Sachin Tendulkar v James Anderson
Not too many bowlers among the current crop can claim to consistently trouble Sachin Tendulkar, but England's leading bowler surely can. They've played each other in only six Tests, but James Anderson has already dismissed Tendulkar five times, and he'll be England's go-to man to get Tendulkar out a few more times over the next month. Given the form Tendulkar is in, though, this is an excellent opportunity for him to correct those stats, and prove that his head-to-head against Anderson is just an aberration.
What'll offer Anderson plenty of encouragement, though, is the fact that those dismissals of Tendulkar have come over three series. It all started in Tendulkar's hometown of Mumbai more than five years back. That wasn't a good Test for India or for Tendulkar: not only did India lose badly, Tendulkar was also, quite shockingly, booed by his home crowd. And in the first innings he was dismissed by Anderson for a painstaking 21-ball 1, edging to the wicketkeeper.
When India went to England next year, Anderson was Tendulkar's nemesis, dismissing him three times in the series. At Lord's Tendulkar had progressed to 37 - his highest score at the ground - when Anderson swung one back into him to trap him in front. A couple of Tests later, at The Oval, Anderson dismissed him twice in the Test, for 82 and 1, getting him once each off the outside edge and the inside edge.
And when England toured India in 2008, Anderson got his man once more, again inducing an outside edge to gully. In all, Anderson has bowled 200 deliveries to Tendulkar in Tests and dismissed him five times at the cost of 96 runs. Those are figures that many bowlers would die for against Tendulkar. (Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie dismissed him six times each, while Allan Donald took him out five times, but most of those dismissals were before ESPNcricinfo's ball-by-ball came into service, due to which Tendulkar's personal averages against those bowlers remains unknown.)
Since 2002, a couple of other bowlers have dismissed Tendulkar five or more times, but both have had to work much harder for their wickets: Muttiah Muralitharan bowled 366 balls at him for his six dismissals, while Brett Lee bowled 432 for his five. Against Lee, Tendulkar averaged almost 50. Anderson, on the other hand, has dismissed Tendulkar five times, bowling far fewer deliveries and conceding far fewer runs.
Tendulkar, though, isn't the only top batsman Anderson has dominated: his stats against some of the other luminaries of modern-day batting are pretty impressive as well. Along with Tendulkar, Jacques Kallis is probably the most technically correct batsman around, but Anderson has a splendid record against him as well, having dismissed him six times without conceding too many. The modes of dismissal say a bit about his bowling as well: he has breached Kallis' defences and bowled him three times, which is no mean feat against a batsman whose technique is so watertight. Not surprisingly, no other bowler has got Kallis out bowled as often.
Michael Clarke is another batsman who has struggled against Anderson, with six dismissals in 13 Tests, at an average of 25.50. Anderson is one of the few fast bowlers of this generation who can swing the ball both ways, and it's that ability that has troubled batsmen who are pretty well organised with their defensive technique. If the indipper has dismissed Kallis more often, then the away-going one has got Clarke's wicket most times.
Anderson has been less successful against left-handers in his Test career, averaging 35.19 against them compared to 28.48 against right-handers, but he has done pretty well against the two names in the list below - Chris Gayle and Kumar Sangakkara.
Over the next month Anderson will pit his skills against some of the best batsmen going around, but his past record against them has two distinct parts. The good part is his numbers against Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag - he has dismissed them 10 times at a cost of just 213 runs. Apart from nailing Tendulkar five times, he has dismissed Dravid three times at a cost of 85 runs (average 28.33) and Sehwag twice (average 16). Those are highly enviable numbers, for no other bowler has dismissed these three batsmen at least 10 times at an average of less than 30. (Makhaya Ntini is next-best, averaging 32.90 for his 11 wickets.)
However, there are two other batsmen in the current Indian line-up against whom Anderson has come out a distinct second-best. Against VVS Laxman, Anderson has bowled 168 deliveries without dismissing him once. Of those 168 balls, 105 were on India's tour to England in 2007, and Laxman scored 69 runs off those deliveries. Gautam Gambhir hasn't played Anderson in a Test in England, but he did well when England toured India in 2008.
|Tendulkar, Dravid & Sehwag||452||213||10||21.30||2.83|
In a previous column last month, the battles of Andrew Strauss against left-arm fast bowlers had been highlighted, and Zaheer Khan struck a blow in that head-to-head battle by dismissing Strauss on the first day at Lord's, and, for good measure, also got rid of Alastair Cook. Can Anderson maintain his dominance over Tendulkar? Given the form he is in, it'll take a brave man to bet against Tendulkar redressing the balance in his head-to-head stats against Anderson.
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo