Much has been made by those in the Australia cricket set up and press of late of the Australian team’s claim (via Craig McDermott and Peter Siddle principally) that it possesses the best bowling attack in the world. This statement has come after Australia’s annihilation of England in the recently completed Ashes series.
There is no doubt that the Australia bowling attack bowled splendidly against England, led by Ryan Harris and Mitchell Johnson. That said, I have been left to wonder over recent days as to whether the claim to fame as being the best bowling is merely hyperbole or has some roots in fact.
Obviously then it is important to consider the facts around who the best bowlers in the world currently are and then consider whether those best bowlers form the best attack.
The ICC Test Match Rankings are as good as place as any to start. The current bowling rankings (updated to include the recently completed Ashes Tour) are:
|1||V.D. Philander||South Africa|
|2||D.W. Steyn||South Africa|
|4||H.M.R.K.B. Herath||Sri Lanka|
|10||T.A. Boult||New Zealand|
|12||M. Morkel||South Africa|
|13||T.G. Southee||New Zealand|
|16||K.A.J. Roach||West Indies|
|19||Shakib Al Hasan||Bangladesh|
|20||S. Shillingford||West Indies|
Australia has all four of its present bowling attack in the top 20 in the world at the moment, therefore, on first principals they have the best attack in the world will be the argument of some, particularly those who are ardent fans of the ICC rankings system. That said, there are many, me included, who hold little stock in the ICC system so it is necessary to dig a bit deeper in the form of the relevant bowling attacks. Before doing so, the ICC Rankings are useful in one sense: it is possible to remove a number teams, and their attacks, from consideration here based on their lack of representation in said rankings: Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka have scant representation and can be removed.
Statistically, I am of a view that an analysis of the last 12 months of test matches would be the best way to examine who has the best bowling attack. As the tables below show, a simple statistical representation is problematic.
Most Wickets (1 Jan 2013 to date):
|SCJ Broad (Eng)||15||28||512||1722||66||26.09||46.5|
|JM Anderson (Eng)||15||29||567.5||1768||55||32.14||61.9|
|DW Steyn (SA)||9||18||357.4||901||51||17.66||42|
|TA Boult (NZ)||12||21||429.5||1154||46||25.08||56|
|RJ Harris (Aus)||9||18||328.3||895||46||19.45||42.8|
|NM Lyon (Aus)||12||24||455.4||1556||45||34.57||60.7|
|PM Siddle (Aus)||15||28||489.1||1316||45||29.24||65.2|
|GP Swann (Eng)||10||19||440||1466||43||34.09||61.3|
|R Ashwin (India)||7||14||355.2||923||41||22.51||52|
|MG Johnson (Aus)||7||14||235.4||669||40||16.72||35.3|
|Saeed Ajmal (Pak)||8||14||409||1062||39||27.23||62.9|
|VD Philander (SA)||8||16||278||686||38||18.05||43.8|
|S Shillingford (WI)||6||9||261.5||802||36||22.27||43.6|
|TG Southee (NZ)||8||15||333.3||898||36||24.94||55.5|
|N Wagner (NZ)||10||18||373||1271||35||36.31||63.9|
|RA Jadeja (India)||5||10||255.4||573||30||19.1||51.1|
|HMRKB Herath (SL)||4||8||234.3||605||25||24.2||56.2|
|Junaid Khan (Pak)||6||11||242.1||656||23||28.52||63.1|
|Sohag Gazi (Ban)||6||11||290.3||807||22||36.68||79.2|
|ST Finn (Eng)||6||10||179.1||670||20||33.5||53.7|
Test Match Results (1 Jan 2013 to date)
The problem arises with in the obvious discrepancy between the number of tests played by the various test match playing nations. It is impossible to compare statistically the efforts of those who have played for, for example, South Africa with those who have played for England because of the significant variance between in the number of tests played by the two teams.
That being the case, a different analysis is necessary. The efforts of a bowling attack are best examined, in my view, in the considering who often they take wickets (strike rate) and the quantum of runs scored against the attack. The later examination is one that ought be undertaken in two parts: a per average based and then by tallying the number of innings under 200 produced by the opposition of each team.
This table sets out the results of that analysis:
|Team||Strikerate||Innings Ave||Innings <200|
Based on this analysis, then South Africa must have had the better bowling attack in the last 12 months mustn’t they? They have the best strike rate in terms of balls bowled per wicket and have restricted their opponents to the lowest sum of runs per innings.
Deniers of this view will say that Australia possesses more fire power and has the great ability to run through teams as evidenced by the efforts of Johnson et al against England. Whilst it is true that Australia’s bowlers went through periods against England of taking clumps of wickets for not many runs, did they dismiss their opponents this year for less than 100 at any point? The answer to that enquiry is no whereas the South Africans did so thrice in the year.
Australia’s bowlers and coach have earned the right to be overjoyed with their efforts against England. They should be careful though that this present attack of hyperbole as to who possesses the best bowling attack in the world does not return to bite them on the metaphorical backside. If nothing else, one can bet that Messrs Steyn, Philander and Morkel have been watching the press coverage of Australia’s statements closely.