Steyn vs Anderson : Who is the best in Test Cricket?

Bowling in test cricket and setting up batsmen to fall in the trap is an art that can be mastered only by a few. One of the best sights in test cricket is witnessing a fast bowler running in with a red cherry in hand and shattering the stumps. We have seen legendary bowlers like Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson, Wasim Akram, Mcgrath etc. dominating the opposition with their pace and swing.

Having picked up more than 400 Test wickets, James Anderson and Dale Steyn are comfortably the two best Fast Bowlers in the Current era. Over the last ten years, there has been some stiff competition between these two for the ‘best fast bowler of this generation’ tag.

What do numbers say about these two great bowlers?. To make the Comparison more Interesting, Parameters like WWI(weighted wicket index), BQF(bowling quality factor), DI(difference Index) are employed. Let’s now look at the numbers to find Who is the ultimate best in Test Cricket.

Overall Statistics :

LEEDS, ENGLAND – MAY 20: England bowler James Anderson is applauded by Stuart Broad (l) and Alastair Cook as he shows off the ball after taking 5 wickets during day two of the 1st Investec Test match between England and Sri Lanka at Headingley on May 20, 2016, in Leeds, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

James Anderson made his test debut on 22 May 2003. He joined the line-up that consists of bowlers like Matthew Hoggard, Steve Harmison, Freddie Flintoff. After 18 months, Dale Steyn made his Test debut. Both Steyn and Anderson faced some struggles in the initial part of their careers. But the rest is history. Now let’s look at the staggering Numbers that these two have.

From the above data, Anderson edges past Steyn in terms of wickets. But the rate at which Steyn picks up wickets makes him one of the best. The year 2008 is the turning point for Steyn. He picked 74 wickets at a whopping average of 20 in that year.

Anderson is the third fast bowler to take 500 Test wickets. Only six bowlers have taken more than 500 wickets in test cricket. Among the active fast bowlers, Anderson is the leading wicket-taker.

Weighted Wicket Index (WWI) : 

LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 10: India batsman Murali Vijay is bowled by James Anderson during day two of the 2nd Specsavers Test Match between England and India at Lord’s Cricket Ground on August 10, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Bowling average is the most conventional parameter that rates the bowler. But bowling average does not give any idea about the quality of the batsmen dismissed. A dismissal of a top-order batsman will have a higher value than a lower-order batsman. For instance, Wicket of Ricky Ponting will have more value than the wicket of Ishant Sharma.

WWI is the method that incorporates the average of the batsmen dismissed. The methodology is simple. For a bowler, add the location-based average of the batsman dismissed for all dismissals and divide by the number of wickets. Higher the value of WWI, higher is the quality of wickets taken by a bowler

James Anderson has 31.74 as his WWI while Steyn has a WWI of 29.81. In simple words, each of Anderson’s wicket is of batsmen with an average of 31.74. But WWI fails to account the run-saving ability of a bowler. Dismissing Ponting on 7 has more value than dismissing him on 134. WWI fails in this aspect. Enter DI (difference index) and BQF(bowling quality factor) for rescue.

DI and BQF :

The disadvantages of WWI and bowling average can be neutralised by using DI. DI gives the difference between WWI and average. Average has to be low and the other has to be high. Higher the difference, the higher the value of the bowler. When DI is calculated as a ratio it gives BQF(bowling quality factor). Let’s now look at the numbers.

In terms of BQF and DI comparisons, Steyn has an edge over Anderson. Even though his WWI is slightly lower than Anderson, Steyn dismisses batsmen by conceding fewer runs than his counterpart.

Also Read: South African Cricket: A glimpse into the future, Varun Desai

Home and Away Records :

LONDON, ENGLAND – JULY 23: Dale Steyn of South Africa celebrates taking the wicket of Ian Bell of England during day 5 of the 1st Investec Test Match between England and South Africa at The Kia Oval on July 23, 2012, in London, England. (Photo by Tom Shaw/Getty Images)

Performing in-home conditions may not be a big thing for many cricketers. But the performances away from the comfort zone matters the most. This separates normal cricketers from the greats. A player’s away performance must get more weightage than home performance. Let’s now look at the away performance of these two stalwarts.

Apart from Wickets tally, Steyn outplayed Anderson in all other departments in away tests. Anderson’s average jumps over 31 while Steyn stays below 25. This makes Steyn one of the best in this form of the game.

According to home records, Both are the very dominant force for their respective teams. The rate at which Steyn Stacks up the wickets column is just amazing. He played 32 tests lesser than Anderson. But his Numbers are Phenomenal. Steyn’s Away, as well as Home records, do not have any drastic difference. But That’s not the case with Anderson.

Performance In Asia :

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA – JANUARY 06: Dale Steyn reacts during day 2 of the 1st Sunfoil Test match between South Africa and India at PPC Newlands on January 06, 2018, in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Carl Fourie/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Despite doing well in Asia, R Ashwin is not considered a world-class spinner because of his struggles outside the continent. For a Spinner, the real challenge comes in SENA countries. Similarly, fast bowlers from SENA countries find Asian conditions difficult. Because the tracks laid here suit spin bowling more than fast bowling. Let us take a look at how both the bowlers have fared in these tough conditions.

When the tough gets, going Steyn gets going. His numbers in Asian conditions is Just Phenomenal. His 7-51 against India at Nagpur is the memorable one. He outplayed Indian batsmen with his lethal reverse swinging ability. Anderson’s numbers in Asian conditions is just on the average side. Steyn completely outplays Anderson.

Injuries also played a major part in Steyn’s Career. Due to this, he Missed most of the test matches from 2016. Steyn finishes his career as the country’s leading wicket-taker in test cricket. Anderson continues to play the longer formats despite some recent injury issues.

Conclusion :

As we go by the Stats, Dale Steyn is proving to be the ultimate best in test cricket. But as a whole, These two will go down as the best fast bowlers of this era.

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