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Will Chris Woakes beat Jimmy Anderson to become UK prime minister?

Imran Khan might be the gold standard, but he has two England challengers coming up the ranks

Andy Zaltzman
Andy Zaltzman
Chris Woakes celebrates reaching his hundred, England v India, 2nd Test, Lord's, 3rd day, August 11, 2018

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The Art of Test Batsmanship Against the Swinging Ball - Special 2010s Edition is one of the shortest books in the many-shelved library of cricket. It is two pages long, the first of which contains only a large red question mark, and the second a cartoon of a puppy trying to catch a butterfly in its mouth, while barking "Play Your Natural Game".
England's Auckland masterpiece in March, when they heroically threatened the seemingly unthreatenable lowest Test score in history, has been joined on the accompanying instructional DVD by India's performance at Lord's, a pallid disintegration against high-quality, relentless swervery. Virat Kohli, and the England fielders' slippery fingers, papered over some cavernous cracks in the riveting first Test. At Lord's, England's bowling rapidly stripped that paper away, to find India's batsmen chiselling away vigorously to help those cracks become chasms.
I followed the first two matches of the series on holiday in Spain, where I was nearly hit by the ball that KL Rahul managed to drag back onto his stumps in the first innings at Edgbaston, but was otherwise largely divorced from visible cricket. The first Test was one of those rare matches that was soul-clenchingly gripping, even if you were following it via the medium of sneaky quarter-hourly peeks at the latest score on a mobile phone while pretending to be unbreakably focused on spending quality time with your family.
The second, following the pattern of the 2013 Ashes, when England won a knife-edge first Test before helping their opponents disintegrate haplessly at Lord's, was one of the more disappointing Tests of recent years in terms of its Anticipated-Competitiveness-of-a-Series to One-Sidedness-of-Actual Cricket ratio.
Having seen admittedly little of the action, I present Five Incontrovertible Statistical Facts That Have Emerged From The First Two Tests.
1. India have become considerably less good at not being bowled out very, very quickly in Tests in England.
India have been dismissed in under 55 overs 14 times in their 59 Tests in England. Six of those 14 failures have been in their last four Tests here (both innings in the fourth Test in 2014 and at Lord's this year, and their second innings at the Oval four years ago and Edgbaston this time).
They have been out for under 200 in eight of their last nine innings in England (since the second innings in Southampton in 2014), having been dismissed for less than that score only three times in their previous 29 Tests in this country, dating back to 1979 (and not once in five series from 1986 to 2007, inclusive).
2. Facing James Anderson in England has become one of the toughest challenges in the history of Test cricket.
This summer and the two past have brought Anderson a total of 91 wickets in 17 Tests, at an average of 14.4. From 2001 to 2015, no bowler averaged under 16 in an English Test summer (minimum 12 wickets) - Anderson is on course to do so for the third successive year.
Statistically, Anderson's current run of home form is among the best that Test cricket has seen, roughly on a par with Muttiah Muralitharan's best periods in Sri Lanka, and better (in terms of average) than, for example, Freddie Trueman's peak years in England.
Imran Khan, from 1982 to 1986, took 102 wickets in 16 home Tests for Pakistan, at an average of 12.89, so Anderson still has some catching up to do if he wants eventually to become prime minister.
3. Lord's did nothing to rectify England's ongoing lack of second-innings centuries.
Winning by an innings was the last thing England wanted in the context of their attempts to improve one of the more curious statistical glitches of their play in the Trevor Bayliss era. Since the Lord's Test against New Zealand in 2015, when Alastair Cook and Ben Stokes made contrasting, superb second-innings centuries against New Zealand to set up a dramatic fifth-day victory, England have made only one century in 39 second innings - Alastair Cook in Rajkot, in November 2016.
This is despite their batsmen reaching the half-century mark 60 times in those second innings. In fact, in the last three years the only Test team with fewer second-innings hundreds than England is Afghanistan, who have the not unreasonable mitigation of only having played one Test match. Collectively, the other Test nations have posted 54 second-innings hundreds (out of 264 scores of 50-plus), at a rate of one century per 4.1 team innings.
By comparison, from 2002 up to and including that New Zealand Test in 2015, England made 67 centuries in 137 team second innings (including eight in 13 Tests in 2013 alone), with a conversion rate of 32.8%, compared to the 1.7% since.
I followed the first two matches of the series on holiday in Spain, where I was nearly hit by the ball that KL Rahul managed to drag back onto his stumps in the first innings at Edgbaston
4. Having your lynchpin No. 3 batsman being repeatedly run out for not very many runs is a bad tactic.
Cheteshwar Pujara has now been run out seven times, accounting for 7.6% of his 92 dismissals (compared to 2.3% of dismissals for all other top-six batsmen this decade). It is not only the frequency of his run-outs that is costing India but also the timing of them - he has made only 99 runs in those seven innings, averaging 14.1 when he has been run out, compared to 52.3 in all his other innings combined (including not outs).
The average score of all other top-six batsmen this decade in innings in which they have been run out is 38.5, only a little under their average in all other innings (38.3), and above the average score of innings ended by the other forms of dismissal (33.6).
Of the 69 batsmen in Test history who have been run out five or more times when batting in the top six, Pujara's batting average when run out is the fourth-lowest, behind Alistair Campbell (9.6), Marvan Atapattu and Bevan Congdon (both 12.0), and the difference between his run-out average and his overall average is the greatest.
Having travelled a little in India in recent years, I am of the firm belief that no Indian Test batsman should ever be run out. Anyone who has managed to negotiate crossing roads in Indian cities and survived to adulthood without suffering a career-ending injury ought to be able to judge when a single can be safely taken on the cricket field. Perhaps this is the view of someone cosseted by the relatively mayhem-free roads of Britain, but the fact is that Pujara's run-outs have proved more than averagely costly to his team, heightened by the fact that the Indian batting line-up is currently displaying the resilient immovability of a meringue in an illegal cage fight against a sweet-toothed wildebeest.
5. If Chris Woakes could become as effective in the rest of the cricketing universe as he is in England, he would make Garfield Sobers look like Ronnie Irani.
We live in an age of exaggeration, so please blame the above claim on the times we live in, rather than on this writer. Nevertheless, it is not as completely untrue as it might seem. In the last 55 English summers, from 1964 to 2018, 50 England bowlers have bowled 300 or more overs. Woakes, with 50 wickets at 22.7, has the best average of any of them, ahead of Ken Higgs (52 at 23.3), Bob Willis (176 at 23.5) and Anderson (357 at 23.6).
By considerable contrast, in the last 55 English winters, in away Tests, 51 England bowlers have bowled at least 300 overs. Woakes, with 18 wickets at 61.7, has the worst average, some distance behind Moeen Ali (51 at 52.2). In the whole of England's Test history, the only specialist bowlers to have played six or more away Tests and recorded a worse average are Gareth Batty (14 wickets at 62.1) and Ian Salisbury (11 at 63.5).
With the bat, Woakes is now averaging 54 at home, and 20 away. Of the 111 players with at least 400 runs and 40 wickets in home Tests, no one else has averaged both over 46 with the bat and under 28 with the ball. Imran Khan's figures are 45.2 and 19.2 (in 38 home Tests), suggesting that Woakes, if he can maintain his performance in home conditions for another few seasons, will one day oust Jimmy Anderson from No. 10 Downing Street and become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (at the very least).

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on BBC Radio 4, and a writer