July 12, 2013

The leader of the pack

Peter Siddle has taken over as Australia's premier fast bowler in the last 20 months, taking plenty of wickets and often dismissing the key opposition batsmen

The last couple of years has been a period of considerable flux for the Australian team: senior players have retired, the replacements haven't always been good enough, and there've been several off-field issues for the management to contend with. The batting has largely been in a shambles, but amid all the confusion, one fast bowler has risen above the ranks and taken over the mantle of leadership of Australia's bowling attack in the last 20 months.

Once seen as one of several promising fast bowlers in the land, Peter Siddle is now the top man in the Australian attack, and Michael Clarke's go-to bowler when things get rough. That was most recently in evidence in England's first innings at Trent Bridge, when Siddle, after an ineffective first spell, rocked England's middle order, as they slid from a comfortable 78 for 1 to 180 for 6 - and eventually to 215 all out. Siddle finished with 5 for 50, and each of his victims was an accomplished batsman - Joe Root, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell and Matt Prior were his five victims.

Having spent almost five years in the Australian Test side, it appears Siddle has understood the demands of the five-day game. He doesn't move the ball around as prodigiously as some of the other fast bowlers around, but his consistency and relentless intensity are qualities which have served him and Australia well.

In the first three years of his Test career, Siddle had a mixed record, with some top-notch performances interspersed with some ordinary ones. Among his good moments were the home and away Test series against South Africa in 2008-09, when he took 25 wickets in six Tests, and the 2009 Ashes, when he took 20 wickets at 30.80. However, there were also the less spectacular moments, like the tour to South Africa in 2011, when he took only four wickets in two Tests at 51.25 in a low-scoring series. Then there was also the home Ashes series in 2010-11, when he took 6 for 54 in the first innings at the Gabba, and then managed only eight more wickets in the next four Tests. (Click here for his series-wise stats.)

Since the home season of 2011-12, though, Siddle has been far more consistent. Most of his best displays have still come in home conditions, but he took a five-for in Mohali, on the tour to India earlier this year. Overall, in the last 20 months he has taken 73 wickets from 17 Tests at an average of 23.34, which is much more impressive than the stats in his first 25 Tests: 82 wickets at 32.58.

Peter Siddle's Test career
Period Wickets Average Strike rate Econ rate 5WI/ 10WM
First 25 Tests 82 32.58 63.4 3.07 4/ 0
Last 17 Tests 73 23.34 48.3 2.89 4/ 0
Career 155 28.23 56.3 3.00 8/ 0

In this 20-month period, Siddle's average and strike rate are among the best. Only Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn have better averages and strike rates, while Sri Lanka's Rangana Herath has a slightly better average as well. Siddle has an outstanding strike rate during this period, but unlike most of the bowlers on the list below, he doesn't have a ten-wicket haul in Tests: his best remains 9 for 104 against Sri Lanka in Hobart in December last year. In most other aspects, though, he is up there with the best.

Best averages for bowlers in Tests since Dec 2011 (Qual: 50 wickets)
Bowler Tests Wickets Average Strike rate 5WI/ 10WM
Vernon Philander 14 75 17.73 38.6 7/ 2
Dale Steyn 17 83 21.16 45.2 5/ 1
Rangana Herath 15 90 22.90 52.6 10/ 3
Peter Siddle 17 73 23.34 48.3 4/ 0
Saeed Ajmal 11 59 23.72 53.1 3/ 2
Graeme Swann 17 69 27.95 59.6 4/ 2
James Anderson 20 69 28.15 65.0 2/ 0
Stuart Broad 17 63 28.69 55.4 4/ 1

The table below shows Siddle clearly prefers bowling to right-handers: he averages 27.36 against them, and about seven runs more against left-handers. However, in the last 20 months he has improved his stats against them too, averaging 26.70 versus the left-handers (and 22.37 against right-handers).

Siddle v right- and left-handers in Tests
  Wickets Average Econ rate
Right-hand batsmen 120 27.36 2.89
Left-hand batsmen 35 34.37 2.87

Not surprisingly, the batsmen that Siddle's had the most success against are mostly right-handers. AB de Villiers and Prior have been dismissed by him six times, with Prior having a particularly poor average. Pietersen has struggled against him too, falling five times at an average of 17.60. Those are numbers that both Pietersen and Prior will try to redress over the next couple of months. Three of India's top-order batsmen have fallen to him four times, with Virat Kohli and Virender Sehwag averaging in the 20s.

The only left-hander in the list below is Cook, who has fallen four times to Siddle at an average of 35.75. Siddle's also maintained good economy rates against most of these batsmen, which shows he has bowled economically and sustained the pressure: Amla, Kohli and Cook have all scored at less than 2.5 an over against him. Prior and Sehwag have scored more quickly, but haven't succeeded at doing it for long periods.

