Tag Archives: Slater

Does County Experience Matter?

The outcome of each Ashes series is beginning to follow a trend. You host the series, you win. As Tom Fordyce of the BBC writes, is home advantage becoming too important?

England has won the past four Ashes series on home soil. Australia has won six of the past seven Ashes series played in Australia, including 5-0 series victories in two of the past three. A visiting team can win an away series; it just doesn’t happen very often. At least not anymore (see table).

No. of Tests wonENGAUSENGAUS

When the Australian batsmen once again displayed great ineptitude against the swinging ball at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge, some suggested they needed to play more county cricket to learn how to adjust their techniques to the alien conditions.

That must be it, I thought. That makes perfect sense. Problem solved. Get the Aussies to spend more time in the UK and we’ll be more competitive next time around. Australia won four consecutive Ashes series in England between 1989 and 2001. How did they do it? Surely the batsmen of that era played more county cricket and could adapt better to the conditions than today’s batsmen.

Well, not exactly.

Australia’s two leading run-scorers in the 1989-2001 period in England (see table below*) – in which Australia won 15 Tests and lost only 4 – were Steve Waugh (22 Tests across all four Ashes series played in England in that period) and Mark Taylor (18 Tests in three series). Waugh played a mere 9 county matches for Somerset in 1987-88, and Taylor played no county cricket at all. Both players made over 1,500 runs in their Ashes Tests in England despite little or no county experience .

Tests played in England 1989-2001County Championship matches (total career)
MatchesRuns Ave100sMatchesRuns Ave100s
S Waugh22163374.22711104294.726
M Waugh17118949.54339259747.219
A Border1287562.50137264855.1610
D Boon1299762.31347277336.976
D Jones656670.75234255451.086
M Taylor18158452.805
M Slater1058634.47123114029.231
R Ponting857944.5327790112.854
M Hayden523433.42040345357.5512
D Martyn538276.40223421711
A Gilchrist534068.001
All Tests played in EnglandMatchesRuns Ave100sCounty MatchesRuns Ave100s
A Border25208265.06537264855.1610
D Boon16112148.73347277336.976
R Ponting18132344.1047790112.854
M Hayden1055234.50140345357.5512
D Martyn1056040.00223421711
A Gilchrist1052140.071
M Hussey527634.5130374285.0412
M Clarke19128141.323444663.713
C Rogers980450.25265578453.0618
D Warner747133.640
A Voges412520.83027174144.644

Allan Border, Mark Waugh, David Boon and Dean Jones played a fair bit of county cricket, and all four recorded good averages in their Ashes Tests in England. Is there a cause-&-effect relationship here? Perhaps.

Michael Slater played 23 county matches and did not perform particularly well, and in his ten Ashes Tests in England averaged only 34.47. On the face of it, his county experience didn’t seem to help much.

And then the numbers become more confusing.

Damien Martyn played almost no county cricket but had an excellent 2001 Ashes series in England, averaging 76.40.

Matthew Hayden averaged a healthy 57.55 for Hampshire and Northamptonshire but this did not translate into runs in Ashes Tests in England, where he made only a single century in ten Tests and averaged 34.50. Why?

Mike Hussey averaged an insane 85.04 and scored 12 centuries playing for three English counties, but in his only Ashes series in England (in 2009), he managed 276 runs in 8 innings at 34.50. Hmm.

You get the idea. Some players who made lots of county runs didn’t do the same in Ashes Tests in England. Some who crushed the Poms in England in the Ashes played no county cricket at all.

Before the current 2015 Ashes series began, Michael Clarke had played 15 Ashes Tests in England and averaged 48.50. He has played almost no county cricket. David Warner has made 333 runs in the first four Tests of the current season, averaging 41.63. Australia needs more from him, but it’s an improvement on his 2013 effort (138 runs at 23.00). Warner has not played county cricket, either.

Chris Rogers is the poster child for Aussies in country cricket. After 65 county matches, he has 5,784 runs at 53.06, with 18 centuries. During the current Ashes series, he has 437 runs in four Tests at 62.43. You’d be hard pressed to deny that Rogers’ county experience has helped him.

But then there’s Adam Voges, who also has plenty of county experience (1,741 runs at 44.64) but has made only 125 runs at 20.83 in the current series. Is he too old now? That seems an overly simplistic explanation – he’s younger than Chris Rogers!

Logic would certainly imply that time spent playing English county cricket is more likely than not to help Australian batsmen adjust to English conditions. But the data suggests it is anything but a silver bullet.

Allan Border has been quoted as saying “The gear system – to be able to go up and down through the gears depending on the circumstances you find yourself in. That’s what we’re not doing well. We seem to have one or two gears and it’s top gear, go hard. We’ve got to learn the art of batting in Test cricket.”

Yep. Which suggests we need to take more of a look at what the coaches are telling the players than merely assuming a lack of county experience is the problem.

But that’s a subject for the next post.

* Data from Cricket Archive