Nothing is more fascinating in cricket than an exhilarating and equal contest between a batsman and a bowler.
Duels between two players at the top of their games always makes for a fascinating rivalry, and cricket has been blessed to witness several of these over the course of its history. From Sachin Tendulkar against Glenn McGrath to Sir Viv Richards versus Jeff Thompson, the sport has seen legendary battles played out across the 22 yards.
However, there are some duels which sound exciting in theory, but shall never materialise. These are between players divided by eras, with their respective playing careers failing to intertwine.
In this series, we play out a few such hypothetical match-ups by closely examining the statistics of the players involved. Below, we pit current England stalwart Joe Root against former Blackcaps pace ace Shane Bond in the ODI format.
JOE ROOT (RIGHT-HAND BAT)
ODI innings: 137
Hailed as a huge batting talent long before he made his international debut, Joe Root is now well on his way to establishing himself as the greatest batsman to emerge from England.
The Yorkshire didn’t take too long to find his feet at international level and was a mainstay in the England squad by 2014. It was no surprise to see him tagged among the ‘Fab Four’ of batsmen by New Zealand great Martin Crowe and he was, for a brief time, challenging Steve Smith for the No1 crown in Test cricket.
The right-hander isn’t the flashiest of players with extravagant strokes in his book, but what he excels at is scoring runs with machine-like precision. A batsman who is well aware of his strengths, Root thrives on his ability to find gaps at will. As a player who puts a heavy premium on his wicket, Root is the man around whom England build their innings.
His methodological batting works like a treat for an England side which is brimming with plenty of big-hitters. With Root’s ability to keep the runs ticking from one end, the current world champions have hit upon the perfect formula to dominate ODI cricket.
SHANE BOND (RIGHT-ARM FAST)
ODI matches: 82
Five-wicket hauls: 4
Injuries might have robbed Shane Bond of a lengthier career, but the peaks he hit when fit have rarely been matched by any fast bowler in history. A pacer with the smoothest of bowling actions, Bond touched speeds of 150kmph with frightening frequency.
The New Zealand man was best known for his toe-crushing yorkers, although he also possessed a supremely effective slower delivery in his locker. Unfortunate for Bond and the Blackcaps, a spate of injuries meant that the pacer’s international appearances were curtailed to just 120 across all three formats.
When he did play, Bond was a beast in every format for New Zealand. He was particularly lethal in ODIs where his average was less than 21 and a strike-rate just over 29.
The express pacer usually reserved his best for Trans-Tasman rivals Australia, against whom he claimed 44 ODI wickets at an average of only 15.80. He tormented Ricky Ponting especially, dismissing him as many as seven times in 15 ODI meetings between the pair.
Root vs Bond – The stats
In his eight years in international cricket, Root has shown that he is comfortable against both pace and spin. Batting at No3 for England, the right-hander often has to walk in early to the crease and face the new ball.
If there’s a particular type of bowler that Root has struggled against so far, then it is left-armed spinners. His average per dismissal to the left-arm spinners stands at 33.17, with six dismissals in the 17 innings that he has come up against them.
Against right-arm pace, Root’s average per dismissal is significantly higher at 38.58. The bulk of his 116 ODI dismissals have come at the hands of right-armed pacers, who have got the better of him on 62 occasions. Among them, 13 of the dismissals have seen Root loot his stumps while he has been caught behind the wicketkeeper on as many occasions.
Australia’s Pat Cummins and Clint McKay have got his number thrice apiece, while compatriot Billy Stanlake has sent him back twice in just four meetings. Both Stanlake and Cummins can generate some serious heat with the ball, which shows that Root is often vulnerable to quality pace. The fact that the Windies fast bowling duo of Oshane Thomas and Alzarri Joseph have dismissed him four times in a total of eight meetings only further substantiates Root’s vulnerability to right-arm pace.
When it comes to his performances against New Zealand, Root fares pretty well with 932 runs at an average of nearly 55. Three of his 16 ODI tons have come against the Blackcaps, with two of them coming away from home. In fact, Root’s average on New Zealand soil shoots up to a staggering 69.50 after 11 appearances.
Bond, on the other hand, was equally capable of troubling both left and right-handed batsmen with his pace. Although he does average slightly better against southpaws, his average of 18.40 runs per dismissal against right-handers is still pretty impressive.
103 of his 147 ODI dismissals are in the form of right-handed batsmen, with as many as 23 of them losing their stumps in the process. Remarkably, 11 of the right-handers who lost their stumps to Bond were dismissed for a golden duck. This includes several accomplished batsmen like Mohammad Yousuf and Michael Vaughan, with Bond’s yorker being the biggest culprit. It just goes to show how good the Kiwi was at hitting the bullseye when bowling to a batsman who has just arrived at the crease.
Bond’s greatness can be measured by how good he was against the best batsmen of his time. His aforementioned track record against Ponting speaks volumes of his ability. Damien Martyn was sent packing thrice in seven encounters, while Younis Khan and Michael Clarke were both dismissed twice in five meetings apiece.
While he only made six ODI appearances against England, he still managed to inflict of damage with an average of 17.08 and a strike-rate of just 28.2.
Bond’s statistics are simply surreal across every barometer and it is hard to see him dominated by any batsman. The fact that he made a peak Ponting look like an amateur is key in his hypothetical match-up with Root.
For all his excellence, Root does not have the best of records against Cummins, Thomas and Joseph. That Bond at his best is a significant upgrade on this pace trio means that the New Zealander will fancy his chances in any battle with Root.
The Kiwi pacer’s speed and accuracy meant that he was able to a job in all conditions. The only venue where he really struggled was in the UAE where he averaged 37.50 after three matches. His record in both New Zealand and England suggests that Root will have a tough time coming up against him in either country.
It should definitely make for an intriguing battle, but we back the Blackcaps ace to come out on top on most occasions.
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