A Sunday morning at the Oval. Bright sunshine and clear skies were on the menu as the World Cup favourites India and Australia faced off.
Who takes the big wickets and who clears up the tail? This is my analysis of the Australian bowlers in the first two Tests.
I remember listening to the radio and hearing the comment, “Starc only takes tailender wickets,” and two things immediately jumped to mind. The first was: Is that a bad thing? Someone needs to get the tail out, after all.
The second was: Is that statement actually true? So I decided to dive deeply into the scorecards of the first two Tests to work it out.
For this analysis I have broken the Indian batting line-up into four categories: the openers (bats one and two), the top order (three and four), the middle order (five, six and seven) and the tail (eight to 11). This is based on no reason in particular other than Rishabh Pant is not part of the tail based on his ability to resemble a Major League Baseball batter swinging for the fences.
Leading the bowlers are none other than Mitch Starc, with four wickets of the opening batsman, and his new-ball partner Josh Hazlewood, who took three wickets. Nathan Lyon joined in with one opener scalp in the second innings at Perth. Otherwise it is brotherly love for the pair, splitting the honours in both innings in Adelaide and the first innings in Perth.
The top order is where I found a bit more interest, with none other than the GOAT, Nathan Lyon, taking three wickets, Pat Cummins taking two and Starc and Hazlewood claiming one each. A lovely little one-two punch might be developing, with Cummins taking King Kohli’s scalp in both first innings and Nathan Lyon taking Kohli’s wicket in both second innings. Tim Paine could do worse than throw Cummins the ball at two down.
Switching to the middle, and a surprise is that Cummins comes up with the goose egg, taking no middle-order batsmen out. It’s a surprise, as he bowls better than a zero suggests here, but it’s likely he’s building the pressure so the GOAT can go to work.
Nathan Lyon has taken eight wickets here, Hazlewood three and Starc a lazy one in the second innings at Perth. Maybe Paine should just throw Lyon the new ball and let him take out openers too!
Now for the purpose of starting this analysis: the tailenders. The mopping-up job when India are six down and could probably have declared only returned a net loss of 20 runs. Starc shares the honours here with Lyon, taking four wickets apiece. Cummins, not to be outdone, took three wickets, and Hazlewood took just the one tailender wicket, closing the innings back in Adelaide on Day 2.
The two-Test stats, according to ESPNcricinfo, are as follows:
Hazlewood: 8-185 with an average of 23.12.
Starc: 10-228 with an average of 22.8.
Cummins: 5-187 with an average of 37.8.
Lyon: 16-311 with an average of 19.43.
So far the stats aren’t really making you lunge for the panic button, with all the bowlers getting around the runs with the bat too.
Hazlewood: 30 runs, top score 17*, average 10
Starc: 63 runs, top score 28, average 15.75
Cummins: 58 runs, top score 28, average 14.50
Lyon: 76 runs, top score 38*, average 76
But what does this lighthearted analysis show ultimately? Well, not much really. By the raw stats it should be Cummins in the gun, yet he is building the pressure, putting the balls in the right spots without getting the reward. Starc is wayward occasionally, yet he takes wickets when he gets it right, sitting behind only Lyon as the second wicket-taker for the Aussies.
The conclusions that can be drawn are that cricket is a great game and that the statistics don’t quite replace the ‘feel’ of the play. Hopefully Australia come out with a full-strength attack for the remaining two Tests and win the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.