It was hard not to think of Henry Ford’s old line about lies, damn lies and statistics when someone on the radio commentary reeled off the scores registered by sides batting first at Chester-le-Street through the first part of the English first class season. There was a fair bit of discussion on air, and, again, when I went to look at the browser in the morning, the figures were run up the flagpole again (here).
Scores by teams batting first in five County Championship matches at Durham’s home ground read 250, 237, 259, 267 and 253. A glance at the score cards from those games reveals a dearth of familiar names, at least as far as current international players are concerned, though Collingwood and Onions play for Durham, and the Somerset side that got rolled after that 250 for 132 and 186 included Marcus Trescothick.
Root, Phil Jaques, Bairstow and Bresnan were in the Yorkshire side that chased down 339 to win after Durham made 237 batting first, Chris Rogers captained the Middlesex side that extracted a draw after Durham made 259, Warwickshire didn’t have any hint of the Quasimodo factor but just failed to chase down 257 to win after the Durham first innings of 267 and Chanderpaul was in the Derbyshire side that got walloped by 279 after Durham managed 253 in the first dig.
Look at it on that basis and you’d be forced to conclude Chester-le-Street is a fairly low scoring venue, but Test wickets are different to County tracks, right?
The Australian (here) points out that while the highest score on the ground this First Class season is the 339 registered by Yorkshire thanks to a big ton from Root those games were played on seaming pitches not this tailor-made dustbowl.
So what do we take from a first day where an England side that hasn’t delivered on their supposed ability went from 2-107 to 9-238?
Well, the first point is that Australia’s bowling is our strength, and looks to be developing an ability to hunt as a pack. Harris, I thought, was wayward early and didn’t force Cook to play enough, but the economy rates from Watson and Siddle (combined figures 30 overs, 11 maidens, 2 for 62) and Bird (21-8-1-58) set things up rather nicely for Lyon’s 4-42 off 20.
Those figures from Lyon include the relative mauling that came early on from Pietersen, who set out to dominate the spinner. KP is on record as saying he doesn’t rate spinners in general. He particularly doesn’t rate Lyon which makes, I think, for an interesting contest given the fact that Lyon learned his trade in the country, where everyone down to Eleven is inclined to have a slap.
Pietersen might have tonked the offie for 26 runs off 29 Lyon deliveries in Manchester before Clarke removed the spinner from the attack and set out to deliver another mauling here, but the combination of Clarke and Lyon set things up rather neatly here.