England's bowling worries in ODIs
England's rise to the top of the Test rankings has been based largely on their bowling attack. Admittedly the batting has done its bit, scoring plenty of runs in most games, but it's the bowling that has stood out. The pace attack of James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Tremlett, Tim Bresnan and Steve Finn has skill, aggression and depth, while Graeme Swann is quite clearly the best spinner going around today. On more than one occasion, England's bowling attack has forced the issue with their sheer relentlessness, even when conditions haven't been favourable for bowling.
In ODIs, on the other hand, England are far from being the best in the world. The ICC ranking places them in fifth place, which seems about right. It's a format that usually depends on batting strength, but the bowlers have a key role to play too, and England's, somewhat surprisingly, haven't stepped up in the 50-over version.
Since the beginning of 2008, England only have a 50% win record in ODIs, which compares rather poorly with Australia, who are very nearly touching 70%. In fact, Australia and South Africa are the only two sides with win-loss ratios of more than 2 (in other words, they average more than two wins per defeat). As the table below shows, England have scored their runs pretty quickly, averaging 5.27 runs per over - which is third among all teams, after India and South Africa - but they have conceded them at a marginally quicker rate. Their economy rate of 5.28 is next only to India's 5.33.
India's high economy rate is partly because they play a lot of their matches in conditions that are the toughest for bowlers: the overall economy rate in ODIs in India is higher than in any other country during this period. In England the bowling team has conceded 5.21 runs per over, compared to 5.54 in India, but while England have done reasonably well at home - 20 wins, 16 defeats, and an economy rate of 5.07 - they've struggled in foreign conditions: 18 wins, 22 losses, economy rate 5.47. (Click here for England's ODI summary since January 2008.)
|Team||Matches||Won/ lost||Bat ave||Bat run rate||Bowl ave||Econ rate|
|New Zealand||75||33/ 34||29.52||5.21||28.85||4.90|
|Sri Lanka||99||54/ 39||31.78||5.14||27.92||4.94|
|South Africa||63||43/ 19||38.87||5.57||26.76||5.03|
|West Indies||78||22/ 50||27.55||4.96||31.90||5.03|
A look at the stats for England's bowlers further illustrates this point. Among the 39 bowlers who have bowled at least 300 overs in ODIs over the last three and a half years, three of England's fast bowlers find themselves in the bottom six in terms of economy rates. Anderson has been fantastic in Test cricket, but in ODIs he has leaked 5.31 runs per over, and he hasn't taken enough wickets to compensate, conceding nearly 35 runs per wicket. Out of 68 innings, he has gone at a run a ball or more on 24 occasions.
Broad's economy rate is equally high, but he has contributed more wickets, averaging nearly nine runs fewer than Anderson. His tendency to leak runs is equally worrying, though, with 25 instances of conceding six or more runs per over in 61 innings. Bresnan hasn't done much better either, which means the only consistently economical bowler for England in ODIs has been Swann - economy rate 4.51 with a superb average of 23.73, and nine innings out of 52 when he went at a run a ball or more, including a couple when he bowled only two overs.
On the other hand, Australia's bowlers have been superb, with all six who have bowled more than 300 overs going at less than five per over. Even Mitchell Johnson, who has a bit of a reputation for spraying it around, has an economy rate of 4.79 to go with an average of 25.52 in 79 matches. In these games he has conceded six an over or more 17 times.
|Bowler||Matches||Wickets||Average||Econ rate||Strike rate|
As mentioned briefly earlier, England's problems have been exacerbated overseas, and that's reflected in their bowlers' stats: among the five who've played for them regularly during this period, only Bresnan has performed better away than at home. In fact, the difference in Bresnan's numbers is quite stark - an average of more than 38 and an economy rate of 5.5 at home improves to 27.17 and 4.87 in overseas games.
For the others, though, the reverse is true: the economy rates for Anderson and Broad go up on tours, while Swann's effectiveness as a wicket-taker drops, even though his economy rate remains under five.
|Bowler||Home - ODIs||Wkts||Average||Econ rate||Away - ODIs||Wkts||Average||Econ rate|
A look at England's bowling performances in the three parts of an ODI innings reveals that each of them needs to be spruced up. In the first 15, their economy rate of 4.95 is the second-worst among all teams, and better only than India's. The lack of wicket-taking ability with the new ball also shows up in their relatively high bowling average of 37.68.
In the middle overs, England are the worst of all teams in terms of economy rate, conceding 4.94 runs per over. The average is relatively better, thanks largely to Swann's wicket-taking ability. And in the last 10, they're again the second-most profligate after India. Add up all of this and what comes out is an ODI team who haven't got their bowling act together. With one-day series in the subcontinent coming up in the winter, though, England's bowlers will get plenty of opportunities to improve their stats and their win-loss record.
|Bowling team||1-15 - ave||Econ rate||16-40 - ave||Econ rate||41-50 - ave||Econ rate|
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo