Lara, Sehwag, Kallis, Ponting, Shoaib, McGrath, Murali ... come Wednesday, and the cream of world talent will descend upon the Telstra Dome in Melbourne for the three-match one-day series. Cricinfo sizes up the stats of the heavyweights, and looks at some interesting individual match-ups.



Shahid Afridi: a pain for the Australians, with bat and with ball © Getty Images

With 2313 one-day caps, 48,945 runs and 1856 wickets among them, the Rest of the World squad clearly comes out on top, on the experience count, against the Australians, for whom the corresponding numbers are 1226, 26,506, and 705. More worryingly for Ricky Ponting and his team, the world's best outdo the Australians in head-to-head stats, and by some distance as well. The tables below examine the records of batsmen and bowlers versus the players they'll be up against over the next five days (all numbers since September 2001), and the numbers offer a telling story.

The batsmen
Batting is clearly Australia's stronger suit, but even here Ponting and his mates are outdone by Jacques Kallis and co. As the table here indicates, Rest of the World have three players in their squad who average 50 or more against McGrath, Lee, Bracken, Symonds, Watson and Clarke, the bowlers who will constitute the Australian attack in the series. Kallis and Kumar Sangakkara have outstanding averages and strikes rates against these bowlers, while Shahid Afridi hasn't done badly either. The one batsman whose numbers are far below his career stats is Virender Sehwag - three of his four dismissals came in the 12 balls he faced from Nathan Bracken when the Australians came to India in 2003-04.

World XI batsmen v current Aus bowlers*
Batsman Runs/ Balls/ Dismissals Average Strike rate
Jacques Kallis 126/ 155/ 2 63.00 81.29
Kumar Sangakkara 153/ 184/ 3 51.00 83.15
Rahul Dravid 151/ 209/ 3 50.33 71.90
Kevin Pietersen 103/ 138/ 3 34.33 74.64
Shahid Afridi 127/ 78/ 4 31.75 162.82
Brian Lara 115/ 158/ 4 28.75 72.78
Chris Gayle 170/ 230/ 6 28.33 73.91
Andrew Flintoff 109/ 122/ 4 27.25 89.34
Virender Sehwag 46/ 77/ 4 11.50 59.74
* Includes McGrath, Lee, Bracken, Watson, Symonds and Clarke

Mike Hussey leads the way for Australia against the bowlers who will make up the World XI attack, and while he was extremely impressive in England, he will need to maintain that consistency over a significant period of time. Ponting himself has fine stats against these bowlers, but two other big names - Damien Martyn and Adam Gilchrist - have plenty to prove. Andrew Symonds is the surprise packet, with a superb average and strike rate.

Aus batsmen v World XI bowlers*
Batsman Runs/ Balls/ Dismissals Average Strike rate
Mike Hussey 62/ 78/ 1 62.00 79.49
Simon Katich 45/ 69/ 1 45.00 65.22
Ricky Ponting 620/ 871/ 14 44.28 71.18
Andrew Symonds 395/ 455/ 9 43.89 86.81
Michael Clarke 262/ 310/ 7 37.43 84.52
Damien Martyn 475/ 694/ 15 31.67 68.44
Adam Gilchrist 286/ 379/ 11 26.00 75.46
Shane Watson 76/ 124/ 7 10.86 61.29
*Includes Shoaib, Pollock, Ntini, Flintoff, Muralitharan, Vettori, Afridi, Kallis, Sehwag, and Gayle

The bowlers
While Rest of the World might edge it with the bat, they are clearly dominant with the ball. Four of their bowlers have an economy rate of less than 70 against Australia's top-order batsmen, while Flintoff's is marginally over 70. And if anyone questioned Daniel Vettori's inclusion in the squad, the stats below should emphatically answer those doubts - Vettori's economy rate of 66 runs per 100 balls is better than Muttiah Muralitharan's and Shaun Pollock's against the Australians. These numbers are obviously coloured by the fact that all the above-mentioned names are the leading bowlers in their sides, and the batsmen have the luxury of playing them off and attacking the weaker bowlers. With all of them bowling for the same team, the Australians will have no such luxury.

