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Curtly Ambrose

11th September 2016 Comments Off on Curtly a foreigner in no land Views: 1507 News

Curtly a foreigner in no land

Let me quickly reflect on my last two articles. The earlier article related to the bowler performances across the years. It was a very important analysis based on historic data. There were over 120 comments. The more important article was the recent one: on the boundary-scoring pattern changes. A momentous bat size change law is recommended by MCC, partly based on this data I have provided.

There were only 21 comments and I wondered why. I realised that the latter article was primarily on pattern changes across the years. It was almost completely raw data. The law change, if it comes about, would change the game significantly but the players would adapt, as would the followers. There was nothing personal or interesting. On the other hand, readers identified with many of the bowlers and in good humour engaged in jousts with others. They were ready to fight on for their players’ cause. And the comments were incisive and sought a lot more data.

Based on the comments received, I have made this article a complete exposition of bowlers’ awayperformances. The article will move top down in a hierarchical manner: the career, regions, countries, series and finally Tests.

First, the away career figures of leading bowlers. In order to add weight to the analysis, most of my analysis will relate to players who have captured 100 away wickets or more. I understand that this is a tough qualification bar. As many as 63 bowlers qualify. However, it is essential to add weight to the analysis. A few people like Fred Titmus (99), Craig McDermott (98), Heath Streak (96), Sarfraz Nawaz (96) and Mohammad Asif (96) miss out. But this will happen whatever be the limit. Just for information, UAE is treated as “Away” for both teams.

The first table is a straightforward one. This table is ordered on the away wickets captured by the bowlers.

1. AWAY WICKETS
Bowler Team Tests Wickets Avge Home Wkts Avge Away Wkts Avge
SK Warne AUS 145 708 25.42 319 26.39 389 24.61
M Muralitharan SLK 133 800 22.73 493 19.57 307 27.80
CA Walsh WIN 132 519 24.44 229 23.69 290 25.03
GD McGrath AUS 124 563 21.64 289 22.43 274 20.81
A Kumble IND 132 619 29.65 350 24.88 269 35.86
Wasim Akram PAK 104 414 23.62 154 22.23 260 24.45
RJ Hadlee NZL 86 431 22.30 201 22.96 230 21.72
MD Marshall WIN 81 376 20.95 157 20.06 219 21.58
Kapil Dev IND 131 434 29.65 219 26.50 215 32.86
Waqar Younis PAK 87 373 23.56 162 20.30 211 26.07
Z Khan IND 92 311 32.95 104 35.88 207 31.48
DL Vettori NZL 113 362 34.37 159 37.11 203 32.22
CEL Ambrose WIN 98 405 20.99 203 21.19 202 20.79

The table is on expected lines. The more wickets a bowler takes the more away wickets he is likely to take. The top five wicket-takers occupy the top five positions in this table, albeit not in the same order. As expected, Shane Warne was marginally more successful away than at home. It is also a measure of the away Tests played by Australia during their halcyon years. Despite his capturing nearly 100 wickets fewer than Muttiah Muralitharan, he has captured nearly 100 away wickets more. Warne has captured more away wickets than Ian Botham, Malcolm Marshall and Waqar Younis captured in their entire careers.

Murali is second with 307 wickets, at a good average. Courtney Walsh pips both Glenn McGrath and Anil Kumble. Wasim Akram comes in next with a huge number of away wickets. The presence of Kapil Dev, Daniel Vettori and Zaheer Khan in the top 12 is understandable since their home pitches were not great for them. Curtly Ambrose rounds off the list of 12 bowlers who have captured 200 or more away wickets.

A moment to reflect. Placed at 17th is Saeed Ajmal. He has taken 178 Test wickets, all away and not a single wicket at home. My heart goes out to the current generation of Pakistan cricketers. How I wish that the Nos. 1 and 2 in the ICC rankings play a three-Test series in Australia or England. While on the subject, while I would have been very happy to see India at the top of the ICC Test rankings, I am equally happy to see Pakistan at No. 1. The reasons: two players, whose combined age is around 80. Both are tremendous cricketers and great human beings. And rather than thanking West Indies cricketers and the Trinidadian rain gods, Pakistan would do well to thank Sri Lanka, in general, and Rangana Herath and Kusal Mendis, in particular.

