June 15, 2012

Pakistan's bowlers bail out their batsmen

Pakistan have won more ODIs than they've lost over the last couple of years, and much of it is due to their bowlers, especially the spinners

Over the last two years (July 2010 onwards), Pakistan have won 33 ODIs and lost 19. By all accounts that's an excellent record - only three teams have a better win-loss record during this period, and even there, Australia's ratio is better only by 0.02. Admittedly, Pakistan's ratio has also improved because of the number of matches they've played against Zimbabwe and the non-Test-playing nations during this period - nine games, all of which they've won. However, even excluding those games Pakistan have done pretty well, winning 24 and losing 19: they're one of only four sides who've won more than they've lost during this period.

It's a credit to Pakistan's bowlers that the team has such an impressive win-loss ratio, for their batsmen haven't done a whole lot to justify that record: in terms of averages and strike rates, Pakistan rank seventh among all teams (excluding matches against Zimbabwe and other non-Test-playing sides).

It's true that Pakistan's batting has been pretty disappointing, but it's also important to note that the team has played a fair number of games in conditions that aren't favourable to quick scoring. Out of 45 matches, they've played 14 in the UAE and six in Sri Lanka, countries where high-scoring games haven't been the norm. Also, they haven't played any match in Pakistan during this period and only one in India, countries where the pitches and conditions favour big scores. (Click here for a break-up of Pakistan's matches.) A break-up of matches by host country also shows that Sri Lanka and UAE are among the relatively tougher venues for batsmen in ODIs.

Even with that caveat, though, Misbah-ul-Haq will be pretty disappointed with how his top order has fared recently. One of the below-par aspects has been their inability to convert starts into centuries: unlike Indian batsmen, who've scored 22 hundreds in their 86 scores of 50-plus, or England and Sri Lanka, who also have pretty high ratios, Pakistan's batsmen have converted only seven of their 53 scores of 50-plus into hundreds.

ODI stats v the top teams since July 2010
Team Matches W/L Bat Ave Run rate 100s/ 50s
South Africa 26 16/ 10 35.84 5.31 8/ 40
India 54 32/ 18 35.23 5.48 22/ 64
Australia 43 25/ 16 33.33 5.28 11/ 52
England 40 18/ 19 31.86 5.38 12/ 44
Sri Lanka 54 23/ 26 30.21 4.98 14/ 58
West Indies 31 10/ 19 27.69 4.75 4/ 29
Pakistan 45 24/ 19 27.58 4.87 7/ 46
Bangladesh 24 9/ 15 25.55 4.59 2/ 29
Zimbabwe 25 5/ 20 25.10 4.52 4/ 25
New Zealand 27 5/ 20 24.87 4.90 3/ 27

During these 24 months, Pakistan have managed only one 300-plus score against one of the top teams - 329 for 6 against India in the Asia Cup in Mirpur earlier this year. Ironically, they ended up losing that match, thanks to Virat Kohli's stunning 183. Incidentally, their second-highest score during this period has been 294, and they lost that match too, during the NatWest Series against England in 2010. During this period there have been 32 scores of 300 or more in ODIs against the top sides, with India hogging the majority of those: they've done it ten times, five of which have been at home and three more in Bangladesh. South Africa and Sri Lanka have both achieved it five times, but interestingly, all five of Sri Lanka's efforts have been in overseas games, which indicates how tough it is to score quickly in Sri Lanka.

Australia, England and New Zealand have each topped 300 three times, but Pakistan have only managed it once. The stats of their batsmen over the last two years shows why run-scoring has been a bit of a struggle: four of the seven batsmen who have faced 500-plus deliveries have strike rates of less than 75. Two of them - their captain, Misbah, and Asad Shafiq, have scoring rates of less than 70, while Younis Khan only barely exceeds that mark. The one specialist batsman who scores quickly is Umar Akmal, but even he hasn't always scored runs consistently.

