S Rajesh
Numbers Game Numbers GameRSS FeedFeeds  | Archives
ESPNcricinfo's stats editor S Rajesh looks at the stories behind the stats

How good is England's middle order?

Stats indicate it compares quite poorly with those of the other top teams over the last decade

S Rajesh

August 14, 2009

Text size: A | A

Graham Thorpe cuts open-mouthed, South Africa v England, 2nd Test, Durban, 4th day, December 29 2004
Graham Thorpe was one of the few world-class middle-order batsmen for England since 2000 Paul Gilham / © Getty Images
Enlarge

England's middle order has been in the news lately, and for all the wrong reasons: in six innings at Headingley, their Nos. 3, 4 and 5 scored a grand total of 16 runs, the fewest for England in matches in which the team played both innings, thus allowing Australia to exact revenge for the humiliation they had suffered 113 years ago (almost to the day), when their three middle-order batsmen scored the same number of runs at The Oval. (That isn't the record, though, for the fewest runs scored by Nos. 3, 4 and 5 in a Test - South Africa's three batsmen scored 10 fewer runs against England in 1955.)

The likes of Graham Thorpe and Kevin Pietersen have done their bit to boost the stock of the England middle order since 2000, but for the most part they've still been a below-par unit. During this period, England's Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 6 have a combined average of 38.57, with 80 centuries from 126 Tests. England have also used 37 players during this period, which is second only to West Indies' 40.

Australia, the leaders of the pack, have only used 25 middle-order batsmen for the 110 Tests they've played since 2000, and they've averaged 49.41, more than 10 runs higher than England. Also, in 16 fewer Tests than England, they've notched up 18 more centuries. India's power-packed middle order is next, and the stability of their line-up is obvious from the fact that only 24 batsmen have occupied these slots, the fewest among all teams. Sri Lanka, South Africa and Pakistan follow closely, but England are better than only three teams - New Zealand, whose lower order has often bailed them out with the bat, and Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.

Middle order (Nos. 3 to 6) of each team since 2000
Team No. of batsmen Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Australia 25 110 31,278 49.41 98/ 138
India 24 100 27,988 46.88 67/ 137
Sri Lanka 26 91 25, 136 46.03 65/ 106
Pakistan 31 79 22,753 45.87 67/ 94
South Africa 29 106 27,379 44.01 72/ 132
West Indies 40 105 27,266 39.63 65/ 133
England 37 126 30,863 38.57 80/ 151
New Zealand 30 75 16,795 35.28 32/ 83
Zimbabwe 30 44 9843 32.59 16/ 50
Bangladesh 34 61 10,558 22.75 9/ 51

England's numbers have been pulled down by several batsmen who played in the middle order for reasonably long periods but performed with far less distinction than their counterparts in other top teams. Alec Stewart's wicketkeeping was admittedly a huge bonus, but he averaged only 32 in 56 innings when he batted in the middle order. Mark Ramprakash, who has been the flavour of the week for a nation desperately looking for a saviour, wasn't much better, averaging 32.47 in 17 tries. Andrew Flintoff's batting abilities probably warranted a No. 7 slot, but he batted higher than that quite often, and averaged less than 33. Nasser Hussain brought plenty to the table with his dogged leadership qualities, but as a batsman his numbers are clearly less than exceptional. The stats are somewhat similar for the man who succeeded him as captain: Michael Vaughan had a couple of outstanding series as batsman, but over the course of his career he failed to do justice to his potential.

England's middle-order batsmen (Nos. 3 to 6) who average less than 40 (Qual: 10 innings, since 2000)
Batsman Innings Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Graeme Hick 14 264 18.85 1/ 0
Owais Shah 10 269 26.90 0/ 2
Robert Key 23 694 31.54 1/ 3
Alec Stewart 56 1632 32.00 3/ 8
Mark Ramprakash 17 552 32.47 1/ 1
Andrew Flintoff 70 2111 32.98 3/ 17
Ravi Bopara 14 468 33.42 3/ 0
Nasser Hussain 89 2846 35.13 6/ 20
Michael Vaughan 70 2507 37.98 8/ 9

Among the ones who did justice to their place in the middle order are Thorpe, Pietersen and Paul Collingwood. Thorpe had 25 fifty-plus knocks in 74 innings, while Pietersen averaged more than 50 till his last Test, when a tally of 76 runs in two innings brought his career average down to 49.96.

The two other batsmen who've averaged more than 40 during this period are Mark Butcher and Ian Bell. Butcher scored only six hundreds in 71 innings, but three of those came against Australia and South Africa. Bell has an average of 40.94 in his 81 innings in the middle order, but against Australia his average drops to 24.60. Butcher, on the other hand, averaged 40.73 against the Aussies.

