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

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