2. AWAY AVERAGE
Bowler Team Tests Wickets Avge Away Wkts Avge
SF Barnes ENG 27 189 16.43 126 17.96
J Garner WIN 58 259 20.98 136 19.74
AK Davidson AUS 44 186 20.53 102 20.11
CEL Ambrose WIN 98 405 20.99 202 20.79
GD McGrath AUS 124 563 21.64 274 20.81
MD Marshall WIN 81 376 20.95 219 21.58
RJ Hadlee NZL 86 431 22.30 230 21.72
AA Donald SAF 72 330 22.25 153 22.96
MA Holding WIN 60 249 23.69 163 23.65
CV Grimmett AUS 37 216 24.22 111 23.86
AME Roberts WIN 47 202 25.61 130 23.88
RR Lindwall AUS 61 228 23.03 116 23.96
DW Steyn SAF 84 416 22.24 175 24.02
DK Lillee AUS 70 355 23.92 124 24.28
—————
I Sharma IND 71 208 36.86 145 37.77
Harbhajan Singh IND 103 417 32.46 152 38.90
HMRKB Herath SLK 73 332 28.72 101 41.46

Now we come to the first performance-based measure: the bowling average. This table lists the top bowlers ordered on bowling average. Sydney Barnes leads the list, having taken 126 wickets at 17.96. The readers should realise that 1905-1914 was a different period to 1890-1899. A lot of these wickets were taken against South Africa. However this South African team was a much better team with the infusion of better players.

The unheralded Joel Garner follows next. He was excellent away from home and the 136 wickets at a sub-20 average reflects this. He is followed by the left-armer Alan Davidson, who was successful in varied regions, like India and South Africa. He just managed to vault the bar and finished with 100 wickets at an average around 20.

Now it is the turn of six of the greatest pace bowlers the world has ever seen. Ambrose was the king in Australia and England. He is one of the top bowlers who performed almost at the same level whether at home or away. Over 200 wickets at an average just over 20 is a testament to this fact. McGrath was the master everywhere, as was Marshall. They both took over 200 away wickets at averages either side of 21.0. Richard Hadlee, Allan Donald and Michael Holding follow next. The top ten is completed by Clarrie Grimmett.

Look at the next four bowlers. At the other end of the table we have Herath conceding well over 41 runs a wicket and Harbhajan Singh nearly 39 runs. It is not a surprise that the overrated Ishant Sharma is in the last three. He has taken a lot of wickets away from home, but at an extraordinarily high cost of nearly 38 runs a wicket.

3. AWAY WQAI
Bowler Team Tests Wickets Avge Away Wkts Avge WktQuality WQAI
CEL Ambrose WIN 98 405 20.99 202 20.79 32.30 11.52
GD McGrath AUS 24 563 21.64 274 20.81 30.25 9.44
MD Marshall WIN 81 376 20.95 219 21.58 31.01 9.43
AA Donald SAF 72 330 22.25 153 22.96 31.23 8.27
SF Barnes ENG 27 189 16.43 126 17.96 25.95 7.99
CV Grimmett AUS 37 216 24.22 111 23.86 31.80 7.94
RJ Hadlee NZL 86 431 22.30 230 21.72 29.63 7.91
AK Davidson AUS 44 186 20.53 102 20.11 27.80 7.69
J Garner WIN 58 259 20.98 136 19.74 27.38 7.64
DK Lillee AUS 70 355 23.92 124 24.28 31.90 7.62
RR Lindwall AUS 61 228 23.03 116 23.96 30.91 6.95
AR Caddick ENG 62 234 29.91 106 29.71 36.25 6.55
MA Holding WIN 60 249 23.69 163 23.65 30.15 6.50
DW Steyn SAF 84 416 22.24 175 24.02 30.16 6.14
SM Pollock SAF 08 421 23.12 186 25.69 31.81 6.12

What is WQAI? That is a revised name for DI (Difference Index), which I had introduced in my previous article. It became an instant hit. However, I felt that the term DI did not convey anything. Difference between what? I myself use the difference between batting average and bowling average to determine the quality of allrounders. So I changed the name to Wicket Quality Average Index (WQAI). To refresh, this is the difference between the average quality of batsmen dismissed and the bowling average. The higher it is, the more it signifies that the bowler has been very good – either he dismissed better quality batsmen or conceded fewer runs per wicket, or both. Henceforth I will only use WQAI.

A very good WQAI in away Tests conveys a lot. That means that in alien surroundings, in locations that the batsmen are very familiar with and have very good figures at, the bowler has contributed very significantly to the team. This is not the bowler who succeeded only in his own backyard, on tailor-made pitches, against batsmen who perform less effectively and in front of home crowds. Au contraire, the bowler who revelled in alien conditions, on pitches suited to the other team, against batsmen who perform very well, and in front of away, and often hostile, crowds. So this measure is a very important one to measure the bowlers’ away performances.

The best bowler from WQAI point of view is the incomparable Ambrose. On an average, for each of the 203 wickets he took, Ambrose conceded just over 20 runs and dismissed a batsman with an average of just over 32, thus saving over 11 runs for his team. And these are all away wickets. The mind boggles.

McGrath was only slightly behind. His WQAI was 9.4, a figure almost matched by Marshall, a hundredth of decimal behind. Donald chips in with a WQAI of just above 8, and then comes Barnes, with a WQAI figure of just below 8. Arguably, Barnes’ figure is better because of the lower averages in vogue around those times.

The top ten is completed by Grimmett, Hadlee, Davidson, Garner and Lillee. I suggest that the readers take a moment to study the top 15. These could form the bowling attacks of the all-time teams. Ambrose/Marshall/Garner/Holding v McGrath/Grimmett/Davidson/Lillee v Donald/Steyn/Pollock v Barnes/Caddick/Flintoff/Underwood.

The more I study WQAI the more I am getting convinced that this measure, in time to come, could become as important a measure as the bowling average. The simple approach is also the key. The reader just has to compile the location-wise career averages of the batsmen dismissed by the bowler.

4. BETTER AWAY AVGE
Bowler Team Wickets Avge Home Wkts Avge Away Wkts Avge Ratio
R Benaud AUS 248 27.03 104 30.74 144 24.35 126.2%
S Ramadhin WIN 158 28.98 58 32.78 100 26.78 122.4%
A Flintoff ENG 226 32.79 109 36.11 117 29.69 121.6%
AME Roberts WIN 202 25.61 72 28.75 130 23.88 120.4%
DL Vettori NZL 362 34.37 159 37.11 203 32.22 115.2%
TM Alderman AUS 170 27.15 68 29.41 102 25.65 114.7%
Z Khan IND 311 32.95 104 35.88 207 31.48 114.0%
J Garner WIN 259 20.98 123 22.34 136 19.74 113.2%
D Gough ENG 229 28.40 124 29.66 105 26.90 110.2%
—————-
A Kumble IND 619 29.65 350 24.88 269 35.86 69.4%
M Ntini SAF 390 28.83 249 24.04 141 37.28 64.5%
HMRKB Herath SLK 332 28.72 231 23.15 101 41.46 55.8%
<100 Away Wkts
IK Pathan IND 100 32.26 27 50.33 73 25.58 196.8%
GA Lohmann ENG 112 10.76 36 14.56 76 8.96 162.4%
AL Valentine WIN 139 30.32 45 39.84 94 25.77 154.6%

It is not a surprise that there are quite a few bowlers who have performed better playing away than at home. There is no pattern to this phenomenon. The list is represented by both spinners and pace bowlers alike. First, let us see the list of bowlers who have performed better away than at home. These bowlers had a better away bowling average than the bowling average they had at home.

Out of the 63 bowlers who have captured 100 or more away wickets, 22 have better away bowling averages. It is not easy to predict who will top the table. Richie Benaud’s away bowling average was better by 26.2%. Maybe this is understandable considering the Australian pitches during those years and the success Benaud enjoyed in Asia. Sonny Ramadhin is in second place. Again, understandable.

However, the third place is real surprise. Andrew Flintoff performed better by as much as 21% away. And the home average was an indifferent 36. It is indeed amazing. The next place is an even more of a surprise. Andy Roberts’ away bowling average was 20% lower than his home bowling average. However, it must be said that West Indies’ great bowlers – Roberts, Garner, Lance Gibbs, Ambrose, Holding and Sobers all did better playing away. The top five positions are rounded off by Vettori – quite obvious.

Let me add that Warne, Hadlee, Graham McKenzie, Davidson and Grimmett performed better bowling away.

At the other end of the spectrum, Herath had the worst away bowling record. Look at the sharp contrast between the home bowling average and the away bowling average (23.15 vs 41.46). Not so surprisingly, Makhaya Ntini and, surprisingly, Kumble fill up the last three positions.

