The England Form Guide or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Numbers
A short while back we looked at the idea of using a ten-innings rolling average to look at a player’s ‘form’, as opposed to their career average, which is more a measure of overall ‘quality’. Here we’ll use this idea to have a look at England’s current top-order batsmen, heading into next week’s opening Test against India.
For many years the only consistent thing about the England top order was the inconsistency. Collapses and brilliant hundreds were interlaced throughout the 90′s and the early 2000′s, sometimes even during the same innings (such as Graeme Gooch’s legendary 154* vs. the West Indies in 1991). But those days are long gone and England’s top order has been as solid as a Boycott forward defensive for some time now. You don’t win many test matches by an innings without getting some serious runs on the board first up.
So for each player in England’s current top seven, we’ve calculated their current rolling ten-innings average and their best ever ten-innings average. By comparing the two we should be able to draw some conclusions about how the individuals are really faring. At the very least we’ll get a nice chart to look at. Rather like this one:
This is (hopefully) reasonably easy to follow – the red bar shows each player’s best ever ten-innings rolling average while the blue bar shows where they are now, prior to the first Test.
So what does it tell us? Well, let’s work from left to right.
Andrew Strauss is currently some way short of his best. His rolling ten innings average of 33 is the lowest of England’s top seven. It’s set to get worse for him as well – the top score in those last ten innings was the 110 in Brisbane, the oldest of those ten innings. Score less than that in his first attempt against India and the ten innings average will come down again. Also, that high of 82 dates all the way back to the tour of South Africa in 2004/5, around six and a half years ago. It’s a concerning set of statistics for England fans.
Alastair Cook, on the other hand, really is at the top of his game (although technically, he’s one innings past his peak). To average more than 120 over ten innings against Australia and Sri Lanka is an incredible feat. It’s unreasonable to expect it to continue at quite such levels though – the next innings to drop out will be that monumental 235* from Brisbane.
Jonathan Trott’s rolling average of 85 would make him the star of many teams. Here it’s only worth third place. The drop from 109 is reflective of a few recent cheap dismissals – he actually has three single figure scores in his last five innings.
Kevin Pietersen is, as always, an interesting discussion point. His current rolling average of 52 is actually pretty decent. In those last ten innings are three fifties and a double hundred. And yet the talk about his place in the side continues. He may actually be the main beneficiary of Andrew Strauss’s poor form, with the spotlight being moved onto the captain. Also worth noting is that KP’s best rolling average is ‘just’ 72, which dates back to the 2006/7 Ashes. For all the talk of his genius, he’s never put together a run of big scores in the same way as Alastair Cook or the man currently following him in the batting order.
Ian Bell is another at his peak with his current rolling average of 110 representing a career best. He has a chance of pushing it even higher in the upcoming series against India, thanks to 446 runs in his last five innings (at a mindblowing average of 223).
Eoin Morgan is still in the early days of his Test career with only 12 innings so far, but he certainly hasn’t pulled up any trees so far, with his solitary hundred propping up his rolling average. Over his last nine innings the rolling average drops to a Ramprakash-esque 27.
And Matt Prior is often lauded for his ‘team-first’ approach to batting and you can see the results here. A couple of cheap dismissals in the pursuit of quick runs mean his rolling average is just 45, despite two hundreds and an 85 in the last ten innings. For a number seven it’s still very impressive. Incidentally, that best rolling average of 70 goes all the way back to England’s 2008/9 tour of the West Indies that we like to mention every now and then.
So what have we learned here? This is one of those cases where the numbers back up the general perceptions about how England’s batsmen are doing – Strauss isn’t at his best, Pietersen isn’t as good as he likes to think (and never has been) while Cook and Bell are on top of the world. So no shocking revelations here, but charts give us a nice warm feeling inside nonetheless and isn’t that what it’s really all about?