August 10, 2012

Dominating a top bowler

Kevin Pietersen took 64 runs off 72 balls from Dale Steyn, which is the most dominant performance against him in a Test innings

Kevin Pietersen has since been in the news for off-field reasons, but on the third day of the Headingley Test, he made the headlines for all the right reasons. The whole innings was outstanding for his aggression and sheer brutality, but especially fearsome was his assault on Dale Steyn, unarguably the best bowler going around in Test cricket today. In 72 balls from Steyn, Pietersen clobbered 64 runs, including 12 fours and a six. Pietersen struck 22 fours in his entire innings of 149, which means more than 50% of the fours were scored off the best bowler in the opposition attack.

In fact, 64 runs is the highest that Steyn has ever conceded to a batsman in a single innings, and only the third time that a batsman has taken him for more than 50. The two previous instances were in the same match - one that South Africa will want to forget forever: at the SSC in 2006, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene came together at 14 for 2 and were separated only when the scored reached 638. Over the course of their world-record partnership, both batsmen scored more than 50 runs against Steyn, but that was completely understandable, as the two batsmen each topped 280, and Steyn was forced to bowl in conditions which had little in it for the fast bowlers. That was also very early in Steyn's Test career: going into that Test, he had played only six Tests, all of them at home.

The break-up of those 72 deliveries that Pietersen played was pretty interesting too: he played 51 dots and took six singles, but made the most of the remaining 15 balls. Pietersen also became the first batsman to score ten fours off Steyn in a single innings - the previous-best was Sangakkara's nine.

The assault was reminiscent of Virender Sehwag's attack on Steyn in the Chennai Test of 2008, when Sehwag scored 319 off 304 balls. On that occasion, Steyn was taken for 46 off 48 balls, but again in subcontinent conditions, and in a high-scoring match in which both teams scored in excess of 530 in their first innings. Chris Gayle scored 49 off 36 in Port Elizabeth in 2007, but that was over two innings.

Batsmen who've scored most runs v Steyn in a Test innings
Batsman Test Runs Balls Dismissal Run rate 4/ 6s
Kevin Pietersen Headingley, 2012 64 72 0 5.33 12/ 1
Kumar Sangakkara SSC, 2006 64 83 0 4.62 9/ 0
Mahela Jayawardene SSC, 2006 51 59 0 5.18 6/ 0
Virender Sehwag Chennai, 2008 46 48 0 5.75 7/ 0
Stephen Fleming Cape Town, 2006 43 81 0 3.18 6/ 0
Azhar Ali Abu Dhabi, 2010 42 60 1 4.20 6/ 0

The table above lists the instances when Steyn was dominated by an opposition batsman, but the next is a list of batsmen who played him for long periods but struggled to get him away for runs. On the top of this table is Sachin Tendulkar, whose battle with Steyn in the Cape Town Test in 2011 was one for the ages, and one of the high points of Test cricket for the year. A pumped-up Steyn bowled several unplayable balls at high speed, but Tendulkar survived them all, with technique, grit and luck: in 83 balls from Steyn in that innings, Tendulkar scored only 23, but didn't get out to him and ultimately scored 146, almost as many as Pietersen did at Headingley. In 2009 in Durban, Alastair Cook had a long battle with Steyn, but survived. He too scored a century, a matchwinning one at that.

Just a couple of Tests before the Headingley one, two New Zealand batsmen had long tussles with Steyn in Wellington, but for them survival itself was victory. Martin Guptill battled 64 balls for 14, while in New Zealand's second innings, with the team fighting hard for a draw, Kane Williamson scored a mere 5 off 60 deliveries. It was worth the effort, for Williamson scored a century and New Zealand saved the Test.

Batsmen who've been tied down by Steyn in a Test innings
Batsman Test Runs Balls Dismissal Run rate 4s/ 6s
Sachin Tendulkar Cape Town, 2011 23 83 0 1.66 3/ 0
Alastair Cook Durban, 2009 21 78 0 1.61 3/ 0
Martin Guptill Wellington, 2012 14 64 0 1.31 2/ 0
Kane Williamson Wellington, 2012 5 60 0 0.50 0/ 0
Thilan Samaraweera Durban, 2011 10 56 0 1.07 1/ 0

So how do Steyn's worst days compare with the worst ones of the other top bowlers over the last decade? Here's a comparison with three other top bowlers, since July 2001 (that's the period for which ESPNcricinfo has complete ball-by-ball coverage). In these 11 years, Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath are the three bowlers who've taken 200-plus wickets at averages comparable to (in a couple of cases, better than) Steyn's average, so here's a look at the batsmen who did best against them in a single innings.

There were seven batsmen who scored more than 70 in a single innings against Murali, which is understandable given that he was a spinner who bowled such a huge percentage of Sri Lanka's overs, and also because their bowling attack wasn't particularly strong excluding him, which meant teams could make sizeable totals against them. Younis Khan scored 111 off him alone in his triple-hundred in the Karachi Test in Sri Lanka's ill-fated tour to Pakistan in 2009. Brian Lara's heroics in the 2001 series means he features twice - for performances in each innings of the SSC Test, in which Lara made 221 and 130, and Murali returned match figures of 3 for 231 in 73 overs. Sehwag's effort in Mumbai stands out for its scoring rate - he knocked off 83 from 77 on the way to his 293.#

The stand-out effort against Warne came from an unlikely quarter - Bangladesh's Shahriar Nafees hammered him for 67 from 56 during his 189-ball 138 in a thrilling Test in Fatullah. Pietersen features twice, for his efforts at the two Ovals, in London and Adelaide, while Mark Ramprakash is in there too for his efforts against Warne during his century at The Oval in 2001.

