Monday, 19 January 2009

Australia vs South Africa Tests Reviewed: Bowling

I'll start with the Series Scores for the bowlers, then I'll supply the analysis.

Steyn (RSA) 30
Johnson (Aus) 29
Siddle (Aus) 20
McDonald (Aus) 6
Duminy (RSA) 3
Hussey (Aus) 2
Harris (RSA) 1
Kallis (RSA) 1
Symonds (Aus) - 3
Morkel (RSA) - 4
Hauritz (Aus) - 7
Bollinger (Aus) - 7
Clarke (Aus) - 10
Ntini (RSA) - 12
Krejza (Aus) - 21
Lee (Aus) - 27

Overall, Australia had an economy of 2.84 for the series. That's very good. Unfortunately, they had strike rate of 90.05. That's exceedingly poor. One of my benchmark series for poor performance is West Indies' tour of Australia in 2005/6. West Indies' strike rate of 86.27 left them hopelessly outclassed. That Australia managed to stay in this series at all is a testament to their batting strength. You don't win Tests by holding the runs down; you win them by taking wickets.

That's why Steyn is at the top of this list. He was expensive, with an economy of 3.59 (which wouldn't win a team many Test series) but a strike rate of 43.78. He carried the South African bowling attack almost single-handed. He was the Man of the Series by any estimation, and won it for the Proteas. If he can't repeat his magic on Australia's return tour, I can't see how the South Africans can win. Overall, their strike rate didn't even get past the notional minimum needed for a series victory of 65. They finished on 66.41. As the first-level Series' Scores show, this series was dominated by the batsmen.

While South Africa can carry Steyn around on their shoulders, Australians will be pushing Brett Lee and Jason Krejza into the dunce's corner. Between them they probably cost Australia the series. Those are horrific scores for men bowling 120 overs between them. (That's 20 an innings over three tests - the equivalent of one front-line bowler at -48.) While the Australians probably could have survived the poor batting of Hayden and Hussey (the latter of whom actually helped out with the ball), there was just nowhere to hide Lee and Krejza (plus Clarke, who goes from 28 with the bat to 18 overall, thanks to some dreadful bowling).

Let's conclude by putting Australia's chances in perspective. In the entire history of Test cricket, how many times do you think a team with a stingy economy of 2.84, but a bowling average of between 42.06 and 43.05 (indicating a lack of penetration), has won a Test match? There have been 42 matches involving such a team.

Try once.

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