The Friday column April 14, 2006

Batting at the crunch, and outdoing the best legspinner

Which are the teams that are most affected by the pressures of batting in the second innings, and for which sides does it not matter much

The pressures of batting in the second innings seems to matter little to Jacques Kallis © Getty Images

After dominating the world champion team for more than two days, Bangladesh finally let slip a superb opportunity to script an extraordinary result. In his post-match analysis, Habibul Bashar, the Bangladesh captain, identified the second-innings collapse as the primary reason for the game slipping away from their grasp. It was a fair assessment: after amassing 427 in their first innings, all they could manage in the second was a measly 148. It wasn't their first such mess-up either: in 43 second innings, it was the 26th time they failed to get to 200. It beggars the question: are Bangladesh particularly poor at batting a second time around, and if so, which are the sides that handle the vagaries of a fourth or fifth-day pitch and the pressures of second innings better than other teams?

To answer the first question, the table below suggests that Bangladesh's problem isn't so much their batting in the second innings as it is their batting in all innings. Admittedly, they average just 19.32 runs per wicket when batting again in a match, but it isn't much worse than their first-innings average of 22. Of the 43 times they have batted in the first innings, on 23 occasions they've ended with a sub-200 total.

Teams in 1st and 2nd innings since 1990
Team 1st inng RPW 2nd inng RPW Difference % difference
Pakistan 33.63 31.24 2.39 7.11
England 33.08 30.48 2.60 7.86
Australia 39.72 35.81 3.91 9.84
Zimbabwe 27.88 24.90 2.98 10.69
New Zealand 32.59 28.99 3.60 11.05
Bangladesh 22.04 19.32 2.72 12.34
Sri Lanka 34.51 29.64 4.87 14.11
India 38.52 31.32 7.20 18.69
South Africa 39.33 31.04 8.29 21.08
West Indies 32.76 25.29 7.47 22.80

The teams which have really struggled to replicate their first-innings performance the second time around are West Indies and South Africa: for both sides, the drop in performance is more than 20%. Is it their much-publicised inability to handle pressure, or play spinners when the pitch starts offering them more assistance, or both? South African batsmen average 40.93 in the first innings against spin, while in the second the figure drops to 30.38; for West Indies, the corresponding numbers are 38.88 and 29.78, suggesting that playing spin is certainly one area of concern for them. Bangladesh's drop is only 12%, relatively little compared to some of the other teams, but significantly more than the difference for England and Pakistan, to whom it seems to matter little whether they are batting in the first innings or the second.

In absolute terms, Australia are the side which score the most number of runs in their second innings, which is hardly surprising considering the fact four of the eight most prolific second-innings batsmen in this period are Australians (qualification 1500 runs). On the other hand, the top batsmen from West Indies have struggled in the second innings during this period -Brian Lara (64.84 in the first innings, 37.17 in the second), Shivnarine Chanderpaul (51.51, 35.19) Chris Gayle (41.68, 35.70) and Ramnaresh Sarwan (41.48, 37.83) all have better first-innings stats. Jacques Kallis's ability to enter into a batting bubble means that he been completely unaffected by such trivial matters like first or second innings, but the same can't be said of some of his other mates: Daryll Cullinan (51.03 in the first innings, 32.55 in the second), Graeme Smith (56.82, 38.82) and Herschelle Gibbs (53.64, 33.08) have been reduced from great batsmen to ordinary ones in the second innings, though for Gary Kirsten (47.14, 42.36) the drop isn't as significant.

Best 2nd innings batsmen since 1990 (Qual: 1500 runs)
Batsman Innings Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Jacques Kallis 68 2808 59.74 5/ 18
Andy Flower 49 1972 56.34 5/ 10
Matthew Hayden 66 2898 53.66 10/ 11
Graham Gooch 38 1841 51.13 7/ 5
David Boon 46 1873 50.62 5/ 10
Rahul Dravid 69 2763 50.23 5/ 17
Damien Martyn 41 1552 50.06 5/ 7
Ricky Ponting 70 2454 49.07 6/ 10

MacGill steals the show ... again
What's the best method to reduce Shane Warne's potency? Ensure that Stuart MacGill plays alongside him. Playing with the best legspinner in the world for the 15th time, MacGill hogged the limelight once more, taking 8 for 108 in the first innings even as Warne registered his most expensive figures in a Test innings, going for 112 in 20 overs. Admittedly, an elbow injury reduced Warne's potency, but it wasn't the first time MacGill stole the thunder from his more illustrious partner: the last time they played together, against South Africa at Sydney earlier this year, MacGill managed 4 for 135 to Warne's 2 for 151. Of the 15 occasions they have played together, MacGill has been the more effective ten times, most emphatically when he routed England with 12 for 107 at Sydney, while Warne struggled for his two wickets, conceding 110 runs. Warne's biggest hurrah came on the tour to Sri Lanka in 2003-04: in the two Tests they both played, Warne had a massive haul of 20 wickets for 314, while MacGill had a measly five for 232. As the table below shows, Warne averages five runs per wicket more when he plays with MacGill.

In matches that Warne and MacGill have played together
Bowler Wickets Average
MacGill 75 22.00
Warne 66 30.73

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo. For some of the stats, he was helped by G Binoy and Travis Basevi.