The difference between Harmison and Akram

Steve Harmison has been a potent force for England in Test cricket, but a combination of the white ball and coloured clothes makes him considerably less dangerous. The five-match ODI series against Sri Lanka was an especially unhappy time for him: he leaked very nearly a run a ball in his 50 overs - once even going for a whopping 97 in ten overs - and only managed eight wickets at an average touching 36. Not only did he offer too many hit-me deliveries, he was generally all over the place with his control: in five games he bowled 24 wides and five no-balls, that's an average of almost six extra deliveries per spell of ten overs.

The table below lists the bowlers who bowl the highest number of wides and no-balls per ten-over spell. The top 20 is dominated by Zimbabweans and Pakistanis - they make up 50% of the names. Interestingly, fifth in the list is the bowler who has taken the maximum number of wickets in ODIs - Wasim Akram never cut down on pace or swing or seam in a form of the game that essentially requires accuracy, but you can't argue with career stats which read 502 wickets in 356 matches at 23.52. And an economy rate of 3.89 shows he was pretty miserly in that department too.

The top 20 shows up a few other revealing stats too: Harmison is the only England bowler who makes the cut, while there are none at all from India and South Africa. The numbers for Darren Gough and Andrew Caddick suggest just how far off the mark Harmison is: in 5918 balls, Gough only bowled 286 wides and no-balls - that's 2.89 per ten overs - while for Caddick the corresponding number was only 2.36 (95 wides and no-balls in 2415 deliveries). And if you want to benchmark against the best, check out the numbers for Glenn McGrath and Shaun Pollock: McGrath has an average of 1.53 extra deliveries per ten-over spell, while for Pollock the corresponding number is only marginally higher at 1.63.

The list of teams conceding the highest number of wides and no-balls has the usual suspects on top: Pakistan bowl, on an average, almost 14 extra deliveries per 50 overs - that's more than two overs - while the number is pretty high for Zimbabwe and West Indies as well. The figure is lowest for New Zealand, while Bangladesh and Kenya, despite their limited bowling resources, have shown pretty good control as well.

And the list of the biggest offenders has a familiar name on the top of the list: in a match against Kenya at Nairobi in 2002, Akram bowled just seven overs but ended up sending down seven no-balls and ten wides. Kenya were bowled out for 133, of which 29 runs came in extras. As you'd expect, Pakistan's domination of this list is absolute: in fact, Mohammad Sami and Akram share six of the 13 spots, with Shabbir Ahmed and Naved-ul-Hasan thrown into the mix as well.

One look at the innings in which the highest number of wides and no-balls were conceded throws up a familiar culprit, again. There have been 21 instances of teams bowling at least 25 of them, and Pakistan figure on six occasions. Though they won three of those games, the margin of defeat in a couple of others - five runs, against India at Karachi in 2003-04, 12 runs against Sri Lanka at Dambulla in 2003 - shows just how heavily their lack of discipline cost them.