A great day for Chaminda Vaas

As dismal England crashed towards almost certain defeat (barring rain) on day two of the 3rd Test at Galle, life was peachy for Chaminda Vaas.

Well past the disappointment of being dropped in Australia for what would have been his 100th Test, Vaas is very much enjoying his 102nd. He started by taking his overnight score to 90 and shared a 7th wicket partnership of 183 with his captain (213*). He then shattered the England first innings, taking the wickets of four of the top seven batsmen. Vaas finished the day with 4-28.

And even more importantly, he held off a strong challenge for the longest name in Test cricket. That’s right, with six given names, debutant U.W.M.B.C.A. Welegedara showed some promise. However, detailed analysis (see below), has shown him to come up 3 short with 49 characters to Vaas’s 52. Chaminda’s parents were wise in selecting long names for their son.


Now about England’s dismal 81. You can’t expect me not to examine that a little more closely. Let me frame it this way: No less than three individual Sri Lankans single-handedly exceeded England’s team total. The number nine, all on his ownsome, scored 11% more than England could manage. The captain, Jayawardene scored more than two and half times England’s total. I guess that will do.

And special mention to Jayawardene – he has scored 408 in his last two innings (195 & 213*) for just once out.

If Sri Lanka can win, they will displace England in second place on the ICC Test team ladder.

Gangers going Gangbusters

As Australia prepares for its Indian Summer by playing pyjama cricket against the Kiwis, India and Pakistan continue to slug it out in India. I believe that the term “India Summer” traditionally applies to a summer that lingers late into Autumn. It’s a little ironic that in this case, the summer is running late as we wait for the Indians to arrive. Still, better late than never – something James Sutherland should remember.

It is strange to think that the first Test between India and Australia, the Boxing Day Test, starts in just two weeks time and India is in the middle of a Test match on the sub-continent. I don’t know when the Indian team arrives but the preparation is a three day match against Victoria at the Junction Oval, starting on 20 December. That’s it. Then straight into back-to-back Tests against what should be a well rested Australian team.

The last time Australia played a summer without both Warne and McGrath was the summer of 2003-04 and there were four Tests against India. India scored 409, 523, 366 and 7/705. The Australians chased leather to a tune not matched before or since over a 15 year period. It is true that the matches were played on batsman friendly pitches that were dominating world cricket at that time, and the Aussies scored almost as many runs and the series was drawn 1 all.

The batsman who did the most damage for India in that series was Dravid. However, the other three of the “Fab Four” – Tendulkar, Laxman, and Ganguly, all scored very heavily. Those four are all still in the Indian team, though it has not been plain sailing in the past four years, and scoring heavily in the current series.

I believe that one of the main reasons that India was able to match it wit Australia at home, and more importantly away (i.e. in Australia), was the captaincy of Sourav Ganguly. He does rub some people the wrong way, including, and especially, Steve Waugh but that is the whole point. He added the mongrel and backbone so necessary to bore it up the Aussies. During the lamentable “Greg Chappell years”, Ganguly’s form suffered, he fought bitterly with Chappell (no doubt he rubbed him the wrong way) and was on the outer. I believe that India’s overall performance suffered as a consequence.

But Gangers is back, and with a vengeance – he is having his best year ever with the bat. He will make his last tour of Australia presumably under the captaincy of Anil Kumble. He has just posted his highest Test score – 239 – far surpassing his previous mark of 173, and that followed 102 in the previous Test. He’s bowling too, and taking wickets. In other words, his confidence is up and that will help the Indians. Personally, I think it would help the Indians if he was captain. No offence to Anil – he is a brick – but I don’t know how nasty he is.

And that brings us to the much anticipated clash this summer. Traditionally, India has struggled with the bounce in Australia. In fact, traditionally, India has struggled to win Test matches anywhere other than in India. It is interesting to note that Ganguly’s average in India is just 37 while away, it is 44. I think that says something about the man.

India has easily topped 600 in the past two Test matches. Almost all of the batsmen have been in the runs. You could argue that is good preparation. You could also argue that playing matches with airstrips for pitches, in totally different conditions, is not ideal preparation.

While the Australian bowling attack will be far stronger than it was four years ago, there are some dilemmas. Macgilla has dipped out of contention, leaving Hogg as the only other spinner with any chance. And Hogg has had some sort of mishap biting his nails or something. The selectors have hinted that on some pitches, a four pronged pace attack will be an option. I would hope that goes without saying. But is the MCG going to be such a pitch? The MCG will use a drop-in pitch for the Test and there are concerns that it will be low and slow. Ripper. Perhaps the West Indies mantra of the eighties and nineties is worth consideration. I heard this from Ian Chappell. About 97 times over the past 10 years. And this is it: That you play your best four bowlers, whatever flavour they are and disregard the pitch.

Before moving on, a couple of points:

At stumps on day three, Pakistan are 5/369 chasing 626. The 369 includes a staggering 70 sundries (or extras) and that 70 includes an astounding 31 byes.

England is fighting it out in the second test against Sri Lanka, trying to square the series. Special mention to Kumar Sangakkara. Following his magnificent 192 against Australia, he managed to trump Murali in his big match. Murali took six and three-for, including wiping the tail at the death and broke the world record on home soil, and Sangakkara still managed to steal the man of the match award. That takes some doing. He made 92 (out of 188) and 152 to guide Sri Lanka to victory. What a guy.

You can’t bend the truth but you can bend your arm

Congratulations to Muttiah Muralitharan on taking your 709th Test wicket, thus passing Shane Warne’s old record of 708.

Should I stop there? Dare I say what I really think?

Oh no. Call the PC police. Self publishing is a wonderful thing.

I have previously discussed in detail what I think of the legalities of Murali’s action. See:

I don’t propose to rehash it here – click on the link if you want to – I don’t want to be appear a bad loser. Warne’s own disparaging remarks over the past weeks, months (and years) are unattractive and ungracious.

In summary, I believe that Murali chucks. It’s complicated. Murali can’t straighten his right arm fully. I acknowledge that he is a rubber man and there are wrists, shoulders and elbows rotating and moving in all directions. I couldn’t be sure Murali chucks every delivery. He probably doesn’t. I’m pretty sure he chucks every doosra.

And what is a “chuck” anyway? Do we mean that the bowler has straightened his arm more than 15 degrees or that he has simply chucked the ball – i.e. measured by the old standards. A reckon that chuck is what any experienced cricket watcher can detect, just be looking. Of course, either the ICC does not subscribe to this view or they do not consider that their international umpires are experienced cricket watchers.

Murali is playing his 116th Test – 29 Tests less than Shane Warne. His numbers are quite simply incredible. He has taken five wickets in an innings 61 times. I repeat, 61 – Six-one. That is 23 times more than Warne (next best). Murali has two nine wicket hauls and three eight wicket hauls. Has has taken 10 or more wickets in a match on 20 occasions (that will probably be 21 in two days time). Warne (next best) achieved the feat on 10 occasions. Murali’s average is 21.77 – that puts him 32nd on the list but right up there with the greats. Warne is not on the list, but still with a very respectable 25.42. Amazing numbers – Murali is 35 years old and who know how much the numbers will grow.

Murali took 27 Tests to take his first 100 wickets. Warne took 23 Test. They both reached 200 in 42 Tests. After the first 100 wickets, Murali has taken between 12 and 16 Tests for each hundred. Quite the opposite for Warne. After the first hundred, he has taken about 18 Tests for hundred and took 29 Tests for the 4th hundred.

Murali Warnie
Wickets Tests Test/hundred Wickets Tests Test/hundred
100 27 27 100 23 23
200 42 15 200 42 19
300 58 16 300 63 21
400 72 14 400 92 29
500 87 15 500 108 16
600 101 14 600 126 18
700 113 12 700 144 18

There has been quite some talk, not the least of it from Shane Keith Warne about Murali having many wickets against the minnows. Murali does have 163 wickets against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe and it is true that is a lot. But as Murali says, he doesn’t chose who he plays against. That aside, the 547 wickets he has taken against “non minnows” have come at an average of 23.68 – still well ahead of Warne’s career averages.

But what do the numbers mean? We should never forget that the rules of cricket were changed for one man. Muttiah Muralitharan. Why? To keep Sri Lankan cricket in the game. Who is third on the Sri Lankan Test cricket wicket takers list? You guessed it: Opening batsman, Sanath Jayasuriya with 97 wickets. Sri Lanka have had just two bowlers in their 26 year Test history: Vaas and Muralitharan. In order to give Sri Lanka traction in the nasty world of international cricket, and because the ICC was not man enough to address a difficult issue in this age of racial tension and blind political correctness, the rules were changed.

