On Monday, India registered their first win in the opening Test of a series Down Under – in 71 years and 12 series – as they beat Australia by 31 runs in a thrilling finale in Adelaide.The Indian pace trio of Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami accounted for 14 wickets in the match. They bowled with pace and accuracy, they bowled with craft and heart, they were threatening and intimidating. They were patient and yet relentless.

The Indian seamers have given the team an extra edge especially on tours to SENA (South Africa, England, New Zealand, Australia) countries. India always had a weak link on previous tours – their collective pace attack – that is not the case anymore.

So how good are the Indian trio? What have they achieved in 2018? How do they stack against their peers from other countries and Indian attacks of the last few years.

Let us try and dig deeper.

INDIA’S PACE ATTACK IN 2018

India’s pacers have combined to aggregate 146 wickets at an average of 24.15 in 2018. No other country’s pace-unit has taken more. Their average is better than their counterparts in New Zealand, England and Australia.

It gets better. The Indian pace attack’s strike rate of 47.3 is the third-best in 2018 after West Indies (37.3) and South Africa (43.2). Just for perspective, the corresponding pacers’ strike rate for England is 56.3 and Australia is 64.1.

In terms of overs per wicket, the Indian pacers have picked a wicket every 7.89 overs. Only West Indies (every 6.22 overs) and South Africa (every 7.20 overs) fare better. Though Gabriel and Holder have been excellent one must consider the fact that West Indies have played seven out of their nine Tests against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh this year.

Again, it is only the West Indies’ pace unit which has taken more five-wickets in an innings – 8 times. The Indian pacers have accounted for 6 fifers along with their South African counterparts.

In terms of four-wickets in an innings, the Indian pace attack is joint second-highest along with South Africa and Pakistan – 10 times each. The West Indies’ fast bowlers have done it 11 times.

Indian Pace attack 1

Amongst individual fast bowlers, the three Indian pacers – Shami, Bumrah and Ishant – are amongst the top 10 wicket-takers in 2018. No other country has three bowlers in this list. Shami has taken 38 wickets at an average of 27.21, Bumrah 34 at 24.44 and Ishant 33 at 22.03.

What is interesting is that Umesh and Bhuvneshwar have the best bowling averages for India this year – 16.05 and 20.30 – although they have played just 4 and 2 Tests respectively – this signifies the quality in India’s bench-strength.

Ishant’s average in 2018 is better than Anderson, Broad, Starc and Hazlewood.

Shami (strike rate 48.1) and Ishant (strike rate 49.2) have bowled less than 50 balls per wicket in 2018.

Indian pace attack 2

TOP-ORDER WICKETS AND EARLY BREAKTHROUGHS

Not only have the Indian pacers been amongst the highest wicket-takers for 2018, but they have also taken quality wickets – wickets of top opposition batsmen.

They have accounted for 91 top-middle order wickets in 2018 – the maximum by any pace-bowling unit. England follow with 87 and South Africa with 77 such wickets.

62.33 % of the wickets taken by the Indian pace-battery in 2018 have been of the top-middle order – a high percentage given that they have two great spinners in Ashwin and Jadeja. This shows they have played a pivotal role in dislodging opposition batting lineups.

Ishant’s proportion of top-middle order wickets this year is 66.67. This is a higher percentage than Cummins, Anderson, Morkel, Rabada and Starc amongst others. The corresponding percentage for Shami is 63.16 and Bumrah 58.82.

The Indian pace attack has been brilliant with the new ball in 2018. They have broken the opposition opening partnership before 10 overs on 11 occasions this year. Only England (15) and West Indies (13) have made more such breakthroughs. The corresponding numbers for South Africa – 10, Australia – 9, Pakistan – 8 and New Zealand – 7.

Indian pace attack 3
RECORD IN SENA COUNTRIES

The Indian pace attack has tallied 125 wickets in SENA countries in 2018 – the joint-highest along with England.

Their average of 25.61 in these countries is better than England’s (26.42) and Australia’s (30.44).

Their strike rate of 50.4 is lower than New Zealand (52.8), England (54.6) and Australia (59.4)

The Indian fast bowlers have accounted for five fifers in SENA countries in 2018. Only the South Africans have taken more – 6.

The Indian pace-unit took 61 wickets in England and 50 in South Africa – the highest and third-highest aggregate for Indian pacers in any series in these countries. In fact, no Indian pace attack has taken more than 61 wickets in any series in India’s history.

Their combined average of 22.48 and strike rate of 45.9 in South Africa was the best ever for a series by an Indian pace attack in SENA. Their average (28.60) and strike rate (53.6) in England in 2018 was the fifth-best and fourth-best for any series in SENA.

Indian pace attack 4

INDIA’S BEST PACE ATTACK EVER

The Indian pace bowlers have accounted for 146 wickets at an average of 24.15 and strike rate of 47.3 in 2018. They have taken 6 fifers this year.

In terms of aggregate wickets, the pacers have never taken more wickets in any year in India’s Test history.

In terms of strike rate too, 2018 has been the best year (wicket approx. every 8 balls) of the 72 different calendar years India has played Test cricket.

In terms of average (min 4 matches in a year), it was only in 1993 when the pace bowlers averaged lower (23.51) than 2018.

Only twice before (1981 and 2014) have the Indian pace attack taken 6 fifers in a calendar year.

In terms of wickets per match, it is again 2018, where the Indian trio has been the best, picking, on an average, 12.16 wickets per match. This is followed by 2014 (11.2 wickets per match), 1996 (10.25), 2011 (9.92) and 1992 (9.71).

The Indian pace unit has accounted for all 20 opposition wickets only once in the 530 Tests played by the country – against South Africa in Johannesburg in January, 2018. Eight months later in August in Nottingham, they combined to take 19 English wickets in the match – again, a feat, never witnessed in Indian cricketing history.

India has always had talent in batting in abundance. They have had great batting line-ups which have boasted of some all-time greats. Although they have had world class spinners, very seldom have they had a world class fast bowler who could threaten and intimidate. Even when they did, he was a lone ranger who did not have great support – Kapil Dev, Javagal Srinath and Zaheer Khan were all world class but did not have consistent quality from the other end.

That has clearly changed in 2018. They now have three. And that is proving to be the difference.

First Published: December 11, 2018, 7:58 AM IST