All 3 entries tagged Test Match

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December 23, 2008

Two test matches in a series is such a waste of time

So, the second and final test match between England and India has ended in a draw. After the home side were rather negative in their second innings, they eventually declared on 251-7 to set England over 400 to win the game. This was never going to happen though and with the game destined for a draw, the captains shook hands with the tourists 64-1.

It meant that India secured a 1-0 series victory and that England finished the tour without winning a single match. Not the most encouraging few weeks results wise, but there have been some positives of which I will discuss in a moment.

The thing that really bothers me though is that only two test matches were scheduled for the series. India and England are two of the most cricket mad countries in the world, they are two of the best teams in the world and yet only two test matches are played. Are the organisers trying to assist in the death of test cricket or something?

Not only is it disappointing that the series is shortened, but it also means that once the first game has been won by a team, the second match is more likely to be a dull finish. That’s exactly what happened in this series.

There was some excellent cricket played throughout and the entertainment levels were high, but during the latter stages of the Mohali test, India were happy to play out for a draw. They had won the first test, so it was job done as far as they are concerned.

The series should have been at least three matches long. This way, England would have had the chance to respond again to going behind. I appreciate that I may sound like a bitter England fan, but it’s more than that. For the sake of the fans watching, two test matches just isn’t enough.

There isn’t enough time for the twists and turns that make test cricket so fantastic, or for the one-on-one battles between the likes of Kevin Pietersen and Yuvraj Singh to well and truly develop. Overall, I hope two test match series are a thing of the past.

Unfortunately though, this is not something I will be putting any of my sport betting money on. The significance of Twenty20 cricket is more valid than ever and perhaps shortened test series will become to norm. This bothers me, but there you go.

Anyway, onto the reflection part of today’s blog. Despite losing the series, Pietersen says that he is ‘really proud’ of the team’s efforts and I have to say I agree. So what are the positives to come out of the tour?

The fact they were there – It took great courage for the England players to get on a plane to India again. They have been a credit to cricket and the Indian people will never forget this.

Andrew Strauss – The opener well and truly confirmed his place in the team with two centuries in the first test. Well done Straussy.

Andrew Flintoff – Bowled with just as much heart as ever and his batting is improving. Could he be back to his peak for Australia next year?

Greame Swann – Performed admirably in his first two test matches and should push Monty Panesar for a place against the West Indies after Christmas.

Kevin Pietersen – Ok, it may only have been one good innings for KP, but what an innings it was. This and the way he led the team in a difficult time deserves credit.

So, that’s that for the Indian tour. The England players will now travel home to enjoy Christmas with their families before flying out to the West Indies at the end of January. The sport odds are more likely to favour an England win in this series and it is important that momentum is developed ahead of an important English summer.

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about England cricket


July 07, 2007

Do the numbers lie?

Muttiah Muralitharan today took 4/14 against Bangladesh at Colombo, his 100th haul off 4 wickets or more in a test match innings. By doing so, he took his career tally of wickets to 687 and is closely honing in on Shane Warne’s world record figure of 708 test wickets. If (or should I say ‘when’?) he does so, his supporters will have even more of an argument to claim that Murali is the best spin bowler of all time. Aside from his controversial action, of which it seems no two people will ever have the same opinion, just how good is Murali when compared to the great Australian legspinner?

Murali’s figures look good: 687 wickets at 21.49 compared to Warne’s 708 at 25.41. His strike rate is marginally better too: 54.12 plays 57.49. But as always statistics can be deceiving. I believe it is Geoff Boycott who says that statistics don’t tell the whole story, but they can generally be a good guide. To take the stats as a guide we know that both are very good spinners who are difficult even for the best test batsman in the world to face but there is a striking difference when viewed more closely.

The table below shows the two bowlers’ career records against the two ‘lesser’ test teams, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh followed by their career figures without those two teams:

Muttiah Muralitharan

M

B

R

W

Ave

Econ

SR

5w

Bangladesh

7

1695

728

59

12.3

2.6

28.7

8

Bangladesh Today

1

32

14

4

3.5

2.6

8.0

0

Zimbabwe

14

4721

1467

87

16.9

1.9

54.3

0

Total

22

6448

2209

150

14.7

2.1

43.0

8

Shane Warne

M

B

R

W

Ave

Econ

SR

5w

Bangladesh

2

524

300

11

27.3

3.4

47.6

1

Zimbabwe

1

319

137

6

22.8

2.6

53.2

0

Total

3

843

437

17

25.7

3.1

49.6

1

As we can see from the tables above, Murali has played a lot more games and collected a great number more wickets against the weaker teams than Shane Warne has; 150 wickets to the Sri Lankan compared to a mere 17 from 3 games from the blonde legspinner.

What this shows is that as far as sheer number of wickets is concerned, Murali has very much filled his boots against weaker opposition and without the cheaper wickets would in fact be very far from Mr. Warne’s world record tally. But what about the bigger picture, how do the two slow bowlers’ records compare against the stronger opposition?

Full Career 

M

B

R

W

Ave

Econ

SR

5w

Shane Warne

145

40704

17995

708

25.4

2.7

57.5

37

Muttiah Muralitharan

112

36967

14751

687

21.5

2.4

53.8

58

Top 8 Teams

M

B

R

W

Ave

Econ

SR

5w

Shane Warne

142

39861

17558

691

25.4

2.6

57.7

36

Muttiah Muralitharan

90

30519

12542

537

23.4

2.5

56.8

50

Evidently, Murali’s stats have taken a battering without the disproportionate number of fixtures played against weaker opposition but they do still hold true when compared against Warne’s, showing that Murali is in fact still a match for the great legspinner.

