Steven Smith hopes Australia score big in 1st Test against South Africa
This week the Numbers Game looks at the top-order batting of each team over the last five years, and their results during this period. It turns out that the four teams that have had the most success since are also the ones whose top orders have been the most successful.
Australia lead the way with the highest win-loss ratio - 2. Australia's top order has also been the best in terms of notching up hundreds - Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden and Co have combined to score a century every 17 innings, which is better than any other team. South Africa are the only other team whose top order averages more than They're also the only team with a win-loss ratio of more than 2, which illustrates how much these two teams have dominated over the last five years.
India and Pakistan are next on the list, and while plenty has been written and said about India's heavyweight top order, Pakistan's top five haven't generally received as much acclaim. They've often been inconsistent, admittedly, but they've also managed to put together pretty good numbers. What's more surprising, though, is the presence of West Indies at number five. Their win-loss ratio is a miserable 0.
The average would have been even higher had the full-strength team played over the last few months. The top-order stats, in fact, show up even more starkly West Indies' woeful standards in other aspects of their one-day cricket. Sri Lanka's average is relatively poor, but that's because of the conditions at home , where run-scoring is relatively more difficult than in most other venues.
The table below lists the top-order batsmen who've been the most successful during this period. Hugh Tayfield 's last-day marathon effort of 9 for to defend a middling target against England in almost single-handedly is in third position. This was the top-ranked performance 17 years ago. I would say that Tayfield's performance has stayed in its position and the two first-day performances have just about moved above his. Fanie de Villiers ' final-day defence of , with a magnificent spell of 6 for 43, at the SCG, against a strong Australian team in , gets fourth place.
It jumps up a few places from its position last time around. Jim Laker 's final-day sweep of all ten wickets for 53 against Australia in is fifth. It loses a couple of places, arguably due to the rationalising of the "wickets captured" parameter in the analysis.
Another first-day spectacular effort, by Trevor Bailey , 7 for 34 against the very strong West Indian team of , in Kingston, deservedly gets into sixth position.
The three first-day classics we have already seen were truly match-winning efforts against strong teams. The top ten is completed by a quartet of unforgettable bowling performances. Muttiah Muralitharan 's single-handed match-winning effort of 8 for 70 at Trent Bridge in ; Bob Willis ' all-time-classic defence of a small target in the famous Headingley Test with his spectacular 8 for 43; Fazal Mahmood 's destruction of England with his 6 for 46 at The Oval in ; and finally, Anil Kumble 's monumental 10 for 74 against Pakistan.
Tony Greig 's terrific effort of 8 for 86 in Port-of-Spain in , the best second-innings effort ever, just misses out on a top-ten position, on a second decimal point difference from Kumble. However, since their displayed numbers are equal, I will treat them as tied for the tenth position. Richard Hadlee, 9 for 52 v Australia, Brisbane, New Zealand won by an innings and 41 runs First-innings bowling performances were short-changed in the first release of the Wisden , and I must accept responsibility for the same.
At that time, determining what constitutes a good score in the first innings was difficult to pin down because the algorithm was not comprehensive. Since then I have significantly improved that aspect and now performances across all four innings are treated fairly. This explains the elevation of a few world-class opening-day efforts, including Hadlee's at the Gabba. He also got rid of each of the three batsmen who went past 30 just when they looked like taking Australia out of trouble.
The Pitch Quality Index for this match was A quick refresher on PQI: This was proved by the second- and third-innings scores in this match for 7 declared, and Australia were not a very strong team, but this was an away match in a country where New Zealand had not tasted much success.
Hadlee was recently diagnosed with bowel cancer and has had successful surgery for the same. I take this opportunity to wish this giant of a bowler a complete recovery and peaceful life ahead. I also hope that this recognition of his all-time-classic effort will be a tonic for him. Stuart Broad, 8 for 15 v Australia, Trent Bridge, England won by an innings and 78 runs While I kept updating the Wisden over the last decade and a half, I never imagined I would add a future performance that would be able to compete for the top spot.
The bar was set so high that it would require a truly extraordinary performance to get into this privileged position. And Broad provided exactly that. Alastair Cook won the toss and surprisingly put Australia in.
He would probably have been happy if they had been 80 for 3 at lunch. I don't think he could ever have imagined what would happen in the next two hours.
Australia were bowled out well before lunch for 60, in the fewest balls taken for a first-innings dismissal. The longest partnership, in terms of balls, was 33, for the tenth wicket. In terms of runs, the highest was 13, shared between the eighth and the tenth. It is not often that in an Australian innings, no batsman has outscored the extras. Broad bowled 57 balls, conceded 15 runs off seven of them. There were 50 dots, of which eight were wicket-taking deliveries. On paper, the Australian batting was very good, if not outstanding.
Even though England scored , Australia's two totals of 60 and meant that this has to be classified as a bowler-friendly Test. The PQI value was These two factors devalued Broad's outstanding spell slightly.
However, the other aspects were strong enough to keep it innings in second place. Hugh Tayfield, 9 for v England, Johannesburg, South Africa won by 17 runs Newspaper despatches were the only source of information back in the days of this performance, and this gem remained almost unknown to cricket followers outside African shores. That it was deemed to be the best Test bowling effort in the Wisden added poignancy. Many followers of the game went back to the concerned scorecard and were rewarded when they understood the impact Tayfield had had in the game.
This was one of the greatest series of all time. England, against all odds, had won the first two Tests, and the third was drawn. South Africa had to win this fourth match to stay in the series. Tayfield, with four wickets, led the bowling attack in the first innings and secured a lead of 89 for South Africa, but they were dismissed for , and England had a manageable target of On the fifth day, England started attacking a little bit more, knowing that it was not an easy pitch and that Tayfield was going to be difficult to handle.
Tayfield was indeed a major threat and bowled nearly five hours non-stop. England's strategy was fruitful early on - Tayfield was attacked at the beginning of the day and conceded quite a few runs - and just after lunch they were placed comfortably at for 2, needing only 85 to win.
However, Tayfield's skill never wavered, and the sustained excellence of the bowling meant that wickets fell at regular intervals. The crowning glory of his spell were his dismissals of Trevor Bailey, Peter May and Denis Compton for very low scores.
Importantly, it was not a total bowler's wicket, and this is proved by the PQI value of Fanie de Villiers, 6 for 43 v Australia, Sydney, South Africa won by 5 runs Let us look at the factors that catapulted de Villiers into the top four: All these, despite a PQI value of Muttiah Muralitharan, 8 for 70 v England, Trent Bridge, Sri Lanka won by runs England went in to chase their target of an hour after the start on the fourth day, and looked like making a good play for it when they were 84 for no loss.
It was at this point that Murali struck. It was not an easy pitch for batsmen, with a PQI of However, the England batting was of top quality. Their top four in the match are among the best in recent times. Readers are bound to compare Murali's equally magnificent effort eight years previously, in his first Test in England. That was a third-innings effort of 9 for 65 that gave Sri Lanka a memorable win over England. The only serious difference between the efforts is the average quality of England's batting in , with not one batsman averaging over 40 at that point.
That Murali spell is a few rating points behind this one but is comfortably placed within the top Jim Laker, 10 for 53 v Australia, Old Trafford, England won by an innings and runs A higher rating eluded Laker's spell because of the average quality of the Australian batting. But Laker's accuracy was phenomenal: What amazes me the most is that Tony Lock bowled more overs, 55, and the other bowlers bowled 44 over together, and they all did not dismiss a single Australian batsman.
Almost supernatural, one would say. England's huge first-innings score of and the fact that Australia lasted overs in their second innings and scored only runs, indicates that this was not that difficult a pitch - a PQI of Trevor Bailey, 7 for 34 v West Indies, Kingston, England won by nine wickets The profusion of first-innings bowling efforts in this table is testament to the changed methodology.
Bailey was an allrounder of repute. In 61 Tests he took wickets, and on helpful pitches he was very effective. He was an excellent swing bowler and was virtually unplayable in favourable conditions. However, he reserved his best not for English conditions but for a hot Caribbean location. England needed to win the fifth Test, at Sabina Park, to draw level. There was also a scrawny-looking year-old making his debut in this match, batting at No.
The final scores reveal that this was a middle-level pitch favouring both batting and bowling - a PQI of In my opinion, Bailey's performance is a dark horse. It was placed in the top 50 in ; now it has moved into a well-deserved top-ten position. Bob Willis, 8 for 43 v Australia, Headingley, England won by 18 runs If Australia had won the famous Headingley Test, would Ian Botham's classic still be hailed as one of the top ten innings ever?
Botham went beyond what any batsman could have done and gave his bowlers a total to work with. Chasing , Australia were perilously placed at 75 for 8. They had lost seven wickets for 19 runs; Willis had taken six of these for practically nothing. As a sustained bowling spell, there are very few equals to this ferocious effort.
He finished with 8 for 43, having converted a near hopeless situation, one that existed even after Botham's magnificent batting effort, into a match-winning one. This was not necessarily a low-scoring match. The first and third innings were above The PQI of The target was a very low one and the margin, although not as small as the one in Sydney in , was still quite small, at Australia did not really have a great batting outfit and it was a home match for Willis.
These two factors tend to dilute the rating just a little. Fazal Mahmood, 6 for 46 v England, The Oval, Pakistan won by 24 runs Fazal was the master on matting wickets at home. However, during the tour of England, he proved also to be a master in unfamiliar surroundings. This was a totally bowler's pitch, the PQI value of However, the dismissal of the top-three batsmen for low scores, the strength differential between the teams, the tough situation in which Fazal bowled, the low target he was defending, and his accurate bowling meant that he secured a top-ten position.
Anil Kumble, 10 for 74 v Pakistan, Delhi, India won by runs In the course of nearly 14 decades of Test cricket, only two bowlers have claimed all ten wickets in an innings. Laker achieved this in the mid-'50s, Kumble just before the dawn of the new millennium.
In Delhi, India put up a moderate first-innings total of , which did not look enough against a reasonably strong Pakistan batting line-up. However, Kumble and Harbhajan Singh bowled with a lot of heart and made the total seem much larger than it was.
Not one batsman reached 33, and Pakistan were dismissed for , giving India a crucial lead of Pakistan were eventually set the daunting task of scoring over to win the Test. The fourth innings was Kumble's all the way. At for no loss, Pakistan looked likely to make a fist of the tough chase, but Kumble took over.
In the 25th over, Shahid Afridi was dismissed, and the one ball later so was Ijaz Ahmed. In the 29th over, Inzamam-ul-Haq, who saved many a Test for Pakistan, was bowled, and a couple of balls later Yousuf Youhana was out lbw. Moin Khan fell in the 37th over, and Saeed Anwar's long vigil ended in the 39th. When Saleem Malik was dismissed with the score at , everyone at the ground and those following the match realised that history was waiting to be made.
What pulls down Kumble's performance a little is that Pakistan were not necessarily a formidable batting unit. The match had a low PQI of Other than India's second-innings plus total, the other three were below The most important factor, however, was that the fourth-innings target for Pakistan was a huge runs, yet to be achieved in Test cricket.
There was no pressure at all. Possibly the real pressure lay in the prospect of Javagal Srinath or Harbhajan getting a wicket, and of one of the Pakistani players perhaps gifting their wicket away to these bowlers.
Tony Greig, 8 for 86 v West Indies, Port-of-Spain, England won by 26 runs England needed to win in Trinidad to draw the series, but their first-innings seemed inadequate against a strong West Indian line-up, led by Sobers and Rohan Kanhai.
However, it is worth remembering that Sobers and Kanhai were playing their last Tests. Even though Greig had opened the bowling with medium pace, he later produced one of the greatest spells of offspin bowling, dismissing Lawrence Rowe, Clive Lloyd and then Sobers and Kanhai, finishing with astounding figures of 8 for Single-handedly he had restricted what looked set to be a lead of to just England's middling score, West Indies' overall batting strength, the low-score dismissals of Sobers 0 and Kanhai 2 , the fact that Greig cleaned up the tail, the away location, and the unexpected narrow win pushed the performance high up on the table.
The PQI was This is the best second-innings bowling performance ever. To round off the top dozen there's Matthew Hoggard's match-winning fourth-innings performance of 7 for 61 , which misses a top-ten place by a hair's breadth.
Though the target was a substantial , England beat a strong South Africa team in Johannesburg. With two first-innings scores above and a third-innings score of over , this was a pitch helpful to batsmen PQI of Each performance is presented as a blob.
The graph indicates that the period of saw the greatest number of these unforgettable performances. Each of these four years had one such performance. Note how close three mid-table performances, those of Kumble, Greig and Hoggard, are placed.