The Friday Column January 21, 2005

Workhorse turns striker, and Bangladesh's day

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

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:

Hoggard's hour
"It's the donkey work, really," Matthew Hoggard remarked modestly after taking 12 wickets and leading England to one of their finest Test wins in recent times, against South Africa at the Wanderers. It was a reaction typical of a man who shuns the limelight, who willingly plays the quiet second or third fiddle to the stars in the team. In many ways, Hoggard is the Michael Kasprowicz of the England line-up - you'll never include him in your list of matchwinners, but more than once he has come up trumps when some of the bigger names have struggled.

In his last ten Tests, Hoggard has taken 48 wickets at 27, with a strike-rate of a wicket every 46 balls. It compares favourably with Steve Harmison and Andy Flintoff, the two strike bowlers in the line-up. In fact, Hoggard's strike-rate is comfortably better than the other two during this period, as the table below indicates.

In their last 10 Tests Wkts Ave Strike rate
Hoggard 48 27.45 45.9
Harmison 37 34.72 64.6
Flintoff 38 25.50 51.2
Kasprowicz 35 23.26 51.1

Hoggard's only taken four five-fors in 37 Tests, while his 12-wicket haul at Johannesburg was his first ten-for, but more often than not, he has chipped in with crucial contributions - in his last ten Tests, he has taken four or more wickets in a match seven times.

For a bowler who mainly relies on swing, you'd expect Hoggard to enjoy the conditions in England. However, the stats reveal something quite unexpected - Hoggard takes his wickets at 34 apiece at home, while overseas each wicket costs him six runs fewer. Also, he hasn't quite learnt the art of bowling first up in a Test, when the pitch is often at its best for batting: none of his five-fors have come in the first innings of a match, where he averages a mediocre 41; in the other three innings, it's down in the 20s. And of course, there's the small matter - as it is for most England players - of getting his act together against Australia: three matches have fetched him six wickets at 62.50. (Click here for Hoggard's career summary.)

Tests Wkts Ave
At home 17 62 34.50
Overseas 20 79 28.07
In 1st innings
of a Test
20 37 41.51
v Australia 3 6 62.50

Bangladesh break a jinx
Finally, after more than four years of almost unmitigated disappointment, Bangladesh have their first Test, and Test series, victory. It only came against a terribly weak Zimbabwe outfit, but at least Bangladesh have made a start.

Throughout their fledgling career as a Test-playing nation, Bangladesh have been plagued by some major, and very basic, ills: the openers have seldom given them any kind of a start, their batsmen haven't spent enough time at the crease, and a string of low totals have meant that the bowlers have seldom had any kind of score to bowl with.

However, all that changed in the two Tests against, admittedly against the kind of opposition that Bangladesh hadn't had the good fortune of playing earlier. The openers consistently got among the runs, scoring four times the number of runs they used to for the first wicket, while the rest of the batsmen spent long periods at the crease at well. All that translated into higher totals, and more leeway for the bowlers.

In the second Test, Nafis Iqbal batted 355 balls for his match-saving 121, making that innings the third-longest for Bangladesh in terms of balls faced - only Aminul Islam, who faced 380 balls in making 145 in Bangladesh's debut Test against India, and Javed Omar (357-ball 119 against Pakistan in 2003) have faced more deliveries. The table below lists how Bangladesh upped their performance against the Zimbabweans.

Before Zim series In Zim series
Opening partnership 18.12 72.25
Runs per wicket 18.60 32.85
Balls per wicket 39.58 74.47
Scoring rate 2.82 2.82

S Rajesh is assistant editor of Cricinfo.