If we just take 100 career wickets as the base, Irfan Pathan’s home bowling average is a huge 50+ and his away average is around half of that.

5. MORE AWAY WICKETS
Bowler Team Tests Wickets Home Wkts Away Wkts Ratio
I Sharma IND 71 208 63 145 69.7%
Umar Gul PAK 47 163 52 111 68.1%
SF Barnes ENG 27 189 63 126 66.7%
Z Khan IND 92 311 104 207 66.6%
MA Holding WIN 60 249 86 163 65.5%
FJ Titmus ENG 53 153 54 99 64.7%
AME Roberts WIN 47 202 72 130 64.4%
Mushtaq Ahmed PAK 52 185 67 118 63.8%
S Ramadhin WIN 43 158 58 100 63.3%
—————
JM Anderson ENG 119 463 296 167 36.1%
SCJ Broad ENG 98 358 232 126 35.2%
DK Lillee AUS 70 355 231 124 34.9%
HMRKB Herath SLK 73 332 231 101 30.4%
<100 Away Wkts
IK Pathan IND 29 100 27 73 73.0%
BR Taylor NZL 30 111 31 80 72.1%
DA Allen ENG 39 122 35 87 71.3%

This table is ordered on the simpler measure of away wickets. Ishant has captured nearly 70% of his wickets away. This is understandable. Umar Gul is also around this mark, although it must be said that over 30 of these wickets have been captured in UAE. Barnes is not a surprise, with only three countries playing Test cricket. Zaheer’s presence is quite on expected lines. A real surprise is the presence of Holding and Roberts in the top ten list.

On the other hand, we have Herath capturing only 30% of his wickets in away Tests. This is on expected lines. However, what is not expected is the presence of Dennis Lillee, Stuart Broad and James Anderson in the last four positions.

6. PERFORMANCE IN AWAY COUNTRIES
Bowler Country Tests Wickets Avge WktQuality WQAI
CEL Ambrose Aus 14 78 19.79 37.09 17.30
RJ Hadlee Aus 12 77 17.83 31.97 14.14
SF Barnes Aus 13 77 22.43 31.22 8.79
SK Warne Eng 22 129 21.95 31.40 9.45
DK Lillee Eng 16 96 20.56 33.12 12.56
MD Marshall Eng 18 94 18.70 28.25 9.55
CEL Ambrose Eng 20 88 20.77 28.28 7.50
GD McGrath Eng 14 87 19.34 31.03 11.68
TM Alderman Eng 12 83 19.34 28.87 9.53
M Muralitharan Eng 6 48 19.21 32.37 13.16
SK Warne Saf 12 61 24.31 32.94 8.63
SF Barnes Saf 4 49 10.94 17.64 6.70
CV Grimmett Saf 5 44 14.59 24.39 9.80
ARC Fraser Win 11 54 20.30 34.24 13.94
GD McGrath Win 10 50 20.70 27.43 6.73
Wasim Akram Nzl 7 50 17.18 27.05 9.87
SK Warne Nzl 9 49 21.31 30.79 9.49
R Benaud Ind 8 52 18.38 28.31 9.93
CA Walsh Ind 7 43 18.56 30.57 12.02
MD Marshall Ind 9 36 24.61 35.85 11.24
M Muralitharan Pak 9 50 24.96 31.99 7.03
SK Warne Slk 8 37 21.46 35.35 13.89

Among the many requests made by the readers, possibly the most important one was that I should cover the bowlers’ performances in away countries. So now I will look into the countries and how visiting bowlers performed there.

This table covers only the top eight countries. Enough Tests were not played in Zimbabwe and Bangladesh to cover these two countries. First, let me look at Australia. Ambrose’s performance against Australia in Australia lays claim to the single greatest bowling performance ever. More on this later. Ambrose’s 78 wickets at a sub-20 average is mind boggling. The WQAI of 17.3 is in a zone of its own. That means for every wicket Ambrose captured in Australia he contributed a saving of 17.3 runs to his team: a total of nearly 1350 runs. Hadlee was nearly there: 77 wickets at an average lower than Ambrose but a lower WQAI because Australia was relatively weak during the 1980s. That is a tally of nearly 1000 runs. Barnes, around the turn of the 19th century, was quite good; although his average is quite high considering the era he bowled in.

