Why ‘par score’ is a fairly useless concept during a Test match

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England have made too many runs and they don’t deserve any credit. India will now make more and England will lose.

A lot of England supporters seem to have swiftly moved on from ‘England are doing brilliantly’ to ‘India would have done just as well had they batted so this doesn’t really count.’

This is the problem with Test cricket for many people – the desire to assign a value (marks out of ten, perhaps) even while the match is in progress. A team starts to make runs and they earn respect, but then at some point they make too many runs and their efforts are downgraded, even discarded, thanks to application of the ever-primed flat pitch penalty.

So one can always find cause for a moan. What a wonderful sport.

All we know for certain is this: 537 is never a bad score. England could probably have made more, but would almost certainly have expected to make less. That alone is cause for celebration for fans of the touring side.

Par scores

The concept of ‘par score’ in cricket is woolly and not especially useful. The way the term is normally used, it refers to the score the average batting side would have made when facing the average bowling side on a given pitch.

What this doesn’t take into account is whether the average batting side in question is allied to an average bowling attack, or whether the average bowling side they are up against is backed up by an average batting line-up.

Whether a score is above or below par for the conditions doesn’t really matter when we don’t yet know what’s needed. In this instance, that will depend not just on the runs made, but on how England bowl, how India bat and whether or not the home team’s innings exceeds or falls short of par.

Even then, the changing conditions mean that reference to par doesn’t actually help you know who’s ahead. Test cricket is an unbalanced sport. On a pitch that deteriorates throughout, four ‘par’ innings would see the team batting first win. Par attainment would presumably be little consolation.

Back to the match

You have to admire England’s pragmatism. With the lower order having consistently out-scored the top order in recent times, they’re increasingly filling the team from the bottom up. If the all-rounders are the only ones who are going to score runs, well to hell with it – pick more all-rounders.

Number six used to be the doorway in and out of the England team, but that’s no longer the case. Nowadays number six is Ben Stokes in the corridor; a place you regularly pass by when heading in one direction or the other.

Moeen Ali has been past more times than most.


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


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  1. Aren’t true all-rounders supposed to be a once every other generation type thing? You’re not supposed to have five in your XI certainly. So surely they must all be bits-and-pieces cricketers? But Stokes and Woakes certainly don’t look like bits and pieces players when they’ve got bat or ball in hand. And Ali is increasingly approaching a point where he arguably looks worth his place as a batsman alone, and as a spinner alone. That’s quite a progression someone who looked destined to be have a long run in the side as a short-term fix for whatever issue was most pressing. Spinner, number three, opener, bowling all-rounder, batting allrounder… In a way the player with the most bits and pieces of all!

    Jury is still out on Rashid and Ansari as test cricketers, but it’s hard to argue they’re not all-rounders at least at first class level.

    1. The Moeen Ali case is interesting. You wonder how many other players could have come to thrive in Test cricket had they found a way to hang about long enough through adaptability or lack of viable alternatives.

    2. The progression of sport seems to be towards multi-tasking uniformity. Take rugby. In the 70s the game was played by small half-backs, chunky props, chunky and small hookers, beanpole lock forwards and lithe, fast wingers. Passing was something done by the backs, tackling and scrummaging by the forwards.

      RL got rid of that in the 90s, and by 2000 you could not tell a winger from a second row forward from a stand-off by build alone. By 2010 you couldn’t really tell them by the way they played either. RU is heading the same way. The All Blacks scored a try in the World Cup that comprised a prop sprinting down the wing before turning the ball inside to a supporting second-row.

      So maybe the question that we should ask is, “Why only five all-rounders?” And why just three disciplines? Batting, bowling and fielding are all very well, but what about physiotherapy, nutrition, sports psychology, the ability to perform a haka, operatic singing and macramé. Sure his batting average is in the mid-30s, but he more than makes up for that with his comparative theology (*).

      (*) Actually, this one’s been done.

    3. Arguably more interesting (or at least strange) is the case of Stuart Broad, currently ranked the ninth best test allrounder in the world, batting at number eleven for England:


      FYI, there are three other Englishmen (Stokes, Woakes and Moeen) ranked above Broad in those rankings. Four of the top ten test all-rounders are England players.

      We’ll miss this era when it’s over.

      1. Four all-rounders, yet none are even slightly overweight, let alone fat. This era of the all-rounder sucks.

      2. Mike, I trust it makes you feel better to know that Rangana Herath is also considered an allrounder according to the rankings.

        It does look easier to get the points by being a bowler who can bat a bit rather than being a batsman who can bowl a bit. This must be because runs scored by tailenders are easier to count than ‘a few useful overs’ or ‘the odd golden arm’.

        A better system wouldn’t count all runs and wickets equally. Getting 7* as a number 10 shouldn’t get you any allroundering points. Bowling a spell of 5-4-2-0 just before the new ball after having batted at five should.

      3. I learnt by clicking on that link that The Great Neil Wagner is the 10th best bowler in the world apparently. I mean, he’s great and all, but something seems off.

  2. Well, he didn’t say it was a ‘typical’ pitch as we predicted someone would, but this is cut from the same cloth.

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