This article explores the key numbers for bowlers in the recently concluded series between West Indies and England. We start with some key numbers and then we see key numbers for the best bowlers, and end with the bowlers who were off-color, exploring what went wrong with them.
The Wisden Series 2020 got off to a great start with West Indies claiming first blood, but England did well in both Tests at Manchester to fight back and play an aggressive brand of cricket when they found themselves in a hole.
Series Bowling Stats - Wisden Trophy 2020
Amidst the bowlers in the 12 innings in the series, 5 bowlers managed to find their mojo with 5-fers, and amidst the 4 pacers who breathed fire, a sole spinner found his way to get a five-wicket haul quite against the run of play.
Bowlers who took 5-fers in the series
This series was dominated by pace bowlers as expected. Stuart Broad made the most of his break, by gathering all the energy required in the next 2 Test matches, to make a telling impact with the ball.
Stuart ‘Supreme’ Broad
23.6 - Strike Rate (Balls per wicket)
From being left out of the side for the first Test at the Ageas Bowl, Broad let his steam out in the next couple of matches by finishing the series as the highest wicket-taker. Among the top bowlers in the series, Broad stood out clearly as the best, with an all-round ability to pick quick wickets, restrict the run-flow and create more wicket-taking opportunities (drawing false shots from batsmen).
Broad’s recent form in English conditions has been terrific, given his ability to pick wickets and creating opportunities. Despite having a slightly under par strike-rate and false shot % in the four Test series in South Africa, Broad was still England’s highest wicket-taker, above Mark Wood and Sam Curran.
Broad, while he was sitting out in an interview with broadcaster Sky Sports had remarked “The selectors know what I can do, and when I am back in the team, you can bet, I will be on the money” and was he on the money!
Shannon ‘Unlucky’ Gabriel
23% - False Stroke Percentage
Despite being the bowler, who has created the most number of wicket-taking opportunities for a bowler in the 2020 Wisden Trophy (23% false shots), he finishes joint-second on the list of bowlers with 11 wickets. Gabriel's ability to almost draw a false shot roughly once every 4 balls is excellent, but it has not been backed by the fielding ability of the West Indies, who have dropped 4 catches off his bowling this series. All of these drops have been of the top-order batsmen (Ben Stokes twice, Dominic Sibley and Ollie Pope) at crucial times in the game.
Chris ‘Man of Manchester’ Woakes
Woakes has done very well for someone was not in the scheme of things in the first Test. Woakes came into the series having some good bowling and batting numbers at Manchester-Old Trafford, but began the series under the shadow of England’s supermen Stokes and Broad, but found his time in the English sun on Day 5 of the third Test accounting for 5 wickets, as the Windies faded away meekly, trying to defend the Wisden Trophy.
Among the pacers in this series, Woakes emerged top in terms of who regularly beat the bat, and asked questions, though he quite was not able to find the edges of the bat to keep the slip cauldron busy enough.
Roston ‘Burns’ Chase
For someone who is not even the first choice off-spinner in the West Indies team, it’s remarkable that Chase has found himself in the top 5 wicket-takers in the series. Out of these top 5 bowlers his ability to draw false shots out of batsmen or to keep the run flow down has been the lowest, but he has done well to draw a wicket every 56 balls and increase his value to the side.
Chase has made Rory Burns his bunny accounting for his wicket 4 times in the series
Dismissals - 4
Runs Scored - 42
Balls Faced - 80
Average - 10.5
Among the 3 spinners who bowled in this series, Chase, towers above the other 2 specialist spinners. Despite Holder’s gamble to get Rahkeem Cornwall for Alzarri Joseph, the move did not help West Indies pick wickets going into the series decider at Manchester. But there are positives in the move, as Cornwall emerged as the best spinner in the series when it came to drawing false shots and keeping the runs under control, as batsmen attacked him the least amongst the spinners in the series.
Jason ‘Bowl First’ Holder
Holder has been in the news for the right and wrong reasons in the series. The first game was set up by Holder through his brilliant line and length, softening England and leading West Indies to a famous victory at the Ageas Bowl. The second and third Tests will be remembered for Holder’s hara-kiri of deciding to ‘bowl first’ at Old Trafford twice over, when the last 4 years games at Old Trafford have been won by sides batting first. Holder’s misplaced trust in his bowlers to decimate a very strong England batting unit probably comes at the back of having a fairly weak batting unit at the top that may not survive the English attack in overcast Manchester conditions. Tough decisions for Jason, irrespective of whether the side may have done better, if they had chosen to bat first. Criclytics felt that WI’s win% chances would go up from X to Y in the second Test, and from A to B in the third.
Apart from the first Test, Holder’s form has dipped and he has not quite been able to translate his recent run of wicket-taking form in the matches at Manchester. But more than stats and numbers Holder will be remembered for the significant leadership in bringing a few brave men across the Caribbean to restart a sport, putting their lives at stake.
Ben ‘Superman’ Stokes
Stokes’s value to the side is immense. Whether it's with bat or with ball, his ability to own the game could never be over-emphasised than in the last couple of years. But for his niggle in the 3rd game, this series was almost touted as Ben Stokes vs West Indies. Apart from his 9 wickets, the damage Stokes inflicted was more mental, beating the bat and drawing edges from the Caribbean blades in the first 2 Tests.
Dom Bess - For a bowler who’s run-up and dip at the point of release resembles Nathan Lyon, his returns in this series have been far lesser for a first-choice spinner. The English team management have indicated that they want to rotate bowlers in a way that some of their younger bowlers get enough match-time to be blooded for tougher tours abroad. Bess needs to be seen in that category. For this series, he had the lowest false shots created for a bowler who has been attacked a lot.
Alzarri Joseph - England have attacked him the most along with Gabriel among the WI pacers. Joseph has created a false shot roughly once every 5 balls, but he has also been let down by his fielders with 3 catches dropped off his bowling. A good stat that he would take as a positive sign was that he managed to beat the bat the most from bowlers of both sides. He however finishes the series with sub-optimal returns of a wicket every 112 balls and just 3 wickets to show.
Mark Wood - Wood’s inclusion in the side, came with a fair amount of pressure, as he came at the expense of Broad for the sheer pace he brings in his arsenal. Wood had a slightly contrasting match, where luck was not quite on his side
In the series, of all the fast bowlers, he has beaten the bat the least, but still been able to induce edges the most. The false shots it has resulted in, has not helped Wood get wickets. A poor series with the key numbers with a wicket every 110 balls, makes it a little similar to Joseph, where you wonder with a bit of luck, would his figures have been different?
Rakheem Cornwall - Cornwall’s inspired inclusion did not quite help West Indies with bat or ball, but as was the case with Bess’s selection, it could help him with the exposure needed to succeed in future. One of the frontline spinners in the series, he was attacked the least and created the most false shots, so that’s a ray of silver lining amidst a disappointing match where Cornwall did not have much to show as far as numbers go.