The sad demise of economical Test bowling

With shorter formats of cricket (T20I and ODI) gaining more popularity of late, Test cricket is fast moving towards the abyss. However, no one knows whether it is just the evolution of the game or can something be done to revive the gentlemen’s game.

The decline of Test cricket isn’t an overnight affair rather its decay started way back in the past. Test cricket as a format is obviously the same, what we see and enjoy, though the approach to it has changed a lot. One of its examples can be seen in the economy aspect of Test bowling.

Test, being the slowest format of all, intends to test the skills of a cricketer beyond the normal. Both, a bowler and a batsman, give their hundred percent while being on the field for a longer period. Economical bowling thus becomes important in Test cricket as it makes a Test what it is. A slow and technical game not an aggressive one!


Muttiah Muralitharan in action

If we look back in the history books, none of the eight Test playing nations has managed to produce an economical bowler in a decade or so. Sri Lanka stands as a relative exception with the likes of Sanath Jayasuriya and Muttiah Muralitharan, though they too bowled at 2.46 and 2.47 respectively.

Economy rate of less than 2 per over

Economy rate of 2 or even below that is the essence of Test cricket, where a batsman should have to face 300 balls for a century score. Analysing all-time economy rates of all the players of eight Test playing nations, we found some shocking results. Here are excerpts from the analysis:

Teams that have never seen economy bowlers

Despite carrying a history of Test cricket and ruling the rankings from time-to-time, a few nations have no one to celebrate economical bowling rates. Current Test leaders Pakistan, New Zealand, and Sri Lanka, have no bowler in their history to have ever bowled at an economy rate lesser than two runs per over.

Australia has eight bowlers under the mark of 2, with Bert Ironmonger leading the list at 1.69 after 14 Test matches. However, the nation couldn’t see such economy rates after 1967. Tom Veivers remains the last Australian cricketer with an economy figure less than two.

In England, 17 bowlers have concluded their careers with an economy less than two, though that too remains an affair of the past. Off-spinner Fred Titmus was the last English bowler to have produced such numbers at economy rates. He called quits on his career in 1975.

India has seen just two bowlers with such numbers – Bapu Nadkarni and Polly Umrigar with 1.67 and 1.87 economies respectively. It was an affair before 1968. However, left-arm tweaker Ravindra Jadeja has managed an economy of 2.24 after 17 Test matches. So we may see him rising on the chart and improving his economy rate even further.


Ravindra Jadeja appealing for a wicket


In South Africa, only five bowlers have managed to conclude their career under the economy of two runs per over. Left-arm medium pacer Trevor Leslie Goddard retired in 1970 with an economy of 1.64, and after that, no South African could manage to bowl with such magical numbers after him.

West Indies, who remained unbeaten for record 27 Test matches in the 1980s, have seen five bowlers so far under the economy of two. The last among five was Lance Gibbs, who retired in 1976 with an economy of 1.98 runs per over from his 79-match long Test career.

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