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Analysing Australia’s Test cricket winners: The modern pace bowling masters

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Roar Guru
21st November, 2020
69

To finish off our analysis of performances in wins for our greatest bowlers, let’s look at our modern bowlers.

You should note that Mitchell Starc was examined in a previous article, but for completeness I’ll just provide his numbers to compare to Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood.

Remember that the Peer Difference Percentage I talk about measures how a bowler performed compared to his teammates in those same matches.

Mitchell Starc
31 wins (54.4 per cent of all matches), 20 losses and six draws. Wins average 23.39 (peer difference: -0.3 per cent). Wins wickets per match 4.65.

Pat Cummins
17 wins (56.7 per cent of all matches), nine losses and four draws. Wins average 20.11 (peer difference: +17.9 per cent). Wins wickets per match 4.76.

Josh Hazlewood
25 wins (49.0 per cent of all matches), 18 losses and eight draws. Wins average 20.88 (peer difference: +18.8 per cent). Wins wickets per match 4.68.

These are very similar figures across our big three. Cummins shades Hazlewood for bowling average, but Hazlewood is slightly better compared to his peers in his wins. Cummins also takes the wickets per match mark, but it’s virtually the same for all three. Starc has a better strike rate at 43.1, but Cummins at 46.9 and Hazlewood at 46.8 are both excellent.

In draws Hazlewood brings up the rear, with only two wickets per Test and an average of 50, 6.4 per cent worse than his peers. Starc’s bowling average is 44, seven per cent better than his peers. Cummins has only played in four draws but his bowling average of 30 and 3.5 wickets per Test is miles ahead of his two bowling partners. This indicates that Cummins is able to find a way on unresponsive decks, which would match my gut feel.

All of the big three are great in losses. Starc and Hazlewood rank seventh and eighth respectively all-time for bowling average in losses (minimum ten losses). In terms of Peer Difference Percentage, Starc has the third-highest for bowling average in losses and Hazlewood has the third-highest for economy rate. So we are well served in losses by these two great pace bowlers.

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And then there is Pat Cummins. He has only lost nine times, but his numbers are remarkable. His raw bowling average of 22.33 is eighth all-time with a minimum of five matches. If he had played one more match to reach the ten-loss threshold he would slot in at third behind Rodney Hogg and ahead of Glenn McGrath. His average in losses is a ridiculous 38.6 per cent better than his peers, who remember are also very good indeed.

The only bowlers to better his 5.33 wickets in losses are JJ Ferris and Charles Turner, who had both hung up their boots by 1895. And literally no one, even from a century ago, matches his strike rate in losses of 44.8. This is better than his strike rate in wins and is the best of all time. It is actually second in world history, a mere 0.5 behind Englishman J Middleton who lost six matches between 1896 and 1902.

So for me, it’s Pat Cummins as the first among equals. But we are truly blessed right now.

Australia's Pat Cummins bowls

(AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

Let’s have a look at a couple of other recent bowlers.

Jason Gillespie
47 wins (66.2 per cent of all matches), 15 losses and nine draws. Wins average 21.68 (peer difference: 9.0 per cent). Wins wickets per match 4.19.

The man with the best mullet in cricket was an excellent support bowler for Glenn McGrath during one of our greatest cricketing periods. A bowling average in wins of 21.68 is in between Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Johnson. Gillespie’s winning strike rate of 46.2 is the tenth-best of all time and was seven per cent better than his peers.

Gillespie was great in draws and his average of 35.6 is 23.5 per cent better than his peers. However, in losses Gillespie’s bowling average of 44.17 only ranks ahead of Brett Lee and Garth McKenzie (minimum ten losses), although his economy rate was nine per cent better than his peers, at least keeping things tight.

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Ryan Harris
16 wins (59.3 per cent of all matches), six losses and five draws. Wins average 21.38 (peer difference: +11.1 per cent). Wins wickets per match 4.25.

The admirable Ryan Harris was a late bloomer who became one of our greatest bowlers, albeit for a short period on two very dodgy knees. Harris’ bowling average in wins sits between Josh Hazlewood and Jason Gillespie and he is comfortably ahead of his peers both for economy rate and strike rate.

Harris was equally great in draws and losses. In his six losses Harris averaged 30.5 which is a whopping 37.3 per cent better than his peers on those matches. His strike rate is the ninth-best of all-time (minimum five losses). In draws, Harris is behind only pre-WWI bowler Frank Laver and 44.9 per cent better than his peers. Harris’ 4.4 wickets per Test in draws is bettered by only Jeff Thomson and Bill O’Reilly.

These are truly brilliant numbers.

Stuart Clark
18 wins (75.0 per cent of all matches), two losses and four draws. Wins average 20.26 (peer difference: +25.7 per cent). Wins wickets per match 4.67.

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Stuart Clark was the post-Glenn McGrath…Glenn McGrath. Clark’s bowling average in wins and the comparison to his peers is only slightly behind McGrath’s all-time great figures. Clark’s strike rate of 46.2 was 13 per cent better than his peers and is eighth all-time (minimum ten wins).

Clark barely played in losses and draws, only six in total. In his two losses Clark’s record does hold up. An average of 27.14 is very good, sitting in between McGrath and Dennis Lillee. However, in his four draws he only took three wickets and averaged around 117.

Peter Siddle
32 wins (47.8 per cent of all matches), 24 losses and 11 draws. Wins average 23.31 (peer difference: +1.1 per cent). Wins wickets per match 3.81.

Peter Siddle

(Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

These are respectable figures for our favourite workhorse. When conditions suited Siddle could do some damage, as a winning average of 23.31 displays. This was slightly better than his peers in those matches, with a very good economy rate offsetting a slightly higher strike rate than the other bowlers in this analysis.

In draws, Siddle performed admirably, his strike rate being seventh all-time and 23.6 per cent better than his fellow bowlers in these matches. His average of 34.6 was 18 per cent better than his peers.

In losses, Siddle’s average of 42.75 is around three per cent better than his peers. He achieved this by remarkable accuracy. His economy rate difference to his peers in these games of 12.15 per cent is second in history only to Glenn McGrath.

Next time I will provide some lists of the top bowlers in wins, losses and draws and see how this stacks up around the world. And I will also combine the batting and bowling results to produce our best teams for wins, draws and losses.

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