Had a discussion recently about how India lack the bowling to win the World Cup as well as how the No 1 Test team tag doesn't fit a side with the current bowling attack. Talk invariably drifted to how this is the Golden Age of batting. It got thinking about a piece written by Gideon Haigh and after some quick browsing managed to locate it here.

I've dug out some stats to show how the bat has indeed dominated ball over the past decade or so. The average runs per wickets during the 464 Tests played during the 2000s was 34.17, the highest since the 1940s (35.77). There has been a rapid rise in run-rates: in the 2000s, every team scored faster than the previous decade.Leading that race were the Australians, who in the 2000s scored their runs at 3.39 as compared to 2.87 in the 1990s.

As compared to the 107757 runs that were scored from 108 Tests in the 1990s, 130475 were scored from 115 in the 2000s. In the 2000s there were 99 double-centuries scored by Test batsmen (including Jason Gillespie, that great allrounder!). In the 1990s there were just 41. Indeed, batting averages are soaring. Flat pitches, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and a sagging West Indies are factors.

But there is hope for the bowlers. It was interesting to find out that bowling strike-rates were higher in the previous decade than any before. The three most successful wicket-takers in Test cricket were spinners; one retired in 2007, another in 2008, and the third this year, though he is still very much in his country's World Cup plans. Swann is leading the spinners' charge and the likes of Steyn, Morne Morkel, Roach, Johnson and Mohammad Amir (his verdict pending) are keeping batsman anxious. All is not lost. 

There is no doubt that Test cricket has changed, and that the biggest influence has come from one-day cricket. Why old-timers lament that change is what bemuses me. Why wouldn't you be happy with faster scoring rates? Look at the recent series between India and Australia. Australia batted first both times and scored over 400 both times (478 in the first innings of the second Test) ... and ended up losing both matches. How many times can you remember a side scoring over 400 in the first innings and losing? It makes for absorbing Test cricket. That India scored their first-innings reply on both occasions at 3.74 and 3.41 respectively, each time themselves crossing 400 (495 in the second innings of the second Test), allowed them to win both contests. Brilliant. 

This aggressive attitude towards batting in Test cricket is what makes the modern game so interesting. Today's Test cricket makes many series of the past, even famous ones, look dull. Batsmen attack from the go (how many times have we seen the first ball of a match been hit for four over cover of point?), bowlers have worked hard on reverse swing and mystery deliveries, diving and sliding has become the norm, direct-hit run outs from short leg and short midwicket are common features. Today's Tests most always reach a conclusion; some before stumps on the fourth day. Granted this has a lot to do with weaker teams, but it can also be argued that pitches have become much flatter. Winning matches inside four days on flat tracks takes some bowling, doesn't it?

In the 1960s, 42% of India's Tests ended in a draw; in the 1970s, 56%; that rose to 60% in the 1980s and fell to 45% in the 1990s. In 2000s, the first decade in which India played over 100 Tests, they drew only 17%. England, in the 1960s, drew half of their Tests; in the 1990s, about a third; in the 2000s, less than a quarter. Australia drew less than a third of their Tests in the 1970s; just over a quarter in the 1990s; just 16% in the 2000s.

In the 2000s, a whopping 75% of Tests played ended in a result. That is higher than any other decade since the 1910s, when war accounted for just 29 Tests across the ten years.  Since January 1, 2010, only three of 29 Tests played entirely have ended in draws. I'd say that's a pretty healthy piece of evidence.


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