Bangladesh in Sri Lanka / Stats Analysis

Offspinner joins 700-club

Murali powers past yet another milestone

Muttiah Muralitharan's 12-wicket haul at Kandy has powered him into the 700-wicket club in Tests, with Shane Warne being the only other member

S Rajesh

July 14, 2007

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Happy times for Sri Lanka as Muralitharan strikes yet again©AFP

The ball was tossed up, Syed Rasel carved out a typical tailender's slog to mid-off, and Muttiah Muralitharan became only the second bowler - after Shane Warne - to enter the extremely exclusive 700-wickets club in Test cricket. Before the Kandy Test, he needed 12 wickets, and there were doubts as to whether he could get them all in one game, but knowing Murali's sense of timing - he was playing on home turf - it was hardly surprisingly that he raised his game for the occasion.

Over a career spanning 15 years, Murali has come a long way from the bowler who needed 27 Tests to get to his first 100 wickets. The table below traces his progress in 100-wicket intervals, and what's striking is the improvement in average and strike-rate every time, which suggests he is still growing in stature as a bowler. His average has come down from 31.49 after 27 matches to 21.33 after 113, while the strike-rate has reduced by 18 deliveries per wicket.

His last 195 scalps, especially, have come a mindboggling rate: after 87 Tests, his tally stood at 505. In 26 matches since then he has nabbed 18 five-wicket hauls and seven ten-fors, averaging 17.27 runs and 38.7 balls per dismissal. (Click here for the entire list of Murali's 700 victims.)

Murali's journey to 700 wickets
Wicket no. Tests Average Strike rate 5WI/ 10WM
100 27 31.49 71.47 6/ 0
200 42 26.90 64.25 16/ 2
300 58 25.17 61.66 24/ 5
400 72 23.53 59.79 33/ 10
500 87 22.89 59.06 42/ 13
600 101 22.35 56.25 50/ 14
700 113 21.33 53.41 60/ 20

In a side which has usually lacked bowling depth, Murali has been their one consistent matchwinner. Just how much the team depends on him is obvious from the numbers below: in the matches that he has played, Murali's taken 41% of the total wickets nailed by all bowlers, while his average is far superior to what the others have managed. The fact that he has taken 72% of all five-fors (60 out of 83), and 91% of the ten-fors (20 out of 22) tells the story of just how indispensable he has been to the Sri Lankan attack.

Murali versus the rest of the SL attack (in Tests involving Murali)
Wickets Average Strike rate 5WI/ 10WM
Muralitharan 695 21.25 53.3 60/ 20
Other SL bowlers 994 35.35 74.48 23/ 2*
(Excludes the Super Test, where Murali played for the ICC World XI)
* Both the ten-fors were taken by Chaminda Vaas

As a matchwinner, Murali ranks right on top, with his 373 wickets costing him just 15 apiece. In fact, only Shane Warne, with 510, and Glenn McGrath (414) have taken more wickets in wins.

Best matchwinners in Tests (at least 200 wickets in wins)
Bowler Tests Wickets Average Strike rate 5WI/ 10WM
Muttiah Muralitharan 45 373 15.19 41.4 36/ 16
Malcolm Marshall 43 254 16.78 38.1 17/ 4
Curtly Ambrose 44 229 16.86 44.4 13/ 3
Waqar Younis 39 222 18.20 35.0 14/ 4
Dennis Lillee 31 203 18.27 39.0 17/ 6
Shaun Pollock 48 218 18.33 47.8 9/ 1
Anil Kumble 39 266 18.40 44.3 20/ 5
Wasim Akram 41 211 18.48 42.3 13/ 2
Glenn McGrath 84 414 19.19 47.7 18/ 3
Courtney Walsh 52 239 19.72 46.2 10/ 2
Shane Warne 92 510 22.47 51.2 27/ 7

With his stock delivery being the one that turns into the right-hander, you'd expect them to handle him better, but Murali averages an incredible 14.34 against them. The lefties have done much better against him, managing an average of more than 26. (Click here for last Friday's Numbers Game, which looked at, among other things, batsmen who have done well, and badly, against him.)

Murali versus right and left-handers since May 2001
Murali against ... Wickets Average Strike rate
Right-handers 281 14.34 38.23
Left-handers 102 26.77 62.75

The one blemish in a near-impeccable record is his stats in Australia, where he averages 63 runs per wicket. To be fair to him though, he played two of his three Tests there in 1995-96, well before he became the terror he is now; Sri Lanka's tour to that country later this year will give him the opportunity to set that record straight, and also to get past Warne's record of 708 wickets.

Though he is 35, Murali has lost none of the zip or zest for the game. At the rate at which he is going, he could well make it past 850 or even 900 wickets. If you're an opposition batsman, that isn't very good news at all.

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo

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S Rajesh Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.
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