The tail of the tape: how good are England at bowling to the lower order?

The Guerillas

Englands woes with the tail continue

Having made good inroads into the Pakistan top-order, England would have been confident of removing their opponents for a sub-200 score as they were reduced to 120-5 and 138-6. However, smart work by the tail – and in particular Mohammad Rizwan (60*) – has seen the visitors move to 223-9, almost doubling their score from when the point at which they lost their fifth wicket.

With smart work having been done by Shaheen Shah Afridi and Mohammad Abbas, who lasted 19 and 20 balls respectively, they were able to support Rizwan in holding up an end and providing the wicket-keeper batsman with a partner to support him in their side's overall quest to post a challenging first-innings total.

As England toiled to dismiss the lower-order batters, and with 68 runs and counting having been added by the second half of the batting order, here we will analyse if this is a one-off, or whether their inability to see off the tail is a worrying trend.

World averages

Over the past ten years, England average 71.64 runs conceded for the taking of players batting at number seven or lower in an innings. This puts them third-highest of all nations to have played Test cricket throughout this period, behind only Zimbabwe, with an average of 77.1, and India, with an average of 72.27. The whole table can be seen below.

Although the range in this data is relatively small – 16.37 – it is still a clear indicator as to who is the best and worst at dismissing those lower down a batting order. South Africa are the frontrunners in this regard, averaging only 60.65 runs conceded in the time it takes them to remove the last five players, whilst Bangladesh are second with 64.25.

Additionally, the tight nature of the data is portrayed by the fact that there are actually five teams who average between 69 – 70: Sri Lanka (69.57), West Indies (69.6), Pakistan (69.61) and Australia (69.7). With Pakistan already having scored as many runs as they have done, it puts it just behind the expected score usually conceded by England.

Ability of individuals

It is Chris Woakes who performs the best with an average of 9.69, marginally ahead of Anderson (11.41) and Broad (13.7). Given Woakes' outstanding record at bowling in England, it is no surprise his statistics are so healthy here. At the other end of the spectrum, less experienced pair Sam Curran (21.15) and Dom Bess (18.15) are not represented as well as the more senior trio.

Taking into account all five averages, the cumulative average of the attack against bottom five batsmen is 74.45 – marginally higher than the team's overall average, and also just ahead of the 68 runs scored by numbers 7-11 in this innings so far.

Conclusion

The performance of the English bowlers against the tail thus far is roughly around the averages they have set for themselves over recent years, and so should not be highlighted as any worse than what should be expected. 68 runs have been added, with the team average being 71 and the cumulative individual average sitting on 74 – meaning if England can take the last wicket with three further runs put on the board then they will have performed exactly at their average level as a whole, whilst six more runs will see them hit the level expected when taking into account each bowler's average individual display.

Stats provided by Jack Groom at Total Cricket Analysis.

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