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England's best lower-order batsman of all time

Graeme Swann has led England's lower-order batting resistance in the last couple of years, with an average that is untouched in their Test history

S Rajesh

January 22, 2010

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Graeme Swann and James Anderson transformed England's innings with a ninth-wicket stand of 106, South Africa v England, 1st Test, Centurion, December 18, 2009
Graeme Swann averages 32.81 in Tests, the most by any England batsman at Nos. 8-11 © PA Photos

It's often said that the resilience of lower-order batsmen is an excellent indicator of team spirit. If that's the case, England's bunch is perhaps one of the happiest going around now. Andy Flower, Andrew Strauss and several other players have often been quoted as saying that the England team is one united lot these days, and going by their lower-order displays, that certainly seems to be the case.

It helps, of course, that England have unearthed a few bowlers who are more than handy with the bat. Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad have numbers that easily put them in the allrounders' bracket: Swann has scored four half-centuries in 21 innings, in which he averages 32.81, which is more than five runs higher than his overall first-class batting average. Broad has been almost as impressive, averaging 26.34, with five fifties. Even James Anderson has improved his batting significantly over the last couple of years, averaging nearly 17 since the beginning of 2008, an improvement of 54% from his average before 2008.

All of this has meant England's average partnership for wickets seven to 10 over the last two years is an impressive 24.59, with only one team, Australia, doing better. New Zealand and South Africa, two teams who have traditionally had very strong lower-order batting strength, have slipped slightly during this period. The two teams who bring up the rear are the ones who have had the most problems with team spirit and with results, West Indies and Pakistan.

Team-wise average partnerships for the last four wickets (7-10) since Jan 2008
Team Innings Runs Average stand 100/ 50 stands
Australia 157 3934 25.71 7/ 15
England 148 3394 24.59 3/ 19
New Zealand 136 3144 24.00 5/ 10
India 122 2634 22.51 4/ 9
South Africa 104 2215 21.93 2/ 10
Sri Lanka 82 1684 21.87 2/ 6
Bangladesh 94 1724 18.73 2/ 7
West Indies 137 2455 18.18 1/ 8
Pakistan 73 1177 16.57 1/ 5

To get an indication of how much England's lower order has improved in the last couple of years, take a look at the table below, which lists the average partnerships for the last four wickets during the eight-year period from 2000 to 2007. England were in lowly eighth position, below Zimbabwe and better than only West Indies and Bangladesh. In 586 innings, only 51 times did they put together a partnership of 50 or more - an average of one every 11.49 innings; in the last couple of years, the ratio has improved to one every 6.73 innings.

Team-wise average partnerships for the last four wickets from 2000 to 2007
Team Innings Runs Average stand 100/ 50 stands
New Zealand 316 8094 26.71 11/ 34
Australia 400 9515 24.65 10/ 46
South Africa 438 10,313 24.61 10/ 45
Sri Lanka 420 8606 21.46 11/ 26
India 424 8459 20.99 11/ 37
Zimbabwe 293 5910 20.73 6/ 23
Pakistan 426 8575 20.56 9/ 34
England 586 11,059 19.74 8/ 43
West Indies 561 8914 16.26 3/ 34
Bangladesh 373 5181 13.92 0/ 17

The list of top nine pairs for the last four wickets features two from England, with Swann figuring in both. His average partnership with Anderson is worth 42.20, and in five innings they've gone past 50 twice; with Broad, the average is 37.50, with one century stand - 108 against Australia at Headingley - in six innings. Swann also averages 34.50 with Paul Collingwood, another batsman who has been instrumental in giving England's middle and lower orders some backbone.

The South African duo of AB de Villiers and Paul Harris is one of only two such pairs to average more than 50 - Bangladesh's Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur Rahim make the list thanks to their superb performances in the Chittagong Test against India. Brendon McCullum and Daniel Vettori miss the mark by just three runs, though they have four 50-plus stands to their credit. Pakistan and Sri Lanka are the only teams who don't have a single representative in the list.

