A statistic for your consideration

To win a test match you need to take 20 wickets unless the opposition captain declares unwisely. In the five-match series just ended England took 61 wickets altogether, or just 12 per game on average. It should be clear that the central problem they need to address is how to take more wickets per match. How can England best do this?

If we arbitrarily define an effective strike rate for a bowler in test matches as, say, one wicket every eleven overs then England and Australia had a similar number of effective bowlers in the test series just finished.

Australia’s effective bowlers were Clark, McGrath, Warne and Lee, all with strike rates well under our arbitrary threshold. England had Hoggard, Panesar and Mahmood with Flintoff just outside the threshold. Let’s call him an effective bowler anyway because it doesn’t affect the point I’m about to make.

Here’s the stat: Australia’s effective bowlers bowled 94% of their overs. England’s effective bowlers bowled just 53% of theirs.

In other words, nearly half England’s overs were bowled by Harmison, Anderson, Giles and Pietersen, none of whom could buy a wicket in the recent series. I know this is written with the benefit of hindsight, but this is simply poor captaincy, poor selection and poor planning by the back room team. There is a massive gulf in the effectiveness of the two attacks but it is not because of a massive gulf between the individual bowlers, just how efficiently they were used.

England can put this right, but they need to realise that past performance is not always a reliable guide to current effectiveness. Only a captain on the field can adjust the plan to accommodate what is happening on the day. I don’t believe Andrew Flintoff has the experience or courage to do this, and I don’t believe Duncan Fletcher gave him the right personnel or instructions in the first place. They should both be replaced.


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