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Bowling average is a statistic measuring the performance of bowlers in the sport of cricket.

A bowler's bowling average is defined as the total number of runs conceded by the bowler divided by the number of wickets taken by the bowler, so the lower the average the better. For fast bowlers in Test cricket, most need to maintain an average of below about 35 to hold a place in the team. Acceptable averages for spin bowlers tend to be a little higher ranging between 35 and 40.

Career records for bowling average are usually subject to a qualification of a minimum number of balls bowled or wickets taken, to avoid including artificially high or low averages resulting from a career spanning only a few matches. Under the usual qualification of at least 2,000 balls bowled, George Lohmann has the lowest Test bowling average, with 112 wickets taken at an average of 10.75 [1]. It should be noted that Lohmann played in the late 19th century, when pitch conditions were far more favourable to bowlers than is currently the case. Only 11 other bowlers have averages below 20 on this basis.

In terms of assessing the effectiveness of a bowler, the average gives a useful but not a complete picture. Another useful statistic is the bowling strike rate - the mean number of balls bowled per wicket taken, indicating a bowler's wicket-taking potency.

Bowling averages in One Day Internationals are generally somewhat lower than in Test cricket because the batsmen need to score runs more quickly which makes it easier to get them out. In one-day cricket, the bowler's economy rate - mean runs conceded per six-ball over, indicating a bowler's control - is another informative statistic.

A bowler's strike rate and economy rate combine to form their bowling average (the average being equal to the economy rate divided by six, times the strike rate), meaning that the average gives a combined indication of a bowler's potency and control without offering precise detail on either.

Several factors need to be taken into account when using the bowling average as a gauge of a bowler's quality. Pitches were not covered before the First World War and were consequently less batsman-friendly, often turning prodigiously for slow bowlers and offering erratic bounce for seamers, leading to much lower (better) bowling averages. Cricket in South Africa was invariably played on bowler-friendly, artificially matted wickets before the Second World War, similarly leading to impressive averages. Slow bowlers who have bowled in the era since covered pitches tend generally to have higher (worse) averages than their seam-bowling counterparts: although they often have low (good) economy rates, covered pitches tend to be less responsive to spin than seam or swing or pace, leading to much higher (worse) strike rates.

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