Do leggies on day one turn into match success?

Do Pakistan need an extra bowler? It’s been tough going for Yasir in Englands first dig.

Led by Zak Crawley’s maiden Test match hundred, England have put themselves in a very strong position of 332-4 following the first day’s play against Pakistan at the Ageas Bowl. The cool, calm Crawley was full value for his 171*, looking busy and assertive at the crease to punish any loose Pakistan bowling and compile his highest First-Class score to date.

One bowler who toiled in-particular was Yasir Shah, the leg-spinner sending down 28 overs for 107 runs and two wickets taken – Dominic Sibley, who played around a full ball to be struck leg-before for 22, and Ollie Pope, who misjudged a quicker one to be bowled for just three.

Given the number of overs Shah bowled, we will take a look at previous leggies who have bowled at least 15 overs in the first innings (the first of four innings’ in the match, that is, and not their team’s first bowling innings) in the past 50 years in a Test in England, and see how their team has fared in the match as a whole.

Bad omens

For starters, history is not on Pakistan’s side. Of any leg-spinner who has bowled at least 28 overs in the first innings of a Test in England in the last 50 years – of which there have been 21 examples – none of them have come out on the winning side. Looking deeper into this, only once has a leg-spinner won after bowling at least 25 first innings overs, Mushtaq Ahmed’s Pakistan in 1996 being the exception when he sent down 27 first innings overs. Furthermore, there have been only six examples of teams being successful having had a leg-spinner bowl at least 20 overs, and none since Ahmed did so 24 years ago.

When considering that Shah’s overs will only become more given that England still have six wickets remaining, it does not bode well for both the 34-year-old’s workload and the outcome for his side, too.

Comparatively poor

Of bowlers to bowl the number of overs or more that Shah has already in this 50-year period, only twice has there been this amount bowled with a worse economy rate: Bhagwat Chandrasekhar’s 3.89 from 30 overs at Edgbaston in 1979, and Shah himself at Old Trafford in 2016 when he finished with figures of 1-213 from 54 overs, an economy rate of 3.94; looking at the data as a whole, it is the eighth-worst economy of any bowler. Meanwhile, of players to take a wicket having bowled 28 overs or more (15 from 20), only five have a higher average than Shah’s 53.5, whilst his total of just three maidens bowled has bettered only 11 other occasions over the 50 years.

Moving forward

Based on previous data, just over half of bowlers (25/48) recorded a worse economy rate in the second innings having bowled at least 15 overs, with just 15 of these taking more wickets in the

second innings than they did in the first. Looking at those who bowled at least 28 overs, 11/17 had a higher second-innings economy, whilst only two had a more profitable second innings with more wickets taken.


All things considered, Shah’s toll on the first day does not suggest the chances of success are high for either himself or his team as the match progresses. Given his huge efforts, the fatigue it will undoubtedly have had on him and with plenty of work still to go to even dismiss England, the situation is not looking favourable from a Pakistani perspective.

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