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The difference between Harmison and Akram

A look at the bowlers and teams who have conceded the highest number of wides and no-balls in one-day internationals

S Rajesh

July 14, 2006

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Wasim Akram: a rare bowler who gave away plenty of wides and no-balls, but yet was awfully effective in ODIs © Getty Images
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Steve Harmison has been a potent force for England in Test cricket, but a combination of the white ball and coloured clothes makes him considerably less dangerous. The five-match ODI series against Sri Lanka was an especially unhappy time for him: he leaked very nearly a run a ball in his 50 overs - once even going for a whopping 97 in ten overs - and only managed eight wickets at an average touching 36. Not only did he offer too many hit-me deliveries, he was generally all over the place with his control: in five games he bowled 24 wides and five no-balls, that's an average of almost six extra deliveries per spell of ten overs.

The table below lists the bowlers who bowl the highest number of wides and no-balls per ten-over spell. The top 20 is dominated by Zimbabweans and Pakistanis - they make up 50% of the names. Interestingly, fifth in the list is the bowler who has taken the maximum number of wickets in ODIs - Wasim Akram never cut down on pace or swing or seam in a form of the game that essentially requires accuracy, but you can't argue with career stats which read 502 wickets in 356 matches at 23.52. And an economy rate of 3.89 shows he was pretty miserly in that department too.

Wides and No Balls conceded by bowlers per 10 overs bowled, since 1998-10-01 (qualification: 500 balls)
Player Balls NB Wd Tot Tot/10ov
HK Olonga (Zimb) 1939 88 101 189 5.84
NC Johnson (Zimb) 1503 44 102 146 5.82
BP Julian (Aust) 972 37 55 92 5.67
TL Best (WI) 506 13 34 47 5.57
Wasim Akram (Pak) 5422 179 286 465 5.14
Mohammad Sami (Pak) 3764 143 172 315 5.02
Mohammad Akram (Pak) 503 15 27 42 5.00
AJ Ireland (Zimb) 552 4 41 45 4.89
CRD Fernando (SL) 4049 182 143 325 4.81
JA Rennie (Zimb) 540 4 39 43 4.77
RAP Nissanka (SL) 997 22 57 79 4.75
Shabbir Ahmed (Pak) 1642 46 80 126 4.60
AM Blignaut (Zimb) 2270 28 144 172 4.54
Hasibul Hossain (Bang) 731 20 34 54 4.43
IG Butler (NZ) 593 29 14 43 4.35
SJ Harmison (Eng) 2378 26 145 171 4.31
MG Bevan (Aust) 628 5 40 45 4.29
TJ Friend (Zimb) 1930 16 122 138 4.29
R Rampaul (WI) 580 20 20 40 4.13
B Lee (Aust) 6902 257 210 467 4.05

The top 20 shows up a few other revealing stats too: Harmison is the only England bowler who makes the cut, while there are none at all from India and South Africa. The numbers for Darren Gough and Andrew Caddick suggest just how far off the mark Harmison is: in 5918 balls, Gough only bowled 286 wides and no-balls - that's 2.89 per ten overs - while for Caddick the corresponding number was only 2.36 (95 wides and no-balls in 2415 deliveries). And if you want to benchmark against the best, check out the numbers for Glenn McGrath and Shaun Pollock: McGrath has an average of 1.53 extra deliveries per ten-over spell, while for Pollock the corresponding number is only marginally higher at 1.63.

The list of teams conceding the highest number of wides and no-balls has the usual suspects on top: Pakistan bowl, on an average, almost 14 extra deliveries per 50 overs - that's more than two overs - while the number is pretty high for Zimbabwe and West Indies as well. The figure is lowest for New Zealand, while Bangladesh and Kenya, despite their limited bowling resources, have shown pretty good control as well.

Wides and No Balls conceded by teams per 50 overs bowled, since 1998-10-01
Team Balls NB Wd Tot Tot/50ov
Pakistan 60707 1080 1703 2783 13.75
Zimbabwe 51675 437 1629 2066 11.99
West Indies 49781 610 1364 1974 11.89
India 66845 781 1476 2257 10.12
Australia 60173 652 1340 1992 9.93
England 43382 422 1005 1427 9.86
South Africa 55686 562 1206 1768 9.52
Bangladesh 25362 225 573 798 9.43
Kenya 13569 134 292 426 9.41
Sri Lanka 61492 699 1205 1904 9.28
New Zealand 49897 547 895 1442 8.66

And the list of the biggest offenders has a familiar name on the top of the list: in a match against Kenya at Nairobi in 2002, Akram bowled just seven overs but ended up sending down seven no-balls and ten wides. Kenya were bowled out for 133, of which 29 runs came in extras. As you'd expect, Pakistan's domination of this list is absolute: in fact, Mohammad Sami and Akram share six of the 13 spots, with Shabbir Ahmed and Naved-ul-Hasan thrown into the mix as well.

