Making merry against Pakistan

June 26, 2012


Nuwan Kulsekara made his Test debut in 2005. He has been in and out of the Sri Lankan side in the five-day format since then, preferred more for his tight, attacking lines in shorter versions of the game.

That he is back and striking in whites once again is largely due to his track record against Pakistan. It could be psychological, technical or just plain luck, but Pakistan’s batsmen just don’t seem to have an answer against the whippy right-arm seamer. He took care of their top order with ease in the first Test in Galle, which Pakistan eventually lost by a whopping 209 runs on Monday.

"Kulasekara exists only because Pakistan does," cricket writer Osman Samiuddin had tweeted as the bowler wrecked the Pakistan batting lineup in Galle.

Kulasekara, however, is not the only bowler to have enjoyed such lopsided success against Pakistan. There have been a few others, including the likes of Lakshmipati Balaji and Daryl Tuffey, who seem to struggle against most teams but make or have made life difficult for Pakistani batsmen.

In this statistics-based analysis, we take a look at bowlers whose average against Pakistan is considerably lower than other teams.

In an effort to reflect the performances of the recent era, only Test performances since January 1990 have been taken into account.

It goes without saying that Kulasekara cuts in the most astonishing figures in the list below. His average is a whopping 90.66 in the six Tests he has played against the rest of the world. But when it comes to Pakistan, he has never hesitated to pull the socks up.

India’s Balaji sits at top of the list. However, the mammoth difference of 151.43 average runs conceded between his wickets against Pakistan and the other teams is simply because he played only two Tests against teams other than Pakistan.

South Africans may have struggled to find a decent spinner but not against Pakistan. With 25 wickets in seven Tests at an average of 24.52, Paul Harris clearly took a liking for the Pakistani team. For some other spinner, such figures could be a run-of-the-mill but going by South African standards of spin, they are nothing short of brilliant.

Then there are the four Englishmen – Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Monty Panesar – queued up together. Apart from Panesar, all of them have often played together against Pakistan. Not to mention, the last seven Tests between these two teams have seen Pakistan get dismissed for a sub-100 total four times.

Tuffey’s Test career has seen him play Pakistan quite frequently. Eight out of his 26 Tests have come against the Pakistanis. If it wasn’t for Tuffey’s seven wickets and man-of-the-match performance in the Hamilton Test in 2001, the Kiwis may have struggled to win the game which eventually levelled the series 1-1.

The list ends with Sri Lankan Wickramasinghe and Zimbabwean Heath Streak, both of whom were part of the teams with limited resources in the 90s. It isn’t surprising though that Streak’s six-wicket haul and nine wickets in the match against Pakistan were the reasons of Zimbabwe’s first ever Test win.

Difference of Bowling averages between ROW & Pakistan since January 1990 [Qualification: 25 wickets vs PAK ]
Name (Team) Against Pakistan Against Rest of the World (ROW)
Matches Wickets Avg. (A1) Matches Wickets Avg.(A2) Difference (A2-A1)
01. Lakshmi Balaji (IND) 06 26 31.57 02 01 183.00 151.43
02. N Kulasekara (SL) 05 25 16.40 08 06 90.66 74.26
03. Paul Harris (SA) 07 25 24.52 30 78 42.15 17.63
04. GM Swann (ENG) 07 35 17.00 37 153 31.22 14.22
05. JM Anderson (ENG) 07 32 17.65 63 235 31.74 14.09
06. Stuart Broad (ENG) 07 27 21.96 40 134 32.14 10.17
07. MS Panesar (ENG) 06 31 26.35 36 111 35.28 8.93
08. Daryl Tuffey (NZ) 08 32 26.81 18 45 35.26 8.45
09. Wickramasinghe (SL) 12 30 36.80 28 55 44.63 7.83
10. Heath Streak (ZIM) 10 44 22.90 55 172 29.48 6.58
There are some more nuggets in the table below where I randomly handpicked some bowlers, who have not bowled much against Pakistan but whenever they did, it proved fruitful and fetched them honourable averages.

Two bowlers of below-par teams, Henry Olonga of Zimbabwe and Mohammad Rafique of Bangladesh enjoyed bowling against Pakistan as the difference of their averages depicts.

Punjab’s mind-boggling foggy weather in 1998 and Olonga’s fours wickets in 2nd innings of the Peshawar Test earned Zimbabwe their first ever Test series win away from home whereas Rafique, with his five-wicket haul, nearly won Bangladesh a Test at Multan in 2003.

In the two-Test series, Australia’s Shane Watson threw a monkey wrench in the works as he grabbed five-fors in back to back Tests against Pakistan in 2010.

As for Nathan Haurtiz, Pakistan fans do not need to be reminded of what he did in Sydney 2010.

Some randomly picked bowlers, who couldn’t make in the bowling list above due to less matches played against Pakistan but have impressive averages.Difference of Bowling averages between ROW & Pakistan since January 1990
Name (Team) Against Pakistan Against Rest of the World (ROW)
Matches Wickets Avg. (A1) Matches Wickets Avg.(A2) Difference (A2-A1)
1.Henry Olonga (ZIM) 6 20 24.10 24 48 44.54 20.44
2. Mohammad Rafique 3 17 23.82 30 83 44.22 20.40
3. MS Kasprowicz (AUS) 3 16 17.12 35 97 34.48 17.36
4. Nathan Hauritz (AUS) 3 18 23.05 14 45 39.75 16.70
5. Shane Watson (AUS) 6 17 17.76 29 42 33.42 15.66

Mazher Arshad is a Cricket buff based in Islamabad who considers watching Cricket and giving insights of it as his foremost priority on social media. He tweets @cricket_U

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