Strap in, Confectionery Stallers. Here is a Good Stat and a Bad Stat for the six teams who have been in Test action so far in November. Plus some extra Sub-Stats.
After an interesting series (for the final 10½ days out of 15, at least), England sunk to a 2-0 series defeat following a performance that was at once creditable, disappointing, promising and deeply concerning. They could, conceivably, have won the series 2-0; but deserved a 2-0 loss.
Jimmy Anderson's series economy rate of 1.87 was the lowest by a bowler who has sent down at least 100 overs in a series since Lance Klusener and Courtney Walsh went for 1.86 and 1.85 respectively in the 2001 series between South Africa and West Indies. It was also the lowest by an England player who has bowled more than 50 overs in a series since Graham Gooch dobbled them down at 1.84 per over against Pakistan in 1992; before him, you have to go back to Mike Hendrick's parsimonious probings against India in 1979, the third consecutive series in which the Derbyshire Disciplinarian conceded less than two runs an over.
The 8 for 5 collectively "amassed" by Bell, Root, Taylor, Bairstow and Patel in the second innings in Sharjah equalled the worst innings performance by England's Nos. 3 to 7, set in the first innings at the SCG in 1886-87. Then, England were skittled for 45 in little over an hour on the first day by Test debutants Turner and Ferris. Evidently, if your Nos. 3 to 7 are only going to score eight runs between them, it is preferable for them to do so on the first day of a Test than the last - England bounced back to win by 13 runs.
Since the 2013 Ashes, 17 players have played five or more Tests for England. Only three are averaging more than 31 - Root (62), Ballance (47) and Cook (46). Only one is averaging below 18 - Jimmy Anderson (10). The remaining 13 are all averaging between 18 and 31. An impressive collective display of endurance adequacy.
Pakistan superbly exploited England's various weaknesses with bat and ball in the second and third Tests. No doubt, some excellent stats emerged from their individual and team performances. However, I became distracted from those, and, to be honest, from all else, by compiling this XI.
The Pakistan Players Younger Than Misbah-ul-Haq Who Have Not Played Test Cricket Since January 2003 (That's 12 Years And ten Months Ago) (They Were Younger Than Misbah Then, And They Are Younger Than Misbah Now) XI
4. Imran Nazir Aggressive opener who hammered a century off a West Indian attack including Walsh and Ambrose. Last seen in the Test arena top-scoring against an Australian attack of McGrath, Lee, Bichel and Warne. Top scorer with 16, out of a total of 53 all out, having contributed an only-slightly-below-team-average nought to a first innings of 59 all out. But top scorer nonetheless. Last Test: October 2002.
5. Shadab Kabir Scored a glacial 33 off 151 balls at Lord's in 1996 in the first of his five Tests, an innings no one who was there will ever forget. Because to forget something, you must first notice it happening. Last Test: January 2002.
6. Mohammad Wasim Teenaged debut centurion, as was then the trend in Pakistan cricket. His promise fizzled out, as was then the trend in Pakistan cricket. Made his mark by making a record-equalling two career stumpings when not his team's designated keeper, standing in for Moin Khan. It wasn't enough to extend his career far into the new millennium. Last Test: June 2000.
7 (wk) Humayun Farhat No byes, no catches, no stumpings, in a one-Test career stretching from March 2001 to March 2001. Given that his two innings of 28 and 26 were respectively the second-highest and top scores for his team, you might think that his sole Test was not an overwhelming success for Pakistan. You would be right. They were hammered by an innings by New Zealand. First and last Test: March 2001.
8. Mohammad Hussain Rumours suggest that even Mohammad Hussain himself has forgotten that he was briefly a Test match left-arm tweaker. Last Test: October 1998.
9. Mohammad Zahid Legendarily rapid pace volcano, whose too-brief Test existence began with an 11-wicket debut evisceration of New Zealand. Supposedly faster than Shoaib. Sadly, even more injured than Shoaib as well. Last Test: January 2003.
10. Mohammad Akram Seamer with a run-up compared, perhaps flatteringly, to Michael Holding's. Career stats have never been compared, flatteringly or otherwise, to Michael Holding's. Last Test in March 2001.
11. Ata-ur-Rehman Promising paceman who debuted as a 17-year-old in England in 1992. Still a promising paceman when he departed the Test arena four years later. Last Test: 1996.
12th man Saleem Elahi One-day success, the floppiest of Test match flops. 24 innings, one half-century - no one has batted more often in the top five in Tests without raising their bat at least twice. Last Test: January 2003. Dropped to 12th man due to having played ODI cricket as recently as 2004.
The most impressive aspect of this XII is not the fact that it illustrates the extraordinary longevity of the late-blooming Misbah, nor, in a way, the flowering of young talent in Pakistani cricket in the 1990s, but the fact that it was quite difficult to narrow it down to just XII.
(Dates of birth as given on ESPNcricinfo. And therefore factually 100% unquestionable truth.)
David Warner and Joe Burns became the first opening pair in the history of the human race both to make at least 70 in both innings of a Test. (South Africa's openers scored 70-plus in all four innings in the famous/infamous timeless Test in Durban in March 1939, but they with a different opening pair in the second innings. Concerningly, less than six months later, the Second World War broke out. Warner may at times have been a provocative cricketer. Let us hope his is not quite that provocative.)
