What To Make of Mohammad Abbas's County Performances?

The Pakistan seamer has now played 3 seasons of County Cricket, taking 106 wickets at an average of 19.5.

1

Pakistan cricket’s relationship with England is well documented. In an excellent article for Cricket Monthly, Scott Oliver perfectly illustrates how Pakistan’s cricket nomads migrate to England for the summer to earn a living in the off-season. A majority of these guys turn out for club teams in league cricket, where they dominate, often earning more than they will for the rest of the year.

Counties are more discerning and would prefer to contract Australian, English, and South African cricketers for whom the culture change is not as much, nor is the language barrier problem. A majority of county cricket coaches also come from those countries for similar reasons.

And yet Mohammad Abbas has featured in his third County season this year. Of course, that isn’t nearly as surprising to anyone who has seen him bowl. A steady run-up followed by a simple action resulting in a ball pitched on a length describes Abbas and also 90% of all other seamers operating in County Cricket.

Abbas turned out for Leicestershire in 2018 after rolling over England at Lords. He had a stellar season, taking 50 wickets at an average of 17.76. He would return for them in 2019. Covid would play spoilsport in 2020, which resulted in his Nottinghamshire contract being canceled, but he was back at it again in 2021, this time for Hampshire.

County Seasons Comparison

Abbas was at the peak of his powers when he turned up for the County Championship Division 2 2018, and it showed in his end-season figures.

When he returned for his 2nd season with Leicester, he took 29 wickets at an average of 25.75. A tad underwhelming considering his first season and the performance of the other bowlers. Abbas had gone from an exceptional bowler among the top performers of the season to a run-of-the-mill decent county seamer. This coincides with his loss of form in international cricket as well.

In 2021, the ECB reworked the county cricket structure. All 18 counties participated in the County Championship; there was no splitting of divisions. Thus the quality of cricket was elevated from Division 2 but not quite at the level of Division 1. Nevertheless, it was a higher level than Abbas had faced in County Cricket thus far. He returned with 27 wickets at 15.96, his lowest average across three seasons. Abbas was back to hanging with the cream of the crop.

Teams Faced

Opposition

First Innings

Second Innings

Leicestershire

1/27 (15)

2/41 (15.5)

Middlesex

6/11 (11)

3/28 (20)

Gloucestershire

4/41 (19)

0/31 (18)

Surrey

0/69 (19)

DNB

Somerset

2/86 (31)

DNB

Middlesex

3/46 (21)

3/24 (10)

Leicestershire

3/19 (16)

0/8 (8)

In his short stint, Abbas faced Middlesex and Leicestershire twice. He particularly enjoyed bowling to them, averaging 7.27 and 15.83, respectively. While looking at the overall batting numbers of the teams, we can assess their batting ability. Middlesex had the lowest batting average of all teams in the tourney so far. However, Leicestershire sits at No.3 on the County batting charts thus far with an average of 34.22, making Abbas’ performance against them all the more impressive. He performed 116% better than the average bowler against them.

Group Pos.

Rank

Team

Avg

2

1

Lancashire

35.1

1

2

Somerset

34.6

5

3

Leicestershire

34.2

4

4

Surrey

34.1

3

5

Durham

33.7

1

6

Nottinghamshire

32.7

3

7

Hampshire

32.4

3

8

Northamptonshire

31.0

4

9

Glamorgan

31.0

4

10

Essex

30.2

5

11

Worcestershire

29.4

1

12

Yorkshire

28.4

2

13

Gloucestershire

28.0

5

14

Kent

27.1

6

15

Sussex

26.6

2

16

Warwickshire

26.0

6

17

Derbyshire

21.9

6

18

Middlesex

21.0

Abbas ran into an in-form Amla on the flattest wicket in County Cricket, which resulted in Hampshire losing by an innings and Abbas finishing with no wickets in the most expensive spell of his season. He gave a decent account of himself in the games against Somerset and Gloucestershire, teams who featured in the top 3 of Hampshire’s group.

He was a critical member of Hampshire’s attack, which also included former South African international – Kyle Abbott.

Result

Overs

Wickets

Average

Economy

SR

Won

92.5

18

9.83

1.91

30.9

Lost

50   

2

77.50

3.10

150.0

Drawn

61   

7

14.14

1.62

52.3

Match Conditions

The situation in matches didn’t seem to faze Abbas. He returned impressive averages in both the first and second innings. He was lethal with the new ball (averaging less than 10) but remained effective as it got older. Both seem in tune with his international numbers, averaging about the same in both innings and retaining his bite with the new ball too.

 

Inns

Overs

Wickets

Avg

Econ

SR

CC 21

1st Inns

299.0

19

15.7

2.27

41.7

2nd Inns

132.0

8

16.5

1.84

53.9

Tests

1st Inns

512.3

53

23.7

2.45

58.0

2nd Inns

277.1

31

21.2

2.37

53.6

Phase

Overs

Wkts

Avg

SR

Econ

Overs 0-20

90

15

9.5

36.0

1.59

Overs 20-

113.5

12

24.1

56.9

2.54

Batsmen Facing

Interestingly, tail-enders have fared better against Abbas than proper batsmen, perhaps down to them looking to push the scoring rate before they receive a ball with their name on it. His friendly pace probably made him an easier target than others. Openers have been particularly vulnerable as he made the new ball talk early on (as illustrated above). Similarly, he has been brutal on right-handers (averaging 14) but hasn’t spared lefties either (Avg. 18).

Type

Avg

Econ

SR

Dis

Runs

Openers

13.0

1.73

45.0

8

104

Top 4

15.3

2.16

42.4

16

244

Top 6

13.5

1.90

42.7

22

298

Top 7

14.4

1.99

43.5

23

332

Tail

24.8

2.65

56.0

4

99

The only chink in his armor this season is the disparity between his numbers vs. capped and uncapped batsmen. This may be largely thanks to Hashim Amla, who faced Abbas for 55 balls and took 43 runs off him. Ironically, Abbas actually has a decent record vs. Amla in international cricket, having let him only score 14 runs off the 82 balls he has delivered to him, dismissing him once.

Batsmen Facing

Wkts

Avg

Econ

Capped Top 7 Batsmen

7

27.3

3.04

Capped Batsmen Minus Amla

7

21.1

2.76

Uncapped Top 7 Batsmen

17

9.7

1.70

Conclusion

Abbas was dropped from the Test team after a series of poor performances on the England and New Zealand tours. His already gentle pace seemed to have decreased further, and batsmen seemed to have found a way to counteract his bowling by batting outside their crease. All this still may yet be true. But what is also true is that he has delivered better numbers than his peak season in a higher quality competition.

Pakistan now have a more settled Test bowling lineup with Hasan Ali having taken up the mantle of its leader. Abbas could be eased back in a support bowler role. The other options are three youngsters who are very exciting but have shown a propensity to concede runs that could release pressure and perhaps fuel an opposition counter-attack.

Pakistan could do much worse than a Test bowler averaging 22 for their third pacer.

Special thanks to James McCaghrey and Dan Kingdom for their valuable inputs.

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1 comment
Anonymous
13 Aug, 2021

Ahhh professional work. great 😊.