The numbers don’t lie – Siddle has no Ashes bunny

Geoff Lemon Columnist

By Geoff Lemon, Geoff Lemon is a Roar Expert

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    I kept hearing something strange during the cricket yesterday. Apparently Peter Siddle has cast some intense mind-voodoo over the hapless Kevin Pietersen.

    When Pietersen fell to Siddle this afternoon, it was a worthy statistic that this was the 10th such occasion in Tests. It is an achievement against an excellent player.

    It far exceeds the record of other bowlers: the next best are Muttiah Muralitharan and Brett Lee, who got Pietersen six times; then totals of five from Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Morne Morkel, Saeed Ajmal, and Sreesanth.

    Wow, people said. He’s so far ahead of all these great bowlers and Sreesanth. After they’d finished searching for hilarious ways to credit vegetarianism and bananas, they started wondering more genuinely what it is. What is this magic that allows Siddle to tame England’s big dog?

    So I’ll tell you.

    It’s nothing.

    Peter Siddle is an excellent pace bowler. He’s not as outrageously threatening as Mitchell Johnson or Ryan Harris, but he’s courageous, skilful, and durable. He and Michael Clarke have been Australia’s only consistent performers over a fallow few years. He has learned at Test level and prospered.

    But all he is delivering Pietersen is good, solid, Test-level bowling.

    The people stitching these dismissals together are hunting causality in correlation. It’s an unsound premise. Pietersen’s dismissal today was that of a man lost.

    He’d endured 59 balls in the blazing heat with barely a stroke played, scraped up 19 runs, then lost his rag and tried to show some dominance.

    He picked a horrible ball to do it to, and a horrible shot to do it with. He might have been a man trying to get a squirrel out of a tree. But he still looked like he was going to clear mid on until Johnson proved to be half elastic, stretching so ludicrously into the sky that he deserved a wacky sound effect.

    Pietersen caught at mid on pulling a rank wide short ball. The previous dismissal, in Adelaide, he was late withdrawing the bat from one just back of a length on off stump, nudged back onto his wicket. The one before that, he clobbered a half volley to a short midwicket catcher.

    Before that it was Manchester earlier this year, where he played at one that was given caught behind despite no third-umpire evidence of an edge. Before that, Lord’s, where he thrashed a full wide ball to point on the square drive.

    My point being? There is no pattern, no consistency, to Siddle’s recent dismissals of Pietersen. The batsman is not getting out because he’s worried about the bowler. The bowler is not preying on a particular weakness of the batsman’s. This is not McGrath to Michael Atherton.

    Siddle is bowling the kind of deliveries that can get wickets. He is actually conforming to the adage of putting the ball in the right areas.

    But there is nothing specifically about Siddle that is making this happen. He’s not distinctive. He essentially bowls a style of delivery Pietersen has faced tens of thousands of times.

    Let’s have a think about statistical probability. If a contingency arises a lot of times, one reasonable explanation is that its requisite context is equally common.

    If Siddle has dismissed Pietersen more than anyone, that might just means he’s played against him more than anyone.

    Holy discovery. The pair have played 15 Tests against each other, with Big Kev walking to the crease 25 times. He only played 10 matches against Lee, Warne and Morkel; 8 against McGrath and Sreesanth; and 6 against Ajmal and Murali.

    In which case, a percentage of dismissals per innings would be far more illustrative than a raw total. Siddle has got Pietersen in 40 percent of their opposing innings. Lee had 30 percent, McGrath 31, and Sreesanth 36, not big differences when dealing with such small data sets. Siddle has had a good run, but is still behind Ajmal at 50 percent, and Murali’s 54 percent.

    If you want someone with a hold over KP, then, call the spinners first. But wait, Geoff, you say passionately, wiping some cream cheese from your blouse where you’ve dropped your salmon canapé in agitation. Peter Siddle has dismissed Pietersen 10 times and conceded 174 runs.

    At an average of 17.4 per dismissal without even getting a calculator, doesn’t that imply complete domination?

    Well, let me tell you that you’re beautiful when you’re angry. But while averaging 17 sounds great, a player isn’t just facing one bowler, while only one bowler can dismiss him. Let’s say he does equally well against all four bowlers, taking 17 from each. He’d average 68 against the group.

    In matches involving Pietersen, Siddle has bowled 467 overs, just under 20 percent of the team’s total. So in a perfect statistical world, Siddle would dismiss Pietersen 20 percent of the time, not 40. But random sequences don’t work like that.

    In a different life, I used to run a roulette table.

    You would spin the ball and land red or black, with the occasional zero. Over a long period the results would be roughly even, but that didn’t mean you couldn’t have long streaks of one colour.

