Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Australian bowling attack

Before the recent Johannesburg Test, much was made of the lack of experience in the Australian bowling attack. Going into that match, the entire team had taken a total of just 135 Test wickets between them, of which 78 could be attributed to Mitchell Johnson.

Of course, by winning the Test, they added another twenty to that total, but this does beg the question – how does this Australian attack compare to those of the past? One way of looking at it is to examine how many wickets they had going into the match. Well - the team that took the field against the South Africans at Sydney for their previous Test only had 133 wickets between them before winning that one too.

These are the lowest totals for Australia since they played Pakistan at Karachi in September 1988 when Peter Taylor, Tony Dodemaide, Bruce Reid and Tim May made up their bowling attack. By way of a comparison, when the played the Proteas at Sydney in January 2006, they fielded a team with 1573 Test wickets under their belts with McGrath, Lee, Warne and MacGill contributing the vast majority.

This is all well and good, but it is slightly skewed towards the present day in which far more Test Matches are played than was the case in the past. So what can the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings tell us about their current bowling strength compared to that of past Aussie teams.

If we total all the current bowling Ratings of the Australian team who played in the first Test at Johannesburg we obtain a figure of 1707 points from the following bowlers: Johnson 804, Siddle 427, McDonald 165, Clarke 108, Katich 85, Hilfenhaus 71, Ponting 29, North 10 and Hussey 8.

How does 1707 points compare with the Australian teams of the past? Let’s start with that January 2006 team at Sydney. At that time, the total bowling points stood at 3143 thanks to McGrath 853, Warne 842, Lee 599, MacGill 594, Symonds 218 and Ponting 37. So – that team had almost twice as many Ratings points as the recent one. Not surprisingly they won that Test by eight wickets although it was Ricky Ponting who made the headlines with twin centuries in his hundredth Test.

All this begs the question – was this Australian attack with McGrath, Warne, Lee et al their best ever? With the help of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings we can compare the total points of each bowling attack to represent the Aussies in Test history. The Sydney 2006 attack was good, but not that good! In fact, it rates just 108th in Australian Test history in terms of total Rating points out of the 706 Tests they have played up to and including the recent one in Johannesburg.

In order to find their highest-Rated attack we need to go quite a bit further back. Back all the way to April 1955 in fact. The Australian team that triumphed over the West Indies at Georgetown, Guyana had a staggering total of 3873 points shared out as follows:



Ray Lindwall


Keith Miller


Bill Johnston


Ian Johnson


Ron Archer


Richie Benaud


Arthur Morris


Neil Harvey


The Australian attack in that match featured three of the top five in the world, backed up by Johnson (12th), Archer (23rd) and Benaud (25th). Not much respite for the West Indian batsmen, who were dismissed for just 182 and 207 to go down to an eight wicket defeat.