England's pace pack, and Johnson's Asia heroics
This was supposed to be the big battle between the strongest batting line-up going around today and the best bowling attack, but two-and-a-half Tests into the series the stats are surprisingly lopsided. England's pace attack has been so utterly dominant that no Indian batsman apart from Rahul Dravid has made runs with any sort of consistency. Among batsmen who've played more than two innings in this series, Dravid is the only one averaging more than 31. Both VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar have a highest of 56 in five innings, which indicates how effective England's pace attack has been.
England's overall bowling average in this series has been 23.32, but the average of their pace attack has been an incredible 18.70. Leave out Dravid, who has averaged 49.75 against this attack, and the rest of India's average against this England pace attack is a woeful 15.89.
Admittedly, India's campaign has been disrupted by injuries: Virender Sehwag missed the first two while Gautam Gambhir missed the second, and their absence forced India to shuffle their order, but that shouldn't take away from the complete dominance of England's pace attack. Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Chris Tremlett and Tim Bresnan have given India little breathing space, and so sustained has their firepower been that they must rank as the best pace attack going around at the moment.
Over the last year and a half, England's pace attack has averaged 26.55 runs per wicket and struck every 52 deliveries, which is the best among all teams during this period. South Africa and Pakistan are the other teams to average less than 30 runs per wicket, while Australia have been pushed back to fourth place with an average of 31.73. It can be argued that England have played a bit against relatively weak batting line-ups - Bangladesh and Pakistan were the two sides that toured England last season - but their displays against Australia and India have shown just how strong their pace attack is. What they now need to prove is that they can be as dangerous in the subcontinent as well.
Bangladesh expectedly make it to the bottom of the list, but the average of the team placed just above them is interesting: Sri Lanka have played nine Tests during this period, including three in England, but their seamers have conceded more than 61 runs per wicket. In the three Tests in England their average was 57.19.
|Team||Tests||Wickets||Average||Strike rate||5WI/ 10WM|
|South Africa||12||146||27.84||53.6||8/ 1|
|West Indies||11||87||33.14||69.5||4/ 0|
|New Zealand||8||57||47.85||85.9||1/ 0|
|Sri Lanka||9||40||61.50||93.4||1/ 0|
What has set this England attack apart is its relentlessness. Most teams have one or two incisive fast bowlers, but England have Tremlett or Bresnan back up the efforts of Broad and Anderson - when Tremlett was ruled out of the second and third Tests, England could immediately turn to Bresnan, whose pace, bounce and seam movement has already fetched him 11 wickets in less than two Tests. And even if one of these bowlers is unavailable, there's still Steven Finn lurking in the background. On the other hand, India have been unable to make up for the absence of their best bowler, Zaheer Khan. Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma have had their moments while Praveen Kumar has done splendidly despite his limited pace, but everyone agrees that the injuries to Zaheer has robbed India of the one bowler who could have consistently troubled England's top order.
A look at the top eight fast bowlers in the last year and a half indicates that depth in the England attack - there are four England bowlers in the top eight and five in the top 11. Broad, the most successful bowler in this series against India, only averages 30.05, thanks to his poor displays against Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The list is headed by Dale Steyn, while Morne Morkel is the other South African fast bowler who has been a force. India have Zaheer Khan, who averages 22.71, but their next-best is Ishant Sharma, who averages 32.08.
|Bowler||Tests||Wickets||Average||Strike rate||5WI/ 10WM|
|Dale Steyn||12||66||21.25||39.9||5/ 1|
|Mohammad Amir||7||33||22.33||45.7||2/ 0|
|Zaheer Khan||11||53||22.71||42.4||2/ 1|
|Tim Bresnan||7||33||23.27||48.9||1/ 0|
|James Anderson||18||85||23.42||50.0||4/ 1|
|Chris Tremlett||7||36||24.22||47.2||2/ 0|
|Morne Morkel||12||52||25.21||49.7||3/ 0|
|Steven Finn||12||50||26.92||41.4||3/ 0|
The bowling stats for England and South Africa have also pushed up the overall bowling numbers for 2011. The fast-bowling average for the year is just over 30, which is the lowest it's been since 2000, when it was 27.52. There are still plenty of Test matches to come in the year, but if the fast bowlers continue to be as effective as they have been so far, this could be their best year in a decade. In fact, the average for spinners, as well as the overall bowling averages, have improved as well.
|Year||Pace - wkts||Average||Strike rate||Spin - wkts||Average||Overall ave|
Johnson at home in Asia
You'd expect fast bowlers from outside the subcontinent to struggle to adapt to the generally slow pace of Asia's pitches, but Mitchell Johnson has had no problems at all. In 31 ODIs in the subcontinent so far, Johnson has taken 60 wickets at an average of 20.41; outside the subcontinent, he has 98 in 69 ODIs at 28. Three of his six four-wicket hauls, as well as two out of three five-fors, have come in the subcontinent. (Click here for Johnson's bowling career summary.) Among Australian bowlers who've taken at least 30 wickets in Asia, Johnson's average is the best, edging ahead of Nathan Bracken.
A look at the stats for some of the other Australian fast bowlers shows that Johnson isn't the only one who's been successful in Asia: Bracken, Brett Lee, and Damien Fleming have pretty good numbers too.
|Bowler||ODIs||Wickets||Average||Econ rate||Career ave||Econ rate|
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo