Saturday 28 July 2012

Scoring 100's

One of the criticisms that is sometimes leveled at some batsmen in test cricket is that they can't convert a start. They do the hard part of the innings, get to 25 and then get out, without going on to score a hundred.

On the suggestion of Jamie Lloyd, from The Heavy Roller, I decided to have a look at the conversion rates for current batsmen.

I defined a start as 25 runs, and so I looked at how many times a batsman got out between 25 and 99 and how many times they got past 100. I did not count not outs between 25 and 99. I only looked at innings in the top 7 and at batsmen who had passed 25 more than 10 times. I also only looked at innings in the last 10 years, as the conditions have changed quite a lot between the 90's and now, so it was better to restrict it to this time frame. I also ignored any batsmen who hadn't played an innings in the past 4 years.

Here's the top of the list:

NameDismissals 25 - 99100sConversion rate
JH Kallis583437.0%
AG Prince221133.3%
RR Sarwan321531.9%
Mohammad Yousuf331531.3%
KC Sangakkara592630.6%
MJ Clarke441930.2%
RT Ponting723130.1%
AN Cook512028.2%
R Dravid672628.0%
DPMD Jayawardene582227.5%
HM Amla401527.3%
S Chanderpaul542027.0%
IR Bell441626.7%
SR Tendulkar612226.5%
Younis Khan431525.9%
GC Smith722525.8%
KP Pietersen602025.0%
IJL Trott21725.0%
JDP Oram15525.0%
Shahid Afridi9325.0%

We see a list of some of the best modern batsmen there, headed by the incomparable Jacques Kallis. There is also a distinct lack of current New Zealand batsmen there, with only Jacob Oram (who retired from tests 3 years ago) in the list.

At the other end of the table are a lot of wicket-keepers and bowling all-rounders.

Here it is sorted from worst rate.

NameDismissals 25 - 99100sConversion rate
MV Boucher5023.8%
Mushfiqur Rahim2214.3%
DS Smith2114.5%
T Taibu2014.8%
AD Mathews1815.3%
SCJ Broad1815.3%
Shahriar Nafees1815.3%
SR Watson3425.6%
DJG Sammy1516.3%
Junaid Siddique1416.7%
MG Johnson1317.1%
Umar Akmal1317.1%
KD Karthik1217.7%
NT Paranavitana2328.0%
Harbhajan Singh2228.3%
Faisal Iqbal1118.3%
DJ Bravo3238.6%
Shoaib Malik2128.7%
D Ramdin2128.7%
Shakib Al Hasan2128.7%
BJ Haddin27310.0%
Imran Farhat27310.0%
AB Barath9110.0%
Salman Butt25310.7%
Yasir Hameed16211.1%
MS Dhoni36512.2%
BB McCullum42612.5%
MJ Guptill14212.5%

It makes me wonder why there are so many keepers there. Perhaps the temperament that makes someone a good keeper is not suited to getting big scores, alternatively it could be that keepers are more likely to get off to a start, as they tend to have a good eye, and are also more likely to be batting with the tail, hence are more likely to hit out. Alternatively it could be that keepers are more likely to get tired, as they have a lot of work to do in the field. For more, see Does keeping influence batting.

If we ignore the wicket-keepers and bowlers, there are a few players who are in there form Pakistan and also one each from New Zealand, Sri Lanka Bangladesh. The Pakistani batsmen have not played many home matches in this time, and I wondered if there was any significant difference for players at home and away.

Once I isolated out home and away performances there was a clear difference. I home matches players converted 21.1% of starts to hundreds, while away players only converted 17.6%

The next step was to look at who was the best at converting starts to hundreds away from home, as it is obviously a more difficult skill.

NameDismissals 25 - 99100sConversion rate
JA Rudolph9535.7%
JH Kallis241335.1%
AJ Strauss231132.4%
AN Cook211032.3%
TT Samaraweera14630.0%
SR Tendulkar361428.0%
R Dravid391527.8%
MJ Clarke21827.6%
GC Smith371427.5%
AG Prince11426.7%
TM Dilshan17626.1%
RT Ponting331125.0%

The name at the top is surprising. Jacques Rudolph has scored 5 of his 6 hundreds away from South Africa. He's only converted 1 of his 14 starts at home. Once we remove the penalty for playing a lot of matches in England on difficult pitches, Strauss and Cook move up the list. Likewise once we take Sangakkara out of Sri Lanka his numbers don't look nearly as good.

At the bottom of the list, there are still a number of 'keepers and bowlers, but a couple of different batsmen appear.

NameDismissals 25 - 99100sConversion rate
MV Boucher2700.0%
MS Dhoni2014.8%
SR Watson1815.3%
D Ramdin1516.3%
Imran Farhat1516.3%
LRPL Taylor1217.7%
Mohammad Ashraful1118.3%
Kamran Akmal1929.5%

Farhat, Taylor and Ashraful are all terrible at converting starts when they are away from home. Ashraful might not get to play much more test cricket, but the other two need to address this urgently.

The final question is which teams are best at converting starts.

These numbers are quite interesting.

South Africa 23.7%24.0%23.4%0.7%
Australia 23.5%25.5%21.5%4.0%
England 21.8%24.7%18.4%6.4%
Sri Lanka 21.2%21.6%20.7%0.9%
India 19.7%20.9%18.9%2.0%
West Indies 18.6%22.9%14.9%8.0%
Pakistan 17.0%24.6%13.9%10.7%
New Zealand 14.5%14.2%14.7%-0.5%
Zimbabwe 6.8%7.7%5.0%2.7%
Bangladesh 6.0%5.8%6.2%-0.3%

Only New Zealand and Bangladesh do better away from home. It is not a massive surprise in the case of New Zealand as the New Zealand pitches tend to be bowler friendly, and a good ball that misbehaves off the pitch can unseat even the most set batsman. It's part of the reason why batsmen from round the world tend to have significantly lower averages playing against the Blackcaps in NZ than playing them at home. Bangladesh is a little more difficult to understand, but the number at home and away are both particularly poor for Bangladesh, so it might not really tell us anything.

The difference between the better sides over this period (South Africa, Australia, England) and the worst ones (Bangladesh and Zimbabwe) is fairly clear in this statistic, and so perhaps the ability to convert really is an important factor when assessing the quality or otherwise of a batsman.

Thursday 26 July 2012

Mini-session Analysis 1st Test WI NZ Antigua 2012

Here is the final mini-session analysis for the first test between West Indies and New Zealand at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, North Sound, Antigua.

A mini-session is (normally) half a session, either between the start of the session and the drinks break or the drinks break and the end of the session. Occasionally a long session will have 3 mini-sessions where it will be broken up with 2 drinks breaks.

1-1aNew Zealand 21/0 off 12.1draw
1-1bNew Zealand 50/0 off 16.5New Zealand
1-2aNew Zealand 49/1 off 16draw
1-2bNew Zealand 39/1 off 14draw
1-3aNew Zealand 42/0 off 15New Zealand
1-3bNew Zealand 31/2 off 16West Indies
2-1aNew Zealand 28/1 off 16West Indies
2-1bNew Zealand 27/2 off 12West Indies
2-2aNew Zealand 64/3 off 11.1New Zealand
2-2bWest Indies 72/0 off 14West Indies
2-3aWest Indies 46/0 off 17West Indies
2-3bWest Indies 27/0 off 17New Zealand
3-1aWest Indies 30/0 off 10.1West Indies
3-1bWest Indies 70/0 off 13.5West Indies
3-2aWest Indies 47/1 off 15draw
3-2bWest Indies 60/1 off 13West Indies
3-3aWest Indies 24/2 off 12New Zealand
3-3bWest Indies 66/2 off 26New Zealand
4-1aWest Indies 49/0 off 12.3West Indies
4-1bWest Indies 31/4 off 13New Zealand
4-2aNew Zealand 58/1 off 15New Zealand
4-2bNew Zealand 34/0 off 15New Zealand
4-3aNew Zealand 63/0 off 15New Zealand
4-3bNew Zealand 44/2 off 19West Indies
5-1aNew Zealand 18/0 off 10.1draw
5-1bNew Zealand 8/2 off 15.5West Indies
5-2aNew Zealand 47/5 off 15.2West Indies
5-2bWest Indies 32/0 off 8West Indies
5-3aWest Indies 70/1 off 11.3West Indies

Latest update here

Middle drinks, Day 1: New Zealand lead the mini-session count 1-0

An interesting start to the match. After a very slow start the openers started to assert themselves, before Flynn hit a short ball from Narine straight to point. It seems that the way to get Flynn out is to bowl a bad delivery. In the ODI's he managed to hit almost every good delivery that was bowled to him, but got out to some of the worst ones.

The Narine factor hasn't been significant yet, but there is still a lot of cricket to go in this match.

Tea, Day 1: New Zealand lead the mini-session count 1-0

Another even session. Before I added in draws to the formula these mini-sessions would have come out 2-2. I think New Zealand are slightly ahead, but only slightly. There has only been one test at the Sir Vivian Richards stadium that has lasted more than 10 deliveries, so it is difficult to know how the pitch will react as the match wears on.

Again it was a bad ball that dismissed a batsman. A full, wide ball from Roach, that should have been driven for four was instead driven low and hard to mid off by McCullum. It's an unlucky way to get out in some regards, as if he had hit it 2 hundredths of a second later it would have probably blazed along the ground. The ball wasn't slower than the previous ball, so it was really just poor execution from the batsman, rather than good bowling from Roach.

If New Zealand had been offered 159/2 at the resumption of play I would imagine that they would have taken it.

Final drinks, Day 1: New Zealand lead the mini-session count 2-0

More sensible play from New Zealand here. Sammy has a short mid-wicket in place to Guptill, which has cut off his main source of turning over the strike, but Guptill has been prepared to wait it out. He is closing in on what would be probably his best test century, being a completely different type of innings to his attacking 189 in Hamilton.

New Zealand have got into a reasonably strong position now in this match.

Stumps, Day 1: New Zealand lead the mini-session count 2-1

And just like that the match evens up. One good ball from Narine, and one bad shot from Guptill. I had praised Guptill for his patience earlier, and he had been incredibly patient, given that his most productive shot had been cut off. However it came to an end in the 87th over.

New Zealand will be looking for at least 400 as with Brownlie, Vettori and van Wyk still to come there is still a lot of batting left.

Vettori might be a real handful on this pitch. Narine has been getting some awkward bounce. While Vettori is not a great spin bowler he is possibly the worlds best bounce bowler, and inconsistent bounce is what he thrives on as a bowler.

It should be an interesting test match from here.

Innings break, Day 2: The mini-session count is tied up at 3-3

The New Zealand tail decided to take the attack to the bowlers and the approach was very effective. This is not a good sign for New Zealand, as it might indicate that the defensive approach that the top order took was not necessarily the correct one. There is not much chance of Chris Gayle taking a defensive approach.

Narine picked up 5 wickets, but they took 43 overs and cost 132 runs. He is, however, the sort of bowler who is likely to be better in the second innings, unlike Vettori, the first innings spinner.

Chris Martin got another not out to add to his collection. That's his 50th, he's now only 11 away from the world record. It shows the high regard that his team mates hold his batting in.

350 is probably slightly below the par score, but it is sufficient to make for good match. It will be very interesting to see the response of the West Indies, which will really give us an indication of how good the score is.

Stumps, Day 2: West Indies lead the mini-session count 5-4.

Chris Gayle did attack. And he did it effectively. West Indies scored at over 5 an over at the start of the innings. It was not without some risks, with both Gayle and Powell having a life off consecutive balls, firstly with Guptill missing Powell off Wagner and then Flynn putting down Gayle off Bracewell.

By the end of the day, however, New Zealand had taken back some of the initiative, with Gayle and Powell both surviving some close calls from Vettori and Wagner for lbw. Wagner was able to get some sharp reverse swing, perhaps assisted by Doug Bracewell. Bracewell is likely to be having a long, expensive, chat with match referee Ranjan Madugalle following the game after being caught on camera scratching the ball.

West Indies are in control of this match now, but with the ball reversing and runs on the board, New Zealand are not out of it by any means. However with Chanderpaul and Samuels still to come, West Indies should be looking for a significant first innings lead.

Tea, Day 3: West Indies lead the mini-session count 8-4.

Another case of what could have been for New Zealand. The second dropped catch of Gayle was not as expensive as the first one, only costing 8 runs. However there were a number of chances against Powell that never quite went to hand and a run out opportunity that turned into 4 overthrows.

The most concerning thing for New Zealand is that the most dangerous looking bowler has been Kane Williamson. It's concerning because there is the fear that if Williamson is dangerous, Narine will be almost unplayable.

Martin has looked a lot less menacing against the left-handers than normal, and New Zealand really need him to find his rhythm soon.

I think that this pitch is trickier than the scorecard would indicate. Any lead that West Indies can get will be very valuable.

Final drinks, Day 3: West Indies lead the mini-session count 8-5

Chris Martin did find his rhythm, and removed Samuels and Chanderpaul with consecutive deliveries. Williamson still looked threatening. West Indies are still in the lead, but they have gone from leading by 1 run and 8 wickets to leading by 25 runs and 6 wickets. Definitely New Zealand's hour.

Stumps, Day 3: West Indies lead the mini-series count 8-6

New Zealand managed to make it difficult for the West Indian batsmen to score, and as a result managed to pick up a couple of quick wickets from the pressure.

West Indies are in a very strong position now. They are likely to get to 500, and that will create a very difficult prospect for New Zealand to even make them bat again.

However if New Zealand manage to set West Indies a chase of 100, it could be a fantastic finish.

Final drinks, Day 4: New Zealand lead the mini-session count 10-9

New Zealand had to wait an hour for their first break through this morning, but then the rest of the day has really been theirs. Firstly Martin, Vettori and Bracewell cleaned up the tail, then Guptill, Flynn and McCullum batted sensibly. The game is now probably heading for a draw, but there is still hope for the other results. If New Zealand manage to set a target of 150 with 3 hours to go we could be in for a really good conclusion.

Stumps, Day 4: The mini-session count is tied 10-10

Despite the even mini-session count West Indies are ahead in the match. Guptill and McCullum both failed to convert a start. Guptill got out to a good ball and a great catch, and that's something that happen on an old pitch. However Brendan McCullum played a poor shot to a ball that he really should not have gotten out to.

Surprisingly Narine has not looked as dangerous as I would have expected. In a lot of ways Williamson has looked the most threatening of the 5 spinners used. He certainly bowled quite frequently for Gloucestershire and perhaps he is starting to get the benefit of having those overs under his belt.

This day has followed the pattern of the rest of the days, one team doing well, but then the other team leveling up things in the final hour.

End of match: West Indies win the match and the mini-session count 14-10.

In some ways New Zealand lost this test match near the end of the second day when they missed Chris Gayle and Kieran Powell.

Just to show how dominant those two players were, look at the averages for the teams:

Gayle & Powell126
Rest of West Indies30.75
New Zealand31.15

The other big difference was the scoring rate. The West Indians attacked the bowling. They tried to score runs. The New Zealanders generally were content to wait for the bad balls. If you let bowlers bowl to you, then you are giving up the advantage.

New Zealand's bowlers also looked toothless. Wagner and Williamson were the most threatening. Chris Martin looked out of form, and Bracewell looked more like the bowler with a first class average in the 30's than the bowler with a test average in the low 20s. Boult was a real stand out in St Kitts, and while it's not ideal to have two left-armers in the team, it is hard to see any reason for leaving him out of the team if he is sufficiently recovered from his injury.

There are no such worries for the West Indies. The only players who didn't make a significant contribution were Samuels and Chanderpaul, who are realistically two of their three best batsmen. The only other question mark is about Rampaul, but he did enough in this test to hold his place.

I fail to understand also how Sunil Narine was man of the match. There was one player who I thought was head and shoulders above everyone else, and that was Chris Gayle. If anything I thought Roach was the most impressive of the West Indian bowlers. I think match figures of 7/105 are better than 8/223. Gayle scored 214 runs, was only dismissed once and scored his runs quickly enough that his team managed to win the match. If Gayle had scored at a strike rate of 50, it would have taken an extra 28.5 overs for West Indies to have scored their totals. They won with 28.3 overs left in the days play. He allowed them to win the match. Without doubt he should have been the man of the match.

New Zealand now need to win in Jamaica, which is hardly a ground where they have good memories from the ODI matches. They are not as far behind the West Indies as the score would indicate, but they are still behind, and need to do something quickly to catch up.

Friday 20 July 2012

Mini-session analysis - 1st test Eng SA The Oval 2012

Here is the final mini-session analysis for the first test between England and South Africa at The Oval, London, England.

A mini-session is (normally) half a session, either between the start of the session and the drinks break or the drinks break and the end of the session. Occasionally a long session will have 3 mini-sessions where it will be broken up with 2 drinks breaks.

1-1aEngland 36/1 off 11England
1-1bEngland 34/0 off 12England
1-2aEngland 48/0 off 15England
1-2bEngland 40/0 off 15England
1-3aEngland 27/1 off 10South Africa
1-3bEngland 61/0 off 13England
1-3cEngland 21/1 off 14South Africa
2-1aEngland 19/3 off 13South Africa
2-1bEngland 40/1 off 12England
2-2aEngland 57/2 off 10.1England
2-2bEngland 2/1 off 0.4England
South Africa 25/1 off 11
2-3South Africa 61/0 off 26South Africa
3-1aSouth Africa 40/0 off 16South Africa
3-1bSouth Africa 61/0 off 12South Africa
3-2aSouth Africa 36/0 off 15South Africa
3-2bSouth Africa 54/1 off 12South Africa
3-3aSouth Africa 53/0 off 16South Africa
3-3bSouth Africa 73/0 off 27South Africa
4-1aSouth Africa 36/0 off 15South Africa
4-1bSouth Africa 75/0 off 14South Africa
4-2aSouth Africa 60/0 off 13South Africa
4-2bSouth Africa 63/0 off 12South Africa
4-3aEngland 36/2 off 12South Africa
4-3bEngland 66/2 off 26South Africa
5-1aEngland 33/1 off 13South Africa
5-1bEngland 42/0 off 15England
5-2aEngland 31/1 off 15draw
5-2bEngland 32/4 off 16South Africa

Latest update here.

Stumps, Day 1: England lead the mini-session count 5-2.

The day started sensationally with Morne Morkel hitting Strauss in the pads with his 4th ball. His LBW appeal was turned down, but Smith decided to review it and the decision was overturned: Strauss lbw Morkel 0 in the first over.

From that point South Africa had next to nothing to celebrate for 4 hours. Cook and Trott attempted to bat South Africa into the ground. 170 runs in just over 56 overs. Hardly break neck pace, but very effective.

The fall of the wicket hardly did anything to speed up the scoring rate at first either. Pietersen only scored 3 off his first 20 balls. However he exploded from there (in the context of the match) scoring 39 off his next 51 balls before gloving a short ball from Kallis through to de Villiers.

The pitch seemed quite slow, but occasionally one carried through quite well. It could be a pitch where bowlers get good results from bowling cutters and cross seam deliveries in order to exaggerate the inconsistent nature.

It was very much England's day, but the average first innings score at the Oval is about 410, so they are not far ahead of par for this day. The match is quite well set up, and will be even if South Africa manage a couple of early wickets tomorrow. The English tail is formidable, with Broad scheduled to come in at 10. (Broad averages 27 - there have been 92 players who have played more than 20 innings in the top 5 with a lower average than that)

One of the beautiful things about test cricket is that it often leaves you with as much anticipation after the first day as it had before it. This is one of those tests. When Cook resumes on 114 tomorrow morning there will still be everything to play for.

First drinks, Day 2: England lead the mini-session count 5-3.

3 wickets for 19 runs in 13 overs. That is a very comprehensive hour. The match is actually quite even, despite England leading the mini-session count.

Lunch drinks, Day 2: England lead the mini-session count 6-3.

England managed to take this mini-session, and are back in the lead in the match. I think about 400 is about par for this pitch. England are on track to get close to 400, but there is a lot of cricket left in this match.

Stumps, Day 2: England lead the mini-session count 8-4

Despite England leading the count, I feel South Africa are probably slightly ahead. The bookies, however, have the draw as favourite, followed by England. It will be interesting to see if the pitch does start to play tricks. Apparently the groundsmen have made an effort to keep water off the block due to the rain in England this year. This might mean that it does break up more than would be expected after such a wet summer.

Interestingly it was a day without anyone really starring. A few bowlers picked up 1 or 2 wickets. Amla looked good for 47, and Prior batted well for his 60, but there were no really stand out performances. If England manage to bowl out South Africa near the end of the day tomorrow for about 350, we could have an epic finish on our hands here.

Stumps, Day 3: South Africa lead the mini-session count 10-8.

A day of disciplined bowling, and disciplined batting. England managed to keep South Africa to about 3 an over, but only managed to remove Graeme Smith. Smith is now just 223 runs away from taking Bruce Mitchell's record for the most runs in England for South Africa that has stood since 1947.

I heard a commentator say that it was difficult to take wickets as the pitch was too good. I'm not actually sure that a pitch where 12 wickets fall in 261 overs is actually a good pitch. I think a good pitch should have a wicket fall every 12 overs or so, not every 22 overs. However if it breaks up early tomorrow and is a minefield by the end of day 5, I might have to review my assessment.

South Africa will want 4 sessions to bowl England out, but it is unlikely they will get sufficient runs for Smith to declare in 2 sessions tomorrow, so the draw should certainly be favourite now.

David Trist once said that to win a test match you should bowl one third of your overs as maidens. That way you are creating pressure on the batsmen. Both teams have bowled about one sixth. The batsmen have found this pitch too easy. To the credit of Amla and Smith however, they cashed in on the conditions more than the English batsmen (except Cook) did. The South African batsmen were fantastic. George Dobell summed it up well when he said "There may be some doubts about the South Africa tail, but when the head and the body are as strong as this, it is not the most pressing of concerns."

First drinks, Day 4: South Africa lead the mini-session count 11-8

The grind continues. Kallis has done his best impression of a snail. He's scored 8 runs off 56 balls. That is less than one an over. Amla was more positive, with 24 off 34. England have bowled with discipline, but no imagination. Their approach works normally, but 439/2 should suggest to the English bowlers that they need to change things up.

Stumps, Day 4: South Africa lead the mini-session count 16-8

This game no longer looks either evenly poised or headed for a draw. South Africa have taken the game by the scruff of the neck.

The Kallis and Amla partnership is the 3rd largest partnership for South Africa. It's the 3rd largest partnership for South Africa. The 6th largest 3rd wicket partnership. The 5 largest partnership against England. The 2nd largest unbeaten partnership. It's also the 23rd largest partnership of all time.

Amla's innings is the largest by a South African. The 4th largest against England. The 4th largest in England. The 5th longest innings in terms of minutes, and the longest unbeaten innings in terms of minutes. It was the twentieth largest innings of all time.

This was also only the 4th time that a South African team had had 3 players score over 130 in the same innings.

All of this is to say simply that the South African innings was very good. And the English bowling got worn down. If England go on to lose by an innings, which looks quite likely at this point, then it will be the 4th largest first innings total to result in an innings loss.

This is all so unexpected after day one. It is really quite a remarkable turn around. Strauss dropping Amla on 40 may be the most expensive dropped catch in the history of test cricket.

The question now is if this game has another twist. Can Bopara, Bell, Prior and/or the bowlers bat England to safety. It would be remarkable if they do, but there has been a steel about this English team recently that means that it is not inconceivable.

First drinks, Day 5: South Africa lead the mini-session count 17-8

England have lost another wickets, with Ravi Bopara going for a slash outside off and seeing a wide ball crash into the middle stump. Bell has looked solid, despite one nervous moment against Tahir. He and Prior could put together a large partnership, but if they get broken up too soon, it's hard to England making it to the end.

End of match, Tea, Day 5: South Africa win the match and the mini-session count 18-9

Andrew Strauss put down a difficult chance off Amla when he was on 40. At that point England were on top in this match. The South Africans did not relinquish the momentum. They are a very hard team to stop once they are on a roll.

The game was very comprehensive, and South Africa deserve all the accolades they are inevitably receiving, however I don't think that this match is a fair reflection of the relative strengths of the two sides.

England had to bat and bowl in the most difficult conditions for both. Days 2 and 5 were the only days where the ball really misbehaved. South Africa had the best of the conditions, but they made them count well.

The remarkable thing was how long it took before the South African batsmen were able to start punishing the bowling. It was roughly 10 hours before the English bowlers started to lose their menace, and even then they still mostly kept to the plan in the last 3 hours when they were getting belted. It was just that the plan did not work.

It will be interesting to see what Flower, Strauss and co. come up with for the next test. I hope that they don't do what English teams of the '90s did in this situations and make wholesale changes. Flower has so far shown that that is not his style.

The next test will be an entirely different prospect. The ball will probably swing at Headingly and so Steyn, Philander, Anderson and Bresnan will be a much more interesting prospect. We could have a totally different style of match.

I, for one, can hardly wait the 10 days until the next game.

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Has Andre Russell replaced MS Dhoni as the best closer in ODI's

I watched Andre Russell's batting in the third ODI in St Kitts with some interest. The person sitting next to me in the press box had mentioned that he rated Russell, and so naturally I looked up his numbers. They were impressive; so I wanted to see what he could do. On a pitch where none of his team mates scored over 20, he got 42* off 24 balls. The next match he got 29 off 16, followed by the latest 59* off 40. He has now scored over 20 at better than a run a ball in eight of his last 11 innings.

To put this in context, there have been 5148 innings by batsmen batting at number 6 or lower in the last 3 years, and 407 of them have been over 20 at a strike rate of 100 or more. This is slightly under 8%, so a batsman doing this in 73% of his recent innings is remarkable. To put it in further context Dhoni's managed it only 3 times in his last 11, and two of those were not batting at 6 or lower.

It made me wonder if he had actually overtaken Dhoni as the most effective lower order batsman in the world. So I looked at all batsmen in the last 3 years who had batted at 6 or lower at least 15 times. The results were surprising.

I have sorted them by batting index, which I believe is the best way to compare batsmen in limited overs cricket. For more info on batting index click here.

NameInningsRunsAverageStrike rateIndex
JEC Franklin (NZ) 1544755.8788.3349.36
AD Russell (WI) 2158636.62123.6245.28
DJ Hussey (Aus) 2274743.9498.0343.08
MS Dhoni (India) 3090350.1678.7239.49
MEK Hussey (Aus) 2889440.6394.8038.52
YK Pathan (India) 1847031.33119.8937.57
Umar Akmal (Pak) 3199241.3384.9335.11
SK Raina (India) 37103435.6597.7334.85
Shahid Afridi (Pak) 56135726.09130.1033.95
MG Johnson (Aus) 3248425.47112.2928.61
KA Pollard (WI) 36101929.9792.7227.79

The surprise was first that Franklin was at the top. I knew that Franklin had performed well at the lower levels. I knew that he had improved a lot as a batsman. But I did not expect him to have a batting index of 49.36 or an average of 55.87. Secondly I genuinely expected that Dhoni would be well clear of the pack, with only potentially Angelo Mathews and Andre Russell near him. To see Dhoni in 4th and Mathews all the way down in 14th place was a surprise.

Russell is right near the top. To average 36.62 while striking at over 120 is really very impressive.

Russell has been particularly good in the first innings in matches, taking his team to big scores after they had been in some trouble. A lot of lower order players do much better when chasing a score than setting a target, but not Andre. Here are his numbers sorted by innings:

InningsRunsAverageStrike RateBatting Index
1st Innings1232740.87135.6855.46
2nd Innings925932.38111.1635.99

There is a significant difference, but his batting index in the 2nd innings is still better than Jacques Kallis' career figure.

I had to modify my normal criteria of 15 innings when comparing his first innings stats, as he has only played 12, so these numbers are less significant, but here is how he stacks up against all lower order batsmen (6-11) in ODI's: (minimum 12 innings)

AD Russell (WI) 32740.87135.6855.46
MEK Hussey (Aus) 212850.6696.2848.79
MG Bevan (Aus) 220755.1781.0244.7
M Azharuddin (India) 3524496.1742.32
DJ Hussey (Aus) 58939.26106.3141.75
L Klusener (SA) 120446.388.0740.79
OA Shah (Eng) 5464295.6240.16
DS Lehmann (Aus) 40140.198.2839.41
YK Pathan (India) 32532.5119.4838.83
MS Dhoni (Asia/India) 141241.5288.9136.93

Here again Russell shines. It is important to note that he has not played many innings yet, and so bowlers have not got much information yet on what causes him to struggle. Inevitably there is a fluctuation in most players figures. First they are unstoppable, then they get figured out (known as second season syndrome). Then, if they are good enough, they learn how to adapt their game and come back better than before. Their opponents then figure out a new weakness, and the cycle continues. Often fluctuations in "form" are as much down to the ball being bowled in a different place as they are about the batsman not being on his game.

But regardless of how small the sample size is, the numbers are still very impressive. Averaging over 40 at a strike rate over 130 is quite frankly ridiculous. Almost as ridiculous as him batting at number 9 for the West Indies. However I see Gibson's dilemma there: if Russell is winning games at 9, why move him?

It is still early days in his career, but they are promising signs. Andre Russell is certainly a man to watch in when he has the bat in his hands.

Saturday 14 July 2012

How to almost double Bangladesh's success rate.

In One Day cricket there are a few cliches. Some are general like "catches win matches." Others are more specific, like "keep wickets in hand for the final overs" and "it's a cardinal sin to get bowled out before the end of 50 overs." (not referring to the Filipino version.) However there is one factor that is regularly overlooked, run outs.

In their last 193 matches that ended in a result, Bangladesh have taken 116 run outs. In the matches where they haven't taken a run out they have won just over a quarter, 25.9%. In the matches where they have taken at least one run out they have won just under half, 48.2%.

A similar (but not so dramatic) difference is true for most teams. Here are the winning percentages from the last 200 matches for each team (I've excluded Zimbabwe as they have not played sufficient matches against reasonable opposition recently):

TeamNo run outsWith run outsImprovement
New Zealand44.162.742
South Africa65.963.8-3.1
Sri Lanka52.65912.2
West Indies35.44732.7

It is fairly clear that run outs make a significant difference to a teams winning percentage. Only Bangladesh and West Indies have losing records if they manage a run out, and then it's only by a couple of matches.

The surprising exceptions here are South Africa and Australia. South Africa are the team most likely to run someone out, taking .78 run outs per match, but they actually do better when they don't manage to run anyone out than when they do. There are a couple of possible reasons for this. Run-outs are often a result of pressure, and so when a team is under pressure they are more likely to get run out. However, if a team has a reputation as being very good at fielding, then teams take less risks. Taking less risks results in less runs. It may be that the times that South Africa don't get run outs is when their opponents are not taking risks, and as a result they are scoring less anyway.

Breaking the numbers down further, it is interesting to see how they work in more detail.

Here are the winning percentages by number of run outs. This covers 1634 completed innings, but there were very few innings with 3 or 4 run outs, so the numbers are less reliable for those two categories (4 run outs have occurred only 6 times in this time period.)

Team0 run outs1 run out2 run outs3 run outs4 run outs
New Zealand44.154.565.2100-
South Africa65.96166.772.7-
Sri Lanka52.656.161.980-
West Indies35.443.65066.7-

If we look at the overall rate, we can get an idea as to what a run out is worth. Every run out roughly adds 8% to the winning percentage.

However this does not adequately explain the data, as there is a big fluctuation between the better teams and the worse teams. A better option is to look at the losing percentage. It turns out that every run-out reduces the chance of losing by 19%. For example Pakistan lose 51% of their matches when they have no run outs. If they have 1 run out that is reduced by 19% to 41.3%, so we expect them to win 58.7%. If we look at the table above they actually win 58.1% which is remarkably close.

This is nice, but what does it actually mean in a game situation?

Simply it means that creating, and then taking, run out opportunities is a very effective way for a side to win games. It may be an idea for teams to actually think about how they are going to achieve run outs, rather than just hope that the batsmen make a mistake. An example of this is perhaps Martin Guptill running out Marlon Samuels in Wednesday's game at St Kitts. Guptill was sharp enough to be able to run out Samuels without Samuels even setting off for a run. It was amazing skill on the part of the fielder, but also awareness of the situation and good field placement by Williamson.

This sort of skill is as likely to turn a game as bowling a wicket maiden or hitting a quickfire cameo is, and as such it is something that captains and fielders need to think about, and plan for.

Thursday 12 July 2012

Match report 3rd ODI WI v NZ Warner Park, Bassterre, St Kitts

If you had not seen any other matches this series and arrived to watch this one, you would think that New Zealand were such a superior side that there was little chance of West Indies being able to take a game off them.

This was a dominant performance. New Zealand batted better, bowled better and fielded better.

It started with a great innings from Rob Nicol. Daniel Flynn looked like a world class batsman before chopping one on. However West Indies managed to pick up wickets at regular intervals throughout the innings, but most of them were from short balls that the New Zealand batsmen mistimed. Sammy, Narine and Sammy managed to create some pressure on the New Zealand batsmen. Sammy in particular looked outstanding.

He gave some clues as to how he thought the pitch was playing by moving Chris Gayle into a short straight mid on during the powerplay, banking on New Zealand struggling to time the ball. After the game Williamson noted that the pitch was slower than they had expected, but he felt that it was a good cricket wicket, that gave a chance for both batsmen and bowlers.

New Zealand's innings stalled after the 22nd over, and it took until the 33rd before they managed to get some momentum, but they rode the tempo change well and recovered from 141/5 off 34 to get to what looked like a modest total of 249/9. However sometimes it is difficult to know how good a score is until both teams have batted.

The first over from Kyle Mills went for two boundaries, but the big story was the next over. Trent Boult was given the ball ahead of Tim Southee, with the wind coming over his left shoulder. Normally this end would be given to the senior bowler in the team, but Williamson got the decision completely correct in this match. Southee generally bowls outswing, and while having the wind at his back would help his pace, Boult looked quicker in practice in Jamaica. Mills is the ideal bowler to bowl into that sort of wind. It assists his shape away from the right-hander and also helps the ball sit up a bit more.

Boult's first over got Gayle to defend 4 balls, avoid a quick bouncer and then edge one just between first slip (who was probably too wide) and the keeper. It was a promising start. More was to come in his next over as he picked up the dangerous Johnson Charles; lbw to a perfect inswinging yorker.

Gayle seemed to be struggling with the pace of Boult, so Williamson brought on Southee to give him some quick bowling at the body from both ends. The plan worked. Gayle edged Southee to Nicol, and all of a sudden 250 looked a long way away for the West Indies.

4 overs later it was 52/4 and the game was firmly in New Zealand's favour. 2 more overs and Guptill produced some brilliance to run out Samuels, and West Indies were staggering at 62/5. New Zealand immediately took the bowling powerplay. The 5 overs with the field up cost a total of 9 runs. New Zealand had rediscovered their fielding prowess.

Darren Sammy showed that it was a good pitch to be a tall medium pacer on. Jacob Oram is also a tall medium pacer and it was equally good for him, taking 2/22.

Some rearguard tail-end hitting from Andre Russell almost provided some respectability for the West Indies, but they still lost by 88 runs. Russell's 43* off 24 balls was the only score over 20.

The man of the match was a difficult decision for this match. Nicol top-scored with 59, Nathan McCullum lead the recovery with 50 as well as taking 2 wickets, 2 catches and being involved in a run out, and Andre Russell took 4 wickets to go with his runs. The award went to Nicol, but it was a game with at least 3 outstanding performances. (Southee and Boult both bowled sensationally, without getting the same reward)

West Indies have now lost 4 of the 5 matches they have played at this ground. They will need a significant improvement to improve that record in matches 4 or 5.

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Why don't we like Kyle Mills

Kyle Mills is an enigma. He doesn't bowl very fast. He swings the ball, but not as much as many other bowlers. He gets a bit of bounce, but he doesn't hit the deck particularly hard. He bowls good line and length, but isn't as metronomic as some other bowlers. And yet he continues to record amazing numbers.

Over the last 7 years he has consistently been a quality bowler. He managed to get ranked as high as number 1 in the world in the ICC ODI bowlers rankings. (He is one of only 5 New Zealanders I can find to have done it, joining Hadlee, Bond, Vettori & Chatfield). His worst year in the last 7 was 2010 when he took 19 wickets in 13 matches at an average of 26.57 and an economy rate of 5.39. This gave him a bowling index score of 23.87. To put that in context Zaheer Khan has a career average of 29.03 and an economy rate of 4.91, (index 23.76). In Mills' worst year he was still as good as Zaheer Khan.

And yet we don't really like him. Nobody calls up talkback praising him. Nobody writes previews of series where he is seen as a threat. He just goes about his work, getting wickets, bowling dot balls, and not being noticed.

I heard through twitter that people had been calling talkback asking for Mills to be dropped. They called up and talked about the time he got hit for 3 sixes and a 4 in an over by Mark Boucher and Jacques Kallis in 2003/4. They never mention that New Zealand won that game, and that was mostly because in the over before going for all the runs, Mills had bowled an almost perfect over to concede just 3 off the bat when they needed 40 off 3. Nor do they mention that this was right at the start of his career, and that he learned a lot from the experience.

After the first two ODI's in Jamaica, I read a couple of newspaper reports that said that Tim Southee was New Zealand's best bowler. I understand that the two reporters were not actually at the ground, so they may not have had the best perspective, but I fail to see how anyone who watched those games can believe that Southee was a better performer than Mills.

Southee had reasonable figures, but that was in part because New Zealand seemed to have a plan to make sure they kept Gayle at Mills' end. Roughly half the deliveries that Mills has bowled this series have been to Gayle. But he has coped with this task well. Here are the figures for all NZ bowlers to Chris Gayle:

Player DeliveriesRunsWicketsE/R
KD Mills 503814.56
NL McCullum 354016.86
TS Nethula 304008.00
TG Southee 415608.20
RJ Nicol 242606.50
JDP Oram 314208.13
DR Flynn 47010.50
RM Hira 916010.67
AM Ellis 7907.71
KS Williamson 4609.00
DAJ Bracewell 2050015.00

And all New Zealand bowlers against everyone else:

Player DeliveriesRunsWicketsE/R
KD Mills 644414.13
MJ Guptill 2206.00
NL McCullum 434416.14
TS Nethula 545315.89
TG Southee 10911446.28
RJ Nicol 304318.60
JDP Oram 718907.52
DR Flynn 2206.00
RM Hira 5607.20
AM Ellis 1731010.94
KS Williamson 1223111.50
DAJ Bracewell 2240210.91

For these tables I've combined the T20's and the ODI's.

I think it is fairly clear who has been the most effective bowler.

Watching the second game live, the battle between Gayle and Mills was fantastic. Mills missed with 3 deliveries and all of them disappeared for 6. The other 30 deliveries that Mills bowled to Gayle in that match conceded just 16 runs.

If New Zealand manage to dismiss Gayle early, Mills will be able to be used at other batsmen. He may well be the trigger that turns the tide in this series. But even if he is, he's unlikely to be celebrated back home.

Cricket Geek is now on Facebook.

Yes that's right. You can now join the community and chat geeky cricket things on the ubiquitous social network.

You can find (and then like) the page here.

Here's the advantages:

1. Your Facebook timeline probably moves slower than your twitter feed (if you're anything like me), so you are less likely to miss the latest riveting installment.

2. I'll post cricket related pictures on the facebook wall, some of which might interest you.

3. You can discuss things without having to log in to post a comment on the blog.

4. You can interact with the other extremely intelligent cricket followers who also like the site. (And the unintelligent ones also.)

5. You can know that you are part of the elite level of cricket tragics, who not only reads one of the geekiest cricket sites out there, but actually likes it.

6. You can make me feel good about myself. :)

In summary. Click here then click on like. Whatever you do don't click here.

Mini-session Analysis 3rd test SL Pak Pallekele

Here is the final mini-session analysis for the third test between Sri Lanka and Pakistan at Pallekele International Stadium, Pallekele, Sri Lanka.

A mini-session is (normally) half a session, either between the start of the session and the drinks break or the drinks break and the end of the session. Occasionally a long session will have 3 mini-sessions where it will be broken up with 2 drinks breaks.

1-1aPakistan 50/3 off 13Sri Lanka
1-1bPakistan 31/1 off 17Sri Lanka
1-2aPakistan 38/0 off 14Pakistan
1-2bPakistan 53/1 off 11Pakistan
1-3aPakistan 45/4 off 13.4Sri Lanka
1-3bPakistan 9/1 off 4.1Pakistan
Sri Lanka 44/3 off 14.4
3-1aSri Lanka 47/0 off 15.2Sri Lanka
3-1bSri Lanka 51/0 off 14Sri Lanka
3-2aSri Lanka 39/0 off 15Sri Lanka
3-2bSri Lanka 39/3 off 16Pakistan
3-3aSri Lanka 72/1 off 15Sri Lanka
3-3bSri Lanka 45/3 off 10.2Sri Lanka
Pakistan 27/1 off 6
4-1aPakistan 51/0 off 18Pakistan
4-1bPakistan 41/1 off 14draw
4-2aPakistan 39/1 off 14.3Sri Lanka
4-2bPakistan 52/1 off 17.3draw
4-3aPakistan 44/0 off 16Pakistan
4-3bPakistan 45/4 off 18Sri Lanka
5-1aPakistan 44/0 off 18Pakistan
5-1bPakistan 37/0 off 6.4Pakistan
Sri Lanka 27/0 off 5
5-2aSri Lanka 62/1 off 19Sri Lanka
5-2bSri Lanka 43/1 off 13.2Sri Lanka
5-3aSri Lanka 46/2 off 17.5Pakistan
5-3bSri Lanka 17/0 off 6.5draw

Latest update, click here.

Stumps, Day 2: The mini-session count is level at 3-3.

At the end of day 2 the test is evenly balanced. Sri Lanka did well to bowl Pakistan out cheaply, but then lost two of their 3 remaining big guns (Dilshan is at home looking after a sick child) before stumps to be left in a spot of bother. As usual, the first session tomorrow could be vital. If Sri Lanka score 100 and don't lose any wickets then it will be quite difficult for Pakistan to win the match. However if Pakistan take a couple of quick wickets, then the game (and series) is well and truly alive.

Test cricket is as much about the anticipation as it is about the action, and this match has plenty of anticipation. Hopefully the weather doesn't interfere anymore (although reports from Kandy suggest that there is likely to be more rain.)

Stumps, Day 3: Sri Lanka lead the mini-session count 8-4.

One big partnership has put Sri Lanka well in the lead in this match. But one big partnership could easily swing it back to Pakistan.

Paranavitana and Samaraweera put on 143, which is more than Sri Lanka lead by after the first innings.

Pakistan will have to play some very good cricket to win this match, but if the pitch starts to turn or get a bit up and down, they have two very good exponents in that type of bowling, Saeed Ajmal and Junaid Khan.

Junaid Khan in particular has been impressive on this tour. If the batsmen get him something to bowl at, he could have the skills to take Pakistan home here. But at the same time it is difficult to see Sangakkara missing out twice. We could be set for a fantastic last day, with Sri Lanka chasing a small total on a wearing pitch.

Post lunch drinks, Day 4: Sri Lanka lead the mini-session count 9-5.

Mohammed Hafeez and Azhar Ali put on the partnership that removed the lead, but then a couple of wickets have kept Sri Lanka in the lead in the match. This is still looking like it could potentially be an epic match between 2 of the 4 best teams in world cricket at the moment. (Sorry Indian and Australian fans, but your teams have not been playing at this level for the last 12 months.)

Tea, Day 4: Sri Lanka lead the mini-session count 9-6.

The formula actually called that last hour a draw, Pakistan would have needed an extra 5 runs to have won it clearly. However, I feel that Pakistan actually slightly edged the hour, and are in a slightly better place in the match than they were at drinks.

It's a very good innings from Azhar Ali. Both he and Mohammed Hafeez have had a good series. If he goes on to hit a score in excess of 150 here, he might put Pakistan into a position where they start to become favourites to win this match.

Stumps, Day 4: Sri Lanka lead the mini-session count 10-7.

This is why test match cricket is without peer amongst sports. There are so many options as to what could happen tomorrow. Sri Lanka are favourites, but not by much. One good spell by Junaid or Saeed Ajmal and the whole game could turn round.

End of match: Sri Lanka win the mini-session count 12-10.

Match 2 looked like it was going to be a boring draw right up until the final day, when it had a great finish. This match looked like it was going to have a great finish up until the final session when it petered out into a draw.

There ends what has been a good series between two good sides. Sangakkara has really had quite a series, but this is what we expect. Since 2004 he has averaged over 70 in test matches at home. Scoring lots of runs in Sri Lanka is what he does.

Sri Lanka probably deserved to win the series, but without the rain it would have been a much better spectacle, and would have probably ended 2-1 rather than 1-0. The overall mini-session count for the series is 38-30 to Sri Lanka. We lost just under 20% of this series to rain. I'd personally like to see a reserve day set up for test cricket, where if 3 sessions are lost then the reserve day is opened up. (Losing less than this is just cricket, and we shouldn't tamper with a good thing too much)

Sunday 8 July 2012

Match report 2nd ODI WI v NZ Kingston

Chris Gayle is too good at the moment.

The rest of the West Indian players scored 180 off 193 (incl extras), roughly 5 and a half an over. New Zealand scored 260 off 47 overs, roughly 5 and a half an over. And yet this match was not even close. Gayle is just too good.

The match had the usual ebbs and flows, but throughout it West Indies were better in almost every area.

It started with New Zealand keeping the West Indies under some control for the first 4 overs. West Indies were 1/10, and it was looking like the decision to bowl first was a good one. Then Gayle hit 3 sixes off Kyle Mills.

Despite New Zealand's fielding and bowling being a lot sharper than in previous games, the score kept climbing. For a large section of the game they were looking like they were going to get more than 350. At the other end first Dwayne Smith then Marlon Samuels kept the pressure on the New Zealand attack, occasionally scoring with big shots, but feeding Gayle the strike well.

Gayle seemed to make a special effort to attack Mills and that was probably the best battle of the match. Mills got his man eventually, but he had conceded 34 runs off the 33 deliveries that he bowled to Gayle. The other key battle was Samuels against Nethula. Nethula made life difficult for Samuels, who looked eager to get on top of his fellow spinner. Nethula held Samuels to 19 off 26 deliveries.

West Indies looked all set to explode on 227 off 37, but the New Zealand bowlers stepped up at the death. West Indies only scored 66 off the last 10 overs, a good effort on a 220 pitch, but they really should have been looking for 40 more. Not that it mattered. In the last 6 overs the New Zealand bowlers hit their lengths very well and the West Indian batsmen managed only 3 boundaries.

The New Zealand innings started off well again, having the highest opening partnership for the 4th consecutive match. But Guptill managed to keep picking out fielders. The defining feature of his play in the New Zealand summer was how straight he hit the ball. Often mid on and mid off had to stand so close together that they left gaps in the covers and at mid wicket for him to work singles. Today he managed to hit the ball directly to mid on or mid off a number of times. Part of this may have been due to the West Indian bowling plan.

One of the advantages of playing at home is that you know how a pitch is going to behave, and consequently what length is the hardest to score off. The West Indian bowlers (particularly their spinners and Sammy) bowled a shorter length than the New Zealanders. Chatting to Marlon Samuels after the match he said that that was a deliberate plan, because the pitch tended to hold up as the day went on. Perhaps the difficulty in timing the ball was in part due to this.

The major highlight of the New Zealand innings was BJ Wattling. On Thursday he looked scratchy and out of form. It was almost like he scored the runs more by good luck than good management. Today however he looked classy. It was as though his fifty in the first game convinced him that he could play at this level, and he went out today believing it. His 72* off 62 was as good an innings as you are likely to see, and was a surprise to me, because I have never seen him display that level of ability.

For a brief moment it even looked like Wattling and Oram might take New Zealand home. But 316 was always too much, and it proved to be so.

Today was the West Indies day, and Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels' day in particular.

Friday 6 July 2012

Ryder v Watson, part 2

Overnight Jamaica time an epic sporting mismatch took place. Jesse Ryder demolished Mark Watson in a boxing match. Ryder was comprehensively better, and Watson really had very little to offer against Ryder’s power, precision and skill. A few hours a sporting mismatch of a similar magnitude took place at Sabina Park, this time with New Zealand playing the part of Mark Watson and West Indies taking on Jesse Ryder’s role.

Andre Russell celebrated being given one of the new balls by producing a demanding display of swing bowling that asked questions that Guptill, Flynn and Nicol were unable to answer.

Williamson looked like someone who was batting while thinking about other things. He is normally so clinical with his placement, and while he showed some nice touches, he managed to hit the fielders more than the gaps. At one point Sammy created a large gap for him at mid-wicket off Bravo, and almost had him the next ball, as Williamson got a leading edge while trying to hit a ball that was on off stump through that gap. It was field setting par excellence, something Sammy has not yet developed a reputation for. Finally Williamson fell for 24 with the score on 71.

At the other end, putting the batsmen under his spell was Sunil Narine. Watling didn’t get out to him, but never really looked comfortable. Brownlie, however was completely bamboozled, and his lbw looked as much a mercy killing as a wicket.

The New Zealanders recovered from there to post a moderate total, with two good partnerships between Wattling and Ellis and Wattling and Oram. But it felt like too little too late.

The brief New Zealand revival continued into the first few overs of the West Indian innings. The first two overs were maidens (although there were some leg byes scored) and after 3 overs, West Indies were 6 for 1. Mills bowled an outstanding spell to end with the figures of 5 – 1 – 7 – 1. But as well as Mills bowled, it is difficult to win a game by yourself if you are only given 5 overs. After the match I asked Kane Williamson why he didn’t bring Mills back at the end. He replied that he had planned to, but the match was taken away before he got a chance. Perhaps he needed to make that call earlier.

From the end of Mills’ spell it was a Jamaican benefit, with Gayle rearranging the furniture in the ground with frequent big sixes. Smith looked less certain, but kept the strike turning over and occasionally launched a big shot himself.

Tarun Nethula came on to bowl and got one ball to turn quite sharply, and with another deceived Smith with a googly, but dropped the last ball of his second over short to Gayle and disappeared into the third tier of the stadium.

Once the rain came West Indies were in a commanding position of 91/1 off 18 overs. The only thing that could save New Zealand was a washout. The washout never arrived, but instead the match was shortened. The Duckworth-Lewis method is designed to weigh up how strong a position a team is in, and adjust the target accordingly. The system is designed to make sure if a team is in a dominant position before an interruption, that they are in a dominant position after the rain. That was how it played out. West Indies went from needing 100 off 32 overs to needing 43 off 15. Like Ryder after the second standing 8 count, they finished it off with a flurry of big blows. It took only 6.2 overs for them to score the runs.

Just like Mark Watson against Jesse Ryder, New Zealand had no answer against the power, precision and skill of the West Indians.

Ryder vs Watson

Mark Watson was one of the contributing factors in me starting this blog. He is quite outspoken on the radio, particularly harsh on New Zealand cricketers. I listen to his show, and used to get quite upset at the things he said. As a result I started researching statistics to challenge him on.

The first time was to do with Kyle Mills, whom he said wouldn't make any other team in the world. At the time Mills had almost identical career figures to Waqar Younis. So I rang Watson and spoke to him about it. To his credit he admitted that he was unaware that Mills had such a good record, but then (in typical Watson fashion) he then went on to say that Mills had obviously been very lucky, and if he actually had the work ethic of a triathlete he would have an even better record.

The next time I challenged him was when he was calling for the New Zealand selector to be sacked after moving Brendon McCullum up to opening the batting in ODI's. Again I rang him and pointed out that after they started picking him there regularly he had scored 644 runs in 14 matches, averaging 56 at a strike rate of 109. At this point he changed from criticizing the selectors for picking him as an opener to criticizing McCullum for not scoring converting his 50's to 100's.

And yet I know Watson outside of cricket, and I actually quite like him. When he isn't talking cricket. He has strong opinions, and plays the villain well. However, the cricket fan in me was really hoping for him to get knocked out.

There were three reasons for this.

1. Watson has constantly bagged Ryder for his weight, but I think that Ryder isn't in as bad condition as people think.

He has always moved well in the field, and is surprisingly quick between wickets. As a former triathlete, Watson thinks that to be fit you need to look like a triathlete, (where they need to carry less weight in order to be able to run/cycle long distances) but carrying weight isn't a major disadvantage in cricket, and as a result the size of a player is not such a good indication of his fitness.

2. Boxing training seems to be a good idea for batsmen

The essentials of boxing are moving your feet, avoiding danger and attacking a target. These are quite similar to the skills required when batting. When Ryder first came back from his first try at boxing he looked a much better player for it. He started moving his feet again, and hit 50 against South Africa, before off-field issues sidelined him again.

3. I like boxing ending with a knock-out.

While we complain about DRS decisions, Asoka de Silva giving out everything that touches the pad, Australian umpires not giving out Australia batsmen, at least we have some positive decisions to compare the bad ones to. Boxing has never been an easy sport to judge, but even given this it has a poor record of terrible decisions.

Given this, I was quite pleased when I got up early in Jamaica and watched the fight. I was happy that Ryder won. Happy that it was a TKO, and happy that Watson didn't get hurt too badly.

Ryder showed what I expected him to, good footwork, good timing, good strength and (better than I expected) hand speed which was good enough to rival professional boxers.

He actually showed enough to suggest that he might be capable of fighting someone with skills that are a better fit to boxing than triathlon. The thought of Ryder vs Sonny Bill Williams is one that all New Zealand sports fans would relish, as would a large number of Australia fans.

If you want to watch the fight, try this link.

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Cricket in USA

This week I added Central Broward Regional Stadium to my list of places that I have watched international cricket. It was a fascinating experience.

I have previously watched baseball at Dodgers stadium in LA, so I was expecting that it would have a similar feel. There were a few things that I noticed at the baseball. There were people walking the aisles selling food. The people were generally not particularly engaged with the match. Everything was very well organised and orderly. I can honestly say that none of these things were true of the cricket.

The first thing I noticed was the queues to get into the parking. I arrived about 2 hours before the game, and it took me about 30 minutes to get a park. There were two reasons for this: firstly there was a lot of people there. Secondly there were two significant bottlenecks in the way that the carpark was laid out, and poor signage, meaning that a lot of people (myself included) drove the same stretch of road 2 or 3 times.

Once I parked the car I was astounded by the number of people, mostly with Trinidad and Tobago flags, having what we call in New Zealand a car boot party. I'm told the American term is a tailgate party. They were standing round the back of a number of cars: drinking, talking and getting ready for the game.

Then the next thing I noticed was the queues. There were thousands of people queued up for tickets, an hour and a half before the match started. It turned out that these were the smart ones. Once they had their tickets they had to go to their particular gate and go through security. The gates, however were not labelled, so people often waited in a long queue only to find that they were at the wrong gate. This was partially because they only had 6 ticket machines. If it takes 5 seconds for each person to go through (and it normally took more) and there are 6 machines that's 72 people per minute. Given a crowd size of 14000 it would take 194 minutes to get the crowd inside. This was never going to be enough.

To add to the chaos security were taking people's food and drink off them. While this is a policy that is common at sporting events round the world, normally there is some sort of warning, so people know not to bring it. Before going to an event I will normally look up the conditions, and see what I'm allowed to bring with me. Some of them are strange (ie Auckland Cricket's no branded food rule - where you have to take the labels off everything), but normally the conditions are listed somewhere reasonably prominent to avoid people turning up to the ground with a box full of food and drink and having to leave it at the gate.

To add to the confusion it was a very hot day. With the match starting at 3pm, the people were mostly queuing between 2 and 3, which is the hottest hour of the day. There was no shelter where people were queuing, meaning that grumpy people got grumpier as they waited to get inside. I was still outside when Dwayne Smith hit the first ball for 6. The crowd roared. The couple of thousand queuing near me started to grumble. Smith hit the 3rd ball for 6 also. This got the queuing group more agitated.

Once the issues with my pass were sorted out, it was the 11th over, so I didn't get to witness the buzz of expectation from the crowd at the start of the match. However the atmosphere that greeted me once inside was electric. There were flags of every West Indies nation being waved vigorously. There were people blowing into trumpets, shouting, dancing to the loud music, and all seemed to be having a sensational time.

Every quick single was greeted with ooh's and aah's every four was cheered and every six was an excuse to go completely insane. There was even a murmur from them for every dot ball. The crowd displayed the excitement of a small dog who's beloved owner had just returned from a long journey away. And for some of them this was a fair analogy. They were West Indian, they loved their cricket, and the were getting to see some for the first time in years.

Despite missing more than a quarter of the game due to an administrative mix-up, having to stand for 2 hours in the sun and then seeing New Zealand get completely destroyed, it was one of the best cricket watching experiences of my life. I was so taken in with the atmosphere that it wasn't until the 15th over of New Zealand's innings that I noticed that we were not even close to mounting a successful chase.

I stayed behind, wrote up my match report and chatted to a few people. I was still at the ground about 3 hours after the match. But it was not even slightly empty. There were still probably just over a thousand people dancing to the music. As I left the ground there were still groups of (very happy) West Indian fans milling round the car park celebrating.

The second match was much smoother. The organisers had learned a lot from the previous match. They had better barriers to stop people jumping the queue, they had people manually taking tickets and people at the start of the lines telling people what gate it was for. The parking was still chaotic, and the queues were still long, but things were much better.

It was frustrating and disappointing at the start but ended up being one of my most treasured cricket memories. In future it would be better to have a tri-series with USA included as the first two games and then a final. While it is unlikely that USA will beat a top team, it does give each side a warm up match, and that would have been very valuable for New Zealand in this series. It also means that the USA team gets to play good opposition, play at their home venue and start to build a following. If USACA, WICB and Broward County manage to get the details ironed out this could become a very popular and profitable start to every series.

Monday 2 July 2012

The Pollard and Gayle innings

Yesterday I got to witness two outstanding innings from Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard. It made me wonder how they measured up against other innings in T20 internationals this year.

To do this I used a modified batting index score. Batting index is basically the average multiplied by the runs per ball. It is a good measure of how effective a batsman is in limited overs cricket. The problem with using it for single innings is that anyone who gets not out has an infinite score. To counter this I have created a modified index, that I'm going to call innings value. To calculate this there are two options. If the batsman is out, then it is his score multiplied by his score minus 5 divided by the number of balls he faced. For example, if someone got out for 90 off 45 balls his score would be 90 x 85 / 45 or 170. If a batsman gets not out it is his score squared divided by the balls faced. I chose to subtract 5 as when I did an analysis on the cost of wickets each wicket that fell tended to cost a team 5 runs. So if a batsman gets out his team scored 5 runs less (on average).

Here are the top 10 innings this year:

RE Levi (SA) 117* 51v New Zealand Hamilton 268.41
PR Stirling (Ire) 7938v Afghanistan Dubai (DSC) 153.84
MJ Guptill (NZ) 91* 54v Zimbabwe Auckland 153.35
CH Gayle (WI) 85* 52v New Zealand Lauderhill 138.94
KA Pollard (WI) 63* 29v New Zealand Lauderhill 136.86
AD Hales (Eng) 9968v West Indies Nottingham 136.85
BRM Taylor (Zim) 75* 43v New Zealand Hamilton 130.81
PR Stirling (Ire) 61* 32v Canada Dubai (DSC) 116.28
WTS Porterfield (Ire) 56* 27v Kenya Dubai (DSC) 116.15
CA Ingram (SA) 7850v India Johannesburg 113.88

Now there are a few scores in here against 2nd tier nations, but those runs still had to be scored, and so I feel they merit a place in this list. Paul Stirling managed to make the list twice in the tournament in Dubai.

Both of yesterday's innings are in the top 10, and are both ranked about the same as Hales 99 and Taylor's 75*, which feels about right. Both would have been match winning scores in most situations, and coming together in the same match made the West Indies target completely unreachable for New Zealand. It will be interesting to see if there is a repeat dose today.

It also highlights just how good Levi's innings in Hamilton was, in that he scored faster than Pollard, but for almost twice as long.

Sunday 1 July 2012

Pollard Magic

It is not often that Chris Gayle can bat through an innings and be totally overshadowed, but Kieron Pollard managed that today. His 63 can off just 29 balls. It was brutal, but calculating, controlled and clinical as well. He hit five 4's and five 6's, but he scored 13 off the remaining 19 balls with some deft touches and fantastic placement.

The New Zealand team were not helped in the slightest by some poor fielding. Both Gayle and Pollard were dropped at least once, and Charles was given two lives in one ball when Latham first dropped a catch then missed a stumping.

Gayle ended up man of the match, in what seems a strange decision to me. There is no doubt that 82 off 59 is a fantastic innings, but what Pollard gave us was something that nobody who was at this match will ever forget.

The ropes were in quite close, but even still, most of Pollard's big hits would have been 6 on the MCG. One shot in particular over extra cover was breathtaking. In dismantling the New Zealand bowling they also managed to dismantle any fears about the quality of the pitch.

The people that run the ground can be congratulated on a great pitch, and a very good outfield. The one negative from that perspective was that they either severely underestimated the number of people coming to the game, or they planned for that number very poorly. Due to an unfortunate mix-up with ticketing I wasn't able to get into the ground until the 11th over, despite arriving almost 2 hours early. While I was waiting I witnessed people queuing for over an hour, often in a disorganised rabble, despite the few security guards who were there trying to keep them in order. The staff who were there were trying hard to process people quickly, but there were not enough of them and there was inadequate signage. After waiting for 40 minutes people were being told that they were at the wrong gate. This was a particularly understandable mistake, as the gates were not marked. Also people had not been told that they were not allowed to bring in food and drink, so a lot of them were furious when told they had to leave their food and drink at the gate.

While the heat was not unbearable, it was hot, and for people to not to be able to bring in water seemed a little unreasonable, particularly when there were people selling water just outside the gate.

However once inside the ground the performance of first Pollard and Gayle, and then the West Indian fielders meant that most of the people stuck outside will have completely forgotten the difficulty they had getting in.

Mini-session Analysis 2nd test SL Pak SSC

Here is the final mini-session analysis for the second test between Sri Lanka and Pakistan at Sinhalese Sports Club, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

A mini-session is (normally) half a session, either between the start of the session and the drinks break or the drinks break and the end of the session. Occasionally a long session will have 3 mini-sessions where it will be broken up with 2 drinks breaks.

1-1aPakistan 39/0 off 14Pakistan
1-1bPakistan 55/1 off 14Pakistan
1-2aPakistan 70/0 off 16Pakistan
1-2bPakistan 53/0 off 13Pakistan
1-3aPakistan 62/0 off 14Pakistan
1-3bPakistan 55/0 off 19Pakistan
2-1aPakistan 37/1 off 15Sri Lanka
2-1bPakistan 33/0 off 10.2Pakistan
2-2aPakistan 61/1 off 13.4Pakistan
2-2bPakistan 23/1 off 5.2Sri Lanka
3-1aPakistan 63/2 off 12.4Pakistan
3-1bSri Lanka 70/1 off 15Sri Lanka
4-1aSri Lanka 36/0 off 12Sri Lanka
4-1bSri Lanka 29/0 off 12Sri Lanka
4-2aSri Lanka 43/0 off 17Sri Lanka
4-3aSri Lanka 58/1 off 14Sri Lanka
4-3bSri Lanka 42/3 off 15.4Pakistan
5-1aSri Lanka 30/0 off 16.2Draw
5-1bSri Lanka 59/0 off 14Sri Lanka
5-2aSri Lanka 24/5 off 8.4Pakistan
5-2bPakistan 99/2 off 16.4Pakistan
5-3aPakistan 1/0 off 1.2Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka 55/1 off 14
5-3bSri Lanka 31/1 off 8Sri Lanka

Latest update click here.

Stumps, Day 1: Pakistan lead the count 6-0

An even more dominant day than Sri Lanka's first day in the last test. 6-0. Today was all about Mohammed Hafeez. He was patient at first, (he had only scored 12 off 62). He had a lucky reprieve just after he brought up his century, getting strangled off a no ball. But 172 is his highest test score, and he only needs 9 more for it to become his highest first class score.

There is a small asterix beside this, as this is the SSC, and it has been a haven for top 3 batsmen recently (average score for the top 3 in the last 2 years at SSC is over 60), but this cannot take away the outstanding effort that Hafeez has made. He has almost put his team into a no lose situation. Sri Lanka are going to have to bat a long time if they want to take a series lead to Pallekele. Which means that we could have some absorbing mental battles coming up as the Pakistani bowlers try and wear down the Sri Lankan batsmen.

Stumps, Day 2: Pakistan lead 8-2

Now there is hope for Sri Lanka. Just over half of the days play was lost to rain, and the mission for Sri Lanka just got a lot easier. They will not need to last as long as they would have, and the pitch is a lot less likely to break up.

However it does bring Abdul Rehman into the game. When Pakistan played New Zealand he was absolutely toothless on the dry tracks. But once there was some moisture he suddenly looked like Bishan Bedi and Alf Valentine's lovechild. A slightly sticky track and he might become a real handful.

If the first day was about Mohammed Hafeez, the second day was about Azhar Ali. He hit his third test century, equaling his previous best of 157 (scored against England at Dubai). But the real thing to notice was his strike rate today. He normally scores at just under 40 runs per 100 balls. Today he scored 65 off 108. That's a strike rate of over 60. It was exactly what the team needed, but it was still a surprise. The strike rate from the other end was even more of a surprise, and an obvious sign of team tactics. Misbah-ul-Haq scored 29 off 40, at a strike rate of over 70. These are two of the slowest batsmen in world cricket, scoring at well over 50, a clear sign that the Pakistan team were trying to increase the pace, in order to get enough time to bowl Sri Lanka out.

It will be interesting to see their approach in the morning session, as their tail is hardly noted for lathering it to all parts. The big question is if 550 odd will be enough to make Sri Lanka follow on. I don't think that it will be personally, but it will be interesting to find out.

Stumps, Day 3: Pakistan lead the count 9-3

There is still time for Pakistan to win, but the chances are increasingly unlikely. Misbah played his part perfectly, scored the runs at a rapid pace then declared inside the first hour. Junaid bowled well, but then Dilshan did what Dilshan does best and counter-attacked beautifully. A day of good cricket and bad weather.

Stumps, Day 4: Pakistan lead the count 10-7

I wouldn't be surprised if this match is called off at lunch tomorrow. Sri Lanka have almost done what they needed to do in order to secure their series lead. Dilshan played a controlled, mature innings (which was a surprise) as did Sangakkara (which was not a surprise). Pakistan made some progress in the final session, but they are unlikely to have sufficient time to finish the match. A test match is supposed to go for about 450 overs. This one has one day to go and is at 232.4, only just over half way. It makes me wonder if the idea of a reserve day for tests is a good idea. It can only be used if less than a certain number of overs have been bowled at the end of the 5th day, possibly 400, and the overs available can not allow the match to go over 450 overs, but it could make games like this one have much more life in them.

First drinks break, Day 5: Pakistan lead the count 10-7

Sri Lanka edge slowly towards the follow on target. Once they reach that hopefully the captains and umpires will call the game off. Hopefully.

Stumps, Day 5: Pakistan win the count 12-10, but the match is a draw.

But what a draw. I apologise to anyone if they stopped following the game due to me thinking it was dead. 5 wickets in an hour, and then a good declaration from Misbah brought this game back to life. Imagine if there was a reserve day.

Junaid Khan becomes possible the first person to take only 5 wickets in a match where two batsmen scored 190's and win the man of the match. However it was the correct decision. On a pitch where every other bowler struggled, he knocked over some of the best batsmen in the world, and remained threatening throughout the match.

I'm glad that they didn't call it off at lunch, and I'm sure any spectators there are too.