There were so many great performances in England that it became a selection problem. The leader of the pack is Warne, who captured 129 wickets at a WQAI of 9.45. This would give Ambrose’s Australian numbers a tough competition. Lillee was probably better with a much higher WQAI of 12.5. Marshall’s average was quite low. Ambrose could not match his Australian figures but was still very good. McGrath had a high WQAI of 11.7. Terry Alderman achieved his 83 wickets in just two tours. Murali finds a place for the simple reason that he captured 48 wickets in just six Tests and had a very high WQAI. Think of the bowlers who had to be left out: Hadlee, Hugh Trumble, Holding, Ray Lindwall and Garner, all of whom had captured 50 wickets and more.

Warne was the lone modern bowler who crossed 50 wickets in South Africa. It was a pretty good performance. Barnes achieved the tally of 49 wickets in a single four-Test series, just before World War I broke out. Grimmett had the best figures against South Africa. Angus Fraser was the best bowler to have visited the West Indies. His tally of 54 wickets at an average of 20.3 and WQAI of 13.9 is a clear testimony to this. McGrath was just behind with a tally of 50 wickets at a comparable average but lower WQAI. The West Indians had already started going on their downward spiral. Imran Khan just missed out with a haul of 48 wickets.

Wasim Akram was absolutely devastating against New Zealand. His figures there read thus: 50 wickets at an average of 17.2 and WQAI of nearly 10. Warne’s figures were similar, but at a higher average. Benaud was extremely successful against India in India. His collection of 52 wickets was at the remarkably low average of 18.4 and a near-10 value of WQAI. Walsh was even better. His 42 wickets cost him only 18.5 runs but the quality of batsmen dismissed was much better. Marshall just about got in.

Murali was the lone bowler to reach 50 wickets in Pakistan. But his wickets cost him nearly 25 runs and the WQAI was a middling 7. Warne was remarkably successful against Sri Lanka and he often outshone Murali. His tally of 37 wickets was at a low average of around 21 and the strong Sri Lankan batting line-up ensured that his WQAI ended at a high 13.9.

7. PERFORMANCE IN ASIA
Bowler Region Tests Wickets Avge WktQuality WQAI
SK Warne Asia 25 127 26.82 31.21 4.39
DL Vettori Asia 21 98 28.87 30.86 2.00
DW Steyn Asia 20 90 22.67 29.69 7.03
CA Walsh Asia 17 77 20.53 30.48 9.95
GP Swann Asia 13 73 25.97 35.75 9.78
GD McGrath Asia 19 72 23.03 34.89 11.87
MD Marshall Asia 19 71 23.06 35.01 11.96
R Benaud Asia 12 71 19.32 25.60 6.28
—————-
Saeed Ajmal UAE 12 67 26.46 29.13 2.66
Yasir Shah UAE 7 42 24.60 32.91 8.31

While it is true that Warne leads the Asia stakes with 126 wickets, it is not necessarily that great a performance. It has to be agreed that most of the Asian pitches support spinners and Warne was an extraordinary spinner. His wickets also cost him an average of nearly 27 runs, thus leading to a low WQAI. Vettori’s case is similar. A low WQAI of 2.0 means that his bowling was not that great. It is possible that the best visiting spinner to Asia was Graeme Swann. He averaged over 5 wickets per Test at an average under 26 and an excellent WQAI of nearly 10. Benaud has been nearly as good.

However the bowlers to be admired are the pacemen: Steyn, Walsh, McGrath and Marshall, in particular. They all have very good WQAI figures. Walsh and Steyn have got well over 4 wickets per Test while McGrath and Marshall, less productive. However there is no doubt that they have been very effective. We have to give Marshall and McGrath the first places amongst these equals, for their outstanding WQAI values of nearly 12.0.

Treating the Pakistan bowlers as visiting bowlers to UAE, I have given the two best bowlers in this collection of grounds. Yasir Shah, with an excellent WQAI of 8.3 probably edges out Ajmal, who however leads by a mile, in terms of wickets. Shah can, of course, hope to move forward, starting with the rather easy visit of West Indies in the next few months.

Bowlers in the zone in away series
In the series with upwards of three Tests, the WQAI comes into its own. Hence I will present two tables: one based on the number of wickets captured and the other based on the WQAI achieved during the series.

The WQAI values for a single Test do not make any sense since the bowling average does not make any sense within a Test. For the average to be meaningful we need more Tests (and wickets). Hence I will look at WQAI only for a series and career.