    Whatever the streak, the odds for the next one being black remain exactly the same. The most manipulative invention on a roulette table is called the tree, which displays the last 14 numbers to have been spun. This makes people see patterns that aren’t actually there.

    Once you rolled five blacks, then six, then seven, people would start to get interested. Roll ten and you were pulling a crowd. By the time you got to 14, filling the board, people were losing their minds. They would hammer red, sure in their bones that the streak had to break.

    22 black, you would call. They would stack up on red. 17 black. Higher on red. The fizz of the ball. The tension like a long day waiting for a thunderstorm. Number 8, black. The clatter of chips as you razed small skyscrapers and they dived to build more.

    My best run was 23 blacks in a row. The table was like a football match, all sides yelling and cursing disbelief like I was an umpire. A few quiet achievers sat there, riding the streak, each time sliding a few more chips on red. Both camps were wrong, in thinking that a streak even existed. It was simple probability, both results equally likely, anomalies par for the course.

    Peter Siddle is as likely as anyone. He will bowl for his team until his body fails. He is good at it. It is plausible that he will get people out by doing so. It is plausible that the frequency may be anomalously high, or elsewhere may be low.

    As for Pietersen, he’s not currently in very good shape.

    He may retain the pouty, chest-out posture that implies he wants you to admire his nipples, but he doesn’t currently have the batting swag to back it up. On the other hand, he’s a guy who has three double centuries and 20 other hundreds. He’s no lost cause.

    The real evidence came on the field today, when that shot was played, when that catch was reeled in. Peter Siddle’s face was like nothing I’ve seen on a cricket field. He clenched both fists, planted his feet and roared.

    It was like all of his own skin was trying to crawl off his head. He seemed to be more tooth than man. He was a white-flanelled Langolier in bad ‘90s CGI.

    That face was many things, most of them terrifying, and one of them the reason I’m still awake and writing at midnight. What it wasn’t was the face of a man enjoying mastery over a shattered opponent.

    It was a bowler expressing the relief at having got rid of the opposition’s most dangerous player, and enjoying utterly his good fortune. It was the face of a man who knew the odds had gone his way.

    Geoff Lemon is a writer and radio broadcaster. He joined The Roar as an expert columnist in 2010, writes the satirical blog Heathen Scripture, and tweets from @GeoffLemonSport. This article was first published by Wisden India, in a new-founded Ashes partnership.

    Geoff Lemon
    Geoff Lemon

    Geoff Lemon is a writer, editor and broadcaster covering sport for The Roar, The Guardian and ABC, as well as writing on politics, literature and history for a range of outlets.

    He tweets from @GeoffLemonSport.

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    The Crowd Says (76)

    • Roar Pro

      December 15th 2013 @ 6:22am
      Luke Smyke said | December 15th 2013 @ 6:22am | ! Report

      a wonderful read Geoff… Its funny how people never break things down like that and realise that the media likes to create things that arent there to get people talking. Loved how you compared the scenario with the Mcgrath- Atherton contest… that certainly was domination. This one is a bit like the Mcgrath- Lara for mine.. A bowler consistently hitting a length and depriving a high class agressive batsman of scoring opportunities thus forcing him to create them when they arent there.

    • Roar Guru

      December 15th 2013 @ 7:01am
      no show said | December 15th 2013 @ 7:01am | ! Report

      Statistics and facts are irrelevant when it comes to beliefs as people will believe what they want to believe.

      Believe it or not……

    • December 15th 2013 @ 7:09am
      James P said | December 15th 2013 @ 7:09am | ! Report

      You may want to reword your comments on the statistics. If Pieterson averages 17 against all 4 bowlers individually then he averages 17 against the group. To go from Siddle averaging 17 to the group averaging 68 would mean that none of the others ever take his wicket.

      • Roar Guru

        December 15th 2013 @ 7:39am
        no show said | December 15th 2013 @ 7:39am | ! Report

        Tat’s because a batsman’s wicket can only be taken once per innings. So if Siddle takes his wicket none of the other bowlers can.

        • December 15th 2013 @ 9:51am
          mikeylives said | December 15th 2013 @ 9:51am | ! Report

          So i guess we don’t count any runs when siddle doesn’t take his wicket?
          That’s ridiculous logic and it completely undermines your use of stats in this article.
          17 runs per top order batsman is dominant. If you can’t see that then it’s back to school for you.

          • Roar Guru

            December 15th 2013 @ 9:54am
            JGK said | December 15th 2013 @ 9:54am | ! Report

            I agree.

            Esp as it is 12 runs per dismissal better than his career average.

          • December 15th 2013 @ 10:02am
            James P said | December 15th 2013 @ 10:02am | ! Report

            Completely agree. The basic lack of understanding of statistics is extremely poor

            If Pieterson averages 17 against Siddle, then he scores (on average) 17 runs against Siddle across multiple innings between dismissals by Siddle.