Among the seven batsmen listed below, Mohammad Hafeez is the only one to score a century - he has notched up three of them, against New Zealand, West Indies and India. (The others to score ODI hundreds for Pakistan against the top sides during this period are Ahmed Shehzad, Abdul Razzaq and Nasir Jamshed.)

Pakistan batsmen v the top teams since July 2010 (Qual: 500 balls faced)
Batsman ODIs Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Mohammad Hafeez 45 1493 34.72 73.83 3/ 8
Umar Akmal 40 1055 34.03 83.79 0/ 7
Misbah-ul-Haq 36 1036 43.16 65.69 0/ 8
Shahid Afridi 45 807 22.41 118.50 0/ 3
Younis Khan 33 690 23.79 70.84 0/ 5
Asad Shafiq 25 605 27.50 67.07 0/ 4
Kamran Akmal 16 477 34.07 81.81 0/ 3

Not surprisingly, the list of slow-scoring batsmen in ODIs over these two years is dominated by Pakistan: four of their players feature in the top ten. Their captain is in second place, with West Indies' Ramnaresh Sarwan the only one to score slower than him.

Batsmen with the lowest strike rates in ODIs since July 2010 (Qual: 800 balls faced)
Batsman ODIs Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Ramnaresh Sarwan 15 487 40.58 59.97 0/ 5
Misbah-ul-Haq 36 1036 43.16 65.69 0/ 8
Darren Bravo 27 655 28.47 66.29 0/ 5
Asad Shafiq 25 605 27.50 67.07 0/ 4
Tatenda Taibu 25 651 27.12 69.32 0/ 6
Younis Khan 33 690 23.79 70.84 0/ 5
Upul Tharanga 44 1290 34.86 71.42 3/ 8
Graeme Smith 22 754 35.90 72.43 1/ 4
Mohammad Hafeez 45 1493 34.72 73.83 3/ 8
Ian Bell 27 637 27.69 74.59 0/ 3

Despite their fairly ordinary batting stats, Pakistan have won more than their fair share of matches, thanks to their outstanding bowling attack. During these two years, Pakistan have taken their wickets at 30.62 runs each, and are one of only three teams to concede less than five per over.

The biggest stars for them have been the spinners. Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi and Hafeez have achieved superb numbers during this period, taking full advantage of conditions in the UAE and the subcontinent, where Pakistan have played a fair number of their matches. Among them, they've covered most bases. Hafeez bowls with the new ball and invariably chokes the runs - he has an economy rate of 3.73 against the top teams during this period - while Ajmal is the wicket-taker in the middle overs. Afridi has shown superb consistency with the ball too, regularly putting in economical spells and chipping in with useful wickets. Together those three have combined to take 146 wickets at an average of 28.79 and an economy rate of 4.25. Thanks to them, Pakistan's spinners have taken more wickets than their fast bowlers and have a far better economy rate as well. Now, if only they could find some such stalwarts in their batting line-up.

Team-wise bowling stats v top sides since July 2010
Team ODIs Average Econ rate Pace - wkt, ave Econ rate Spin - wkts, ave Econ rate
South Africa 26 24.97 4.89 146, 24.54 4.80 60, 32.48 4.74
Australia 43 28.25 5.02 243, 27.72 4.91 75, 34.81 4.88
Pakistan 45 30.62 4.90 128, 32.73 5.45 156, 29.82 4.22
West Indies 31 30.70 4.96 128, 35.09 5.18 64, 29.28 4.28
India 54 31.48 5.31 205, 33.22 5.43 170, 34.46 4.96
Sri Lanka 54 31.58 5.10 226, 31.69 5.11 99, 40.08 4.78
England 40 31.98 5.28 203, 33.71 5.21 72, 36.81 4.96
New Zealand 27 32.22 5.08 128, 31.76 5.23 34, 43.67 4.40
Bangladesh 24 32.95 5.28 63, 37.31 5.81 93, 33.13 4.78
Zimbabwe 25 45.09 5.55 78, 43.05 6.01 48, 61.43 4.95

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter

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