Bowler Test Win-Loss RecordsDave Wilson |
Last month I posted this feature, which looked at Win-Loss records for bowlers in ODIs – in this article, I’d like to do the same for Test bowlers. What we’re trying to do here is develop a measure of both success and consistency – with that in mind, we award a “Win” to a bowler who takes three or more wickets in each innings or six wickets in the second innings of a Test which his team wins, and a “Loss” to a bowler who fails to take a wicket and bowls at least ten overs in a Test which his team loses, anything in between constituting a “no decision”.
Here is the all-time top 20 ranked in order of total wins:-
Actually, that’s 22. Warne and Murali are far ahead of the next two, Kumble and McGrath, who in turn are far ahead of the following group. Murali’s consistency is plain for all to see with his very high Win-percentage, but more so is Grimmett and Barnes, who never failed, garnering 100% winning records. Interestingly there are no English bowlers of the modern era, Fred Trueman being the most recent to make the top 20. Although the top three are spinners, I don’t think this is a legacy of the win/loss threshold we’ve imposed, rather these are three exceptional bowlers, as only three other spinners make the top 20, Clarrie Grimmett, Harbhajan Singh and Lance Gibbs. Another interesting thing (for me, at least) is how close Warne and McGrath are in terms of W-L% – only one-hundredth of a point separates them – is it any wonder that Australian team was the most highly-rated ever?
We can also see that Lillee was very successful from far fewer Test appearances than those above him, and Grimmett, Steyn and Barnes also stand out in this regard. To account for this relative lack of opportunity in terms of number of Tests played, let’s re-rank based on percentage of games won per Test appearance:-
Four of the all-time greats of English bowling feature at the top now, separated by Golden Age Aussie spinner Jack Saunders, while we can also see how exceptional Dale Steyn has been, being the only bowler in the top seven to have appeared post-WWII. Note that I imposed a minimum wins threshold of five, otherwise the above list would be dominated by players who didn’t play that much (players who just missed out but would have figured in the top ten included Chuck Fleetwood-Smith, four wins in 10 Tests, Tich Freeman, four wins in 12, and Bert Ironmonger, four from 14).
We can also rank win success in terms of Win-Loss Percentage – there are 24 bowlers with a perfect 100% record, so I imposed the same minimum wins threshold of five, otherwise the list would be full of bowlers with 1-0 and 2-0 records:-
(Three players had only four wins and so were excluded, but also had 100% records – Tich Freeman, Gary Gilmour and Shane Bond all had a 4-0 record.)
This list is remarkable for the sheer number of Australians in it – half of the top ten. Should we have expected to see more West Indians here, for example, where only Malcolm Marshall and Andy Roberts qualify? Actually, if we extend down to twenty we don’t see any additional West Indians (although Ambrose makes the top 30). This probably boils down to the fact that Australia has been successful for many more years than the West Indian teams have, as great as they have been.
We can factor in this relative team success by comparing the player’s record against that of his team’s in games in which he appeared; for example, Marshall’s record was 13-1 for a West Indian team which was 43-9 when he played whereas Hadlee’s record was 13-3 for a New Zealand team which was only 22-28 – here is the top ten when measured by ratio of individual W-L record to team W-L record (again with a minimum five wins):-
|Player||Team||Ind. W-L||Ind. Win%||Team W-L||Team Win%||Ratio|
Vinoo Mankad did not qualify with only four wins, but his record of 4-3 for an Indian team still struggling to find its feet on the international stage would have put him at the top, although Hadlee’s record is possibly more impressive. Bill O’Reilly now shades his teammate Grimmett, both having unblemished records, but O’Reilly’s teams having a slightly worse record. Darren Gough rates as England’s best of modern times, at least by this measure. Blythe’s record is interesting insofar as he was personally responsible for all of England’s wins during his tenure. We can look at that in more detail too – here is the top ten in terms of number of individual contributions of team wins:-
|Player||Team||Ind. Wins||Team Wins||% Team Wins|
Even if the five-wins cut-off had not been applied Blythe would have finished top, as you can’t get better than a 100% record. Graeme Swann, Murali and Dale Steyn are the only current players to make this list.
Finally, here is a list of some high-profile bowlers for comparison, ordered by Wins/Game (players in the top ten for each category are shown in bold) – as an example, compare Angus Fraser and Shoaib Akhtar; both played 46 Tests, both won five games (Fraser 5-3, Akhtar 5-4), however Akhtar’s teams were 20-16 whereas Fraser’s were 12-15, so Fraser’s ratios are much better than Akhtar’s:-
|Alec Bedser (RIP)||Eng||51||3-3||0.500||14-17||0.452||1.107||5.9%||21.4%|
It’s worth noting that in the above table Murali is the only bowler ranked in the top ten in all five categories. Barnes and Grimmett are both ranked in the top ten in four categories, while Tom Richardson, Steyn, Tyson, Warne and Blythe all have three top ten rankings.
You may draw from that what you will!