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WTC Final promises battle of the best bowling attacks but which one tops the list

Ahead of the final, we look at how India and New Zealand attacks stood out in 2019-21 and which of the two has emerged as the winner

Aratrick Mondal Aratrick Mondal
New Delhi Updated on: June 17, 2021 13:32 IST
Jasprit Bumrah
Image Source : GETTY

Jasprit Bumrah

"It’s the bowlers who are going to win you Test matches, as simple as that," Virat Kohli had rightfully pointed out back in 2015 and the inaugural World Test Championship has reflected that. India and New Zealand have set up the elusive and much-anticipated summit clash at the Rose Bowl in Southampton on June 18 for the maiden WTC title and the ICC Test Mace and the primary reason for the two teams to emerge on top of seven others in the tournament has been their bowling attack. Ahead of the final, we look at how India and New Zealand attacks stood out in 2019-21 and which of the two has emerged as the winner

Using Bowling Score and Strike Rate Ratio

For the purpose of finding the best attack during the two-year course of the WTC, two statistical measures have been used in the article which was introduced in The Cricket Monthly article, 'The best stats measure'. 

In the article, The Average factor compares a team's average to that of the overall tournament figure. But with teams playing at different venues - at home and away - throughout the course of the tournament - we have compared a team's average to that of the opposition. The Average Factor hence illustrates how a particular bowling attack has fared in the competition in comparison to the combined average of the opposition teams. For example, England have averaged 26.7 in 23 Tests during WTC, while teams playing against Joe Root's men have combined to average 29.58, making England's attack 1.107 times better. In a similar manner, the economy rates have been compared and the product of the two factors generate the Bowling Score. 

The other metric is the Strike Rate Ratio (SRR), which compares the frequency of wickets taken by a team to that of the opposition. For example, England bowlers have taken wickets every 53.8 balls while teams bowling against them have combined to record a strike rate of 58.6, implying an SRR of 0.91 - Lesser, the better. 

Team Ave Econ Ave (vs) Econ (vs) Average Factor Economy Rate Factor Bowling Score Strike Rate Ratio
England 26.7 2.97 29.58 3.02 1.107865 1.016835 1.126516 0.918089
India 22.15 2.91 35.73 3.16 1.613093 1.085911 1.751674 0.67356
Australia 26.17 2.8 23.9 2.85 0.913259 1.017857 0.929568 1.115768
New Zealand 26.99 2.77 36.37 3.24 1.347536 1.169675 1.576179 0.86756
South Africa 34.33 3.37 26.71 2.96 0.778037 0.878338 0.683379 1.125693
West Indies 37.44 3.01 31.42 2.99 0.839209 0.993355 0.833633 1.184713
Pakistan 39.32 3.28 32.02 2.94 0.814344 0.896341 0.72993 1.101227
Sri Lanka 42.83 3.27 34.62 3.2 0.808312 0.978593 0.791009 1.209877
Bangladesh 44.52 3.32 26.32 2.99 0.591195 0.900602 0.532432 1.525617

Both the metric clearly highlights the dominance of New Zealand and India's bowling attack. 

When dwelling further into their WTC journey, Indian bowlers have been outperformed in only one of the six series they have played and it incidentally happened against Kane Williamson's men in New Zealand last in February 2020. India have averaged 29.95 during the two-match series picking 23 wickets, while New Zealand bowlers picked 38 wickets at just 18.15. India's Bowling Score in the Border-Gavaskar series may be below 1, but their Average Factor was above 1 at the end of the epic four-match contest, a figure they managed in the absence of their regular attack - Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah injured, Ishant Sharma failed to make it to Australia owing to an injury, Umesh Yadav limped off with a calf pain during the second Test, and R Ashwin out with back injury. Mohammed Siraj, then just two-Test old, had led the attack in Gabba. 

Comparing Indian attack during WTC

Year vs Team Average (IND) Economy (IND) Average (vs IND) Economy (vs IND) Average Factor Economy Rate Factor Bowling Score
2019 West Indies 15.58 2.92 37.25 2.85 2.390886 0.976027 2.333569997
2019 South Africa 22.84 2.8 75.44 3.96 3.302977 1.414286 4.671353515
2019 Bangladesh 16.28 3.1 55 4.05 3.378378 1.306452 4.413687881
2020 New Zealand 29.95 3.26 18.15 2.67 0.60601 0.819018 0.496333357
2020/21  Australia 29.96 2.98 31.86 2.69 1.063418 0.902685 0.959930915
2021 England 19.06 2.71 28.2 3.19 1.479538 1.177122 1.741596744

New Zealand too was outperformed in only one of the five Test series they played - in Australia where they were whitewashed in the three-match series. The Blackcaps averaged 41.82 in six innings picking 45 wickets, while the Aussies snarred 56 wickets at 19.26. 

Year vs Team Average (NZ) Economy (NZ) Average (vs NZ) Economy (vs NZ) Average Factor Economy Rate Factor Bowling Score
2019 Sri Lanka 26.87 2.6 38 3.12 1.414216598 1.2 1.69706
2019/20 Australia 41.82 3 19.26 2.76 0.460545194 0.92 0.423702
2020 India 18.15 2.67 29.95 3.26 1.650137741 1.220974 2.014775
2020 West Indies 21.05 3.09 55.05 3.61 2.6152019 1.168285 3.055301
2020/21 Pakistan 24.38 2.43 61.4 3.41 2.518457752 1.403292 3.534132

Much of India's rise in dominance as a force in Test cricket, resulted due to their improved pace attack on overseas soil and the very reason has helped Kohli's men in outperforming oppositions during the Championship. Indian pacers have picked wickets every 42.9 balls making it the most daunting attack, and the only combination to have a strike rate less than 45. New Zealand's attack, comprising primarily Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Neil Wagner and Kyle Jamieson, recorded a strike rate of 52.9, hence picking up a wicket every two overs more than the Indians. But their economy rate of 2.68 has been the lowest in the competition. 

Indian attack stands out on the variety it dishes out - especially in the spin department - lead by Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. India's ecomomy rate of 2.81 and strike rate of 48.9 have been the best among all spin attacks in the tournament. With Southampton pitch aiding the spinners, this is where the competition between the two attacks might be decided. 

How far have Indian bowlers outshined others in WTC?

As many as six Indians feature on the list of bowlers - Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Axar Patel - who have at least bowled in five innings in WTC, recording an average less than 28 and strike rate less than 50. The first four are certainties for the final, Umesh is part of the 15-man squad while Axar missed out - such is the dominance. From New Zealand, three features on the list - Southee, Jamieson and Williamson. 

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