Updated: Aug 7, 2017
With England getting closer to seeing out the current Test Series against South Africa at Old Trafford, it’s undeniable that all-rounder Moeen Ali has been a star of the show. 252 runs from the bat and 20 wickets by Lunch on Day 4 of the Fourth Test Match show his quality with both aspects of the game, which has led commenters to produce comparisons with other players. ‘Jambo’, for example, has hailed him ‘the best all-rounder since Shaun Pollock in 2001. ‘Tom White’, meanwhile, has compared his series to Andrew Flintoff’s in 2005. These are some quite extraordinary claims, and whilst it’s no secret that the previously struggling All-Rounder has played well in this series, I’d like to analyse whether or not he’s really lived up to those claims.
So What Do We Do About This?
Well, I went to ESPN’s Statsguru, the most comprehensive cricketing database that I know of, and I thought I’d check. Calm down, it turns out he’s not the best all-rounder ever (or at least not quite yet). Yes, believe it or not, there are indeed other, better cricketers out there than Moeen Ali. Please, let me explain.
So it turns out that if you take the exact confines described in the two screenshots above, the assertions are true. So, what’s the fuss all about? These are nonsense qualifiers for an all-rounder. Seriously, 200 runs and 20 wickets? I mean that’s less of an all rounder and more of a bowler who bats a little bit and had the tail stick around while they biffed it. To put it into context, Statsguru lists a total of 1,195 cricketers to have scored 200+ runs in a series since Pollock in 2001. In the same period of time, guess how many bowlers have got 20+ wickets? For them to be considered equal achievements with bat and ball alike, you’d want about 1200 again, right? Or at least 1000?
Well, no. Only 115 players in the same time period have achieved the ‘equivalent’ with the ball. Doesn’t that seem a bit… off? Should we re-adjust the criteria for an all-rounder and then come back to it? Sure. In the same timeframe used in Jambo’s assertion, there have been 777 series’ with 250+ runs scored and 314 series’ with 15+ wickets taken. Now I know, that’s weighted twice as much towards bowlers. But still, someone can do both in a series could maybe be classed as a ‘bowling all-rounder’. So, put them together and what have you got? Bibbedy Bobbedy Boo, it turns out that what Mo has done is far less impressive.
What Has Moeen Actually Achieved?
In fact, this is the 8th occurrence since 2001 of such a feat, and Moeen lies a very boring 4th on the list when ordered by average differential. I mean, it’s still a good series, but trying to claim he’s the best since 2001 is at the very least a piece of outrageous data manipulation and at the most an outright lie. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not Mo-bashing here as he’s continued to take wickets even as I’ve been typing this, but he’s not an all-rounder. Least of all is he the best all-rounder since 2001. Not yet. Watch this space.