Saturday, March 28, 2009

ICC Women’s World Cup – 'Ranking' the teams

And so England's women return home triumphantly from Australia with the ICC Women’s World Cup for the first time since 1993, having beaten New Zealand by four wickets in the final at the North Sydney Oval.

Looking at the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings it is easy to see why they emerged as champions. They ended the competition with their top four batsmen all ranked in the world's top 11, headed by Claire Taylor – who has now spent a total of 111 matches at the top of the batting tree – a total only surpassed by the two Australians Karen Rolton (197) and Belinda Clark (160).

There are an incredible six England bowlers in the top fifteen of the bowling Ratings too. Isa Guha may have slipped from her pre-tournament top spot, but the strength in depth is there for all to see with Holly Colvin, Nicky Shaw and Laura Marsh all ending the final at their highest-ever Ratings.

Another way of examining the relative strengths of the teams participating in the competition is to have a look at the total Rating points for each of them. We can then divide it up further to examine their relative batting and bowling prowess. So here are the total batting Rating points for each team – averaged over their matches in the competition:


Ave total



New Zealand






Sri Lanka


South Africa


West Indies




So – England had a narrow lead over the chasing Kiwis and Aussies with India further behind. The bottom four are pretty much as expected.

Here is the bowling table:


Ave total





New Zealand




South Africa


Sri Lanka




West Indies


This time Australia have a narrow lead, helped by Shelley Nitschke and Lisa Sthalekar having successful tournaments with the ball. Again, it is the “big four” leading the way.

And here is the overall table:


Ave total





New Zealand




Sri Lanka


South Africa


West Indies




Not much to choose between the top three sides, with England just shading it from the Aussies and New Zealand just behind them. These figures probably go to show that there really isn’t a huge amount to choose between the top few sides in the world. Australia did beat England in the tournament – albeit once England’s place in the final was assured – but it suggests that the hosts somewhat underachieved in the tournament as a whole given the quality of their players. On the flip side, India punched above their weight by twice defeating the Australians to pick up third place.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wither the West Indian paceman?

For the best part of two decades, there was nothing like a Test series against the West Indies to send your batting average into freefall. For those unfortunate enough to have their Test careers coincide with the four-pronged pace battery, it was a case of “what might have been” as their overall Test records were deflated somewhat by their ordeal by pace. Here by way of an example are four players who ended their Test careers with Test batting averages of more than forty, but struggled against the Caribbean pacemen:

Javed Mianded (career 52.57, v West Indies 29.78)
Mohammad Azharuddin (career 45.03, v West Indies 28.36)
David Gower (career 44.25, v West Indies 32.82)
Mark Taylor (career 43.49, v West Indies 28.11)

Even though the West Indies led the series one-nil going into the fifth and final Test with England last week at the Queen’s Park Oval, given their history of bowling strength, it was still surprising to see that they dropped a bowler in favour of a more conservative approach.

The West Indian bowling attack at Trinidad managed a total of 1725 points which is obtained by adding all the bowlers’ current Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings points. When you consider that England’s bowling attack – which featured debutant Amjad Khan and a man playing in just his fifth Test (Graeme Swann) totalled 2198 points – it is possible to see what a weak bowling attack the home team fielded, especially lacking the injured Jerome Taylor’s 670 points.

Few though 1725 points may seem, back in May 2003 at Bridgetown, the entire West Indian team which took the field against Australia at Bridgetown had a total of only 944 bowling points – their lowest total since they faced India in November 1948. Unsurprisingly, the Aussies piled up 605 for nine declared and triumphed by nine wickets as Messrs Lawson, Best, Drakes, Banks and Gayle tried their utmost, but toiled hard for more than 150 overs.

So – if that was the modern “nadir” of the West Indian bowling line-up, who comprised the strongest? With the help of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings we can offer an answer, and – funnily enough – it occurred in a match in which a batsman made most of the headlines.

Back in April 1986, the home team went into the final Test at the Antigua Recreation Ground already leading the series with England 4-0. To rub salt in the English wounds, Viv Richards made the most of his home ground to make what is still the fastest-ever Test century – from just 56 deliveries. However, Ratings-wise, this was the strongest-ever West Indian bowling attack to take the field with a combined total of 3635 Ratings points and three of the top five bowlers.



Malcolm Marshall


Joel Garner


Michael Holding


Roger Harper


Patrick Patterson


Viv Richards


Larry Gomes


Desmond Haynes


Right now, Jerome Taylor is the only West Indian in the top twenty of the bowling Ratings. What they wouldn’t give for one of the top three from 1986 in the team right now!

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.