The Friday column August 25, 2006

Trescothick's misery, and the Pakistani who relished pace

Over the last couple of decades, the wrist-spinner has been a far more potent force than the finger-spinner. A look at how the numbers stack up for the two

Marcus Trescothick had a forgettable time against Pakistan, averaged less than 20 in a series for the first time © Getty Images

In the end, the runs scored and the wickets taken were all overshadowed by the farce at The Oval, but over the three-and-a-half Tests against Pakistan this summer, England clearly held the upper hand - six of their batsmen averaged more than 40, compared to just three for Pakistan (one of whom, Mohammad Hafeez, played only one Test). Thanks to the run-glut, though, the failure of one of England's batting pillars went almost unnoticed: for the first time in his career, Marcus Trescothick averaged less than 20 in a series, managing just 135 runs from seven completed innings.

Over the last five years, Trescothick has easily been England's most valuable batsman. The table below shows just how vital his contributions have been: among England batsmen who have scored more than 4000 runs and have played in the 1990s, only Graham Gooch and David Gower have contributed a higher percentage of the team runs. Trescothick's contribution of 14.10% is higher than the corresponding figures for Michael Atherton, Graham Thorpe and Alec Stewart, the mainstays for England in the 1990s. Among the current lot of batsmen, Andrew Strauss is the other man around whom England's batting revolves - he hasn't yet got to the 4000-run mark and hence misses out in the table below, but his contribution is exactly as much Trescothick's (2597 out of 18,424 team runs).

Highest percentage of team runs for England (at least 4000 runs, batsmen who have played since the 1990s)
Batsman Runs Team runs % contribution
Graham Gooch 8900 57,217 15.55
David Gower 8231 56,785 14.50
Marcus Trescothick 5825 41,319 14.10
Michael Atherton 7728 55,449 13.94
Robin Smith 4236 31,481 13.46
Michael Vaughan 4595 34,386 13.36
Graham Thorpe 6744 50,653 13.31
Alec Stewart 8463 64,541 13.11

In the series against Pakistan, though, Trescothick's contribution to England's runs was a mere 5.16%, easily the lowest among series where he has played every match. Against West Indies in 2003-04, Trescothick averaged 23.71 and made 9.21% of England's runs, but that was one of only three previous occasions when he scored less than ten percent of their runs (the others being against Pakistan in 2000-01, and in the Ashes in 2002-03).

From 2001, Trescothick has averaged more than 40 every year, but that sequence is in serious jeopardy in 2006 - in seven matches so far, he only averages 26.91. With just four more matches coming up for England this year - all of them against Australia, in Australia - Trescothick will need to crank it up more than a few notches to maintain that streak. If he plays eight innings in those four Tests and gets out each time, Trescothick will need 477 more runs - that's very nearly 60 runs per innings - to get his 2006 figure up to 40. (Click here for Trescothick's career summary.)

The Pakistani who didn't fear pace
Wasim Raja, Pakistan's swashbuckling allrounder who died on Wednesday, will be remembered for his breathtaking strokeplay and his carefree attitude to the game, but not many might recall that Raja was also one among only a handful of batsmen who came out on top more often than not against the best bowling attack of the time. In the 11 Tests he played against West Indies, he passed 50 an incredible nine times and averaged 57.43. And this against an attack which mostly operated through four high-quality fast bowlers, hammering down relentlessly on a batsman's technique and psyche. The table below lists the best batsmen against West Indies in the 16-year period from 1975 to 1990, a period during which they conceded an average of just 28 runs per wicket in Tests. With a cut-off of at least eight Tests, only four managed an average of more than 50 - led by another famously elegant strokeplayer, Gundappa Viswanath - while just five more managed to stay on the right side of 40.

Against West Indies, between 1975 and 1990
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Gundappa Viswanath 12 1007 62.93 3/ 5
Greg Chappell 12 1058 58.77 4/ 5
Wasim Raja 11 919 57.43 2/ 7
Sunil Gavaskar 22 1961 56.02 9/ 4
Dilip Vengsarkar 25 1596 44.33 6/ 7
Allan Border 21 1479 42.25 2/ 11
Graham Gooch 21 1717 41.87 4/ 11
Geoff Boycott 9 663 41.43 1/ 4
Majid Khan 11 821 41.05 2/ 4

Raja's stats against West Indies are also impressive because he didn't just score the bulk of those runs in home conditions - on the 1976-77 tour, he creamed 517 runs in five Tests, with five fifties and a hundred. In fact, among all Pakistani batsmen who have played at least eight Tests against West Indies, only Inzamam-ul-Haq has a better average, but he'll probably be the first to admit that the bowling attack he was up against was nothing compared to what Raja would have faced. To put things in perspective, Javed Miandad managed an average of 29.78 in 16 Tests against them, while Zaheer Abbas fared even worse - in eight matches, he had a paltry tally of 259, and an average of 18.50.

Pakistan's best against West Indies
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Inzamam-ul-Haq 12 1007 59.23 4/ 4
Wasim Raja 11 919 57.43 2/ 7
Saeed Ahmed 8 707 50.50 1/ 5
Majid Khan 11 821 41.05 2/ 4
Wazir Mohammad 8 479 36.84 2/ 1

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo. For some of the stats, he was helped by Arun Gopalakrishnan.