England's middle-order batsmen (Nos. 3 to 6) who average more than 40 (Qual: 10 innings, since 2000)
Batsman Innings Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Graham Thorpe 74 3145 53.30 10/ 15
Alastair Cook 12 578 52.54 2/ 2
John Crawley 13 454 50.44 1/ 2
Kevin Pietersen 97 4647 49.96 16/ 15
Paul Collingwood 87 3455 44.29 9/ 15
Mark Butcher 71 2731 41.37 6/ 17
Ian Bell 81 2948 40.94 8/ 19

Looking at more detailed middle-order stats against the best team during this period, it's clear that England's batsmen have mostly underperformed. India lead the way in terms of averages against Australia since 2000 - among the middle-order batsmen, VVS Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid all average more than 45, with Laxman averaging 61.24. South Africa are next, with AB de Villiers averaging an outstanding 75, while Jacques Kallis and JP Duminy both average more than 45. England are in sixth place, with an average almost 13 runs fewer than India's. Pietersen is the only one to have played more than three Tests against Australia and average more than 45.

England's numbers are still much better than Pakistan's, whose middle order averages a meagre 26. They've only played six Tests against Australia during this period, though, while India have played 20 and England 24.

Middle-order batsmen (Nos. 3 to 6) versus Australia since 2000
Team Innings Runs Average 100s/ 50s Overall ave
India 151 6184 45.47 14/ 29 33.78
South Africa 137 4759 37.47 9/ 26 29.23
West Indies 120 4038 36.05 12/ 16 24.45
Zimbabwe 16 528 33.00 1/ 1 26.30
Sri Lanka 56 1802 32.76 3/ 8 25.99
England 188 5815 32.66 8/ 37 27.02
New Zealand 99 2844 29.62 3/ 16 24.83
Pakistan 48 1196 26.00 1/ 7 19.46
Bangladesh 32 758 23.68 0/ 4 20.82

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo

RSS Feeds: S Rajesh

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

FeedbackTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print
S RajeshClose
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.

'Virtually impossible to replace Kallis'

Modern Masters: Without Jacques Kallis you don't see balance in the South African side

    How do you view sporting success?

Do you gauge it by rewards or in terms of the experiences accumulated on the way, Ed Smith asks

    Mesmeric Sachin, sopoforic Boycs

ESPNcricinfo XI: From Mankad to KP, we look at some memorable innings in England-India Tests

    Dhoni wins the first round in the captaincy battle

Ian Chappell: Both Dhoni and Cook have made some inexplicable blunders, but India's captain pulls ahead slightly

When the weak can resist the strong

Jonathan Wilson: Cricket and football give lesser teams and players a chance to hold against stronger opposition

News | Features Last 7 days

India look for their Indian summer

Billboards are calling the series England's Indian Summer, but it is India who are looking for that period of warmth, redemption after the last whitewash, for they have seen how bleak the winter that can follow is

South Africa face the Kallis question

Accommodation for a great player like Jacques Kallis should be made with careful consideration and South Africa cannot get carried away with sentiment

India's bowling leader conundrum

The present Indian bowling line-up will tackle its first five-Test series without the proven guidance of Zaheer Khan, their bowling captain. India had unravelled without him in 2011. Will they do better this time around?

Five key head-to-heads

From two embattled captains to the challenge for India's openers against the new ball, ESPNcricinfo picks five contests that could determine the series

Anderson shines in era of the No. 11

There are few endeavors as silly as No. 11s batting. Anderson's innings was another piece of history for cricket's most comical and undervalued batting position

News | Features Last 7 days

    India look for their Indian summer (87)

    Billboards are calling the series England's Indian Summer, but it is India who are looking for that period of warmth, redemption after the last whitewash, for they have seen how bleak the winter that can follow is

    Why isn't Ashwin playing? (74)

    It's close to inexplicable how India's best spinner is being left out in favour of bits-and-pieces players

    South Africa face the Kallis question (56)

    Accommodation for a great player like Jacques Kallis should be made with careful consideration and South Africa cannot get carried away with sentiment

    India's bowling leader conundrum (44)

    The present Indian bowling line-up will tackle its first five-Test series without the proven guidance of Zaheer Khan, their bowling captain. India had unravelled without him in 2011. Will they do better this time around?

    Anderson shines in era of the No. 11 (35)

    There are few endeavors as silly as No. 11s batting. Anderson's innings was another piece of history for cricket's most comical and undervalued batting position