Was 2018 really dominated by bowlers?

By Kartik Manchanda  

Gurugram

The year gone by belonged to bowlers in Tests, with India’s bowling show being the most talked about. The trio of Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami took a combined 130 wickets, equalling the West Indian trio of Michael Holding, Joe Garner and Malcolm Marshall for most wickets in a year away from home.

South Africa and New Zealand weren’t far behind. The now-retired Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander proved instrumental in Proteas’ series victories over India (2-1) and Australia (3-1) while the Kiwis capped off a strong year with a 1-0 home series win over England and a 2-1 win against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Neil Wagner did most of the damage against England and in the two wins at Abu Dhabi, debutants Ajaz Patel and Will Somerville -- both spinners -- were the unlikely heroes.       

Of the 48 matches played, 43 produced results -- a feat that has never been achieved with more than 10 games played across 12 months. 1626 wickets fell, the most in the history of the sport and 71 times a bowler took five or more wickets in an innings.

While these figures show the dominance of ball over bat, there’s a different story to tell.  

After going through all the dismissals manually, it was concluded that more than 50% of the wickets fell because of the batsman’s fault or the bowler forcing a mistake. Here’s the complete data -    

Chasing a wide delivery - 10%
Mistimed Shot - 11%
Playing an Attacking shot - 26%
Run Out - 3%

Possible reason - More T20 cricket, which in a way robs a batsman certain time required to get accustomed to the style of the five-day format. KL Rahul’s 44 in the second innings of the first Test against Australia at Adelaide, which India eventually won by 31 runs, is a classic example. It was a limited-overs innings, against the patience and technique required to play cricket’s top format.

The average runs scored by a batsman in 2018 is 26.28 -- the lowest since 1959 (minimum 21 Tests a year). Only 68 centuries were hit as compared to 90 and 92 in 2016 and 2017 respectively.


Batsmen Saving The Day -- Rarely  

Only two Tests were drawn due to the resilience shown by batsmen. In Dubai, Australia -- riding Usman Khawaja’s 302-ball 141 and half-centuries from Travis Head and skipper Tim Paine -- batted for 139.5 overs to seal a draw. In Wellington, Angelo Mathews and Kusal Mendis tired out New Zealand’s bowlers before rain came to Sri Lanka’s rescue -- saving them from a certain defeat.

Not to forget New Zealand tailenders Ish Sodhi and Neil Wagner’s defensive masterclass against England at Christchurch. The duo played out 271 balls to snatch a draw and the series for Kane Williamson’s side.

If 2018 was actually the year of bowlers then the above-mentioned stats and facts might be enough to change the perception!