A slightly trickier proposition to find a bad baggy-green stat amidst the Kiwi wreckage. Try this - Steven Smith is now in third place on the all-time baggy-green list of Most Times Batted In The Top Six In The Second Innings Of Tests Without Scoring A Hundred. His 28 second-innings efforts in the top six have brought six half-centuries and an average of 30.6 (whereas in his 30 top-six first innings, he averages 79.2, with 11 hundreds). Only legendary early 20th-century all-rounder and captain Monty Noble (29) and 1950s opener Colin MacDonald (36) lie ahead.
It remains likely that Smith will, at some point, score a second-innings hundred, barring an unexpected onset of global Armageddon, or an even more unexpected retirement to become a llama herder in the foothills of the Andes. Failing those eventualities, Australia's new skipper requires another 22 hundredless second innings to displace another Smith - England's Robin - at the top of the global list.
New Zealand's bowlers conceded 4.71 runs per over in Brisbane, their most expensive Test ever.
All is going to plan for McCullum's men. They took 8 for 812 between them. In the truncated pre-Test warm-up, they took 1 for 499, so at least things are moving in the right direction - their collective average has dropped by 79%. If it continues to descend at the same rate in the next two Tests, they will average a fraction over 20 per wicket at the WACA, and bowl Australia out for under 50 in both innings in Adelaide.
Another good stat
Furthermore, the last time New Zealand were thrashed by a team that declared twice in the match before losing its fifth wicket - in Abu Dhabi a year ago, when Pakistan made 566 for 3 and 175 for 2 - the Kiwis bounced back to draw the second Test, then win the third to tie the series 1-1. (These two matches were the seventh and eighth instances of a team declaring twice with four or fewer wickets down.)
THEY MIGHT HAVE BEEN ABSOLUTELY HORSED IN BRISBANE, BUT I'M GOING TO KEEP FINDNING THE NUMERICAL POSITIVES FOR MY KIWI FRIENDS: This was also the fourth successive away Test in which New Zealand have planked an opposing seamer for more than 100 in an innings at a rate of at least five runs per over - Broad was pummeled in Leeds (5 for 109 in 17.1), Stokes at Lord's (0 for 105 in 21 in the first innings), and Mohammad Talha in Sharjah last year (0 for 136 in 22). They had inflicted such pain on an opposing bowler on his home (or adopted-home) turf only twice previously.
ONE MORE, THEN I'M DONE: Kane Williamson became the 18th No. 3 to score a century and a half-century (or two hundreds) in a Test match defeat, and the first New Zealander. The list of Visiting Batsmen To Score A Century and (At Least) A Half-Century In A Test Defeat In Australia In The Past 40 Years makes impressive reading. Before Williamson, the players to do so were Virat Kohli, Kumar Sangakkara, Jacques Kallis, Sachin Tendulkar, Saeed Anwar, Desmond Haynes, David Gower and Mohinder Amarnath.
South Africa's spinners took 15 wickets in the Mohali Test, the most taken by a Protean Tweak Squad since the MCG Test of 1952-53, when the great offspinner Hugh Tayfield, the indisputable Elvis Presley of miserly offspin, took 13 wickets, and the legspinner Percy Mansell three. It was the best performance by any spin attack against India since Swann and Panesar took 19 wickets in Mumbai three years ago.
It was also only the third time that South African spinners have taken ten in a match since February 1957, when Tayfield took 9 for 113 (to add to four first-innings wickets) to bowl England out for 214 and win the Johannesburg Test by 17 runs. England subsiding to spin to lose a match from a winning position is evidently not an exclusively 21st-century problem - they had been 147 for 2 chasing 232 to take a 3-0 lead in the series. Tayfield span them out again in the final Test (6 for 78 in a total of 130 all out), and the series was drawn. Will the psychological damage ever heal?
South Africa lost their second wicket with the score at 9 in both innings; the 18 runs scrumped by their top two partnerships represented their worst performance since the Old Trafford Test of 1929, when England had them 7 for 2 and 3 for 2 en route to an innings clobbering.
Bouncing happily opposite New Zealand on the other end of the Starting-The-Innings-Well-Or-Badly-With-The-Ball seesaw, India have developed a useful habit of scuttling their opponents' top order. Prior to having South Africa 9 for 2 twice in Mohali, in their August series in Sri Lanka, they took Sri Lanka's second wicket at 15 and 1 in the first Test, and 11 and 2 in the third Test. Only once previously had their opponents failed to score at least 25 in their four first and second wicket partnerships in a Test (Bangladesh, 5 for 2 and 10 for 2 in Dhaka in 2007).
See South Africa Good Stat, above. Also: eight different Indians were out for 3 or less at least once in the match (including Dhawan, who made the second ever pair by an Indian opener in a home Test (after Farokh Engineer against West Indies in Mumbai, in January 1975) (before going on to never play Test cricket again). This was the first time eight different Indian have been out for 3 or less in a Test since November 1983. It was only the fourth time a team has won a Test despite having eight or more different batsmen get out for under 4 in one or both innings (England beat South Africa, The Oval 1955; and Australia beat England at Old Trafford 1902 and Lord's in 1888, when nine of their team were out for 3 or less).
Here endeth the stats.
Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on BBC Radio 4, and a writer