Shaun Pollock joins the elite 400-wickets club

The Pollock story in numbers

A statistical analysis into Pollock's 400 Test wickets

S Rajesh

December 16, 2006

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Shaun Pollock celebrates wicket no. 400 © Getty Images
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His 100th wicket was Courtney Walsh, the 200th was Nuwan Zoysa, the 300th Michael Vaughan and the 400th Rahul Dravid - as the significance of the achievement has grown, so has the quality of the victim. When Shaun Pollock produced that peach of a delivery which drew Dravid to it and forced him to edge to the wicketkeeper, he became the tenth bowler to enter the 400-wicket club in Test cricket, and the first from South Africa.

Through much of his career Pollock played second fiddle to Allan Donald, but as his career summary shows, Pollock has been a matchwinner in his own right, averaging very nearly four wickets per match over 103 matches. When Pollock has bowled well, South Africa have usually won - in victories he averages 18.08, a number which swells to 30.05 in defeats.

That he nailed Dravid for his 400th wicket - and Vaughan as his 300th - is quite appropriate too, for they are the two batsmen against whom Pollock has had the maximum success. The table here lists the batsmen who have found him especially tough to tackle, and list of names has a common thread - all of them are batsmen who largely play orthodox cricket; Pollock, with his nagging accuracy, is first able to choke their runs (check their scoring rates) and then eventually dismiss them.

Pollock against batsmen he has most enjoyed bowling to (since Sept 2001)
Batsman Balls faced Runs scored/ dismissals Average Runs per over
Michael Vaughan 367 91/ 5 18.20 1.48
Rahul Dravid 233 64/ 4 16.00 1.64
Marvan Atapattu 183 55/ 3 18.33 1.80
Mahela Jayawardene 195 58/ 2 29.00 1.78
Nasser Hussain 110 28/ 3 9.33 1.52

The kind of batsmen who have given Pollock headaches are the unorthodox ones - Chris Gayle has fallen to Pollock just once in 224 deliveries, while scoring 117 runs off him, a rate of more than three an over; Adam Gilchrist has hit him for 67 off 76 balls without being dismissed even once.

In fact, as the table below shows, Pollock is especially lethal against the right-handers, against whom he is able to consistently bowl it in the corridor. Against left-handers he has found wickets much harder to come by, averaging over 40 against them. And while Pollock's stats measure up quite well with Glenn McGrath - the other metronome among fast bowlers in international cricket today - in most respects, McGrath steals a march here, averaging 21.26 against right-handers and 20.42 versus the lefties.

Pollock against ...(since Sept 2001)
Balls Runs/ dismissals Average Scoring rate
Right handers 6331 2421/ 125 19.36 2.29
Left handers 4868 1884/ 45 41.86 2.32

While Pollock's career has clearly been an incredible one, over the last few years he has been on the wane. His last five-for came 27 Tests back, and his last 91 wickets have come at more than 30 apiece. As Pollock has shown the Indians in the ODI series and in the first Test, there is still plenty of spark left in him - enough to ensure Pollock is still rated among the most potent bowlers in Test cricket today.

A break-up of Pollock's 401 wickets*
Tests Wickets Average 5WI/ 10WM
First 25 91 23.89 5/ 0
26-76 219 18.96 11/ 1
77-103* 91 31.73 0/ 0
*Stats till the end of the second day's play at Johannesburg.

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo

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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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