Siddle also has superb stats against Kumar Sangakkara (three wickets for 27 runs in 86 balls) and Gautam Gambhir (three wickets for 71 in 120), but a couple of others have haven't had so many problems against him: Graeme Smith and Andrew Strauss have fallen to him twice, but have scored 152 and 158 runs off him.

The batsmen Siddle's dismissed most often in Tests
Batsman Runs Balls Dismissals Average Runs per over
AB de Villiers 194 434 6 32.33 2.68
Matt Prior 109 150 6 18.16 4.36
Kevin Pietersen 88 171 5 17.60 3.08
Hashim Amla 173 465 4 43.25 2.23
Alastair Cook 143 345 4 35.75 2.48
Virat Kohli 98 249 4 24.50 2.36
Virender Sehwag 104 132 4 26.00 4.72
Sachin Tendulkar 141 216 4 35.25 3.91

So far, after 42 Tests, Siddle's numbers stack up reasonably well with other Australian leading fast bowlers in the last 40 years. His average and strike rate are almost identical with those of Craig McDermott, who finished with 291 wickets from 71 Tests, and finished with an average of 28.63, which was about the same as his average after 42. Given that Siddle's on the way up in his Test career, he'll want his career average to look better than it is now when he finally finishes with Test cricket.

Australia's leading wicket-takers (fast bowlers) after 42 Tests
Bowler Wickets Average Strike rate 5WI/ 10WM
Glenn McGrath 188 23.63 53.8 11/ 0
Dennis Lillee 214 24.15 52.5 15/ 5
Jason Gillespie 162 24.98 51.6 7/ 0
Craig McDermott 178 28.37 55.1 9/ 2
Brett Lee 159 32.85 53.6 4/ 0

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • CapitalMarkets on July 17, 2013, 12:16 GMT

    @jackthelad is sadly mistaken in describing the 6th highest rated bowler in the world as a "run-of-the-mill medium pace ... workhorse". With all due respect, there not a single bowler in the top 30 who can be so uncharitably described. It's obvious that he is not the most naturally gifted individual in the top 30 bowlers but you have to admire the man's aggression, commitment, work-rate, persistence and shere ability to fulfil his potential. Hissing Sid brings an intensity and piquancy to the contest as well as a wholeheartedness, a good engine and no small measure of control. He's not a medium pacer and he palpably lifts what is often a losing team these days. He's the third name, after Clarke and Watson, on the Aussie teamsheet. Who is England's equivalent in terms of success, snarl, menace and intensity? Broad on one of his very good days, but not often enough. When will England notice that playing 6-1-4 means that they can try two inexperienced batsmen at test level but no bowlers?

  • nthuq on July 15, 2013, 10:48 GMT

    What's telling for me is his low number of five-fors. It's telling of his sheer consistency.

  • jackthelad on July 12, 2013, 18:54 GMT

    Sorry, Siddle is a run-of-the-mill medium pace bowler who is good enough to take wickets on his day, particularly if batsmen try to get after him, but is basically a work-horse. Perhaps its a sign of the times that occasional runs of wicket-taking can be interpreted as genius.

  • HenryPorter on July 12, 2013, 8:29 GMT

    Don't get me wrong, I love this kind of analysis. But it underlines so many of the other stats, relevant to modern-day cricket, that we don't get to see. In tests, we rightly celebrate the 5/innings threshold but hardly ever see a wickets/inning stat. The most-dismissed-bat stat is telling, what about a maidens-per-bat stat? We celebrate batting partnerships but bowling partnerships are rarely highlighted (e.g. in this case, how about Lillee-Thomson vs Siddle-Johnson vs Steyn-Morkel vs Anderson-Broad?). Siddle and others have some important impacts that are not captured here.

  • Petesta on July 12, 2013, 8:24 GMT

    Oh wow... James "the best bowler" Anderson is only 7th... and this is supposed to be his purple patch.

  • tjsimonsen on July 12, 2013, 6:39 GMT

    @DrArun Pras: Actually no. If you cut out his first three matches which were played in November 2011 (the cut-off date is December 2011), his average jumps to 30.3.