What is more interesting to note is that Warne’s figures have hardly been affected. This is of course due in part to the fact that he has only played an somewhat insignificant number of matches against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh compared to the rest of his career but even his overall average against these teams are not much departed from his overall career average. What this shows is that Murali’s statistics are, quite probably, to be taken even more with a pinch of salt.

It is without a doubt that both of these players are two of the best and most challenging spinners to face in the history of test cricket and it is clear that the fact that Warne’s wickets tally against the Top 8 opposition is considerably larger due in part because of a greater number of matches. This aside, when Murali does take his 709th Test wicket and march ahead of the retired Shane Warne it should be noted that on wickets tally alone, it will not quite be the achievement of the great Mr Warne.

Many view Murali’s efforts as not so much of a great achievement as Warne’s due to controversies over his action, and statistics like these do him little justice either. Nonetheless, I have no doubt that history will be as kind to Murali as it is to Warne (although I’m sure Australian reports will generally favour Warne much as Sri Lankan reports will profess Muralitharan as the greater). It is true that English and Australian fast bowlers from years gone by such as Fred Trueman had their records brought into question by the fact they played a lot against weak Indian batting line ups susceptible to fast seam bowling, something that is seldom mentioned today.

Another key point to note is that Warne has played in one of the best teams to ever set foot on a Test match field where as Muralitharan has been one of few reliable go-to strike bowlers in the Sri Lankan side for a large part of his career. This means that Murali has had more of an opportunity to take more wickets because there was less likely to be a player at the other end taking them with the same degree of regularity as a Glenn McGrath or any other of Australia’s top class seam bowlers.

Murali v Warne: who is the greater? I doubt we’ll ever agree and we’ll not have a fair view on the matter until after they’ve both retired but as it is at the moment, on the basis of sheer value of their wickets, I will have to pass my vote for Shane Warne.


May 25, 2007

The Path to Greatness

An interesting stat stood out to me today while I was passing some time on the cricinfo.com website. After another good day’s cricket by England where Michael Vaughan registered his 16th Test match century after 18 months away from the game and Kevin Pietersen notched up 130*, his eighth three figure score in Tests I decided to see how the current England side lines up with England’s past masters.

Vaughan’s 16th century puts him within 6 of the England record of 22 held jointly by Hammond, Cowdrey and Boycott; whether Vaughan catches up with these figures depends largely on whether his knee holds up for long enough. At the age of 32, he should have a good few years left in him and it is often said that batsmen get better as they mature.

The little nugget of information that caught my eye this evening though is that when Pietersen drove a Dwayne Bravo half volley to extra cover for a single, his career tally of runs move to 2351 and he overtook Mark Ramprakash’s total of 2350 career runs. The fact that he has done this in fewer than half the matches says a lot about each of the men.

Ramprakash’s Test career came in a time when English selection appeared to follow few logical paths. A look at the Test caps given in the nineties reveals a staggering number of players who have only played a handful of matches. As a result no player in the England team of the day had a safe place in the side and most played every match as if their careers depended on it.

Such a pressure had a positive effect on some players, much as it has had a positive effect on Paul Collingwood’s career of late, with his place under threat he had to score runs just to keep the critics quiet.

Others did not perform quite as well. Mark Ramprakash was one of these; he put too much pressure on himself and regularly failed. For someone who many regard as the most talented English batsman of his generation, to say that a final Test average of 27 is disappointing is an understatement. Ramps once admitted that after one of his many failures in Test cricket, he returned to the pavilion and vented his frustration and tension out on a pillar in the dressing room, repeatedly smashing it with his bat until what was left in his hands bore no relation to a cricket bat.

Ramprakash has proved to the world in domestic cricket that he is a highly talented batsmen since those days, last season his in the County Championship he scored a healthy 2211 runs at an average of 105.28 in to help Surrey to promotion. If any critics were citing the difference in standards between second and first divisions in the Championship and the value of runs in each, he has started this season with 676 runs at 135.2 in five matches.

By plundering county attacks to all corners of the country, is Ramprakash making one final claim for a Test berth? He has said recently that he is not thinking of playing for England and most who mention his name in selection discussions do so with a despairing air of hope rather than any real expectations. Not only that, with 6 of England’s batsmen providing 7 centuries in the first 6 days of Test cricket this season he would be relying on injuries to be able to force his way into the team.

Many have written off Ramprakash’s chances of a revival of a Test career as unimaginable given how late on his career is but has the new coach brought the Surrey batsman a new lifeline? A week ago none would have expected Ryan Sidebottom to be playing his second Test match at the moment. I must admit that even once he was admitted into the squad I was completely confident he would not gain a place ahead of James Anderson but Peter Moores and the selectors have shown that they have the courage of their convictions to go against the popular opinions and pick a left field candidate.

Mark Ramprakash is still one of the best batsmen in England and even though he had a relative failure at Test level, the fact that Kevin Pietersen overtook his Test run tally today shows a lot about the ability of England’s new hero and that he has the temperament to boot.

The aura surrounding English cricket these days may be a lot different compared to what Ramprakash was thrust into but he has still scored his runs through some difficult times, in some of the hardest places to play cricket: India with a squad vastly hampered by injury; Australia in a series where his team was floundering badly and Pakistan with the hopes of a nation still behind him and suffering with an Ashes hangover.

That he has coped with this and actually improved his game shows a lot of promise for the future of English cricket. That Mark Ramprakash has found a way to stay true to his game and not drift off the circuit like Chris Schofield did after being thrust into Test cricket too soon and being dumped after two wicketless Tests can give English supporters even more solace that there is enough batting in England to step up to the plate should it be needed.

When Kevin Pietersen pushed that Dwayne Bravo delivery to extra cover today to take his 2351st run in Test cricket he overtook one of English cricket’s greats who never managed to live up to his potential on the big stage and carried along on his own way on the path to greatness.


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