Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The First Innings Spinner

In the modern game (the era of covered pitches) the role of a spinner has often been to come in when the pitch is starting to break up and bowl out a team. The theory is that a good spin bowler is almost impossible to play on the final day and a half of a test match.

There is one glaring exception to this rule: Daniel Vettori.

With his subtle changes of pace, and the fact that he relies more on bounce than spin, he has often found the pitches at the end of the game less to his liking than the ones at the start.

Less than 10% of his wickets have come in the fourth innings. He only once took a 5 wicket bag in the 4th innings, and that was in his first season, when he was a very different bowler than he is now.

To demonstrate the difference I've compiled a list of bowlers based on their performances first in a teams first innings, then in a teams second innings:

Bowling in a teams 1st innings by a modern spinner. (qual. 90 wickets)

NameWicketsAverageStrike-rate5 Wicket bags
SCG MacGill11229.0853.86
M Muralitharan45823.9457.939
BS Chandrasekhar12529.4161.111
SK Warne34928.0461.318
Saqlain Mushtaq13530.2265.411
Abdul Qadir15132.1970.110
Danish Kaneria14937.2671.18
A Kumble33932.1672.518
DL Vettori21532.6174.413
Harbhajan Singh21937.2875.514
Mushtaq Ahmed10440.1679.24
Iqbal Qasim9331.7484.74
BS Bedi12434.4389.96
RJ Shastri10644.281112


This puts him in some good company, at a similar level to Anil Kumble, Abdul Qadir and Danish Kaneria, all very good bowlers.

However the next table is for a teams second innings. It is not so flattering.

Bowling in a teams 2nd innings by a modern spinner. (qual. 50 wickets)

NameWicketsAverageStrike-rate5 Wicket bags
M Muralitharan34221.0851.228
Mushtaq Ahmed8123.7452.96
SK Warne35922.8553.719
SCG MacGill9628.9654.16
Harbhajan Singh17425.015711
A Kumble28026.65817
PR Adams6730.64581
JG Bracewell5525.21604
GP Swann6028.4660.55
Danish Kaneria11231.563.37
N Boje6230.1264.62
BS Bedi7221.7964.84
BS Chandrasekhar5528.7264.83
MS Panesar6429.3165.36
Iqbal Qasim7823.7865.84
AA Mallett5529.2171.61
Saqlain Mushtaq7329.1271.72
AF Giles6136.0976.52
Abdul Qadir8533.8876.85
PL Harris5230.6978.11
JE Emburey6328.6182.44
DL Vettori12936.0882.56
PCR Tufnell5829.1882.83
ST Jayasuriya5135.1388.70


To make matters worse, if we compare the averages, then he moves a step further down the table, with only Ashley Giles below him (and then only by 0.01 of a run).

The contrast between the two tables is quite incredible. He is one of only two spin bowlers to have taken 100 wickets in the modern era, and average worse in the second innings than the first. The other bowler is Graeme Swann, and his averages are only 0.67 apart. Vettori's difference is 3.47.

If he is to bowl out Pakistan in the fourth innings in the current test at Wellington, it will be a performance against the form book.

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