  • on July 12, 2013, 4:50 GMT

    Where's R Aswin in that list of bowler's since 2011...? he's better avg than broad anyway and more wickets of course

  • CapitalMarkets on July 17, 2013, 12:16 GMT

    @jackthelad is sadly mistaken in describing the 6th highest rated bowler in the world as a "run-of-the-mill medium pace ... workhorse". With all due respect, there not a single bowler in the top 30 who can be so uncharitably described. It's obvious that he is not the most naturally gifted individual in the top 30 bowlers but you have to admire the man's aggression, commitment, work-rate, persistence and shere ability to fulfil his potential. Hissing Sid brings an intensity and piquancy to the contest as well as a wholeheartedness, a good engine and no small measure of control. He's not a medium pacer and he palpably lifts what is often a losing team these days. He's the third name, after Clarke and Watson, on the Aussie teamsheet. Who is England's equivalent in terms of success, snarl, menace and intensity? Broad on one of his very good days, but not often enough. When will England notice that playing 6-1-4 means that they can try two inexperienced batsmen at test level but no bowlers?

  • nthuq on July 15, 2013, 10:48 GMT

    What's telling for me is his low number of five-fors. It's telling of his sheer consistency.

  • jackthelad on July 12, 2013, 18:54 GMT

    Sorry, Siddle is a run-of-the-mill medium pace bowler who is good enough to take wickets on his day, particularly if batsmen try to get after him, but is basically a work-horse. Perhaps its a sign of the times that occasional runs of wicket-taking can be interpreted as genius.

  • HenryPorter on July 12, 2013, 8:29 GMT

    Don't get me wrong, I love this kind of analysis. But it underlines so many of the other stats, relevant to modern-day cricket, that we don't get to see. In tests, we rightly celebrate the 5/innings threshold but hardly ever see a wickets/inning stat. The most-dismissed-bat stat is telling, what about a maidens-per-bat stat? We celebrate batting partnerships but bowling partnerships are rarely highlighted (e.g. in this case, how about Lillee-Thomson vs Siddle-Johnson vs Steyn-Morkel vs Anderson-Broad?). Siddle and others have some important impacts that are not captured here.

  • Petesta on July 12, 2013, 8:24 GMT

    Oh wow... James "the best bowler" Anderson is only 7th... and this is supposed to be his purple patch.

  • tjsimonsen on July 12, 2013, 6:39 GMT

    @DrArun Pras: Actually no. If you cut out his first three matches which were played in November 2011 (the cut-off date is December 2011), his average jumps to 30.3.

  • on July 12, 2013, 4:50 GMT

    Where's R Aswin in that list of bowler's since 2011...? he's better avg than broad anyway and more wickets of course

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • on July 12, 2013, 4:50 GMT

    Where's R Aswin in that list of bowler's since 2011...? he's better avg than broad anyway and more wickets of course

  • tjsimonsen on July 12, 2013, 6:39 GMT

    @DrArun Pras: Actually no. If you cut out his first three matches which were played in November 2011 (the cut-off date is December 2011), his average jumps to 30.3.

  • Petesta on July 12, 2013, 8:24 GMT

    Oh wow... James "the best bowler" Anderson is only 7th... and this is supposed to be his purple patch.

  • HenryPorter on July 12, 2013, 8:29 GMT

    Don't get me wrong, I love this kind of analysis. But it underlines so many of the other stats, relevant to modern-day cricket, that we don't get to see. In tests, we rightly celebrate the 5/innings threshold but hardly ever see a wickets/inning stat. The most-dismissed-bat stat is telling, what about a maidens-per-bat stat? We celebrate batting partnerships but bowling partnerships are rarely highlighted (e.g. in this case, how about Lillee-Thomson vs Siddle-Johnson vs Steyn-Morkel vs Anderson-Broad?). Siddle and others have some important impacts that are not captured here.

  • jackthelad on July 12, 2013, 18:54 GMT

    Sorry, Siddle is a run-of-the-mill medium pace bowler who is good enough to take wickets on his day, particularly if batsmen try to get after him, but is basically a work-horse. Perhaps its a sign of the times that occasional runs of wicket-taking can be interpreted as genius.

  • nthuq on July 15, 2013, 10:48 GMT

    What's telling for me is his low number of five-fors. It's telling of his sheer consistency.

  • CapitalMarkets on July 17, 2013, 12:16 GMT

    @jackthelad is sadly mistaken in describing the 6th highest rated bowler in the world as a "run-of-the-mill medium pace ... workhorse". With all due respect, there not a single bowler in the top 30 who can be so uncharitably described. It's obvious that he is not the most naturally gifted individual in the top 30 bowlers but you have to admire the man's aggression, commitment, work-rate, persistence and shere ability to fulfil his potential. Hissing Sid brings an intensity and piquancy to the contest as well as a wholeheartedness, a good engine and no small measure of control. He's not a medium pacer and he palpably lifts what is often a losing team these days. He's the third name, after Clarke and Watson, on the Aussie teamsheet. Who is England's equivalent in terms of success, snarl, menace and intensity? Broad on one of his very good days, but not often enough. When will England notice that playing 6-1-4 means that they can try two inexperienced batsmen at test level but no bowlers?