Sunday, 7 January 2007

Beginning of the year, end of careers

Having grown up in Sydney, one of the things I associate with New Year is cricket. Given the fact that ten of the twelve nights of Christmas were scheduled to have Ashes cricket going from 11:30pm to 06:30am London time, it would have been a perfect opportunity to go nocturnal and celebrate new Year in the way I mentioned yesterday. As it turned out, I didn't, but I did spend quite a bit of time listening to the Test Match Special coverage at strange hours of the morning.

Although the Sydney Test was the first Test of the year, it was the last Test for opening batsman Justin Langer, spin king Shane Warne and probably one of the best bowlers of the last decade, Glenn McGrath. Due to the relatively recently implemented structure of the Australian cricket season, with Test matches proceeding the ODI tournament, it will probably be quite normal for cricketers to end their Test careers in Sydney at the beginning of the year, but the departure of these three is quite significant. While Langer has an impressive record, Warne and McGrath stand out even more. While Warne's accuracy and huge spin and McGrath's metronomic precision niggardly combined with tricks uncannily deployed make them both outstanding bowlers in their own right, their partnership of 1001 Test wickets has been synergetic.

Glenn McGrathShane Warne
Other Matches20769.417517523.3561.57412010.3523219526.8361.86

The two bowlers were probably the biggest difference between Australia and the other teams during Australia's period of dominance. While the period has seen Australia boasting a remarkable depth of batting talent, the batsmen have generally been facing bowling attacks of significantly less quality. The surprisingly low number of Tests Australia has drawn in in recent years has been attributed to the attacking, quickly-scoring batting, but the ability to take 20 wickets quickly is at least as much to "blame". While too much shouldn't be read into these figures, it is interesting to see a breakdown of Australia's results since McGrath and Warne first played together in Perth in 1993/4.

W/D/L (%won)With WarneWithout WarneTotal
With McGrath71/17/16 (68%)14/3/3 (70%)85/20/19 (69%)
Without McGrath13/5/6 (54%)5/2/2 (56%)18/7/8 (55%)
Total84/22/22 (66%)19/5/5 (66%)103/27/27 (66%)

While it is hard to imagine another pair of bowlers doing quite so well, it seems possible that the hole they will leave won't be too big. Stuart MacGill has been ready to play in Warne's absence for quite a while and we will never know what he could have achieved if he had had Warne's opportunities. Perhaps more significantly, this Ashes series has shown that Stuart Clark is capable of the type of McGrath-esque accurate bowling that takes wickets at both ends. However, as nice as it would have been to say that the new year marked not only the end of three great careers, but the beginning of a new-look Australian Test team, we won't see them in action again until November!

1 comment:

Crazyjedidiah said...

Interesting, those stats said that McGrath was a better bowler than Warne. Which anyone with a brain new anyway.