Most Wides and No Balls by a bowler in an ODI (qualification: Since Oct 1998)
Player O M R W NB Wd Tot Opposition Season Scorecard
Wasim Akram (Pak) 7.0 0 30 3 7 10 17 v Kenya 2002 ODI 1867
JAR Blain (Scot) 10.0 1 37 4 8 7 15 v Bangladesh 1999 ODI 1459
T Panyangara (Zimb) 10.0 0 86 1 5 10 15 v England 2004 ODI 2168
Mohammad Sami (Pak) 8.2 2 38 2 5 9 14 v Bangladesh 2004 ODI 2154
PDRL Perera (SL) 10.0 0 55 3 10 3 13 v England 1998/99 ODI 1396
Mohammad Sami (Pak) 9.5 0 46 2 10 3 13 v Sri Lanka 2003 ODI 2012
Mohammad Sami (Pak) 10.0 0 42 3 4 9 13 v New Zealand 2003 ODI 2017
Shabbir Ahmed (Pak) 10.0 0 33 3 3 10 13 v India 2003/04 ODI 2115
Naved-ul-Hasan (Pak) 9.0 0 77 1 10 3 13 v West Indies 2004/05 ODI 2213
HK Olonga (Zimb) 8.0 0 46 4 4 8 12 v India 1998/99 ODI 1373
JAR Blain (Scot) 7.0 0 49 0 6 6 12 v Pakistan 1999 ODI 1453
Wasim Akram (Pak) 10.0 0 35 1 4 8 12 v Bangladesh 1999 ODI 1471
Wasim Akram (Pak) 10.0 0 62 2 4 8 12 v Australia 2002 ODI 1868

One look at the innings in which the highest number of wides and no-balls were conceded throws up a familiar culprit, again. There have been 21 instances of teams bowling at least 25 of them, and Pakistan figure on six occasions. Though they won three of those games, the margin of defeat in a couple of others - five runs, against India at Karachi in 2003-04, 12 runs against Sri Lanka at Dambulla in 2003 - shows just how heavily their lack of discipline cost them.

Most Wides and No Balls by a team in an ODI (qualification: Since Oct 1998)
Team Overs Runs NB Wd Tot Opposition Season Scorecard
Scotland 50.0 261 15 29 44 v Pakistan 1999 ODI 1453
Scotland 50.0 185 11 26 37 v Bangladesh 1999 ODI 1459
Pakistan 45.2 166 12 19 31 v Bangladesh 2004 ODI 2154
Australia 50.0 181 8 22 30 v Scotland 1999 ODI 1446
India 50.0 252 15 15 30 v Zimbabwe 1999 ODI 1450
West Indies 49.2 182 5 25 30 v Bangladesh 1999 ODI 1454
South Africa 50.0 249 7 22 29 v Sri Lanka 2000 ODI 1604
Pakistan 50.0 349 20 9 29 v India 2003/04 ODI 2112
West Indies 50.0 230 6 22 28 v Pakistan 1999 ODI 1500
Pakistan 50.0 223 7 20 27 v Bangladesh 1999 ODI 1471
Zimbabwe 50.0 319 2 25 27 v India 2001/02 ODI 1815
Sri Lanka 50.0 270 6 21 27 v India 2004 ODI 2148
Australia 48.1 209 6 20 26 v West Indies 1998/99 ODI 1433
Zimbabwe 45.0 249 6 20 26 v India 1999 ODI 1450
West Indies 50.0 225 10 16 26 v India 1999 ODI 1499
Pakistan 49.5 172 14 12 26 v Sri Lanka 2003 ODI 2012
Australia 50.0 258 2 24 26 v New Zealand 2003/04 ODI 2055
England 50.0 257 4 22 26 v Sri Lanka 2006 ODI 2384
Pakistan 48.5 202 6 19 25 v West Indies 1999 ODI 1447
Pakistan 46.3 254 13 12 25 v Australia 2001 ODI 1725
Netherlands 50.0 443 4 21 25 v Sri Lanka 2006 ODI 2390

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo. For the stats, he was helped by Travis Basevi, the man who built Stats Guru.

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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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