Friday 21 December 2012

Land of the long list of lefties

In a few hours New Zealand will take the field against South Africa. There are two players likely to be named in the team who's selection will be quite remarkable.

Corey Anderson is a big all rounder from Canterbury (originally) who hits a big ball and bowls left-arm medium fast. He was a prodigious talent at youth level, making the Canterbury side at age 16, while still at school.

Mitchell McClenaghan is a left-arm fast bowler who is a little erratic and injury prone, but who has a tendency to take wickets. Lots of wickets. Think of him as a New Zealand version of Mitchell Johnson. Not always on target, but capable of occasionally bowling a ball that could get through Rahul Dravid or Brian Lara.

While their selections are not in themselves particularly notable, there is one thing that is: they are both left-arm pace bowlers, adding to a very long list of NZ left-armers.

This year New Zealand has used Trent Boult, Niel Wagner, Andy McKay, James Franklin and Michael Bates at the bowling crease. There is only one other year in history when a team has selected 5 left-arm pace bowlers to play international cricket. In 2007 Sri Lanka actually picked 6 (although Zoysa didn't actually bowl in the one match he was selected for).

And New Zealand are probably against the best team to bowl left-arm pace against. South Africa's batsmen have done well against every type of bowling, but they have done less well against left-arm pace than any other type. In the last 4 years they average about 41 against right arm spin, 39 against left-arm spin or right arm pace but only 35 against left-arm pace. An average of 35 suggest that left-arm pace isn't a silver bullet, but it is a significant difference, and one that New Zealand might be aware of.

So far this year most of the South African batsmen have been dismissed at least once by a left-armer, despite many of them having only faced a couple of innings from a left-armer. Here are the stats for everyone who has faced a left-arm pace bowler at least 5 times:

NameTotal RunsTotal DismissalsAverage
A Petersen66416.5
de Villiers1421142
du Plessis96196

The New Zealand bowlers are likely to be eagerly waiting to bowl to Petersen and Kallis. The battle between the South African batsmen and the New Zealand left-armers is certainly one aspect of the tour that I'm going to be looking forward to watching immensely.

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