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Numbers Game

Cook's phenomenal numbers in Asia

England's captain finished with a 50-plus average for the fifth time in eight series in Asia, and proved yet again he is among the best in these conditions

S Rajesh
S Rajesh
06-Nov-2015
The sweep was a productive shot for Alastair Cook, Pakistan v England, 1st Test, Abu Dhabi, 4th day, October 16, 2015

In Asia, Alastair Cook averages 60.86, with eight hundreds in 21 Tests; outside Asia he averages 44.54, with 20 hundreds in 101 Tests  •  Getty Images

In the end, the series scoreline was an unflattering 2-0 against England, and while the performances of the spinners and several of their batsmen was disappointing, there were other aspects that were right out of the top drawer: James Anderson and Stuart Broad were outstanding, while their captain led from the front almost every time he walked out to bat. Alastair Cook started the series with a double-century, then passed 50 once in each of the other two Tests, and also had a 49. In all, he faced 950 deliveries in the series - 25% of the total balls faced by all England batsmen - and underlined yet again why he is one of the best overseas Test batsmen to have ever played in Asia.
Cook's numbers in Asia are phenomenal: in eight series there, he has averaged more than 50 five times, and over 60 four times. His aggregate of 2252 is the highest in Asia, almost 200 runs better than the next best, and he isn't done yet. Batting in Asia requires a monumental amount of patience and temperament - apart from fine technique against spin - and Cook has shown those qualities in ample measure, becoming the first non-Asian batsman to face 5000-plus deliveries in the continent. In this series alone he played 950, which is the third-highest for an England batsman in a series of three or fewer Tests in Asia (among series where balls-faced data is available). In the 2012-13 four-Test series in India, he faced 1285 balls, scoring 562 runs in eight innings.
In 21 Tests in Asia, Cook's average is 60.86, which is among the best for non-Asian batsmen who have scored 1000-plus runs in the continent. His average outside Asia is 44.54 in 101 Tests, which is similar to his home average of 43.51 in 68 matches, but in Asia he has taken his batting to another level, and he has done it consistently, series after series.
Alastair Cook, in Asia and outside Asia
Region Tests Runs Average 100s
 In Asia  21  2252  60.86  8
 Outside Asia  101  7528  44.54  20
Most Test runs for non-Asian batsmen in Asia
Player Mat Inns Runs Average 100s
 Alastair Cook  21  41  2252  60.86  8
 Jacques Kallis  25  44  2058  55.62  8
 Ricky Ponting  28  48  1889  41.97  5
 Shivnarine Chanderpaul  27  47  1850  48.68  4
 Allan Border  22  39  1799  54.51  6
 Graeme Smith  21  35  1728  49.37  4
 Hashim Amla  20  33  1710  61.07  7
 Mathew Hayden  19  35  1663  50.39  4
 Clive Lloyd  20  31  1629  62.65  4
 Andy Flower  21  38  1614  53.80  5
In 41 innings in Asia, Cook has eight hundreds, including one double and three other scores of more than 170. His rate of a century every 5.13 innings is fifth among all batsmen who have scored five or more hundreds in Asia; among non-Asians, only Hashim Amla, with seven hundreds in 32 innings (excluding the first innings of the Mohali Test) has a better conversion rate. Cook's century rate in Asia is even better than those of Kumar Sangakkara and Sachin Tendulkar, which indicates how comfortably he has handled these conditions.
Least inngs per 100 in Asia (Min 5 Test hundreds)
Player Inns Average 100s Inngs per 100
 Cheteshwar Pujara  24  76.57  6  4.00
 Vijay Hazare  20  69.56  5  4.00
 Hashim Amla  32  60.75  7  4.57
 Younis Khan  129  57.92  26  4.96
 Alastair Cook  41  60.86  8  5.13
 Brian Lara  26  58.84  5  5.20
 Mohammad Yousuf  87  58.12  16  5.44
 Mohammad Azharuddin  87  52.97  16  5.44
 Kumar Sangakkara  165  61.54  30  5.50
 Jacques Kallis  44  55.62  8  5.50
One of the most impressive aspects of Cook's batting in Asia is the manner in which he handled the spinners. While many other non-Asian batsmen tend to go hard at the ball and commit to the front foot, Cook has tackled the spinners with soft hands and played the ball late, a technique which has allowed him to cope with the vagaries of turn and bounce more successfully than most other batsmen. Among the 26 non-Asian batsmen who have faced at least 1000 deliveries in Tests against spinners in Asia since 2002, only two - Stephen Fleming and Amla - have faced more deliveries per dismissal than Cook. Cook's average is 151.5, which means he faced 25.1 overs per dismissal against a spinner; Fleming faces 30.3 overs, and Amla 28.3.
In terms of averages against spin too, only three - Fleming, Amla and Ricky Ponting - have done better than Cook. (These are stats since January 2002, so they exclude Ponting's horror series in India in 2001.)
Balls per dismissal v spin - overseas batsmen in Asia (Min 1000 balls since Jan 2002)
Batsman Ave Balls/ dis
 Stephen Fleming  88.66  183.00
 Hashim Amla  70.80  170.87
 Alastair Cook  67.71  151.52
 Ricky Ponting  72.09  135.18
 Jacques Kallis  59.10  123.47
 Shivnarine Chanderpaul  56.00  118.26
The table below shows Cook's Test stats in Asia against spinners who have bowled at least 100 balls to him, plus Yasir Shah. Yasir didn't play in the first Test of this series, when Cook got his double-century, but returned for the next two Tests and dismissed Cook three times in four innings. The only other bowler who dismissed him in the series was Shoaib Malik. Zulfiqar Babar bowled 290 deliveries at him without any success.
Saeed Ajmal has had some success against him in the past, as has Mohammad Hafeez (2 for 29 in 93 balls), but Cook has won his battles against some of the top spinners - he averages 55 against R Ashwin, 117 against Harbhajan, and 43 against Rangana Herath, while Muttiah Muralitharan and Anil Kumble haven't dismissed him once in 380 balls.
Cook v spinners in Tests in Asia
Bowler Runs Balls Dismissals Average
 R Ashwin  221  510  4  55.25
 Yasir Shah  48  98  3  16.00
 Shoaib Malik  70  176  2  35.00
 Saeed Ajmal  55  175  2  27.50
 Pragyan Ojha  147  317  1  147.00
 Harbhajan Singh  117  291  1  117.00
 Rangana Herath  43  119  1  43.00
 Abdur Razzak  73  114  1  73.00
 Zulfiqar Babar  132  290  0  -
 Muttiah Muralitharan  88  240  0  -
 Anil Kumble  51  140  0  -
Along with Amla and AB de Villiers, Cook is clearly one of the best overseas batsmen to have ever played in Asia. All three have remarkably similar numbers in the continent: barely a run separates their averages, while Amla's century rate is marginally better than Cook's. Cook did all he could, and yet couldn't prevent a series defeat in the UAE; it's now up to Amla and de Villiers - with ample support from the rest of their team-mates - to ensure that South Africa leave India with a better series result.
Cook v Amla v de Villiers in Tests in Asia
Player Tests Runs Average 100s
 Alastair Cook  21  2252  60.86  8
 Hashim Amla  19  1701  60.75  7
 AB de Villiers  17  1488  59.52  3

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