The Ashes 2013-14 January 7, 2014

Finest Ashes pace numbers since 1890

Australia's fast bowlers averaged 18.35 runs per wicket, which is the best by either team in an Ashes series since 1890. Read on for more stats highlights

At tea on the opening day of the Gabba Test, Australia, after choosing to bat, had been reduced to 153 for 6. For all those who had witnessed Australia's top-order struggles in England only a few months earlier, this seemed to be a familiar story repeating itself all over again. Then, Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson, quite fittingly, put together Australia's first significant statement of the series, adding 114 for the seventh wicket, before Johnson started working over England's batsmen. Over the next six weeks, the pair scripted many more game-changing performances that so thoroughly demoralised England that it seems scarcely believable that the visitors would've envisaged being 1-0 up from their tea-time position on that opening day in Brisbane.

The difference between the two Ashes contests held over the last six months is stark. England won 3-0 at home, but the Australians were at pains to explain that the difference between the two teams wasn't as much as that. The series stats suggest as much as well: England averaged only about three runs more per wicket than Australia, and scored one more century. With the ball, they took four more wickets than Australia's bowlers. The brand of cricket they played was attritional; it had served them well over the last few years, and it worked here too: they scored their runs much slower than Australia, but they batted longer, gave their bowlers longer periods of rest, and won all the key moments. It didn't feel like 3-0, but it was.

In Australia, it felt like 5-0, and it was 5-0. The stats reveal the gulf between the two sides. Australia scored ten centuries, which equals their record for an Ashes campaign, while England had one, their lowest in an Ashes series in the last 40 years. England averaged 21.58 runs per wicket with the bat, their lowest Ashes average since 1950-51, while Australia's average was a healthy 41.41.

The Australian batting wasn't always top-class, but the bowling was terrifying - they took 100 wickets for the first time in a five-Test Ashes series, and the strike rate was their best in an Ashes series since 1896. The bowlers took 99 wickets (one was a run-out) at the rate of one every 45.2 balls (while the overall strike rate for the team was 44.8 balls per wicket); the last time they bettered that was in 1896. Australia's run rate of 3.75 illustrates the aggressive brand of cricket they played, compared to England's run rate of 2.99 when they won at home last year.

Ashes 2013-14 series stats
Team Runs scored Wkts lost Average 100s/ 50s Run rate Bowl SR
Australia 3189 77 41.41 10/ 15 3.75 44.8
England 2158 100 21.58 1/ 10 2.89 66.3
Ashes 2013 series stats
Team Runs scored Wkts lost Average 100s/ 50s Run rate Bowl SR
Australia 2735 89 30.73 4/ 13 3.37 67.4
England 2856 85 33.60 5/ 13 2.99 54.7

Aussie domination
In this series, the ratio of batting averages of the two teams was 1.92: Australia's average of 41.41 runs per wicket was 1.92 times England's average of 21.58. In the entire history of Ashes contests (excluding one-off Tests), this is the fourth-largest ratio between the averages of the winning and losing teams. The highest was in 1886, when England won a three-Test series 3-0; they averaged 31.02 with the bat and 13.20 with the ball. Australia take up the next four positions in the table below, with all those wins happening in the last 25 years. In 1989, when they won 4-0 in England, they averaged 57.86 with the bat and 27.71 with the ball; in the 2006-07 clean sweep, they averaged 52.77 with the bat and 26.35 with the ball, a ratio of 2.00. When England won 3-1 in Australia on their last tour, their batting average was 1.75 times the bowling average.

In their only other 5-0 Ashes triumph, in 1920-21, Australia's ratio was 1.63 (batting average 46.13, bowling average 28.35).

