February 8, 2013

Match-winner Steyn, and winless Windies

Dale Steyn's stats in Test wins are second to none; for West Indies, wins in Australia have completely dried up since 2000

In the Johannesburg Test against Pakistan, Dale Steyn bagged the most inexpensive ten-for ever by a South African bowler in Tests: he gave away only 60 for his 11 wickets, which, in terms of runs conceded, was 31% lower than the next best, Peter Pollock's 10 for 87 against England in 1965. The win was the 33rd in Steyn's Test career, which is exactly as many as Allan Donald achieved in his career, but Steyn has 38 more wickets from those matches. That match-winning act was also a quick reminder that, after a slightly below-par 2012 - he took 39 wickets in ten Tests at 29.71 - he is back at his best in 2013.

South Africa's bowling attack has several go-to options, especially since the meteoric rise of Vernon Philander over the last year, but Steyn still remains the main act. When he bowls well and is among the wickets, the match result is seldom anything other than a South African win. Steyn's bowling average in the 33 Test wins that he has been a part of is a stunning 15.79; in the 30 Tests that South Africa have either drawn or lost, Steyn has only managed 98 wickets at 38.48.

As a match-winner, Steyn is quickly climbing the rungs among the best there have ever been. Only eight bowlers have taken more wickets in Test wins, but among those with 150 wickets in wins, just two have a better average, while none have a strike rate as good as Steyn's 29.9 balls per wicket. Among South Africans, only Makhaya Ntini has taken more Test wickets in wins, but his tally of 233 is one that Steyn can overtake if he has another Test like the one at the Wanderers. As it stands, Ntini has featured in 17 more wins than Steyn, but he has only eight more wickets.

Despite being a part of a side that has had other top-class bowlers, Steyn has still taken a high percentage of wickets in wins. His tally of 225 in 33 wins means he averages 6.82 wickets per Test, which is next only to Muttiah Muralitharan (8.11 wickets per Test in wins) and Richard Hadlee (7.86). Murali took a whopping 438 wickets in 54 Test victories at 16.18, and while 21 of those wins were against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, even excluding those games, he finished with 269 wickets from 33, at an average of 17.89 runs per wicket, and 8.15 wickets per Test. Hadlee had the best average and the second-best wickets-per-Test ratio among the bowlers who took 150 wickets in wins, but even he once went wicketless in victory: against England at Headingley in 1983, he bowled 47 overs without striking once, even as Lance Cairns, Ewen Chatfield and Jeremy Coney shared the spoils in a five-wicket win. Steyn's poorest match haul in a win is one wicket, against Bangladesh in Centurion in 2008 - the only batsman he dismissed was the No. 10, Shahadat Hossain.

Best averages in Test wins for bowlers (Qual: 150 wickets)
Bowler Tests Wickets Average Strike rate 5WI/ 10WM Wkts per Test
Richard Hadlee 22 173 13.06 33.5 17/ 8 7.86
Imran Khan 26 155 14.50 38.3 11/ 6 5.96
Dale Steyn 33 225 15.79 29.9 17/ 5 6.82
Muttiah Muralitharan 54 438 16.18 42.7 41/ 18 8.11
Malcolm Marshall 43 254 16.78 38.1 17/ 4 5.91
Allan Donald 33 187 16.79 35.5 14/ 3 5.67
Curtly Ambrose 44 229 16.86 44.4 13/ 3 5.20
Fred Trueman 34 177 17.30 40.8 11/ 2 5.21
Waqar Younis 39 222 18.20 35.0 14/ 4 5.69
Dennis Lillee 31 203 18.27 39.0 17/ 6 6.55
Shaun Pollock 49 223 18.30 47.5 9/ 1 4.55
Michael Holding 31 152 18.36 40.1 6/ 1 4.90
Wasim Akram 41 211 18.48 42.3 13/ 2 5.15
Anil Kumble 43 288 18.75 44.4 20/ 5 6.70
Lance Gibbs 30 154 19.16 60.4 14/ 2 5.13
Glenn McGrath 84 414 19.19 47.7 18/ 3 4.93
Courtney Walsh 52 239 19.72 46.2 10/ 2 4.60

A big improvement in Steyn's stats over the last three years has been his distribution of wickets, more specifically his results against left-hand batsmen. Till around 2009, he clearly preferred bowling to right-handers: his average against them was almost twice as good as his average against left-hand batsmen.