The surprise packet here is Shahid Afridi, who goes at only 4.1 runs per over. Shoaib Akhtar is, as you'd expect, more expensive, but he makes up with his wicket-taking ability, as is indicated by an average of 27 and a wicket every 33 balls. If John Wright and the rest of think-tank go by these stats, then Makhaya Ntini is the bowler who'll most likely be left out of the side.

World XI bowlers v Aus batsmen*
Bowler Runs/ Balls/ Wickets Average Economy rate
Daniel Vettori 294/ 446/ 9 32.67 65.92
Muttiah Muralitharan 243/ 359/ 8 30.38 67.69
Shaun Pollock 182/ 264/ 6 30.33 68.94
Shahid Afridi 300/ 434/ 10 30.00 69.12
Andrew Flintoff 270/ 385/ 7 38.57 70.13
Shoaib Akhtar 165/ 201/ 6 27.50 82.09
Makhaya Ntini 203/ 227/ 7 29.00 89.43
* Includes Gilchrist, Katich, Ponting, Martyn, Clarke, Symonds, Watson, Hussey

It's difficult to look beyond Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath as wicket-taking options for Australia. Even McGrath's numbers aren't so impressive against the Rest of the World's specialist batsmen. Shane Watson is a certainty in the line-up, but his batting and bowling stats suggest that the opposition batsmen and bowlers will be queuing up to have a go at him. With the bat, he averages 10; with the ball, he is the only one whose average and economy rate are both more than 100.

Aus bowlers v World XI batsmen*
Bowler Runs/ Balls/ Wickets Average Economy rate
Brett Lee 375/ 526/ 15 25.00 71.29
Glenn McGrath 243/ 328/ 6 40.50 74.09
Andrew Symonds 264/ 279/ 5 52.80 94.62
Michael Clarke 112/ 118/ 3 37.33 94.92
Shane Watson 116/ 104/ 1 116.00 111.54
* Includes Sehwag, Gayle, Afridi, Lara, Dravid, Kallis, Pietersen, Flintoff, Sangakkara,

The battles within the war
Afridi against just any bowler is likely to be a thrill-a-minute occasion, and he'll fancy his chances against this Australian attack, who he picks off at the rate of 163 runs per 100 balls. And for a batsman who takes so many chances, an average touching 32 is perfectly acceptable too.

Afridi v Aus bowlers
Bowler Runs/ Balls/ Wickets Average Strike rate
Brett Lee 41/ 29/ 1 41.00 141.38
Glenn McGrath 37/ 24/ 2 18.50 154.17
Andrew Symonds 29/ 12/ 1 29.00 241.67
Shane Watson 20/ 13/ 0 - 153.85

Here are a few other interesting spots: the most effective spin option against Ponting and Martyn isn't Muralitharan, or Vettori - it's Afridi, who has nailed both these batsmen four times, and very cheaply too. Compelling stats that suggest Afridi should be a shoo-in for all three games.

Afridi versus ...
Batsman Runs/ Balls/ Wickets Average Economy rate
Ricky Ponting 36/ 75/ 4 9.00 48.00
Damien Martyn 64/ 101/ 4 16.00 63.37

If Afridi has Ponting's number, then Clarke, it seems, knows exactly how to get Dravid's wicket: in 41 balls, Dravid has fallen to him three times. Which is still a lot better, though, than the show Sehwag has put forward against Bracken. And of course, there's that Ashes rivalry waiting to resume - Flintoff had Gilchrist's number right through the summer. Can Gilchrist reverse that stranglehold on home soil?

More head-to-heads
Batsman Bowler Runs/ Balls/ Wickets Average Scoring rate
Rahul Dravid Michael Clarke 41/ 41/ 3 13.67 100.00
Virender Sehwag Nathan Bracken 4/ 12/ 3 1.33 33.33
Adam Gilchrist Andrew Flintoff 29/ 63/ 3 9.67 46.03
Ricky Ponting Muttiah Muralitharan 87/ 111/ 1 87.00 78.38
Adam Gilchrist Shaun Pollock 81/ 122/ 4 20.25 66.39

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo. For the data, he was helped by Arun Gopalakrishnan in Cricinfo's Chennai office.