Saeed Ajmal's dominance in Test cricket reflects in some phenomenal stats

Saeed Ajmal…..the fastest to get to 100 wickets among off-spinners in Test cricket. He got to the milestone in 19 Tests — one Test fewer than EAS Prasanna, the erstwhile record holder © Getty Images

 

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

Saeed Ajmal’s rise of as the highest-ranked spinner in Test cricket is a journey of dominance, pomp and victory. For a player who entered the world stage at the relatively older age of 30, Ajmal has wasted no time in building his reputation and making a mark in the record books.

 

Ajmal’s wicket-taking spree offers fascinating insight into his class a world class bowler

 

The fastest off-spinner to 100 Test wickets

It has taken Ajmal 19 Tests to reach the milestone of 100 Test wickets. He is the first spinner in 58 years to achieve the said feat in less than 20 games. The previous spinner to pick 100 wickets in under 20 Test matches was Alf Valentine, the West Indian slow left-armer. Ajmal’s feat places him ahead of modern greats such as Shane Warne, Anil Kumble and Muttiah Muralitharan.

List of bowlers who have got to 100 Test wickets in 19 or fewer Tests:

 

Player

Matches taken to 100 Test wickets

George Lohmann

16

Charlie Turner

17

Sydney Barnes

17

Clarrie Grimmett

17

Charlie Blythe

19

Alf Valentine

19

Andy Roberts

19

Ian Botham

19

Saeed Ajmal

19

 

Ajmal is the fastest off-spinner to touch the milestone. Erapalli Prasanna, the legendary Indian off-spinner, was the previous record holder; he took 20 Tests to complete 100 scalps. The incredible numbers makes one wonder what he could have possibly achieved had he made his international debut at a younger age.

 

 

Top and middle-order batsmen form majority of his victims:

A look at the break-up of Ajmal’s Test wickets by batting order offers more fascinating insight of his mastery:

 

Batting numbers

Wickets taken

Numbers 1-3

20

Numbers 4-7

46

Numbers 8-11

41

Total:

107

The number of batsmen he dismisses in the top and middle order is very impressive. More than 60% of his victims are batsmen who have batted in the positions from No 1 to 7.

 

Blossoming under Misbah

Ajmal and his fellow compatriot, Abdur Rehman have blossomed under the captaincy of Misbah-ul-Haq. Ajmal in particular has been a juggernaut as he has picked up a bulk of his career victims under Misbah. He may have played majority of matches under Misbah but his average and strike-rate indicate a marked improvement and a massive surge in performance.

 

M

Wkts

Avg

Strike Rate

5WI

10WM

Overall

20

107

26.70

61.2

5

2

Prior to Misbah’s appointment

8

30

37.13

79.1

1

0

Under Misbah’s captaincy

12

77

22.63

54.2

4

1

 

Misbah took over the captaincy in November 2010 and Ajmal’s golden run began on the tour to the West Indies in May 2011. Four of Ajmal’s five fivers and both match hauls of ten wickets have come since that tour. A lot of the credit must go to Misbah as he has handled him very well and given him the role of the strike-bowler. Ajmal has been introduced into the attack at crucial intervals to dent the opposition and create pressure. Misbah has turned to him for wickets and more often than not, Ajmal has delivered.

 

While the world talks about his awesome performances against England, they tend to forget his performances against Sri Lanka late last year. In the three-match Test series in the UAE, he picked up 18 wickets against a side that plays spin very well. That in itself speaks volumes of his class and deception as a spinner.

 

The Saqlain comparison

 

Ajmal is often called “Doosra Saqlain Mushtaq” due to his uncanny resemblance of Saqlain Mushtaq. Many of his variations are reminiscent of as he relies on the doosra to trick the batsman. A comparison between the two at similar stages of their respective careers reflects an interesting analogy.

 

M

Wkts

Avg

Saeed Ajmal

20

107

26.70

Saqlain Mushtaq

20

89

29.34

 

The wickets and the average column clearly show Ajmal’s lead over his compatriot after the same number of Tests.

Ajmal’s 18th, 19th and 20th Tests have been against England, the No1 in the world, and he has bamboozled them to helpPakistan to an unforgettable clean-sweep. On the other hand, Saqlain played his 18th, 19th and 20th Tests on the memorable tour of India in 1999. That tour witnessed him grow in stature as he bowled to the formidable Indian batsmen on their own turf and emerged stronger.

 

If beleaguered Pakistan have come back strongly on the international stage, it’s thanks to the genius of Saeed Ajmal – a match-winner par excellence in world cricket today.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)