With the batting order already set out, the bowling line up for the statistical side of the year is revealed...
Top 6 Opening Bowlers (Last 12 Months – Minimum 5 Games)
Steyn (SAF) - ave 16.24 / s/r 28.90 / eco 3.36
Lee (AUS) - ave 20.57 / s/r 42.2 / eco 2.92
Sidebottom (ENG) - ave 25.39 / s/r 54.10 / eco 2.81
Vaas (SRL) - ave 25.50 / s/r 54.10 / eco 2.82
Zhan (IND) - ave 25.52 / s/r 48.50 / eco 3.15
Martin (NZL) - ave 26.90 / s/r 51.80 / eco 3.11
Top 3 First Change Bowlers (Last 12 Months – Minimum 5 Games)
Clark (AUS) - ave 31.00 / s/r 64.00 / eco 2.90
M. Morkel (SAF) - ave 31.35 / s/r 50.90 / eco 3.69
R.P. Singh (IND) - ave 39.32 / s/r 58.30 / eco 4.04
(Chris Tremlett (ENG) (ave 29.69 / s/r 66.00 / eco 2.69) was the best performing first change bowler of the year, but only played three matches versus India)
Top 3 Spinners (Last 12 Months – Minimum 5 Games)
Muralitharan (SRL) - ave 24.39 / s/r 54.50 / eco 2.68
Panesar (ENG) - ave 31.40 / s/r 63.80 / eco 2.95
Harris (SAF) - ave 31.66 / s/r 54.5 / eco 2.62
So the Test XI of 2007-2008, as indicated by the statistics, is as follows:
Virender Sehwag (IND)
Neil McKenzie (SAF)
Kumar Sangakkara (SRL)
Mahela Jayawardene (c) (SRL)
Shivnarine Chanderpaul (WIN)
Andrew Symonds (AUS)
Kamran Akmal (wk) (PAK)
Brett Lee (AUS)
Stuart Clark (AUS)
Dale Steyn (SAF)
Muttiah Muralitharan (SRL)
The immediately striking feature of this list is that it contains not one single England player. Furthermore, only Alistair Cook made it into the top three for any one position in the batting line up. On the bowling front both Ryan Sidebottom (who but for many a dropped catch would have been in the XI) and Monty Panesar put in good showings. Furthermore, both Chris Tremlett and Stuart Broad would have figured were it not for their lack of games over the past twelve months. This indicates well where England's problems, the batting line up should be under careful scrutiny over the coming months.
The wicket keeping situation is of particular interest also. The three leading run scoring wicket keepers are not the three best wicket keepers in terms of dismissals. Whilst the number of chances created, types of chances created and type of bowler kept to obviously effect these statistics, it is still an interesting point. Most cricket fans would take Gilchrist or McCullum over Akmal, Prior or Dhoni.
Neil McKenzie and Virender Sehwag have obviously benefitted from flat tracks this past year, with a double hundred and triple hundred scored by each respecitively on the same placid wicket. However, this is a statistical XI and to have compiled such vast innings takes huge amounts of concentration, desire and skill. Matthew Hayden and Younus Khan meanwhile would have pipped McKenzie and Kumar Sangakkara, were it not for the latter two's cash-in games against Bangladesh.
Mahela Jayawardene (even discounting games against Bangladesh) and Shivnarine Chanderpaul were the stand out batsmen of the year. Both of them taumented England at different stages in the year and have shown an aptitude for not giving their wickets away. They are two batsmen deserving of the utmost respect and it would have beeen interesting to see how they would have performed in the Australian side over the past decade.
Andrew Symonds has emerged as an integral cog in the Australian middle order. For the purposes of this review only his batting was considered, but he did also boast an average of 25.27 and strike rate of 55.60 with the ball in the last twelve months. When put together with his superbly athletic fielding, he is a formidable package indeed, being able to bowl both accurate and swinging medium pace and off-spinners as well.
Dale Steyn's figures meanwhile deserve a remark. To take 78 wickets in 12 months is remarkable, even if 14 of those came in Bangladesh. He is a frightening prospect who appears to be realising his potential and the upcoming tours of England and Australia will show just how good he, and team mate Morne Morkel, are.
The final comment must be about the spin bowling department. There is no surprise about the leader here, but some concerning second and third. Both England and South Africa have notoriously been missing a quality spinner for well in excess of a decade. Monty Panesar and Paul Harris share much in common. They are out and out spin bowlers and do not pretend to be multi-faceted cricketers, although they do work hard. They have both done well to come in well ahead of Daniel Vettori, Harbajhan Singh and Danish Kaneria, although Anil Kumble was close (ave 32.68 / s/r 61.50/ eco 3.18). Meanwhile, the Australian spin bowling duo of Stuart MacGill and Brad Hogg, did not manage to average below 60 with the ball. The Australian seamers have so far been good enough to make up for this failing, but will that continue? We shall have to wait and see.