Highest ratio of averages in an Ashes series*
Series Win team Bat ave Los team Bat ave Ratio Series margin
1886, in England England 31.02 Australia 13.20 2.35 3-0
1989, in England Australia 57.86 England 27.71 2.09 4-0
2006-07, in Australia Australia 52.77 England 26.35 2.00 5-0
2013-14, in Australia Australia 41.41 England 21.58 1.92 5-0
2001, in England Australia 49.11 England 26.44 1.86 4-1
1888, in England England 15.10 Australia 8.45 1.79 2-1
2010-11, in Australia England 51.14 Australia 29.23 1.75 3-1
1946-47, in Australia Australia 52.71 England 30.81 1.71 3-0

The Haddin factor
Australia were by far the superior team, but one aspect of their game that wasn't convincing was their top-order batting. Repeatedly they were five down for not too many, and needed Brad Haddin and the lower order to bail them out. Australia's scores at five down in their first innings in the five Tests were as follows: 100, 257, 143, 112 and 97; except in Adelaide, their top order struggled every time. Yet, England failed to drive home the advantage, as Haddin found at least one batting partner each time to rescue the team.

The table below lists the averages of Australia's batsmen overall in the series, and in the first innings. The table shows Haddin's contributions in even better light, as 407 of his 493 runs came in the first innings, when England were still competitive in the match. Haddin scored at least a half-century each time he batted in the first innings: his scores were 94, 118, 55, 65, and 75 - 407 runs at 81.40. Steven Smith was the other batsman whose first-innings contributions stood out: he scored two centuries in the series, and both were in the first innings. His failures were in the second innings when Australia were generally under less pressure.

However, most of the other Australian batsmen struggled in the first innings. Five of them averaged less than 40, including Michael Clarke, whose 148 in Adelaide was his only meaningful first-innings contribution. David Warner, Chris Rogers and Shane Watson all averaged less than 35, while George Bailey had a shocker, aggregating 64 in five innings.

Of the ten centuries Australia scored, six were in the second innings, including two each by Warner and Rogers, and one by Watson. Given that Australia had a first-innings lead of 130-plus in four of the five Tests, the one instance where second-innings runs were scored under pressure was in Melbourne, when Australia chased a target of 231 and won comfortably, with Rogers getting 116 and Watson getting 83.

England's batsmen were poor throughout, but Michael Carberry did much better than the rest in the first innings, scoring 181 runs at 36.20; in the second innings, he scored only 100 in five tries. Kevin Pietersen managed only 115 in the first innings, while Ian Bell scored 121 - though he was unbeaten once, in Adelaide.

Australia's batsmen in the series
  1st innings Both innings
Batsman Runs Average 100s/ 50s Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Brad Haddin 407 81.40 1/ 4 493 61.62 1/ 5
Steven Smith 282 56.40 2/ 0 327 40.87 2/ 0
Michael Clarke 193 38.60 1/ 0 363 40.33 2/ 0
David Warner 163 32.60 0/ 1 523 58.11 2/ 2
Chris Rogers 156 31.20 0/ 2 463 46.30 2/ 3
Shane Watson 144 28.80 0/ 1 345 38.33 1/ 2
George Bailey 64 12.80 0/ 1 183 26.14 0/ 1
England's batsmen in the series
  1st innings Both innings
Batsman Runs Average 100s/ 50s Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Michael Carberry 181 36.20 0/ 1 281 28.10 0/ 1
Alastair Cook 122 24.40 0/ 1 246 24.60 0/ 3
Ian Bell 121 30.25 0/ 1 235 26.11 0/ 2
Kevin Pietersen 115 23.00 0/ 1 294 29.40 0/ 2
Ben Stokes 80 20.00 0/ 0 279 34.87 1/ 0
Joe Root 45 11.25 0/ 0 192 27.42 0/ 1

Australia's lower-order rescue acts
The partnership stat further illustrates how even things were between the two teams through the first half of their first innings. It also shows clearly the areas Australia will need to address before what's likely to be a tough tour to South Africa. In their first innings, their average stand for the first wicket was 20, for the third 21.80, for the fourth 23.20 and for the fifth 23.80; among the top five wickets partnerships in the first innings, only the second one made substantial runs. The opening stands in the first innings were 12, 34, 13, 19 and 22, numbers that don't inspire confidence when the next challenge will be against Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel.

