October 12, 2007

Kaneria's second-innings drought

Danish Kaneria has been reasonably effective in the first innings, but his stats in the second have been particularly disappointing of late

Danish Kaneria averages almost 38 runs per wicket in the second innings in his last 28 Tests © AFP

When Danish Kaneria came into the Pakistan team, he was seen - quite rightly, it seemed - as Pakistan's lastest match-winning legspinner, following in the esteemed footsteps of Abdul Qadir and Mushtaq Ahmed. Pakistan's rich fast-bowling talent also meant he'd probably be needed most in the third and fourth innings of Tests, to finish off the opposition on wearing tracks after pace had done its job in the early part of the game.

Through the early part of his career Kaneria performed that task with aplomb. His early victims were Bangladesh, against whom he took 13 wickets in two second-innings efforts, but soon better batsmen came croppers against him as well: his 5 for 46 against South Africa on their visit to Lahore in 2003-04 won Pakistan the game and Kaneria the joint Man-of-the-Match award, while Sri Lanka were taken to the cleaners as well in another sterling performance - 7 for 116 in the second innings - in Karachi the next season.

Long spells were never a problem for Kaneria, and his ability to strike regularly in the latter part of matches made him an invaluable asset: in his first 20 Tests, he averaged just 20 runs per wicket in the second innings, and struck once every 46 deliveries.

Since then, though, the story has changed considerably. Kaneria has continued to toil through long spells, but extracting wickets has become more difficult. The most recent examples were the two Tests against South Africa: on pitches made to assist Pakistan's slow bowlers, Kaneria managed 5 for 209 in Karachi, and 5 for 213 in Lahore. The problem was also his ineffectiveness when South Africa batted a second time - in Lahore he bowled 44.3 overs but only had one wicket to show for his efforts.

As the table below shows, these two matches are part of a bigger trend, which is why Pakistan should be worried: in his last 25 second-innings displays over a period of nearly three years, Kaneria only has 46 wickets at an average and strike-rate that are both worse than his corresponding first-innings numbers. His only second-innings five-for during this period was in Kingston against West Indies more than two years back, when his 5 for 46 allowed Pakistan to comfortably defend a fourth-innings target of 280.

Danish Kaneria before December 15, 2004
Matches Wickets Average Strike rate 5WI/ 10WM
In 1st innings 20 42 36.64 76.9 1/ 2
In 2nd innings 17 45 20.15 45.8 5/ 2

Danish Kaneria since December 15, 2004
Matches Wickets Average Strike-rate 5WI/ 10WM
In 1st innings 28 75 35.18 68.2 5/ 0
In 2nd innings 25 46 37.93 76.7 1/ 0

The table below compares Kaneria's efforts with those of his fellow spinners, and the numbers don't flatter him much. Only Nicky Boje, with an average of 42.35, has done worse in second innings.

Spinners in second innings since December 15, 2004 (Qual: at least 20 wickets)
Bowler Tests Wickets Average Strike-rate 5WI/ 10WM
Muttiah Muralitharan 20 85 15.52 36.6 9/ 7
Shane Warne 28 91 20.21 42.9 6/ 2
Daniel Vettori 11 22 24.13 48.8 1/ 1
Monty Panesar 18 37 26.32 56.7 4/ 1
Anil Kumble 25 67 29.07 56.0 3/ 2
Chris Gayle 17 20 33.00 67.2 1/ 0
Danish Kaneria 25 46 37.93 76.7 1/ 0
Nicky Boje 15 20 42.35 81.8 0/ 0

Surprisingly, Pakistan's two earlier legspin stalwarts have contrasting stats in second innings: Mushtaq used to be unstoppable on a wearing track, while Qadir didn't have quite as much success. The early part of Kaneria's career suggested he was taking after Mushtaq, but he has been replicating Qadir's numbers of late. A combination of both - Qadir's stats in the first innings, and Muhtaq's in the second - will suit Pakistan perfectly.

England's rare act
To beat Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka is tough enough; to beat them when batting second, twice in a row, is nothing short of Herculean. England have every reason to feel proud of the achievement, which gave them a memorable series win - since 1996, Sri Lanka have lost just seven out of 42 matches when batting first at home, and England became only the second team to chase targets successfully in two consecutive matches against them during this period. The other team to do that was Pakistan, who won by identical four-wicket margins at the Premadasa and the SSC in March 2006.

In fact, Sri Lanka seem to have lost that touch of invincibility when batting first at home over the last 18 months. These four defeats have all come in their last seven games. In 35 ODIs before March 2006, they had been beaten just three times when defending a total - twice by India and once by Australia. During the same period, they have been relatively more vulnerable when chasing a target at home, losing 13 out of 53.

Teams v Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka when chasing a target since 1996
Team Played Won Lost Win/ loss
England 4 2 2 1
Pakistan 4 2 2 1
Australia 3 1 2 0.50
India 12 2 8 0.25
West Indies 2 0 2 0.00
New Zealand 3 0 3 0.00
South Africa 4 0 4 0.00
Bangladesh 6 0 6 0.00
Kenya, Netherlands, UAE and Zimbabwe have all played a game each and lost.

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo.