Power To The Ashes
So the excitement is all over, and England have deservedly beaten the Australians at the latest Ashes series.
Many late evenings have been spent listening to the coverage on Radio 5, catching the usual humour and generally irrelevant things that get covered in a cricket test match, things that help to make cricket the wonderful event that it is, more than just a game, a life affirming experience. Even David Cameron trying to climb aboard the ‘feel-good’ bandwagon can detract from the fun.
This series we have seen the phenomenon of Ashley Kerekes, the young American who unknowingly grabbed the Twitter handle of @theashes, and suddenly found herself overwhelmed by cricket weirdoes tweeting her, whilst she had no idea what they were talking about. I loved some of her early tweets, ‘… what is a wicket’; and ‘… that’d be interesting to know if I knew what that meant’ in response to a follower who helpfully informed her that England went ‘… beyond 500 for the loss of one wicket in the 2nd innings’ for the first time. Although she got frustrated by the attention and the intrusion, she gradually warmed to it ands appreciated the enthusiasm of all of the people involving her, and eventually received a courtesy trip to Australia to see the fifth test. Whilst there, she saw all 5 days of the final test; interviewed the Australian Prime Minister; was introduced to the finer points of the game and shared lunch with Steve Waugh; and met the ‘Barmy Army‘ (hopefully Billy composed a new song just for her).
The Barmy Army
The aforementioned ‘Barmy Army‘ were on top form, as ever. They will be there following England, regardless of the score or how the match is going. How sweet this series must have been for them – sunshine; good Australian beer (sorry, that’s an oxymoron!); good cricket; and best of all, a dominant England team in batting, bowling and fielding. So we were able to enjoy them at full flow, singing their songs, ‘Superman’ for Kevin Pietersen, the Rocky theme ‘Getting Stronger’ for Stuart Broad, and my favourite, ‘Swann Will Tear You Apart’ for Graeme Swann.
Test Match Special
I watched the one hour highlights that we received on ITV3 (I think), each evening and then switched to the radio live coverage. As said above, the commentary was its usual brilliant self, I even foundGeoff Boycott enjoyable rather than frumpy for once. Michael Vaughan was a revelation for me, he seems to be letting his real self be seen, not so much the staid statements that he has been guilty of in the past. Ian Chappell was his usual curmudgeonly self, he must have been a nightmare when he was playing, no wonder Boffy smacked him in the car park (although I think he went over the top in accusing Philip Hughes of cheating). Best of all for me was Simon Hughes, concise, witty and informative. But am I the only one who find Jonathan Agnew irritating? I think that his interview with Lily Allen a while back tipped my view from slight irritation to wholesale annoyance.
And so to …
I decided to join two of my favourite obsessions, cricket and Excel, and do some analysis of this last test series. To help, I decided to use my favourite new toy, PowerPivot. So I grabbed the details of all five matches, created a series of tables in Excel, and linked these tables into PowerPivot. Joining the tables in PowerPivot, and I could easily pivot the data to see an overall view. Nothing clever about all of this, 7 tables, a few calculated columns and a few custom measures, but I believe that it is an example of how PowerPivot allows easy analysis of a set of structured data.
In this first post in a series of three on this topic, I will be looking at the bowling in the test series.
First, we can see the full series summary, in Figure 1
Australia Used More Bowlers
The first thing that strikes me about this analysis is that there is a lot more green on yellow than red on white, Australia used 12 bowlers as against England’s 8 throughout the series. 50% more is quite significant factor. Although Ryan Harris was injured and had to be replaced for Australia, this was offset by an injury to Stuart Broad, so that doesn’t impact. As the England batting was generally on top, making 4 scores of over 500, 2 over 600; and England did not complete the innings in 2 of their 7 innings; this is not so surprising. Australia generally tried more bowlers in a match to try and make something happen. And the Australian selection process was bizarre to say the least. Why did they not pick Nathan Hauritz? Why did they drop Johnson and Hilfenhaus for the second test and then axe the replacement Bollinger for the third? That seems like a tacit admission that they were wrong, in at least one of those decisions. The jury is still out on Steven Smith, but blooding him as well as Xavier Doherty and Michael Beer seems a tad optimistic, especially whilst ignoring Hauritz. Does anyone think that Doherty and Beer are test bowlers?
England Bowled More Overs
Next, we can see that Australia bowled 816 overs against 849 bowled by England. The winning team bowled more overs? Again, this can be attributed to the England batting dominance, they only had 7 innings, whereas Australia batted in all 10 innings, and Australia only had one innings that they were not bowled out in, the drawn first test. So, England had to bowl more overs because the Australians had to bat more wickets; England took 86 wickets (plus 4 run-outs) against the 56 that the Australia bowlers captured. The fact that England took 90% of the wickets available in a series strikes me as very high number. I wonder what the overall average is.
Wickets Per Test
There is no doubt that England had the best bowlers, and the best bowling unit. Between them they averaged 17.20 wickets per test, Australia managed just 11.0. James Anderson was by far the most prolific wicket-taker with 24, then came Chris Tremlett with 17, Graeme Swann with 15, Mitchell Johnson with 15, Steven Finn with 14, and Peter Siddle with 14.
But number of wickets don’t tell the whole story, other factors come into play. The top 6 wicket takers per test in the series were:-
- Chris Tremlett – England – 17 wickets in 3 tests, average 5.67 per test
- Tim Bresnan – England – 11 wickets in 2 tests, average 5.50 per test
- James Anderson – England – 24 wickets in 5 tests, average 4.80 per test
- Steven Finn – England – 14 wickets in 3 tests, average 4.67 per test
- Mitchell Johnson – Australia – 15 wickets in 4 tests, average 3.75 per test
- Ryan Harris – Australia – 11 wickets in 3 tests, average 3.67 test.
Wickets Per Innings
England had the four highest wicket takers per test, Australia could only manage fifth and sixth. Of course, England bowled more in more innings, so the Australian bowlers did not get as many bowling opportunities (although it can also be argued that they didn’t get as many opportunities because they weren’t good enough to get more opportunities). England were ahead on the wickets per innings, the team averaging 8.60 wickets per innings whereas Australia averaged 7.86 wickets per innings. The top 6 rankings for the number of wickets per innings were:-
- Chris Tremlett – England – 17 wickets in 6 innings, average 2.83 per innings
- Tim Bresnan – England – 11 wickets in 4 innings, average 2.75 per innings
- Ryan Harris – Australia – 11 wickets in 4 innings, average 2.75 per innings
- Mitchell Johnson – Australia – 15 wickets in 6 innings, average 2.50 per innings
- James Anderson – England – 24 wickets in 10 innings, average 2.40 per innings
- Steven Finn – England – 14 wickets in 6 innings, average 2.33 per innings.
Again, The English bowlers figure better, more in the top 6, and the top two. By averaging over innings instead of tests, the Australian bowlers figure a little better.
Runs Per Wicket
Finally, looking at the number of runs per wicket, we can see that England conceded a miserly 29.63 runs per wicket, Australia gave up a generous 49.43 per wicket. Looking at the top 6 bowlers for runs per wicket, we get:-
- Tim Bresnan – England – 11 wickets for 215 runs, average 19.55 per wicket
- Chris Tremlett – England – 17 wickets for 397, average 23.35 per wicket
- Ryan Harris – England – 11 wickets for 281 runs, average 25.55 per wicket
- James Anderson – England – 24 wickets for 625 runs, average 26.04 per wicket
- Steven Finn – Australia – 14 wickets for 464 runs, average 33.14 per wicket
- Peter Siddle – Australia – 14 wickets for 484 runs, average 34.57 per wicket.
Again, England’s numbers are better than Australia’s, better overall, and the first, second, fourth and fifth most economical of the top 6 bowlers.
Interestingly, Steven Finn was dropped after the third test because, even though he was the leading strike bowler, he was considered too uneconomical, but he was less economical than only one Australian bowler.
A Few More
Australian bowlers individually conceded 100 or more runs in an innings on 9 occasions, in 4 of the 5 tests. The only test that they avoided having any bowler concede 100 or more runs was the third test, the test that Australia won. England in contrast conceded 100 or more runs on just 2 occasions, both in the first test, although James Anderson came close by conceding 99 runs in Australia’s first innings. Even when Australia won the third test, no England bowler conceded 100 or more runs.
There were less 5 wicket innings than might be expected, especially from England. Australia had 4 fifers, two from Peter Siddle, one from Mitchell Johnson, and one from Ryan Harris. In actuality, they were all six wicket hauls. In contrast, England had just three fifers, Steven Finn (with a six), Graeme Swann, and Chris Tremlett. Notice that James Anderson had no fifers despite being the leading wicket taker. To me, this just demonstrates his quality, the ability to bowl on any wicket; he doesn’t need a wicket tailor made for him.
England bowled 849.4 overs, of which 218 were maidens, a maidens rate of 24.37%. Australia bowled 816 overs, of which 151 were maidens, or 18.50%. The pressure exerted by this quality of bowling all adds to the difficulty that the Australia batsmen encountered.
The numbers tell a very clear story here, England were far superior as a bowling unit than Australia, and performed better in wickets per test; wickets per innings; and runs conceded per wicket.
Interestingly, the Australian bowler who was generally rated as their best in the commentaries that I heard, Peter Siddle, only figures once above, and that is as the 6th most economical bowler per wicket taken, although to be fair he also the second highest wicket haul for Australia with 14, two six wicket hauls amongst them. This suggest to me that, good bowler that he is, he is not as versatile as the English bowlers on wickets that do not suit him.
The other telling item that I glean from the above is that England went into the series with the second highest rated bowler in the world, Graeme Swann. Although he took 15 wickets, he didn’t figure in any of the criteria above. He played a valuable role in keeping an end tied up at crucial points; for his fielding and batting, and his general affect on the dressing room; but in his main role the part he played was less prominent. With England also losing one of their opening bowlers after the second test, dropping their leading wicket taker after the third test, England’s bowling depth was evident. Tremlett and Bresnan were given an opportunity and took it superbly, so much so that by the criteria above they were the best two bowlers overall in the Ashes series.
In my next blog, I will look at the batting.
 Kevin Pietersen actually averaged only 16 runs per wicket, but as he only took one wicket, I excluded him.