Truth is perception. What once was a chuck, is no longer a chuck. The ICC, in changing the law, have admitted that Murali is a chucker in the traditional sense. If not, why did the rule need to be changed?

However, all that being said, is to the detriment of the ICC. I don’t regard Murali as a cheat. He does what he does in plain view – he has not tried to conceal anything and has had all sorts of tests done. He is a fierce competitor, is lion hearted, he will bowl all day and often is required to and he’s not afraid to chance his arm with a bit of willow in hand. And chucker or not, there is a lot of skill in what he does.

100 Maximums

Today, the second day of the second Test between Australia and Sri Lanka in Hobart, just a few days after his beatification as the greatest Australian One Day Cricketer, Adam Gilchrist became the first Test cricketer to hit one hundred sixes in Tests. I’ve had my eye on this milestone for a while (thanks to Cricinfo’s Live stats) and today it was reached in grand style. Gillie hit three big ones and the third, immediately following the second, was last seen heading over a stand of fir trees on the perimeter of lovely Bellerive. While that was a fitting way to bring up the ton, it’s cost Gillie ten grand because he wanted to auction his ball on eBay (all proceeds to OxFam, of course).

Gilchrist is a well know bigger hitter. But is he the biggest of the big hitters? The answer is…. It depends. When you look at the “Tonk Factor” (TF) expressed in the table below (sorry for those of you whose email client doesn’t support HTML), you can see that Gillie’s TF is 11.1. That is, 11.1% of Gilchrist’s runs are scored in sixes. That’s not bad – not bad at all. However, there are some who are better – but not many. Murali for a start! I’ve thrown in a few bowlers with big hitting reputations. Of course, they don’t have the responsibility of batsmen. But even most of those, while having good TFs, don’t surpass Gillie.

Chris Cairns, second on the list of six hitters (with 87), has a TF of 15.7 – now that’s getting near the top of the list. Afridi, no surprises for guessing, beats that comfortably with 18.8. But the winner is (as far as I can tell – I compiled these figures myself): Lance Cairns. His legend as being a big hitter is backed by stats. However, with just 28 sixes and less 1,000 Test runs, he claims to being the biggest hitter of all time are slender.

You will notice that on the whole, as the average goes up, the TF comes down (see graph below). Generally, the higher the average, the lower the TF. Bradman hit only 6 sixes in his whole Test career. That’s a TF of just 0.5% but I’m sure that The Don would not have cared. He once sent a message to Neil Harvey, “If you don’t hit the ball in the air, you can’t get caught.”. The text book run machines, Greg Chappell and Ricky Ponting have TFs of sub 4%. Interestingly, Chappelli, who I think sees himself as a bit of a hitter (“I always favoured the horizontal bat shots, while my brother Greg played in the “V”.), has a TF of just 1.7%. Rod Marsh, who was definitely seen as a man who could clear the fence has a humble TF of 4%.

When you look at Gillie’s high average, combined with his high TF, and his strike rate of over 82 runs per 100 balls (most good Australian Test batsmen are between 50 and 60), perhaps, all things considered, he is the best big hitter ever.

Player Sixes Boundaries Runs % boundaries %runs (Tonk Factor) Average
Gilchrist 100 759 5420 13.2 11.1 49.3
Hayden 79 1026 7799 7.7 6.1 52.7
Symonds 15 76 982 19.7 9.2 32.7
Afridi 50 266 1683 18.8 17.8 37.4
Cairns, C 87 452 3320 19.2 15.7 33.5
Jayasuria 58 950 6837 6.1 5.1 40.2
Bradman 6 n/a 6996 n/a 0.5 99.9
Cairns, L 28 n/a 928 n/a 18.1 16.3
Ponting 57 1125 9455 5.1 3.6 59.1
Chappell, G 16 771 7110 2.1 1.4 53.9
Chappell, I 15 n/a 5345 n/a 1.7 42.4
Marsh, R 24 405 3633 5.9 4.0 26.5
Hughes, M 17 113 1032 15.0 9.9 16.6
Muralidaran 24 154 1127 15.6 12.8 11.7
Lee 15 132 1098 11.4 8.2 21.1