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ESPNcricinfo's stats editor S Rajesh looks at the stories behind the stats

The Friday Column

England's problems against spin bowling

Playing reasonably good spin bowlers against England is always an advantage. The Numbers Game explains why

S Rajesh

August 31, 2007

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Piyush Chawla has made a serious impression on Kevin Pietersen, dismissing him twice in the first three ODIs © Getty Images

England have surpassed all expectations and have been much better than India in most aspects of the game in the ongoing ODI series, but the one area where they haven't quite always got it right is the ability to dominate spin. Piyush Chawla has already dominated Kevin Pietersen, dismissing him twice in the first three matches, while England's batsmen have struggled to decipher Ramesh Powar's flight and clever variations of pace.

India's think tank has made a few errors with strategy in the ODI series, and one of them was playing only one specialist spinner in the first match. England scored 175 between the 12th and 41st overs in that game, but more importantly, India didn't take a single wicket during that stretch.

As the table below shows, spin has always been an excellent option for India in ODIs against England. Since 2000, Indian spinners have taken 77 wickets in 25 games against England, which translates into an average of more than three wickets per match. The strike-rate of 43 balls per wicket is superb too - it means spinners take nearly three wickets if they bowl 20 overs against England; and only against Bangladesh is their strike-rate better.

At the other end of the spectrum are the Australians, who have tackled the Indian slow bowlers with scarcely any trouble at all. They average more than 50 runs per wicket at over five per over, and concede less than two wickets per 20 overs of spin.

Indian spinners versus each team since 2000
Opposition ODIs Wickets Average Econ Strike rate
Bangladesh 10 37 27.21 4.37 37.2
England 25 77 33.64 4.67 43.1
New Zealand 18 32 36.00 4.29 50.2
South Africa 27 82 37.34 4.65 48.1
Zimbabwe 22 46 39.36 5.04 46.8
Pakistan 30 67 39.89 5.21 45.8
West Indies 27 65 40.01 4.91 48.8
Sri Lanka 33 69 41.63 4.60 54.2
Australia 26 45 54.24 5.21 62.4

In fact, spinners from all teams have had a fair amount of success against England. West Indies' part-timers have served them particularly well, taking a wicket every 38 deliveries. Surprisingly Sri Lanka, despite having Muttiah Muralitharan in their ranks, have only been moderately successful against England, and the same can be said of Daniel Vettori's team, New Zealand.

Spinners from each team versus England since 2000
Team ODIs Wickets Average Econ Strike rate
West Indies 17 24 28.04 4.37 38.4
Pakistan 20 33 29.67 4.16 42.7
Zimbabwe 23 49 30.51 4.19 43.6
Australia 26 32 32.00 4.25 45.1
India 25 77 33.64 4.67 43.1
Sri Lanka 18 50 35.67 4.41 48.4
New Zealand 12 13 39.61 4.26 55.7
South Africa 17 10 43.20 5.00 51.8
Bangladesh 8 11 54.09 4.94 65.6

The table below shows why West Indies and Zimbabwe have had so much success against England. Chris Gayle and Grant Flower are both known more for their exploits with the bat in the top order, but England's batsmen have found their part-time spin equally difficult to handle.

Michael Vaughan had stated recently that Powar would be a huge threat to England, and Powar's numbers show why he is held in such high regard - in eight games he has already taken 13 wickets. The player he replaced in the Indian squad, Harbhajan Singh, has done even better, with an average of less than 23 and an economy-rate of under four runs per over. Powar and Harbhajan are among five offspinners in the top six leading spinners against England.

Surprisingly England have tackled Anil Kumble pretty well, taking plenty of runs off him without giving him too many wickets. That's probably because they've played him like a medium pacer, not a slow bowler.

Leading spinners against England since 2000
Bowler ODIs Wickets Average Econ rate
Saqlain Mushtaq 7 13 18.38 3.75
Chris Gayle 17 18 21.44 4.10
Grant Flower 18 16 21.87 4.03
Muttiah Muralitharan 8 12 22.16 3.38
Harbhajan Singh 17 28 22.92 3.89
Ramesh Powar 8 13 24.15 4.14
Brad Hogg 14 16 27.68 4.12
Yuvraj Singh 19 13 31.30 4.96
Dirk Viljoen 11 11 31.54 4.28
Daniel Vettori 12 10 38.60 4.15
Sanath Jayasuriya 17 14 43.92 5.04
Anil Kumble 13 12 46.00 5.04

Paul Collingwood and Andrew Flintoff are the two English players who have scored the most runs against spin since 2000, but the player who has handled slow bowling the best during this period is a player England would dearly love to have back in the line-up. Marcus Trescothick was missed in the Test series against India for his solidity at the top, but in ODIs he has been excellent against spin, averaging more than 48 and scoring at more than a run a ball. Nick Knight has an exceptional record as well, while among the current lot, Ian Bell, with his twinkle-toed footwork, has done much better than his mates.

England's ten highest run-scorers against spin since 2000
Batsman Runs/ balls Dismissals Average Runs per over
Paul Collingwood 1193/ 1680 25 47.72 4.26
Andrew Flintoff 982/ 1284 30 32.73 4.58
Marcus Trescothick 771/ 672 16 48.18 6.88
Kevin Pietersen 618/ 777 16 38.62 4.77
Michael Vaughan 476/ 713 13 36.61 4.00
Nick Knight 471/ 560 6 78.50 5.04
Andrew Strauss 452/ 576 15 30.13 4.70
Nasser Hussain 447/ 628 10 44.70 4.27
Ian Bell 446/ 599 8 55.75 4.46
Alec Stewart 308/ 392 5 61.60 4.71

The contrast with the performance of the Indian batsmen against spin is quite stark, with the top five scoring plenty of runs and getting them pretty quickly. Unfortunately for India, though, England's bowling attack in this one-day series is built around some rather quicker stuff.

India's top batsmen against spin since 2000
Batsman Runs/ balls Dismissals Average Runs per over
Rahul Dravid 1709/ 2191 36 47.47 4.68
Yuvraj Singh 1508/ 1750 30 50.26 5.17
Sourav Ganguly 1131/ 1400 21 53.85 4.84
Sachin Tendulkar 960/ 1055 14 68.57 5.45
Mahendra Singh Dhoni 781/ 854 14 55.78 5.48

(All numbers till the third ODI between England and India on August 27.)

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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