England's opening partnerships in the first innings were actually more substantial than Australia's: in Perth, Cook and Carberry added 85, before the rest of the batting crumbled. Add up the average stands for the first five wickets in the first innings, and Australia's score is 142 for 5; England's 124 for 5. Not a whole lot to choose between the teams there.

Look down the second half of the partnership tables, though, and huge differences emerge. Australia's average stand for the sixth wicket in their first innings was 98.80; the sum of the average stands for the last five wickets for England was 70. Australia's last five, on average, added 220. That 150-run difference completely altered the balance of the game.

Australia's sixth-wicket stands in the first innings were 32, 200, 124, 10 and 128, with Haddin being a common factor in all those stands. Out of nine century stands for Australia in the series, Haddin was involved in four. Out of the 1780 runs that Australia scored in their first innings over the entire series, 811 runs - or 45.56% - were scored when Haddin was at the crease. That's a whopping percentage of runs for a No. 7 batsman to be involved in, and it made all the difference between things being even after the first innings, and Australia getting a huge advantage at the halfway mark.

England, on the other hand, were hurt badly by the lack of significant contributions down the order. Also, the top order got starts, but failed to push on towards substantial scores: there were only two 50-plus stands in the first innings, but seven partnerships between 44 and 49. In the second innings, England had one century stand - their only one of the entire series - and six half-century partnerships, but it was still too little too late.

One century stand is also England's poorest effort in an Ashes campaign since 1950-51. In the 2013 series in England, both teams had six century stands.

Average partnerships for Australia
  1st innings Both innings
Wkt Average 100/ 50 stands Average 100/ 50 stands
1st 20.00 0/ 0 41.90 1/ 2
2nd 53.00 1/ 1 45.50 2/ 1
3rd 21.80 0/ 1 47.11 1/ 2
4th 23.20 0/ 0 36.12 0/ 2
5th 23.80 0/ 1 38.75 1/ 2
6th 98.80 3/ 0 69.12 3/ 0
7th 52.60 1/ 1 55.28 1/ 2
8th 21.40 0/ 1 20.66 0/ 1
9th 16.20 0/ 0 15.33 0/ 0
10th 31.50 0/ 0 27.20 0/ 0
Average partnerships for England
  1st innings Both innings
Wkt Average 100/ 50 stands Average 100/ 50 stands
1st 35.20 0/ 1 25.00 0/ 2
2nd 26.00 0/ 0 27.10 0/ 1
3rd 19.60 0/ 0 30.50 1/ 1
4th 26.00 0/ 1 27.60 0/ 2
5th 17.00 0/ 0 27.10 0/ 1
6th 12.20 0/ 0 22.30 0/ 1
7th 14.80 0/ 0 16.90 0/ 0
8th 8.80 0/ 0 13.70 0/ 0
9th 9.40 0/ 0 11.00 0/ 0
10th 24.80 0/ 0 14.60 0/ 0

Pace like fire
In the 2013 series in England, there had been little to choose between the pace attacks of England and Australia. Australia's fast bowlers took more wickets - 69 to 58 - but the averages were almost the same - 30.04 for Australia, 30.89 for England.

In the return series, led by a rampaging Mitchell Johnson, Australia's pace attack was all over England's batsmen. Of the 99 wickets taken by Australia's bowlers, 79 went to their fast bowlers, at an average of 18.35 runs, and a strike rate of 42.4 balls per wicket. England's fast bowlers didn't do too badly, averaging a respectable 34.86, but their batting was so poor that they didn't stand a chance. The average of 18.35 is the best by an Australian pace attack in an Ashes series since 1890, when they averaged 18.28 and took 14 wickets in two Tests. In fact, it's the best by the pace attack of either team in an Ashes series since 1890.