8. AWAY SERIES PERFORMANCE (WKTS)
Bowler Year Vs Tests Overs Runs Wickets Avge
SF Barnes 1914 Saf 4 226.0 536 49 10.94
CV Grimmett 1936 Saf 5 346.1 642 44 14.59
TM Alderman 1981 Eng 6 325.0 893 42 21.26
TM Alderman 1989 Eng 6 269.2 712 41 17.37
SK Warne 2005 Eng 5 252.5 797 40 19.93
DK Lillee 1981 Eng 6 311.4 870 39 22.31
MW Tate 1925 Aus 5 421.2 881 38 23.18
GD McGrath 1997 Eng 6 249.5 701 36 19.47
GA Lohmann 1896 Saf 3 86.4 203 35 5.80
MD Marshall 1988 Eng 5 203.1 443 35 12.66

Surprisingly this table features quite a few modern performances. The leader is Barnes, who captured 49 wickets in his last series and the last series played before World War I. South Africa was no match for the magnificent Barnes, who captured 49 wickets in a four-match series, averaging over 12 wickets per Test. This represented over 62% of the South African wickets. This is incidentally the best ever bowling performance in any Test series, home and away.

Twenty-two years later, it was the turn of Grimmett to bamboozle the South Africans, although it must be said that this was no weak side, with Herby Wade, Eric Rowan, Bruce Mitchell and Dudley Nourse in their ranks. Grimmett’s performance pales by comparison to Barnes’ a mere 44 wickets in five Tests.

Now enters Alderman, the lbw specialist. In two Ashes series in the 1980s, he captured over 40 wickets. Alderman was more at home in England than Australia. Warne follows next. In the most famous Ashes series of all time, the 2005 classic, Warne had a magnificent haul of 40 wickets.

Lillee, Maurice Tate and McGrath captured over 35 wickets in Ashes series. George Lohmann dismissed 35 South Africa batsmen at the turn of the century at a ridiculous average of 5.80. Finally the master, Marshall, had a 35-wicket collection in the 1988 series, at the very low average of 12.66.

McGrath captured 30 wickets in an away series three times (1997-England, 1999-West Indies, 2001-England). Warne also achieved this three times (1998, 2001 and 2005 vs England). Lillee, Marshall and Alderman crossed the 30-wicket mark twice.

9. AWAY SERIES PERFORMANCE (WQAI)
Bowler Year Vs Tests Overs Runs Wickets Avge WQI WQAI
CEL Ambrose 1992 Aus 5 260.3 542 33 16.42 37.03 20.60
CA Walsh 2000 Eng 5 220.2 436 34 12.82 33.09 20.26
RJ Hadlee 1985 Aus 3 169.3 401 33 12.15 30.88 18.73
MD Marshall 1983 Ind 6 221.0 621 33 18.82 35.76 16.94
MD Marshall 1988 Eng 5 203.1 443 35 12.66 28.70 16.05
H Larwood 1933 Aus 5 220.2 644 33 19.52 33.82 14.30
SK Warne 2005 Eng 5 252.5 797 40 19.93 34.12 14.20
CC Griffith 1963 Eng 5 223.5 519 32 16.22 30.02 13.81
GD McGrath 2001 Eng 5 194.2 542 32 16.94 29.58 12.65
TM Alderman 1989 Eng 6 269.2 712 41 17.37 29.03 11.67
…..
BR Taylor 1972 Win 4 172.2 478 27 17.70 34.87 17.16
SK Warne 2004 Slk 3 168.0 521 26 20.04 36.74 16.70
M Muralitharan 2000 Pak 3 213.1 516 26 19.85 33.89 14.04

As I have explained before, WQAI makes a lot of sense across a series with a number of Tests. Hence I have presented here the table of high WQAI values in away series.

What can one say of Ambrose’s performance against a strong Australian side during 1992-93. He captured 33 wickets at a low average around 16 but the average quality of batsmen dismissed was an astounding 37. This means that, on an average, he dismissed a top-order batsman every single time. The WQAI is an outstanding 20.6.

No less imposing was Walsh’s performance in England during 2000. He averaged even less than Ambrose but that England side was less strong and this led to an almost equal WQAI of 20.3.