Best pairs for wickets 7-10 in the last two years (Qual: 5 innings)
Pair Innings Runs Average stand 100/ 50 stands
AB de Villiers - Paul Harris 6 287 57.40 0/ 2
Mahmudullah - Mushfiqur Rahim 5 226 56.50 1/ 1
Brendon McCullum - Daniel Vettori 12 597 49.75 2/ 2
MS Dhoni - Harbhajan Singh 7 313 44.71 1/ 2
Michael Clarke - Mitchell Johnson 7 298 42.57 1/ 1
James Anderson - Graeme Swann 5 211 42.20 1/ 1
Jacob Oram - Daniel Vettori 6 245 40.83 1/ 1
Shivnarine Chanderpaul - Jerome Taylor 7 263 37.57 1/ 0
Stuart Broad - Graeme Swann 6 225 37.50 1/ 0

In the last two years, only Vettori - among batsmen who've batted at No. 8 or lower - has a higher average than Swann. The difference in average is significant, but it's well known that Vettori is clearly capable of batting higher in the order, especially in a line-up as brittle as New Zealand's. Swann is the only batsman apart from Vettori to average more than 30 in a list which also hass Broad at No. 4, thus giving England two representatives in the top four. Graham Onions doesn't figure in this list, but he has done his bit to boost England's tail: he has been dismissed just three times in 97 deliveries, an average of 32 balls per dismissal.

Best batsmen in positions 8-11 since Jan 2008 (Qual: 15 innings)
Batsman Innings Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Daniel Vettori 32 1148 42.51 2/ 6
Graeme Swann 21 525 32.81 0/ 4
Mitchell Johnson 38 878 28.32 1/ 4
Stuart Broad 33 768 27.42 0/ 5
Nathan Hauritz 15 227 20.63 0/ 1
Harbhajan Singh 28 532 20.46 0/ 5
Jerome Taylor 22 403 20.15 1/ 1
Brett Lee 22 338 18.77 0/ 2

The advent of Swann and Broad is all the more surprising since England have seldom had competent batsmen lower down the order. Among England's batsmen who have batted at No. 8 or lower in at least 20 innings, Swann's batting average is the highest in England's Test history. What's more, Broad is in second place, marginally ahead of Jack Russell. Chris Lewis is next, after which the next six all played their cricket before 1970.

During the period between 1970 and 2007, only five England batsmen batting in the last four slots (with the 20-innings qualification) averaged more than 20.

England's best batsmen at the No. 8-11 slots in Tests (Qual: 20 innings)
Batsman Innings Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Graeme Swann 21 525 32.81 0/ 4
Stuart Broad 34 770 26.55 0/ 5
Jack Russell 25 482 25.36 0/ 1
Chris Lewis 30 661 24.48 0/ 3
Wilfred Rhodes 33 411 24.17 0/ 0
David Allen 47 805 23.67 0/ 4
Walter Robins 22 440 23.15 0/ 4
Maurice Tate 38 820 22.77 0/ 4
Godfrey Evans 56 1062 22.59 1/ 2
Hedley Verity 40 620 22.14 0/ 3

And finally, a comparison between Swann and Monty Panesar shows just how much more Swann has brought to the table over the last two years. Since the beginning of 2008, both have played 16 Tests, but Swann has taken 24 more wickets at a better average and strike rate, and has scored almost nine times as many runs. These numbers indicate, in a nutshell, just how difficult it will be for Panesar to force his way back into the side. With Swann and Broad handling the allrounder's role so effectively, England's selectors will hardly be in a hurry to change this combination.

Comparing Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann since Jan 2008
Player Tests Runs Average Wickets Average Strike rate MoM awards
Graeme Swann 16 525 32.81 69 30.69 60.9 3
Monty Panesar 16 59 3.68 45 37.26 80.8 1

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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