It's noticeable that batsmen have dominated to a much lesser degree against McGrath during the period in question. Michael Vaughan's 50 off 87 during his sumptuous knock of 177 in Adelaide is the most scored by a batsman against him in an innings. Pietersen had a small spell of dominance against him, scoring 32 off 28 in Adelaide in 2006, but no batsman was able to sustain that sort of attack against him for a longer period.

Among the more recent bowlers, England's James Anderson was at the receiving end too in the ongoing series against South Africa: he conceded 73 off 115 balls to Hashim Amla in The Oval Test, the most that any batsman has scored against him in an innings. Anil Kumble's worst during this period was when Younis scored 87 off 161 in 2005 in Bangalore, while Zaheer Khan leaked 66 off 86 to Michael Clarke in Sydney earlier this year. Makhaya Ntini, the second-highest wicket-taker in these 11 years, was hammered for 76 off 57 by Sehwag during that triple-century in Chennai in 2008.

Most runs scored by a batsman v Murali in a Test innings since Jul 2001
Batsman Test Runs Balls Dismissals Run rate 4s/ 6s
Younis Khan Karachi, 2009 111 187 0 3.56 11/ 2
Stephen Fleming PSS, 2003 95 185 0 3.08 10/ 1
Brian Lara SSC, 2001 90 135 0 4.00 10/ 1
Virender Sehwag Mumbai, 2009 83 77 1 6.46 11/ 2
Damien Martyn Kandy, 2004 75 143 1 3.14 10/ 1
Brian Lara SSC, 2001 74 105 0 4.22 10/ 0
Darren Lehmann SSC, 2004 72 105 1 4.11 8/ 2
Most runs scored by a batsman v Warne in a Test innings since Jul 2001
Batsman Test Runs Balls Dismissals Run rate 4s/ 6s
Shahriar Nafees Fatullah, 2006 67 56 0 7.17 10/ 0
Paul Collingwood Adelaide, 2006 65 104 0 3.75 6/ 0
Kevin Pietersen The Oval, 2005 62 90 0 4.13 3/ 4
Mohammad Yousuf Melbourne, 2004 59 82 1 4.31 4/ 3
Kevin Pietersen Adelaide, 2006 59 106 0 3.33 6/ 1
Mark Ramprakash The Oval, 2001 53 77 0 4.12 8/ 0
Virender Sehwag Chennai, 2004 56 60 1 5.30 7/ 0
Most runs scored by a batsman v McGrath in a Test innings since Jul 2001
Batsman Test Runs Balls Dismissal Run rate 4s/ 6s
Michael Vaughan Adelaide, 2002 50 87 0 3.44 7/ 0
Mark Butcher Headingley, 2001 46 70 0 3.94 6/ 0
Brian Lara Adelaide, 2005 44 74 1 3.56 2/ 0
Nathan Astle Perth, 2001 40 64 0 3.75 8/ 0
Nathan Astle Christchurch, 2005 40 62 1 3.87 7/ 0

And finally, here's a look at the most runs scored by a batsman against any bowler in a Test innings during the last 11 years. On top of the pile is Chris Gayle, who hammered Suraj Randiv for 143 runs from 154 balls during his triple-hundred in Galle in 2010. Randiv is the only bowler to twice concede 100 or more runs to a batsman in an innings during this period - he also gave away 105 to Tendulkar at the SSC in 2010. All seven bowlers in the table below are spinners, while six of the seven innings were in the subcontinent.

Also worthy of mention:

  • Lara scored 98 from 91 off Ray Price in Bulawayo in 2003
  • Sehwag took Saqlain Mushtaq for 91 off 80 in Multan in 2004
  • Astle blasted 90 from 60 off Matthew Hoggard in Christchurch in 2002

Most runs scored by a batsman v a bowler in a Test innings since Jul 2001
Batsman Bowler Test Runs Balls Run rate 4s/ 6s
Chris Gayle Suraj Randiv Galle, 2010 143 154 5.57 15/ 6
Brian Lara Gareth Batty Antigua, 2004 130 161 4.84 14/ 3
Mahela Jayawardene Nicky Boje SSC, 2006 125 221 3.39 15/ 0
Younis Khan Muttiah Muralitharan Karachi, 2009 111 187 3.56 11/ 2
Inzamam-ul-Haq Daniel Vettori Lahore, 2002 109 114 5.73 10/ 4
Sachin Tendulkar Suraj Randiv SSC, 2010 105 153 4.11 13/ 1
Virender Sehwag Paul Harris Chennai, 2008 100 108 5.55 13/ 1

# 06:50 GMT, Aug 10: It was earlier mentioned that Sehwag had scored a triple-century.

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

Comments