In a way, Hadlee’s 1985 performance against Australia was more impressive. In three Tests, Hadlee captured 33 wickets at a WQAI value of 18.7. Then follows two Marshall performances. In the tough sub-continent conditions, Marshall captured 33 wickets at the truly phenomenal average of 18.8 and has a WQAI of 16.9. He had an excellent tour of England during 1988. with 35 wickets at a WQAI of 16.

In order to complete the countries coverage, the last three entries are added. Bruce Taylor’s performance against West Indies in the 1972 series, Warne’s series-winning effort against Sri Lanka during 2004, and Murali’s stupendous effort against Pakistan during 2000 are the best away series performances, in this regard, against these three countries.

Bowlers excelling in away Tests
Since there have been a number of tables, I have decided to do this section in the form of a narrative and lists. First the top-seven away bowling performances of all time, based on wickets captures.

Sydney Barnes’ 17 for 159 (8/56 & 9/103) vs South Africa in 1913 in Johannesburg.
Bob Massie’s 16 for 137 (8/84 & 8/53) vs England during 1972 at Lord’s.
Muttiah Muralitharan’s 16 for 220 (7/155 & 9/65) vs England during 1998 at The Oval.
Johnny Briggs’ 15 for 28 (7/17 & 8/11) vs South Africa during 1889 in Cape Town.
George Lohmann’s 15 for 45 (7/38 & 8/7) vs South Africa during 1896 in Port Elizabeth.
Richard Hadlee’s 15 for 123 (9/52 & 6/71) vs Australia during 1985 at the Gabba.
Rhodes’ 15 for 124 (7/56 & 8/68) vs Australia during 1904 at MCG.

Three of the pre-World War performances were against hapless South African teams and have relevance only in numerical terms. Although I must admit that Barnes, Lohmann and Johnny Briggs were truly devastating bowlers. Rhodes’ efforts were against a much better Australian side.

Bob Massie’s debut performance is well known. This was against a strong English side. In the second innings Massie bowled a non-stop spell of 27 overs. That leaves us with two modern classics. Almost inarguably, these two are the greatest away bowling performances of all time. Muralitharan helped Sri Lanka defeat an average England side and Hadlee single-handedly took care of a somewhat similar not-too-strong Australian side. However, both were truly exceptional performances and would never be forgotten by anyone.

Now let us look at the quality of wickets captured in an away Test. For this sub-analysis I have considered only players who captured 12 or more wickets in an away Test.

  • Ray Bright, during his 10 for 111 against Pakistan during 1980, had a wicket quality index of 47.5. He dismissed Taslim Arif and Haroon Rashid twice and Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad and Majid Khan once. It is well to remember that Pakistan batsmen had great home averages.
  • Saeed Ajmal, during his 10 for 147 against South Africa during 2013, had a wicket quality index of46.1. He dismissed Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis and Jacques Kallis twice and Robin Peterson once.
  • Monty Panesar, during his 11 for 210 against India during 2012, had a wicket quality index of43.5. Panesar dismissed Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni twice and Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh, once.
  • Anil Kumble, during his 12 for 279 against Australia during 2004, had a wicket quality index of43.1. He dismissed Matthew Hayden, Damien Martyn and Steve Waugh twice and Ricky Ponting, Justin Langer, Simon Katich and Adam Gilchrist once.
  • Muralitharan, during his 10 for 115 against England during 2006, had a wicket quality index of41.1. Muralitharan took wickets of Marcus Trescothick, Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood twice and Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss, once.

Finally, for what it is worth, my top three away bowling selections, selected across the tables presented here.

1. Curtly Ambrose’s performances in Australia. His 78 wickets at over 5.5 wickets per Test, an average of 19.79 and a WQAI of 17.30 lead to, arguably, the greatest performance ever. And most of these Tests were against top quality Australian sides.
2. Shane Warne’s haul of 129 wickets at nearly 6 wickets per Test in England at an average of nearly 22 and a WQAI of 9.45 should rank very close to Ambrose’s efforts. And I would not complain if these series of efforts are interchanged by readers.
3. In my opinion, Richard Hadlee’s three-Test master class of 33 wickets at an average of 12.15 and WQAI of 18.73 ranks as the best series bowling performance of all time, home and away. This should be considered at par with the Lara magnum opus of 688 runs in Sri Lanka during 2001.

The other performances that ran these close are Garner’s 136 away wickets at 19.79, Ambrose’s 202 away wickets at a WQAI of 11.52 and McGrath’s 87 wickets at a sub-19 average in England.

Taken from ESPN Cricinfo

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