In the first innings, especially, Australia's quick men were unstoppable. Johnson took 21 wickets at 12.33, Ryan Harris 11 at 17.27, and Peter Siddle nine at 18.55. England didn't do too badly in the first innings either: Stuart Broad's 17 wickets cost 22.88 each, Anderson's 10 came at 34.60 and Ben Stokes took 10 at 27.80, but then Australia's first-innings bowling was so strong, and England's batting so feeble, that by the time the second innings came along, Australia already had such a big lead and England's bowlers had had so little time to put their feet up, that the second innings was a no-contest.

In the second innings, Anderson took just four wickets and each of them cost him 67.25 runs, while Broad's four wickets cost him 47.25 each. Johnson, meanwhile, took 16 second-wickets at 16.12.

England's spin department did them no favours either. That was a battle they had won convincingly in the home series, but in Australia, Nathan Lyon completely outbowled England's spinners: Australia's spin accounted for 20 wickets at 30.80, while England's took 14 at 72.42. In the second innings, when the pitches started helping spinners more, Lyon proved quite a handful, but England's spinners were completely ineffective, and the match situations and lack of pressure on the Australian batsmen didn't help either.

How the bowling attacks compared
  1st innings 2nd innings
  Wickets Average Strike rate Wickets Average Strike rate
Aus - pace 44 15.45 38.9 35 22.00 46.9
Eng - pace 41 29.34 54.7 19 46.78 67.7
Aus - spin 6 40.67 82.3 14 26.57 45.0
Eng - spin 6 89.16 143.0 8 59.87 89.1

The head-to-head battles

Johnson dominated almost all the England batsmen right through the series, but the one batsman who withstood his onslaught and didn't get out to him even once was Ian Bell: in 98 balls Bell scored 48 runs without being out. However, the Australian attack worked as a pack, and if Johnson didn't have Bell's number, then Harris and Siddle did: both dismissed Bell three times each, and gave very little away.

Siddle took the least wickets among Australia's three fast bowlers, but did wonderfully against England's two main middle-order batsmen, Bell and Pietersen. Both scored at less than two runs per over against him, which kept up the pressure on England's batsmen and ensured that there were no easy runs on offer at any stage of the innings. Shane Watson took only four wickets in the series, but three of those were of Carberry's, who averaged five against him. There was thus at least one Australian bowler who had the wood on each of England's top-order batsmen.

England batsmen v Australian bowlers
Batsman Bowler Runs Balls Dismissals Average
Ian Bell Mitchell Johnson 48 98 0 -
Alastair Cook Mitchell Johnson 73 128 4 18.25
Stuart Broad Mitchell Johnson 25 56 4 6.25
Ian Bell Peter Siddle 31 102 3 10.33
Ian Bell Ryan Harris 64 132 3 21.33
Michael Carberry Shane Watson 15 41 3 5.00
Michael Carberry Mitchell Johnson 66 146 3 22.00
Kevin Pietersen Peter Siddle 72 218 3 24.00
Kevin Pietersen Ryan Harris 52 114 3 17.33

England's bowlers had a few head-to-head battles to cherish - like Broad's domination of George Bailey and Anderson's successes against Watson - but they weren't nearly enough in a five-match series.

Rogers scored only 27 runs from 107 balls off Graeme Swann, but handled the pace of Stokes and Anderson far more comfortably. Haddin won most of his battles against England's bowlers, averaging 108 against Anderson, 76 against Broad, and not falling once to Swann or Panesar.

Australian batsmen v England bowlers
Batsman Bowler Runs Balls Dismissals Average
George Bailey Stuart Broad 36 73 4 9.00
Shane Watson James Anderson 71 130 4 17.75
David Warner Stuart Broad 136 153 4 34.00
Michael Clarke Ben Stokes 46 98 3 15.33
Brad Haddin James Anderson 108 126 1 108.00
Brad Haddin Stuart Broad 76 126 1 76.00
Chris Rogers James Anderson 98 262 1 98.00
Chris Rogers Ben Stokes 124 169 1 124.00
Brad Haddin Swann+Panesar 118 175 0 -

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