Sunday, 26 December 2010


This is a collection of cricketing statistics. Look away now if you don't want to take in this level of pointless analysis.

Australia all out for 98? That's the lowest first innings ashes score since England crumbled to all out for 77 in 1997 at Lord's, and the lowest Australian first innings Ashes score since their spectacular collapse in the 1909 series at Edgbaston, all out for 74.
A game I'm sure none of us can forget, where England cruised to a ten wicket victory after Hobbs was lbw on 0 in the first innings but smashed a triumphant 62 in the second to see England home. Shame we went on to lose that series after V.S. Ranford hit a stunning 143 in the second test. That 143 not out was actually his test best, far eclipsing his otherwise not extra-ordinary average of 37.84, which counts his single test hundred and sole test six. Vernon Seymour Ranford certainly raised his game for tests against England.

If you discount Ponting's only half-decent performance in this series, a knock of 51 not out, his average is a delightful 7. Including that 51, it's 93 he's made in 7 innings so, even with his 51, his average is 13.3. Ponting is a man on the wane. Even Mitchell Johnson has a higher top score (62) and a better average (21). Eat that, Ponting!

I have stats pouring out of me today. Uh oh, I feel another one coming... Ricky Ponting has lasted an average of just 28.42 balls against the English bowlers. Even if he were to hit a six for each of those balls, graciously including the .42, he would score only 170, a full 87 runs shy of his test best of 257!

Statistics are great. I always become an amateur statistician in the Ashes period. It's the best thing about cricket.

I think I'm saying what we're all thinking when I say Hussey (Average this series of 87.5) is the best batsman the Australians have and should be batting at 3, relegating Ponting to "Somewhere else, preferably not on the team".

Speaking of best players, England's finest, Alistair Cook's average is 115, but he still has the rest of this innings to raise that up to something ridiculous, hopefully by eclipsing his 235* test best against the Australians. Preferably raising his average to something around the 200 mark. His test average in general is 45.83, meaning he plays 2.51 times better against Australia (In this series) than all other nations. He's not even this good against Bangladesh (test average of 66.83 against them).

Let's take a moment to compare the two captains, shall we? Strauss has taken 5 catches this series, Ponting an unremarkable three. Strauss has racked up another test century (110), and could smash a passing bumblebee to the ropes with perfect timing, whilst Ponting couldn't knock a beachball lobbed to him by an elderly woman, or perhaps an infirm child, to mid-off for a quick single without edging it through the slips for four. Probably why his best is 51*. Strauss averages 40.33; so far, his innings hasn't yet ended in Melbourne, and I fully expect him to score that elusive triple century.

So Strauss is 1.66 times better as a fielder, and 3.037 times better on average as a batsman. What more do I need to say?

We haven't even LOOKED at the bowlers, but Graeme Swann has 5/91 against the Aussies in Adelaide, whilst their best spinner, Xavier Doherty, picked up 2/41, which sounds alright, but Swann's worst was either 2/128 or 0/51, whilst Doherty's worst was 0/107, or 1/158 (2/128 and 0/107 both coming in the same match, so not really a spinner's pitch). Siddle may have picked up 6/54 in the first test (Including that rare beast, the Ashes hat-trick) but also bowled 0/121 so "hit and miss". Australia's best bowling figures were Mitchell Johnson's 6/38 in the 3rd test off the back of his impressive batting (62), but without the confidence of solid batting to spur him on, he bowled 0/66 and 0/104 in the 2 innings of the first test, at 4.04 runs per over. Whilst England's Jimmy Anderson has been fantastically consistent, his worst figures being 0/15, his best being 4/44 and 4/51, desperately unlucky not to pick up a five wicket haul on either occasion. And Chris Tremlett, back in the side, has made a fantastic start, picking up 12 wickets in 3 innings for just 176 runs, including 4/26 and a five-fer. Even Bresnan's nipped in on the act.

The difference is, all of England's bowlers can have a good day, whilst only one Australian can. Yes, Siddle got 6/54 in the first innings, but he's picked up just one wicket since, and bowled a 0/121, and the best anyone else managed that test was 2/41. Yes, Johnson bowled 6/38, but he's only had 3 wickets in the other 3 innings, and bowled a 0/104. Hilfenhaus has picked up only 2 wickets in his 4 bowling innings. Ryan Harris is the only bowler who seems anything like a consistent threat, his worst figures being 2/84, his best, 6/87. The third test was the first the Australian bowlers dared to be in form at the same time, with Johnson and Harris picking up 9 wickets each, a six-wicket haul each in separate innings. As long as we can avoid that (And at 157/0, it's looking pretty likely that we have) England should be home and dry.

So, to summarise, England's batsmen have been on top, England's bowlers have been more consistent, and in general, England's fielding has been better (Trott's run out of Katich is a good example). It's no wonder, therefore, that England are destined to keep hold of the Ashes for at the very least, this series. Having made this bold prediction, I fully expect them to collapse to 201 all out, with an embarrassing run-out that'll be shown on Question of Sport for generations with that Inzamam-Ul-Haq wicket where the tripped over to Monty Panesar and basically fell over the wicket. I can imagine Sue Barker laughing at it now.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Banking Metaphor from Classical Mythology

Having read the title, you're thinking "He's going to tackle the thorny issue of modern banking by using a now outdated Greek mythological fable? Which one shall he use? Perhaps he shall compare modern banking's boom-bust periods to the seasonal whims of Persephone, wife of Hades! Perhaps he will use the boatman, Charon, who requires gold coins for passage across the rivers of the Underworld, as a simplistic analogy for the important but deplorable nature of mercenary banking! Perhaps he will describe their nature of allowing you to easily get into debt but making it hard to escape to that of Cerberus, three-headed hound who prevents escape from across the river Styx, making the point that it is a truly Herculean task to escape from the misery of debt, Hercules having defeated the dog as one of his labours! I wonder which of these three fine examples he will choose!" to yourself, possibly mumbling to yourself at the same time, and reminding yourself that you need to school yourself in the world of classics.

