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In September, Bangladesh will play two away test matches in Sri Lanka. We hope to see some exciting bowling performances from our bowlers in familiar sub-continental conditions. But what should be the bowling lineup for these two test matches? In-house statistician Syed Kamal attempts to find the answer using past records.

Bangladeshi bowling lineup for the Sri Lanka tests

Published: 17th August, 2005


In September, Bangladesh will play two away test matches in Sri Lanka. We hope to see some exciting bowling performances from our bowlers in familiar sub-continental conditions. But what should be the bowling lineup of Bangladesh for these two test matches?

The two test venues will be the P. Saravanamuttu Stadium (PSS) and the R. Premadasa Stadium (RPS), both situated in Colombo. Weather and the condition of the pitches will play a big role in determining the exact bowling lineup of the Bangladesh team. But analyzing the bowling lineups that other test teams have employed in the past will provide us some clues.

Fourteen test matches have been played so far at these two venues - nine in PSS and five in RPS. And one of these matches was a neutral venue match played between Australia and Pakistan. Since this match does not involve Sri Lanka, we will exclude this match from our consideration. Also, to simulate identical climate condition, we will only consider the test matches played during the July-August-September time frame. This brings down the number of test matches under consideration to eight - five in PSS and three in RPS. We will also ignore the occasional bowlers used in these matches.

Bowling lineups used at the P. Saravanamuttu Stadium (PSS)

In the ten squads (two teams in each test, five tests) fielded in test matches here in PSS, there was a total of 46 regular bowlers used, 28 of whom were pacers/medium pacers and 18 were spinners. The following table summarizes the distribution of wickets taken by these two kinds of bowlers in PSS:

PSS Records Bowlers Used Wickets in Innings-1 Wickets in Innings-2 Wickets in Innings-3 Wickets in Innings-4 Total
Pacers 28 18 28 11 17 74
Spinners 18 29 17 17 03 66
Total 46 47 45 28 20 140

So, even in the later part of a match (third and fourth innings), when the pitch should favor the spinner, pacers still played the dominating role in PSS. The pacers/medium pacers took almost 60% of the wickets that fell in the third and fourth innings of a match. On the other hand, in the early part of a match, wickets were equally shared by pacers and spinners.

Out of the ten squads, six were formed with five regular bowlers and four had four regular bowlers. In their five test squads, Sri Lanka used the following ratio of pacers and spinners: 3-1, 3-2, 3-2, 2-3 and 3-1. India fielded two test squads here with a 3-1 and a 3-2 pacer-spinner ratio. South Africa and Pakistan fielded a squad each with a 4-1 and a 2-2 pacer-spinner ratio respectively.

Bangladesh also played one test here in 2002 and used four regular bowlers. The pacer-spinner ratio used was 3-1. Bangladeshi bowling attack was comprised of Manjurul Islam, Talha Jubair, Alamgir Kabir and Enamul Haque.

On an average, five-regular-bowlers squads had a 3-2 pacer-spinner ratio. On the other hand, in an average four-regular-bowlers squad, the pacer-spinner ratio was 3-1.

The ground record of PSS shows that so far eleven bowlers have had the success of taking 5 wickets in an innings. Six times it was done by spinners whereas pacers did it five times. In fact, the majority of the wickets taken by spinners were actually taken by a few bowlers. When spinners took wickets, they did it at a ?wholesale? rate. Barring some exceptions like Wasim Akram or Shoaib Akhter, no single pacer took a whole bunch of wickets at a time. Pacers mostly chipped in and shared the wickets with other bowlers.

Bowling lineups used at the R. Premadasa Stadium (RPS)

Premadasa Stadium

Invariably flat, the pitches at RPS are slow in pace and low in bounce. There is turn for the spinners and the batting side can struggle to chase big scores.

Three tests played here are worth examining. Four nations used 27 regular bowlers in these tests. Among them 14 were pacers/medium pacers and 13 were spinners, suggesting that a balance was favoured in the number of pacers and spinners.

These regular bowlers took 61 wickets. The following table shows their wicket taking performance for each innings:

RPS Records Bowlers Used Wickets in Innings-1 Wickets in Innings-2 Wickets in Innings-3 Wickets in Innings-4 Total
Pacers 14 15 11 01 02 29
Spinners 13 08 09 15 00 32
Total 27 23 20 16 02 61

Just one of the matches was extended up to the fourth innings, making the number of wickets taken in fourth innings too low. One of the matches comprised only two innings due to a mammoth run feast by Sri Lanka. In that match, India scored 537/8 and Sri Lanka replied with 952/6 ? the highest innings score ever by a team in the history of test cricket.

Of the 61 wickets taken by regular bowlers here, 32 fell to spinners and pacers/medium pacers claimed the remaining 29. The first innings of the matches were dominated by pacers and in the second innings, wickets were evenly distributed. Later stages of the RPS test matches were clearly dominated by spinners as they took two-third of the 36 wickets that fell in the third and fourth innings.

Among the six squads used in RPS, three were formed with five bowlers and the other three squads were formed with four bowlers. In these three tests, Sri Lanka used the following ratio of pacers and spinners: 3-2, 1-3, 2-2. The pacer-spinner ratio for other teams here were the following: Australia used a 3-1 combination, India, 2-3 and Zimbabwe, 3-2. Sub-continental teams always used at least two specialist spinners, and in some cases even three of them. Teams other than Australia also formed spinner-dominated squads.

The ground records for RPS show that the six times any bowler took five wickets in an innings, he was a spinner. Not only that, in the list of top six all-time wicket-takers in RPS, five are spinners. Clearly this is a spinner-dominated ground.

Formation of Bangladeshi bowling lineup

Even after the excellent performance by our spinners in the home tests against Zimbabwe, Enamul Haque Jr. did not even get chance to play a single match in England due to the pace-friendly English wickets. However, pacers could not take advantage of the seaming English conditions. So many of us are expecting a spinning-duo bowling attack in Sri Lanka.

Based on the historical analysis of bowling lineup formation in P. Saravanamuttu Stadium, we may see a pacer dominated bowling attack once again in the first test. In the only time they played on this ground, Bangladesh used a 3-1 pacer-spinner combination. Generally in PSS, two spinners were used when the bowling lineup was formed with five bowlers. So we can expect to see the inclusion of two spinners if Bangladesh goes for a five-bowler lineup. This is very much possible with two pacers, two spinners and medium pace support from any other batsman.

From a historical perspective, R. Premadasa Stadium appears to pose a wholly different story. RPS has always been dominated by spinners. So Bangladesh might not hesitate to include two spinners.

Deciding on the bowling formtion of a team is not just a matter of past records. Specific pitch and weather conditions, availability of quality bowlers and their form, right-left combination of bowlers and the quality and the depth of opponent batsmen are important factors which will help the team management ultimately decide on the bowling lineup formation for our test matches in Sri Lanka. But the bowling lineup formation used by other teams in the past on these two grounds is certainly an interesting issue. At least it could indicate what to expect if ground conditions remain the same as they were in the past.


About the author(s): When one looks up the term "Renaissance Man" in a Bangla obhidhan, our own Syed Kamal's face will grace the description. In his productive life - and it isn't over yet - Syed Kamal has managed to serve as a BCB umpire aspiring to attain ICC certification, earn a living as an Intelligence agent for an "unnamed" US agency, write a romantic/erotic dictionary in Bangla (that somehow ended up on the National Museum's official display of "Bangla Obhidhan er Biborton") and, in his golden years, become a resident in Dubya's home country - Texas. Somehow, between all this, he has also managed to pen this piece.


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