Australian challenge for spinners
The Carlton Mid One-Day Tri-Series is only three matches old, but certain trends have already emerged. A prominent one has been the dominance of fast bowlers in the games so far: Mitchell Starc has ten wickets in two games - with a six-wicket haul and a four-for - Steven Finn took five against India, while James Anderson and Chris Woakes both have a four-for each. In contrast, no spinner has taken more than one wicket in a match so far. The total number of wickets taken by spinners so far is as many as Starc took in a single game, against India. Spinners have averaged 54.50 runs for each of their six wickets, while fast bowlers have taken 35 wickets at 27.57; spinners have taken a wicket every 65 deliveries, while fast bowlers have struck every 32 balls.
These numbers could change as the tournament goes along, and perhaps spinners will pick up more wickets in conditions that aren't as seamer-friendly as the Gabba was when England played India, but these early numbers only continue what has been a trend in ODIs in Australia. In the last six years (since 2009), spinners haven't done so badly in Australia in terms of economy rates - they've conceded 4.86 runs per over, compared to 5.21 by the fast bowlers there - but in terms of wicket-taking ability, they've struggled, conceding almost 45 runs per wicket compared to 30 by the fast bowlers. They've taken a wicket every 55 balls, compared with 35 by the faster men. The average is the poorest among all the countries which have hosted at least 50 matches during this period.
Going into the World Cup, this could be a key factor which teams will need to consider. The 2011 tournament was played mainly in India, where fast bowlers have performed the poorest among all countries since 2009 - both in terms of average and economy rate. From there, the tournament moves to countries where spin is unlikely to be a wicket-taking option - in New Zealand too, they average more than 42 runs per wicket.
Teams from the subcontinent have often based their bowling strategy around spinners doing the bulk of the work in the middle overs. In the subcontinent, spinners tend to take a fair number of wickets in the middle overs, in the process stifling the runs and also ensuring that batting teams have fewer wickets in hand during the slog overs to take full advantage.
However, in Australia and New Zealand, spinners have especially struggled to take wickets in the middle overs: those are the only two countries where spinners average more than 50 runs per wicket (South Africa comes very close too), and also the only countries where spinners average less than one wicket per innings in the middle overs of ODIs. In India, spinners average around 1.75 wickets per innings in the middle overs. Given these numbers, teams will need to rethink their bowling strategies in the middle overs, with more emphasis on pace through most of the innings.
The 2011 World Cup was different from the others before it in terms of the number of overs spinners bowled with the new ball. In the first 15, almost 28% of the overs were bowled by spinners - 402.2, out of 1445.1. In the three previous World Cups, it had never exceeded 7%. Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and India used this strategy much more than any other team: Zimbabwe bowled 60 overs of spin in the first 15, Bangladesh 56.2, and India 52. With two new balls in use this time, and conditions likely to help pace and seam, the percentage of early overs bowled by spin will also surely drop significantly this time.
|Year||Overs||Wickets||Average||Econ rate||Tot overs||Percent|
Over the last three World Cups, spinners have done pretty well, averaging less than 33 in each edition, and conceding less than 4.80 runs per over. In fact, spinners have been fairly economical in all World Cups - also partly because they tend to bowl during the easier overs in an innings - but in 2011 they also took more wickets than ever before, finishing with a tally of 290; the previous record for spin in a tournament had been 201, in the 2007 edition in the West Indies. The last time Australia-New Zealand hosted the tournament - in 1992 - spinners took 94 wickets at 35.29 and an economy rate of 4.16, compared to the fast bowlers' tally of 344 wickets at 31.58, and an economy rate of 4.23.
|Year||Matches||Wickets||Average||Econ rate||Str. rate|
And finally, a look at some of the spinners in Australia and New Zealand over the last six years. Most of the top ones have struggled for wickets, though they've been pretty good at keeping the runs in check. Spinners of the caliber of Daniel Vettori, Rangana Herath and Sunil Narine have averaged more than 36 runs per wicket, while R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Nathan McCullum have averaged more than 60.
Most of the bowlers listed below are a part of their team's plans for the 2015 World Cup. If the pitches are drier - as they might be towards the end of the season - these bowlers might end up with better returns than the stats below suggest. Otherwise, their main role will be to hold an end up and ensure that they don't leak too many runs.
|Bowler||Matches||Wickets||Average||Econ rate||Str. rate|
S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter