The Friday Column August 3, 2007

The Trescothick factor, and Kumble's profligacy

Why England are missing Marcus Trescothick, and Kumble's off day at Trent Bridge



England have missed Marcus Trescothick's solidity at the top of the order over the last year © Getty Images

With partnerships of 76, 40 and 49 in three of their four innings, Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook have done a fair job of opening the batting so far in the series against India, but Michael Vaughan and the rest of the England think tank will surely feel more comfortable if a fully fit Marcus Trescothick was to return to his favourite position at the top of the order. It's been a year since Trescothick played his last Test, against Pakistan at the Oval, and in the 13 Tests England have played after that, Cook and Strauss have only had modest success. They've opened together in 25 innings, and have managed four 50-plus stands - with a highest of 95 against India - and an average of 34.40.

Allowance must be made for the fact that 40% of those innings were against the mighty Australians (against whom the pair averaged 27 in ten innings) but the pair's failure to put together a single century stand in 25 tries is in stark contrast to what Trescothick achieved with various opening partners over a six-year period. Combining with Mark Butcher, Strauss and Vaughan, Trescothick put together 19 century stands for the first wicket in 142 tries - that's one every seven-and-a-half innings.

Cook and Strauss versus Trescothick and partner
Pair Innings Runs Average stand 100/ 50 p'ships
Cook and Strauss 25 860 34.40 0/ 4
Trescothick and partner 142 6725 49.09 19/ 34

Trescothick's most successful pairing was with Butcher, but they batted together only six times; among batsmen who paired up with him for a reasonable duration, his stint with Strauss was the most prolific: in 52 stands they went past 50 on 20 occasions. It hasn't helped England's cause that Strauss has been in a batting slump lately - in his last 21 innings he averages a dismal 28.

Trescothick with each opening partner
Trescothick with ... Innings Runs Average stand 100/ 50 p'ships
Mark Butcher 6 271 54.20 1/ 1
Andrew Strauss 52 2670 52.35 8/ 12
Michael Vaughan 54 2487 48.76 6/ 15
Michael Atherton 30 1297 43.23 4/ 6

As the table below shows, during Trescothick's time England's openers had solid stats against all teams. They only averaged less than 40 per partnership against Australia, but even those numbers were respectable - an average of nearly 37 with ten 50-plus stands in 30 innings.

Trescothick's opening stands versus each opposition
Team Innings Runs Average stand 100/ 50 stands
Bangladesh 5 493 98.60 3/ 1
India 8 483 80.50 2/ 2
Sri Lanka 22 1208 57.52 2/ 10
Pakistan 22 1076 48.90 4/ 3
Zimbabwe 2 94 47.00 0/ 0
South Africa 20 893 44.65 2/ 4
West Indies 21 848 44.63 2/ 5
New Zealand 12 531 44.25 2/ 1
Australia 30 1099 36.63 2/ 8

The other area in which the current England team is suffering when compared to those in the recent past is lower-order batting. Chris Tremlett, Ryan Sidebottom, Monty Panesar and James Anderson have all proved themselves to be more than competent with the ball through the summer so far, but their efforts with bat in hand haven't been as successful. Since the 2005 Ashes, the contribution of England's last five is among the lowest in terms of runs per wicket; only Bangladesh have done worse. In the period between 2003 and September 2005 - a phase when England won 23 out of 36 Tests - their last five averaged nearly 21, and were fourth among all teams, after New Zealand, South Africa and Australia.

Performance of the last five batsmen of all teams
Team 2003-Oct 2005
Runs/ wkt
100s/ 50s Nov 2005 onwards
Runs/ wkt
100s/ 50s
New Zealand 30.05 7/ 15 22.25 1/ 5
South Africa 22.84 1/ 15 19.67 0/ 8
Australia 21.40 7/ 12 23.88 2/ 5
England 20.96 2/ 16 15.77 1/ 7
Zimbabwe 19.82 1/ 14 - -
Sri Lanka 19.21 0/ 8 21.14 2/ 7
India 19.00 0/ 8 20.39 0/ 8
Bangladesh 16.02 2/ 8 13.02 0/ 5
West Indies 15.13 3/ 8 16.31 1/ 10
Pakistan 14.04 2/ 3 22.29 3/ 6

An aberration for Kumble

The magnificent Zaheer Khan took all the honours at Trent Bridge, but his match-winning performance - and the fine support act by RP Singh - took the focus off what was a surprisingly lacklustre display by the metronomic Anil Kumble.

In the end he did wrap up the tail to finish with six wickets for the match, but his second-innings figures of 3 for 104 in 25 overs was a rare instance when he went at more than four runs per over. In innings in which he has bowled more than 20 overs, only ten times has his economy-rate exceeded that mark. Six of those have been against Pakistan, and four of them in one series: on India's tour in 2005-06, the pitches for the first two Tests were so flat that teams piled up mountains of runs and the bowlers suffered. At Faisalabad, Kumble ended up conceding more than four in both innings. The track for the third Test was more bowler-friendly, but the fast bowlers got much more out of it than the spinners, and Kumble leaked 151 in 37.1 overs.

Apart from a couple of times when he has gone for over four an over in the 1990s, all the instances have occurred after 2004, suggesting that while the variations in his bowling have given him more wicket-taking options, especially abroad, he is also more prone to straying in line and offering the batsmen scoring opportunities, as Vaughan found out during the second Test. Given Kumble's improved performances overseas during this period, though, it's a trade-off the team will gladly accept.

Kumble's most expensive figures in a Test innings (at least 20 overs)
Figures Runs per over Against Venue & year
21-3-118-1 5.61 Pakistan Faisalabad, 2005-06
39.3-2-178-2 4.50 Pakistan Lahore, 2005-06
35.2-5-150-3 4.24 Pakistan Faisalabad, 2005-06
21-1-89-1 4.23 Australia Nagpur, 2004-05
22-4-93-1 4.22 Pakistan Chennai, 1998-99
21-1-88-1 4.19 Pakistan Bangalore, 2004-05
25-2-104-3 4.16 England Trent Bridge, 2007
37.1-3-151-3 4.06 Pakistan Karachi, 2005-06
38.4-2-156-3 4.03 Sri Lanka Colombo (SSC), 1997
39-4-157-3 4.02 Australia Bangalore, 2004-05

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo.