Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Toiling away

Soulberry asked for the best fast bowlers on flat pitches since 1970. Defining a flat pitch is not easy, so I've taken a short-cut to make my life easier. I've just totted up the averages for bowlers in innings where the opposition scores at least 450. It's a bit artificial, but it should do.

Here we go. This is actually all Test bowlers, qualification 15 wickets in these high-scoring innings. They're ranked by the weighted averages, where wickets are weighted by the average of the batsmen dismissed. This is particularly useful in this exercise, as we're not interested in who picks up cheap tail-end wickets. I've bolded the bowlers who satisfy Soulberry's criteria.

name runs wkts wtd wkts avg wtd avg
Mushtaq Mohammad 629 21 21,2 29,95 29,61
WJ O'Reilly 932 24 29,6 38,83 31,53
MW Tate 1124 30 34,2 37,47 32,83
C White 792 17 23,6 46,59 33,63
SM Pollock 1376 40 40,2 34,40 34,20
NJN Hawke 629 18 18,3 34,94 34,32
MHN Walker 552 15 15,3 36,80 36,01
RGD Willis 1386 33 38,4 42,00 36,09
BA Reid 867 24 23,9 36,13 36,31
JN Gillespie 871 17 22,9 51,24 38,07
M Dillon 1413 28 37,0 50,46 38,21
DK Lillee 956 26 24,8 36,77 38,52
B Lee 1191 27 30,4 44,11 39,23
JC Laker 846 20 21,5 42,30 39,29
CEL Ambrose 667 16 16,9 41,69 39,40
CE Cuffy 571 15 14,5 38,07 39,49
DA Allen 966 20 24,4 48,30 39,66
AJ Bell 503 15 12,5 33,53 40,21
DR Hadlee 890 19 22,1 46,84 40,25
FS Trueman 644 15 16,0 42,93 40,38

I'm not sure how much I'd want to read into these numbers, since the wicket tallies are generally quite low. But Shaun Pollock looks like he deserves to be near the top.

And now the bottom end:

EAS Prasanna 1573 21 21,8 74,90 72,02
GS Sobers 1520 21 20,9 72,38 72,73
Mohammad Sami 1507 17 20,6 88,65 73,26
SJ Harmison 1825 24 24,9 76,04 73,32
SP Gupte 1120 18 15,1 62,22 74,17
DL Underwood 1593 18 21,2 88,50 75,11
FH Edwards 1136 15 15,1 75,73 75,38
PCR Tufnell 1339 15 16,3 89,27 82,35
Mushtaq Ahmed 1266 15 15,1 84,40 83,62
RJ Shastri 1719 17 19,4 101,12 88,52

First of all, thank you Barry.

You have given us something to work with...sketched out the concept on the board for us.

I'm not surprised with some names and yet I am surprised. Most of the pacemen do not surprise me...Craig White could be an artifact for those must be his purple patch...but no McGrath and Walsh! Or Akram, Waqar!

Stats can sometimes smite you so!

The bottom end suggests that the selection criteria are fairly representative.

And what about Sir Richard Hadlee? Khan? Kapil? Wow! This is a new look indeed!

Do you mind, Barry, if I draw people's attention to this post, where the discussion is being held? I'm in it at two forums...606 and The Rum Shop.
Ranks are out of the 106 bowlers all-time with 15 wickets in innings of at least 450.

McGrath: rank 26; 17 wkts; avg 52,35; wtd avg 44,84
Walsh: rank 57; 32 wkts; avg 50,41; wtd avg 51,70
Hadlee: rank 59; 22 wkts; avg 51,64; wtd avg 51,87
Kapil: rank 61; 56 wkts; avg 56,81; wtd avg 52,02
Imran Khan: rank 64; 27 wkts; avg 47,93; wtd avg 52,95
Waqar Younis: rank 79; 20 wkts; avg 55,3; wtd avg 58,46
Wasim Akram: rank 87; 25 wkts; avg 56,24; wtd avg 64,26

Feel free to link to this post wherever. I put it on the Internet after all, it's meant to be read.

And though they're not pace bowlers, people might be interested to see:
Murali: rank 37; 58 wkts; avg 52,91; wtd avg 47,83
Warne: rank 90; 32 wkts; avg 65,34; wtd avg 65,96

I don't know what to make of all these numbers.

I think (not entirely sure) that there should be some sort of bias in the results, favouring bowlers with weak bowler teammates. But the McGrath-Warne comparison is interesting.
Apparently people are interested in Chaminda Vaas. He's squeewed in between Hadlee and Kapil. Rank 60; 45 wkts; avg 59,58; wtd avg 51,97.
David, would the number of overs/balls bowled per wicket taken enter the equation?

Do you think bowling strike rates in high-scoring matches could be considered over averages for effectivity?

Just a thought.

these figures suggest that some bowlers did their job despite the high scores, which in effect suggests that their good performance probably didn't impact the innings much.

Those premier bowlers of various teams when they couldn't bowl as well as they usually did, ended up with teams scoring highly...logical.

Am I right in those layman summation?
Do you think bowling strike rates in high-scoring matches could be considered over averages for effectivity?
I used to think that strike rate was important, but now I don't. Say you have two bowlers who both average 30. One has a strike rate of 50, and the other a strike rate of 60. Then the first bowler will take wickets more quickly but give away more runs. At the end of the day, they both go for 30 runs a wicket.

So low bowling strike rates make games go faster, which is good for the spectator and reduces draws, but probably doesn't change win/loss ratios. I've started to think that strike rate is a measure of awesomeness more than anything else.

in effect suggests that their good performance probably didn't impact the innings much.
Sometimes perhaps yes, sometimes no. If a team is all out for 450 and your strike bowler took 4/120, then it probably could have been a lot worse if you didn't have your strike bowler. But if a team declares at 6/600, then probably the guy who took 3/100 didn't affect things too much - maybe the declaration would have been 5/600 instead, no real change.

Those premier bowlers of various teams when they couldn't bowl as well as they usually did, ended up with teams scoring highly...logical.
Yep. But there's a subtlety which I alluded to in an earlier comment. Suppose Team A has four really good bowlers, all average 25. One of them is Smith. Team B has one really good bowler Jones (avg 25) and three bad ones who average 40.

Now, Jones can bowl pretty well, but his teammates will get plundered and the score could pass 450. So when you consider all innings of greater than 450, sometimes it's because Jones didn't take many wickets, but most of the time it's because his teammates were their usual bad selves.

On the other hand, when a side scores 450 against Team A, it could be any two or more of the bowlers who have bad figures. So say half the time Smith bowls badly, and half the time he bowls well.

What this means is that by selecting innings of 450, you get Smith good half the time, and Jones good more than half the time.

So it's not really a fair comparison in that sense. Though as usual, there's a lot of variation in the results.
Tuffers near the bottom?!

Well, there's lies, damned lies and statistics as far as I'm concerned.
Thats interesting but I don't think much can be read into these numbers. You see the criteria is matches where teams have scored 450+, which at the end of the day means that the batsmen had a field day and the opposition's key bowlers had bad days irrespective of how good or bad the pitch was.

Which explains the high averages of key strike bowlers like Wasim, Waqar, McGrath, Walsh, Warne, etc.

The best average is almost 30 - to me thats the best average of a bowler in high scoring innings (scores >450), which at the end of the day doesn't mean much.

I think a question such as "who is the best flat track bowler?" is probably answered best more qualitatively than through stats. I haven't followed the discussion on 606 or other forums but I see that Vaas has been mentioned. He does come to mind when you think of good bowlers on flat tracks.

As do Pollock and Wasim Akram.
I think a question such as "who is the best flat track bowler?" is probably answered best more qualitatively than through stats.
I disagree with this. The particular stat I've presented here may not be all that useful, but there has to be a way of at least approximately quantifying the flatness of a pitch and then seeing which bowlers do better or worse than the others.
I'll agree with you David but the criteria of 450+ runs doesn't necessarily make it a flat pitch.

I said qulitative cause econ. rate should also come into the analysis of bowlers bowling on flat decks.

And how do u make sure such an analysis doesn't put those bowlers up who wipe out the tail after the top order has amassed 450 runs..
Great work here. Can you also mention how many of these bowlers are still active in the test arena?
Thanks for another interesting analysis.

One problem I see with this is that we lose the cases where the deck was flat, but the bowlers did well enough to keep the opposition under 450 - Malcolm Marshall in India, in 1983, comes to mind. Similarly, Imran took a truckload of Indian wickets in 1981-82, in Pakistan, while the Pakistani batsmen made merry (Kapil got wickets, but at a much higer average).

Maybe using average totals for the ground might help, say a moving average, since pitches might change, but usually not over short periods?
Yeah, that's another thing Rileen.

I don't think that using ground averages would work. Sometimes it would (eg, it would show up St John's as being the flat track that it is), but take the SCG Test averages from the 1990's:

31, 41, 35, 65, 20, 35, 23, 34, 27, 23.

There's lots of year-to-year variation. A few years later it almost hit 70 in that Test that India made 700.

The idea I'm pondering in my head at the moment is to work out what teams should score, based on the averages of the batsmen and the opposing bowlers, and call it flat if the score is, say, 1.5 times higher than expected for at least one team.

I should get around to seeing if this works in a few days. At the moment I'm trying to set up a comprehensive first-class database, and that's consuming most of my 'cricket stats' time at the moment.
Fair enough - there are grounds, like the Ferozeshah Kotla, which have almost always been featherbeds, but then you have cases like the SCG, so using grounds won't work.

Using the averages of the players to derive an expected score and 1.5 times that for a flat pitch sounds interesting - let's see what that throws up :-)
Is that C White, Craig?
Is that C White, Craig?
Thanks David for the analysis and discussion by learned members.

Such stats are available only these days, but would runs scored by a particular bat against different bowlers in a match have any significance?

They give out these stats now..batsman vs bowlers balls faced and runs scored off each.

And would wicket-taking ability be the criterion for a better bowler or run-controlling ability a better indicator?

Then, maybe, a flat deck could be one which shows uniformly high scores on all days of play in it...rather than skewing by say one really good day and the next slow one.
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