Interestingly, all five of his hundreds have come when Australia batted first, and four of them have been unbeaten ones.
Batsmen who prefer setting a target
|ODIs||Ave||1st bat ave (1)||2nd bat ave (2)||Difference (1-2)|
* * * * * *
Pakistan's flourish at the finish
Pakistan's late charge in one-dayers has now become rather expected, and a rate of around eight an over is only par for the course: in the two matches in the current series against New Zealand when Pakistan batted first and survived the entire 50 overs, they managed 81 and 102 off the last ten. In fact, in the last year, Pakistan have scored more than 100 off the last ten overs on six occasions, while they average 7.58 per over during that period since 2003.
Significantly, those runs have often come when Pakistan's top order has floundered: at Auckland against New Zealand, they recovered from a miserable 127 for 6 to post a respectable total, while on three other occasions, their late charge was the difference between a reasonable target and a daunting one.
Pakistan's best in the last 10 overs since 2003
|Against||Total after 40||Total after 50||Runs in last 10||Match result|
|New Zealand||201-2||314-7||113||Won by 51 runs|
|Kenya||180-5||286-8||106||Won by 143 runs|
|Bangladesh||218-3||323-3||105||Won by 137 runs|
|South Africa||172-4||277-6||105||Won by 8 runs|
|New Zealand||178-4||281-6||103||Won by 124 runs|
|New Zealand||127-6||229-7||102||Lost by 4 wickets|
S Rajesh is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.
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