            In fact, the whole article needs reworking. According to Statsguru, Pietersen averages 27.3 against Siddle which is still a very good result for Siddle.

            Muralitharan (who takes his wicket once per match) who is mentioned as more likely to have Pietersen as his bunny has an average of 43.83. Which suggests that even though Murali may take his wicket, Pietersen takes his toll. In fact, it is probable that Murali takes Pietersens wicket more often due to the fact that Murali was clearly the main wicket taker for Sri Lanka.

            The fact is that Siddle takes Pietersen’s wicket at an average 20 runs below Pietersen’s overall average. He also has a very large number of dismissals which provides a more accurate average.

            Warne is the only player who has taken Pietersen’s wicket more than 5 times in tests at a lower average (22.8). Interestingly enough, Hilfenhaus has taken Pietersen’s wicket twice at an average of 5.5

          • Roar Guru

            December 15th 2013 @ 11:06am
            no show said | December 15th 2013 @ 11:06am | ! Report

            you missed my point – how many times have you seen a batsman dismissed by two or more bowlers in the one innings? – it can’t happen no many how many runs he scores or how many bowlers he faces.

            James P was disputing the fact that if Siddle took his wicket no one else could – of course they cannot because he is already out.

            • December 15th 2013 @ 11:51am
              James P said | December 15th 2013 @ 11:51am | ! Report

              Craig, I don’t think you understand. On average, Pietersen scores 27 runs against Siddle for every time Siddle takes his wicket. This is significantly less than his average of 47 (but higher than the 17 runs mentioned in the article). He has also taken his wicket 10 times in 15 matches.

              The other bowlers in the current Australian team
              – Johnson – only 3 times in 9 matches but at an average of 20.66
              – Harris – 3 times in 7 matches at an average of 46
              – Lyon – 2 times in 6 matches at an average of 35

              This means that
              – clearly Pietersen struggles more against the current Australian attack than he has against most other attacks (or arguably he is out of form) as his overall average is higher at 47 than against any of the main bowlers
              – If you do want to get him out, it appears as though Siddle and Johnson are able to control him more than Harris or Lyon

              • December 15th 2013 @ 12:10pm
                Simoc said | December 15th 2013 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

                I’m going with the out of form thing. Stats are great but also meaningless. If Pietersen scores a ton and wins this game for England it gives you all time to grasp the fact that wasting time on stats is boring.

              • Roar Guru

                December 15th 2013 @ 12:55pm
                JGK said | December 15th 2013 @ 12:55pm | ! Report

                I am not sure about those Statsguru numbers. I think they calculate them on the basis of the the batsman’s total score every time a bowler dismisses them – not on the basis of runs scored off that bowler.

              • Roar Guru

                December 15th 2013 @ 4:00pm
                no show said | December 15th 2013 @ 4:00pm | ! Report

                you missed the point that I was making about one of your points but I’m passed the point of worrying about that point anymore so there’s no point in pointing that out 🙂

              • Columnist

                December 15th 2013 @ 4:05pm
                Geoff Lemon said | December 15th 2013 @ 4:05pm | ! Report

                What I’m looking at is the number of runs scored off the particular bowler. Pietersen has (according to the numbers I was given) scored 174 runs against Siddle in Tests, and been out ten times. So there’s his average per dismissal against that particular bowler. But he wouldn’t only score from one bowler. So if a batsman were taking 17 runs from each of the four main bowlers (just for example) before being dismissed by one of them, he would still have reached a fairly high score.

                I’m not suggesting these are actual averages, I’m saying this is an interesting way to look at the supposed dominance of one bowler.

              • Columnist

                December 15th 2013 @ 4:08pm
                Ben Pobjie said | December 15th 2013 @ 4:08pm | ! Report

                I think you mean Pietersen scores 27 against *Australia* for every time Siddle takes his wicket, don’t you? The figure of 17 is runs scored purely against Siddle.

              • Roar Guru

                December 15th 2013 @ 4:17pm
                JGK said | December 15th 2013 @ 4:17pm | ! Report

                Geoff – it might be an “interesting” way to look at dominance but it is not a helpful one.

                The stats show that Siddle’s record against KP (i.e. his average of 17) is about 40% better than his record against the average batsman (incl tailenders) in world cricket (against whom Siddle averages 29).

                Given that KP is far better than the average batsman, this suggests that Siddle has an absolutely brilliant record against KP. It doesn’t necessarily mean that KP is his bunny though.

