13 February 2008

Finger spinning in Australia

A little while ago I posted about finger spinning in Australia and the lack of success finger spinners seem to have here. As promised I've done some statistical analyses on the subject and my verdict is this........yes, finger spinners do struggle in Australian conditions when compared to wrist spinners and fast/medium bowlers. Here are the numbers to back it up (I used cricinfo's Statsguru engine and the good old fashioned calculator for this crunching of numbers). All stats are limited to tests played in Australia after WWII.

Fast/medium bowlers have taken 5,636 wickets at an average of 30.65 and a strike rate of 65.57. Spin bowlers have taken 2,208 wickets at an average of 37.76 and a strike rate of 87.57. There is also a third category of bowler which covers bowlers who bowled a mixture of pace and spin such as Andrew Symonds, Garfield Sobers and Derek Underwood, and also part time or occasional bowlers who do not have a bowling style listed on Cricinfo. These mixture/unknown bowlers have taken 532 wickets at an average 33.22 and a strike rate of 76.54. These figures show that in general fast/medium bowlers have significantly out performed spinners over the years in Australian conditions.

Now to compare finger spinners with wrist spinners. The wrist spinners have taken 1,165 wickets at 34.47 and a strike rate of 76.42. This leaves 1,043 wickets for finger spinners, which compares favourably, but these wickets have cost 41.44 runs a piece and 100.10 balls are bowled per wicket. Wrist spinners have also taken five wickets in an innings 59 times and ten in a match 12 times. Fingers spinners have just 37 five-fors and incredibly just 3 ten-fors despite having bowled over 15,000 more deliveries than wrist spinners.

You might argue that for the last fifteen or so years the best wrist spinner in history has been bowling for Australia which must skew the numbers. If you take Warne out of the equation, the wrist spinners still out perform finger spinners with 846 wickets at 37.51 and a strike rate of 82.29. They still have 44 five wicket hauls and 11 tens.

One very interesting point I noticed when doing this research was that Australian's use wrist spinners far more than finger spinners, while the reverse is true for visiting teams. Australian wrist spinners have bowled 71,328 balls compared to 26,464 for finger spinners. For visiting teams the respective numbers are 17,704 and 77,666. In fact the last time Australia played a specialist finger spinner in a home test was Tim May's last test in the 94/95 Ashes. Of course, having Warne and MacGill around has severely limited opportunities for finger spinners, as has a steady supply of useful part timers including Symonds, Clarke, Lehmann and Mark Waugh. But that aside, having followed Australian domestic cricket closely over this period, I can not think of anyone who was really up to international standard. Nathan Hauritz and Dan Cullen have played a few one day games and a test each overseas, but neither appear to be really up to it. There was a guy about ten years back called Brad Young who I thought had a bit of talent, but he just seemed to fade away.

The top five spin bowlers on the Australian wicket takers list are all wrist spinners. So the question is, do Australia not produce good finger spinners because the conditions are not conducive, or do the conditions appear unconducive because we do not produce quality finger spinners. Well, Australian fingers spinners, while largely unsuccessful do have a better average and strike rates than their overseas counterparts (38.22 and 96.19 compared to 42.60 and 101.39). This would perhaps suggest our finger spinners can hold their own, we are just more reluctant to select them due to the conditions.


Ed said...

what a brilliantly researched post!

I wonder how it's best for visiting teams to interpret this information....I can't imagine that it would be in England's interests to pick Chris Schofield ahead of Monty Panesar on the next Ashes tour for example, although those words may come back to haunt me!!

Aussie Dave said...

I'm a big believer that 9 times out of 10 you've got to pick your best bowlers, whether they be finger spinners, wrist spinners or quicks. Occasionally conditions will be such that you need to consider other options. Perhaps if a team had two spinners of roughly equal ability, it might pay to go with the leggy over the offy on Oz.