Well, you have provided three magnificent ideas, but since you largely thought them alone, I decided to go with Prometheus. You, of course, already know the story, Prometheus the Titan steals fire from the gods and gives it to the mortals, sentenced to be chained to a rock and have his liver pecked out by an eagle, liver grows back overnight, so on and so forth.

"Oh," you mutter "Prometheus. Okay. I guess so."

See, you can pretty clearly draw an analogy from this to modern banking, where you, Prometheus (Or the "Consumer of banking services") have stolen the fire (Or "Good interest rates or a high-rate instant access account") from the gods (Or "Banks"). They then sentence you to a cruel and unusual punishment, such as having your liver pulled out by an eagle everyday, if you dare stray into overdraft. The liver then becomes your finances through the magic of metaphors, whilst the eagle becomes the greedy collector. Each night, you grow a new liver, or each month you get another paycheck, but then the greedy eagle comes and pecks it away from you. And so the cycle repeats indefinitely, in perpetuity.

On reflection I think I liked your ideas more. Well done. You clearly know more about analogous Greek mythology than I do. I shan't question your authority on the matter again.

Now, I should stress, I am not an economist. I went to London and purchased a three-stringed violin with a broken bow from a car boot sale, so it is pretty clear I am to financial astuteness what rickets is to international athletics. But debt seems like a pretty bad idea. I offset the minimal cost of a broken violin by travelling by coach, in which karma decided "John, you helped an old woman put her things on the trailer. You deserve a double seat!" so I'm only mildly exhausted. Besides, at least I bought a broken violin rather than a watch I saw at Harrods (I went there to take in the shocking opulence and exorbitant prices. I'm pretty certain they nearly didn't let me in because my shoes weren't carved from solid ingots of gold) which was a pretty pricey £459,000. I can't actually think of anything that watch could do which would justify except stop time itself, like Bernard's Watch. £459,000. I'm still...£459,000. For a WATCH. That's more than a pretty decent Atomic Clock. That's more than a pretty decent house! Although, I saw a house for rent in SW1. A mere £16,000 a week. It came with 2 staff rooms. I'm genuinely struggling to envisage a scenario where anyone has enough money to buy a £459,000 watch and take it to their £832,000/annum house. But what if you want to buy rather than rent? There was a nice little place for £5.25 million. And instead of mere ROOMS for the staff, it has a whole annex. I have not the words. Just...I have to go lie down.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

In 1972, West Germany hosted the Olympic games (Famous, sadly, for the assassination of 11 Israeli athletes, rather than, say, home-grown West German female high-jumper Ulrike Meyfarth, who became the youngest woman to win the Olympic gold in high jump (And indeed, any individual athletics gold) with the Fosbury Flop, a technique that was, at the time, not particularly popular (It is, of course, now ubiquitous in the modern high jump) when she equalled the world record of the time), and a mere two years later, went on to win the 1974 World Cup (A thrilling 2-1 win over the more creative and exciting Dutch team in the final, a cup victory which could have not have been more of a robbery if Gerd Muller was holding a shotgun to Cruyff's head whilst waving his balaclava-clad team-mates to put the world cup trophy in the back of one of three coloured, unmarked Minis, which then darted through the city of Munich, at one stage driving through the sewer network, to arrive at the meet point. Indeed, the last anyone ever saw of Muller after this game was him walking towards the back of a bus teetering over the edge of a cliff in the Alps mumbling "Hang on a minute lads, I've got a great idea!" in German).

Greece too, hosted the 2004 Olympic games (In Athens, no less. Zeus himself won gold in the discus over Norse god Thor, who claimed to be better in the hammer throw. The Norse got their own back when Loki and Odin won a hotly contested men's double sculls against the experienced pair of Greeks, Apollo and Hermes. Moses and Jesus were adjudged to have cheated and fell foul of the rules after parting the river and sprinting along the empty gap and running along the water respectively. They retaliated to this accusation by the turning the river into blood and putting a plague of locusts o'er the land, to which the Olympic Federation responded by calling them "Worse losers than the 2018 England World Cup bid"), and that SAME year, Greece lifted the European cup (The 2004 tournament being labelled the dullest football cup since records began, but popular opinion holds that the pre-record 1908 FA Cup was almost as dull, and if Richard "Dickie" Smith hadn't accidentally performed a Cruyff turn around the Arsenal left back whilst attempting a simple backpass in the quarter finals, it would have been a dead-heat in terms of monotony.)

So, as you can see, England's 2014 glory is practically guaranteed already, but if more proof were needed, London has form with this, having hosted the 1948 Olympics (The handover of the Olympic torch from the 1936 games in Berlin was a little troubled) and then, a mere 18 years later, England held aloft the Jules Rimet trophy in their moment of triumphant jubilation.

Coincidence? I think not.