While there isn't a huge improvement in his overall average since 2010 (21.20 compared to 23.97 till 2009), the stats against left-handers have improved significantly, from 35.98 to 23.14. Among the left-handers he has had success against recently are Narsingh Deonarine (four dismissals conceding 20 runs), Michael Hussey (three dismissals for 44), Alastair Cook (three for 94) and Chris Gayle (two dismissals for 50). Steyn's improved stats against left-handers have made him a more well-rounded bowler, and a bigger threat for opposition batsmen. That can only be good news for South African fans.

Steyn v right- and left-hand batsmen before 2010
Batsman type Wickets Average Strike rate Econ rate
Right-hand batsmen 119 18.62 32.07 3.48
Left-hand batsmen 53 35.98 57.81 3.73
Total 172 23.97 40.0 3.59
Steyn v right- and left-hand batsmen since Jan 2010
Batsman type Wickets Average Strike rate Econ rate
Right-hand batsmen 109 20.45 40.51 3.02
Left-hand batsmen 42 23.14 45.21 3.07
Total 151 21.20 41.8 3.04

Winless in Australia
On November 23, 2000, West Indies were thumped by an innings and 126 runs at the Gabba in the first Test of the five-Test series in Australia. They lost all the Tests in that series, and the six ODIs that followed, and since then it has been one long losing spree for them in Australia. Since the beginning of 2000, and against all opposition excluding Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, West Indies have a 1-29 win-loss record in all international matches in Australia, their solitary victory coming against Pakistan in a VB Series match in 2005. Against Australia, West Indies have been winless in 30 international matches, losing 27, with one draw and two no-results.

West Indies' win-loss ratio of 0.03 in international matches in Australia is the poorest by a team in a particular country (excluding all matches involving Bangladesh and Zimbabwe). As the table below shows, not only do West Indies have the worst win-loss ratio in a country, they also have the second- and third-worst, in New Zealand and South Africa. That's a pretty telling comment on how badly West Indies have fallen away, especially when playing away from home.

Poorest win-loss ratios for a team in a country in all international matches* since 2000
Team Host Matches Win-loss Ratio
West Indies Australia 33 1-29 0.03
West Indies New Zealand 23 2-14 0.14
West Indies South Africa 26 4-20 0.20
New Zealand India 25 4-16 0.25
South Africa Sri Lanka 23 5-16 0.31
West Indies Sri Lanka 25 5-15 0.33
Sri Lanka India 30 7-19 0.36
Sri Lanka South Africa 36 9-25 0.36
Pakistan Australia 33 9-24 0.37
New Zealand South Africa 47 12-31 0.38
* Excludes matches involving Bangladesh and Zimbabwe

The table below shows the decline - first gradual, then steep - in West Indies' results in Australia, over five 33-match periods. In the period between 1980 and 1984, they won more than three times as many matches as they lost; between 1985 and 1988, they won twice as many as they lost. Those were the days when West Indies were clearly the dominant side in world cricket. Then followed a period of parity in the 1990s, when West Indies won about as many matches as they lost. Since 2000, though, the results have turned downright embarrassing.

West Indies in Australia, over five 33-match periods*
Period Matches Win-loss Ratio
Jan 2000 onwards 33 1-29 0.03
15 Dec 1992 - 31 Dec 1999 33 17-15 1.13
18 Nov 1988 - 14 Dec 1992 33 16-13 1.23
9 Nov 1984 - 17 Nov 1988 33 21-10 2.10
20 Jan 1980 - 8 Nov 1984 33 24-7 3.42
* Excludes matches involving Bangladesh and Zimbabwe

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

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