              • December 15th 2013 @ 10:19pm
                James P said | December 15th 2013 @ 10:19pm | ! Report

                As JGK says. Based on the stats (using the right ones this time) Siddle does better against Pietersen than he does against the average batsman. Given the large number of matches that they have played against each other, this does suggest that Siddle has been more effective against Pietersen than we would expect and conversely, Pietersen struggles somewhat against Siddle.

                17 does show some level of dominance but I’d like to see under 10 before claiming bunny status

            • December 17th 2013 @ 12:44pm
              ds said | December 17th 2013 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

              The runs count against Siddle’s average regardless of whether he gets him out or not; such as when Lyon got him out yesterday.

      • Columnist

        December 15th 2013 @ 4:09pm
        Ben Pobjie said | December 15th 2013 @ 4:09pm | ! Report

        No, If Pietersen scores 17 against each of four bowlers in an innings, he has scored 68. We’re not talking runs scored in the whole innings, we’re talking runs scored off each individual bowler.

        • December 15th 2013 @ 4:58pm
          bryan said | December 15th 2013 @ 4:58pm | ! Report

          I think you might need to go back to school mate.

          Say there are 4 bowlers in the attack.

          All average 17 against a batsmen. That batsman’s average is still 17. It does not magically add up to 68.

          You are confusing the once out thingy with an overall stat.

          Using the above example, 4 bowlers averaging 17 vs a single batsman. In an “average” innings, it means he gets maybe 3 vs 1st bowler, 5 vs 2nd, 9 vs the 3rd bowler and maybe the last bowler doesn’t bowl. He then gets out, for his average of 17. All the bowlers averages lift slightly, except the guy who got him out. BUT here is the key point. As long as they keep getting him out for 17, and share the wickets around, all their averages stay at 17 as does his.

          ie, if you really wanted to calculate an average of a bloke vs a team, you could either:

          Add up all his runs vs that team and divide by the wickets.


          Take the averages bowled by each bowler, multiply them by their relatively frequency bowling, and here is the part you are missing; take the average of those averages. You do not add them all up.

          • December 16th 2013 @ 12:03am
            expathack said | December 16th 2013 @ 12:03am | ! Report

            Hilarious, the guys are still coming down below the line, trying to argue the point. They’re published writers so they must always be right. About everything!

            Including the stuff they apparently have no idea about.

            Geoff got one of the main premises of his article horribly wrong. That kind of thing is bound to happen when you don’t understand what you’re writing about. He’s been called on it, and I’m sure he’ll suck it up and move on. He likely doesn’t need his fellow writers coming down alos making fools of themselves as well in a weird show of above-the-line solidarity….

    • December 15th 2013 @ 7:11am
      Cam Fay said | December 15th 2013 @ 7:11am | ! Report

      As someone coming from a maths and poker background, this article is spot on. Just don’t tell anyone! If we can get it into English minds that there is a pattern, it can’t be a bad thing, right? They’ll end up in a frenzy like the people crowded around the roulette table.


      • December 15th 2013 @ 4:58pm
        bryan said | December 15th 2013 @ 4:58pm | ! Report

        As someone who did statistics in Uni, it is off

      • December 16th 2013 @ 12:09am
        expathack said | December 16th 2013 @ 12:09am | ! Report

        Love to play poker against you Cam.

    • Roar Guru

      December 15th 2013 @ 7:20am
      biltongbek said | December 15th 2013 @ 7:20am | ! Report

      “He may retain the pouty, chest-out posture that implies he wants you to admire his nipples,”

      Excellent, well said Geoff. 🙂

      • December 15th 2013 @ 12:03pm
        Loola said | December 15th 2013 @ 12:03pm | ! Report

        Good article, but why does the author and his acolytes like you descend to such vulgar language, get a grip on yourself and tell Siddle to do so too, his posturing and Tarzan-yells are too much to bear as Ian Chappell agreed. Sheesh.

        • December 15th 2013 @ 2:39pm
          Blaze said | December 15th 2013 @ 2:39pm | ! Report

          Vulgar language? Good grief…. Must be sure to check my browser to make sure I’m not on the Christian dating side of the roars website… Build a bridge tiger…

          • Columnist

            December 15th 2013 @ 4:06pm
            Geoff Lemon said | December 15th 2013 @ 4:06pm | ! Report

            The nipple is the Devil’s radio dial.

            • December 15th 2013 @ 8:40pm
              Blaze said | December 15th 2013 @ 8:40pm | ! Report


    • December 15th 2013 @ 8:04am
      Blaze said | December 15th 2013 @ 8:04am | ! Report

      As much as I agree with your article, I will say that the more it happens, the more it’s going to aggravate the ego of KP, and hence make him react in the stupidest way possible and hit out anyway possible… Therefore gifting his wicket in different ways to one bowler. Kinda like getting out to a part timer… This is, after all, KP we are talking about…

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