Left-armers on the rise, and England's best batting pair
The trio of Zaheer Khan, RP Singh and Ryan Sidebottom ensured that the three-Test series between England and India was a resounding success for the tribe of left-arm fast bowlers. Zaheer stole the limelight, taking 18 wickets at 20.33, but Singh had several moments to savour and chipped in with vital breakthroughs, while Sidebottom deserved far more than his haul of eight wickets. In all, the three bowlers combined to take 38 of the 104 wickets in the series, at a collective average of 26.73.
Wasim Akram, Chaminda Vaas and Alan Davidson have all done their bit for the cause of left-arm fast bowling, but the kind of success left-armers achieved in this series hasn't happened very often. In fact, in percentage terms, only in two other series (of at least three Tests) have left-arm seamers picked up a higher percentage of total wickets.
In 2001-02, West Indies were at the receiving end of Vaas' swing and seam - the series is remembered more for the manner in which Brian Lara dismantled Muttiah Muralitharan, but Vaas had an equally memorable time, picking up 26 wickets in three Tests, including a best of 7 for 71. The only other series in which left-arm seamers have had greater success than in the recently concluded England-India one was when India toured Pakistan in 2005-06. Two of the protagonists were the same: Zaheer was India's leading wicket-taker with ten, and Singh had nine, while Irfan Pathan chipped in with eight, including a hat-trick at Karachi.
|Series||Tests||Wickets by LF||Total wickets||Percentage|
|West Indies in Sri Lanka, 2001-02||3||37||94||39.36|
|India in Pakistan, 2005-06||3||27||73||36.99|
|India in England, 2007||3||38||104||36.54|
|Pakistan in Zimbabwe, 1994-95||3||35||96||36.49|
|Sri Lanka in Zimbabwe, 1994-95||3||21||64||32.81|
|Australia in New Zealand, 1973-74||3||30||99||30.30|
|Sri Lanka in Zimbabwe, 1999-2000||3||25||85||29.41|
|Australia in South Africa, 1957-58||5||43||151||28.48|
|The Ashes, 1958-59||5||41||154||26.62|
|Australia in India, 1959-60||5||41||155||26.45|
As the table above shows, the top three series for left-arm fast men have all been played in the last six years. Not surprisingly, the current decade has been the best period for them in terms of the percentage of wickets they've taken compared to right-arm pace bowlers.
While the last seven years have been good ones, they pale into insignificance when compared to 2007, the first eight months of which have been an absolute bounty: left-arm fast bowlers have taken 86 wickets (with Zaheer, Sidebottom and Singh contributing 73) compared to 280 by their right-arm counterparts; in percentage terms that's a whopping 30.71.
|Decade||RF* wickets||Average||LF* wickets||Average||Diff in ave||LF wkts/ RF wkts x 100|
Akram comfortably leads the list of most successful left-arm fast bowlers, but thanks to his recent heroics, Zaheer is fast climbing the charts and is next only to Akram, Vaas and the legendary Davidson. (Garry Sobers isn't included in the list as he took a fair share of his wickets with left-arm spin as well.)
|Wasim Akram||104||414||23.62||25/ 5|
|Chaminda Vaas||98||319||29.21||11/ 2|
|Alan Davidson||44||186||20.53||14/ 2|
|Zaheer Khan||50||160||33.33||5/ 0|
|Trevor Goddard||41||123||26.22||5/ 0|
England's go-to batting pair
There is hardly any similarity in the way they approach their batting, but when Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood have got together at the crease, it has usually led to a meaty partnership. The latest example was at The Oval against India - after putting together 78 in the first innings, they added 114 in the second in a stand which effectively killed India's hopes of a 2-0 series verdict.
Pietersen has always been the more exuberant and flashy of the two, and Collingwood, with his calm and understated approach, is the ideal foil. Among English pairs who have scored at least 1000 partnership runs (there are 59 of those), only four average more than this duo's 71 runs per stand. And it isn't as if they've got those runs against easy opposition: on the tour to Australia last season, when most of the England batsmen were struggling to put together partnerships, Pietersen and Collingwood added exactly 500 in four innings at a staggering average of 125, which included a monumental stand of 310 at Adelaide.
|Pair||Innings||P'ship runs||Average stand||100/ 50 p'ships|
|Wally Hammond - Eddie Paynter||12||1146||104.18||4/ 5|
|Jack Hobbs - Herbert Sutcliffe||39||3339||87.86||15/ 11|
|Allan Lamb - Robin Smith||16||1103||78.78||5/ 2|
|Denis Compton - Bill Edrich||19||1294||76.11||5/ 1|
|Kevin Pietersen - Paul Collingwood||21||1487||70.80||5/ 7|
|Les Ames - Wally Hammond||17||1173||69.00||5/ 2|
With Pietersen batting at No. 4 and Collingwood coming in right after him, they've got - and are likely to have - many opportunities to bat together for the fourth wicket. They've already made their way into the 1000-run club for this wicket, a feat achieved by only three other England pairs. Forty-nine more runs will put them in third place, while the top spot isn't very far away either - Nasser Hussain and Graham Thorpe occupy that place, but their 1448 runs only came at 50 per partnership; Pietersen and Collingwood are currently averaging 68, and at this rate they'll only need six innings to take the top spot. On the other hand, England might profit even more if they combine for the fifth wicket - that has happened only three times, when the pair have added 320 runs at an average of 106.67.
|Pair||Innings||P'ship runs||Average stand||100/ 50 p'ships|
|Nasser Hussain - Graham Thorpe||31||1448||49.93||5/ 3|
|Ken Barrington - Colin Cowdrey||20||1375||80.88||4/ 7|
|Colin Cowdrey - Peter May||15||1143||76.20||5/ 1|
|Kevin Pietersen - Paul Collingwood||16||1095||68.43||4/ 4|
|Ken Barrington - Ted Dexter||11||985||109.44||4/ 4|
|Mike Gatting - David Gower||18||808||44.88||1/ 4|
|David Gower - Allan Lamb||18||710||44.37||2/ 3|
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo. For some of the stats he was helped by Travis Basevi, the man who built Statsguru.