September 9, 2011

England's bowling worries in ODIs

They have been terrific in Test cricket, but in the 50-over version England's bowlers have struggled to keep the runs in check

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.)

Teams in ODIs since Jan 2008
Team Matches Won/ lost Bat ave Bat run rate Bowl ave Econ rate
Australia 104 68/ 31 35.80 5.23 26.41 4.86
New Zealand 75 33/ 34 29.52 5.21 28.85 4.90
Zimbabwe 71 26/ 44 25.96 4.66 31.17 4.92
Sri Lanka 99 54/ 39 31.78 5.14 27.92 4.94
Pakistan 81 45/ 34 31.23 5.16 29.49 4.98
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
Bangladesh 86 33/ 53 26.37 4.64 32.64 5.12
England 82 38/ 38 31.07 5.27 31.05 5.28
India 108 65/ 35 36.55 5.58 31.54 5.33

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.

Bowlers with economy rates of more than 5 in ODIs since Jan 2008 (Qual: 1800 balls)
Bowler Matches Wickets Average Econ rate Strike rate
Ashish Nehra 48 65 32.64 5.85 33.4
Ishant Sharma 46 64 31.53 5.73 32.9
Elton Chigumbura 68 49 38.48 5.66 40.7
James Anderson 68 84 34.84 5.31 39.3
Stuart Broad 61 104 25.99 5.30 29.4
Tim Bresnan 45 60 33.20 5.24 37.9
Umar Gul 51 85 25.07 5.24 28.6
Tim Southee 51 70 30.74 5.23 35.2
Mahmudullah 72 38 50.57 5.15 58.8
Lasith Malinga 49 82 25.32 5.12 29.6
Praveen Kumar 53 64 32.65 5.03 38.9

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.

England bowlers in home and away ODIs (Qual: 100 overs home and away)
Bowler Home - ODIs Wkts Average Econ rate Away - ODIs Wkts Average Econ rate
James Anderson 36 43 33.09 5.00 32 41 36.68 5.64
Stuart Broad 34 54 26.70 5.03 27 50 25.22 5.64
Tim Bresnan 27 32 38.46 5.50 18 28 27.17 4.87
Graeme Swann 28 48 20.14 4.24 24 28 29.89 4.86
Paul Collingwood 26 17 28.29 4.67 35 22 41.90 4.95

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.

Economy rates at various stages of an ODI innings since Jan 2008
Bowling team 1-15 - ave Econ rate 16-40 - ave Econ rate 41-50 - ave Econ rate
Australia 29.90 4.57 29.47 4.61 17.60 6.64
New Zealand 32.64 4.56 32.45 4.68 19.68 6.89
Zimbabwe 39.82 4.56 35.54 4.69 21.57 7.14
Sri Lanka 33.56 4.78 28.88 4.74 19.76 6.44
Pakistan 36.41 4.85 31.28 4.52 20.89 6.90
South Africa 35.53 4.70 28.33 4.71 17.60 6.91
West Indies 36.28 4.73 39.06 4.77 20.44 7.00
Bangladesh 34.18 4.80 38.74 4.77 22.29 7.21
England 37.68 4.95 33.22 4.94 21.53 7.23
India 39.59 5.10 34.10 4.90 21.12 7.29

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on September 11, 2011, 12:26 GMT

    I feel we're making progress. We're beating India 2-0 and seem on our way to 3-0 barring something better than they've managed all tour from India. I don't care for Dernbach much, goes for too many runs and gets the odd tail end wicket seemingly through persistance. I have no idea why we have 5 real bowlers out there and we still always have a few over of Ravi Bopara useless open buffet of runs bowling.

  • John on September 11, 2011, 3:29 GMT

    @RandyOz, the Australian side was the greatest team ever. The key word in that sentence: WAS.

  • John on September 11, 2011, 3:23 GMT

    England really haven't mastered one-day cricket yet. I suspect this is largely because England haven't played enough of it. Collingwood, England's most capped ODI player, has only played 197 games, compared with Tendulkar's 453. They have to play more ODIs to learn the game and I believe they will do that in the next 4 years. The first thing England must realize is that taking pace off the ball is important (almost all the bowlers who concede more than 5 runs an over are seamers). The second thing is to work on field placing and bowling to the field. That means bowling defensively, something which England haven't done too well. Because batsmen HAVE to hit out in ODIs, good defensive bowling gets more wickets than attacking bowling. England's bowlers are quite capable of performing at top level in ODIs; they certainly have the talent. They just need to learn the techniques and apply them.

  • Dummy4 on September 10, 2011, 15:59 GMT

    Australia all the way again, There is always some bowler to perform for them Lee/Johnson/Bollinger/Watson .. I m so sad that they missed out the WC this time.. They were just one Batsman short.. If Haddin comes to form or they find a good Wk-Batsman the aussies juggernaut will start again soon!

  • Dummy4 on September 10, 2011, 13:46 GMT

    Every time an Ex-cricket player writes about their team not able to contain the opposition as well as they do in Test Matches surprises me , since these veterans know very well that the 2 are a different Ball-Game .

    In one dayers the rules make it impossible for the bowler to keep on bowling out side off stumps as if it is little wide they lose runs for them and same goes for the leg side. England bowlers bowled lots of wides in Test matches which got them wickets but in One Day they would have conceded runs aplenty.

    Again if you look at batting most of the opposition know that they have to put up a Total so if they don't score runs off the bowlers they will be on the losing side, like India.

    So you cannot say that England bowlers are not good at containment in the slog overs as thats exactly what the batsmen are going to do "Slog" . Again its a matter of time when these bowlers will be tested in foriegn conditions and where they will definitely break down.

  • Dummy4 on September 10, 2011, 7:20 GMT

    No wonder why Pakistan has best economy rate for over 16-40 because of Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal. As we witnessed in the first game against Zimbabwe, team is really missing him.

  • Peter on September 10, 2011, 3:02 GMT

    This is why those ridiculous comparisons made by a few on the recent test series meant nothing. ODI form is totally different, bowling attitudes are different, pitch preparations are totally different with batting friendly tracks the norm, especially in the sub continent aligned with smaller gorunds. Given that though, England have shown a definite sign they want to improve.

  • Dummy4 on September 9, 2011, 18:32 GMT

    England dont have to worry about bowling.. coz indians are playing state level cricket.

  • vikram on September 9, 2011, 18:31 GMT

    Stuart Broad's strike rate is pretty good. As a captain I would take that kind of strike rate any day.

  • Adnan on September 9, 2011, 11:55 GMT

    I think the Aurthur has missed one important thing that how many times the bowling has taken all the possible wickets of opposition that would have given the quite good idea about the real strength of the bowling options

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