Monday 31 December 2012

2012 ODI Team of the year

Last year I came up with a system for picking a team of the year for ODI matches.

Last years team had an extra weighting for World Cup matches. This year there's an extra weighting for matches against top 9 opponents (Bangladesh have performed well enough this year that any results against them are certainly valid) and also for matches away from home.

Openers: Amla and Nasir Jamshed

This is only chosen based on what the players did as openers, and only from players who played at least 5 innings as an opener.

NameInningsRunsWeighted Index
HM Amla (SA) 967877.05
Nasir Jamshed (Pak) 846258.69
G Gambhir (India) 1357039.44
DPMD Jayawardene (SL) 1242536.52
IR Bell (Eng) 1154936.31
AN Cook (Eng) 1566334.09
TM Dilshan (SL) 30111933.61

Jamshed probably secured his spot in the team with his big innings against India in the last match of the year. A not out hundred against one of the top teams, away from home at close to a run a ball is certainly a good way to boost your ranking.

Top order: de Villiers, Kohli, Morgan

NameInningsRunsWeighted Index
AB de Villiers (SA) 10597105.21
V Kohli (India) 17102659.54
EJG Morgan (Eng) 1236453.57
KC Sangakkara (SL) 29118433.92
MJ Clarke (Aus) 1361933.66
SK Raina (India) 1332631.61
BB McCullum (NZ) 1041631.58
LD Chandimal (SL) 2680029.31
JP Duminy (SA) 827327.75

When I looked at the batting of players while they were keeping there wasn't much comparison. AB de Villiers was 1st on 116.7, then BJ Wattling on 70.2 and MS Dhoni on 57.4. Given the massive disparity, the next thing that the team needs is an all-rounder who can close out the batting. We already have a keeper, so we need someone who can make a contribution with the ball occasionally.

Closer: Sammy

DJG Sammy (WI) 1733.0625.757.31
AD Mathews (SL) 2133.5634.13-0.57
DJ Hussey (Aus) 1542.8953.91-11.02
AD Russell (WI) 1426.7540.29-13.54

I was expecting Andre Russell to come out on top here, but he actually came out last of the players who had batted and bowled enough to count.

Bowlers: Narine, Abdur Razzak, Morne Morkel, Finn, Roach

NameMatchesAverageE/rWeighted Index
SP Narine (WI) 1717.643.6613.01
Abdur Razzak (Ban) 920.753.9516.40
M Morkel (SA) 1121.154.8916.71
ST Finn (Eng) 14204.216.81
KAJ Roach (WI) 819.885.0716.98
RS Bopara (Eng) 14253.4317.16
Saeed Ajmal (Pak) 1721.124.3117.39
SR Watson (Aus) 1423.054.2717.46
CJ McKay (Aus) 1723.884.5218.80

I had to make some decisions on the formula, as neither England or Bangladesh had played away from home, so I used a different formula for these teams. It seems a fairly balanced bowling line up, with Roach, Finn and Morkel bringing the heat up front, and then Narine, Razzak and Sammy to take the pace off the ball later on.

So the full team:

Hashim Amla
Nasir Jamshed
AB de Villiers (w)
Virat Kohli
Eion Morgan
Darren Sammy (c)
Abdur Razzak
Morne Morkel
Steven Finn
Kemar Roach
Sunil Narine

I made Sammy the captain, because I think he is fantastic at getting the best out of his players.

2012 Activity rates

A batsman's activity rate is the runs scored per delivery not hit to the fence.

For example two batsmen have 10 off 10. One has hit two 4's, two singles and faced out 6 dot balls. He would have an activity rate of 0.25 because he hit 2 runs off the 8 balls that he didn't hit a boundary off. The second batsman hit one 4, two 2's and two singles. He would have an activity rate of 0.67 because he hit 6 runs off 9 balls that didn't go to the fence.

Here are the batsmen with the highest activity rates:

Test Matches (min 100 balls faced, average of 20)

PlayerMatchesBoundry RunsRun RunsActivity Rate
NLTC Perera (SL) 254560.434
MG Johnson (Aus) 228740.416
Shakib Al Hasan (Ban) 21041010.391
V Sehwag (India) 93221830.368
MA Starc (Aus) 488560.364
RJ Harris (Aus) 446830.362
MJ Clarke (Aus) 117928030.361
DA Warner (Aus) 114463420.361
Mahmudullah (Ban) 280890.353
RT Ponting (Aus) 92323680.341

This year the trend is that there are lots of Australians in the list, and particularly a lot of Australia bowlers. Two names that might surprise a lot of people are Warner and Sehwag. Sehwag certainly doesn't have a reputation for speed between the wickets, and does seem rather loathe to try for a 3, but he and Gambhir have made a real effort to step up their quick singles in the last year. It has certainly been shown out in Sehwag's numbers. Likewise Warner has scored almost as many runs by running as by hitting boundaries. His 50 at the MCG was remarkable for both the speed, but also for how well he ran between wickets. His 50 came up in 34 balls, but it only included four 4's and one 6. It meant that he had scored 28 runs off the 29 balls he didn't hit to the fence.

One Day Internationals (min 100 balls faced, average of 20)

PlayerMatchesBoundry RunsRun RunsActivity Rate
AB de Villiers (SA) 132763690.695
Shakib Al Hasan (Ban) 41101270.672
GJ Maxwell (Aus) 460640.66
AD Mathews (SL) 271803540.659
V Kohli (India) 173986280.63
DJ Hussey (Aus) 252644640.629
SK Raina (India) 172042880.623
R Ashwin (India) 1644910.619
EJG Morgan (Eng) 151642000.599
Sarfraz Ahmed (Pak) 824610.598

Last year almost the whole list was made up of spin bowlers (which is unsurprising, given that spin bowlers are generally smarter (and better looking) than most other players). This year the spinners still make their presence felt. Shakib is the only player on the Test and ODI list.

Twenty20 Internationals (min 100 balls faced, average of 15)

PlayerMatchesBoundry RunsRun RunsActivity Rate
AN Kervezee (Neth)4441100.873
LRPL Taylor (NZ)8861000.82
KC Sangakkara (SL)10941030.78
DJ Bravo (WI)101281320.776
JP Duminy (SA)10941430.765
F du Plessis (SA)7102900.763
SK Raina (India)141281290.75
JC Buttler (Eng)1474690.75
AD Hales (Eng)101881550.745
MS Dhoni (India)141321360.743

There was certainly a surprising name at the top of this list. Alex Kervezee was actually the highest averaging batsman in T20 Internationals too. Ross Taylor is also a surprise, as he had previously been someone who tended to score in multiples of 4. Suresh Raina is the only player in the top 10 for both ODI's and T20's.

The Block-Bash players:

At the other end of the spectrum are the players who specialise in blocking the good balls and cashing in on the bad ones. These players don't see a lot of value in singles, and prefer to get their runs in multiples of 4 or 6.

Test Matches (min 100 balls faced, average of 20)

PlayerMatchesBoundry RunsRun RunsActivity Rate
AB Fudadin (WI) 360620.17
F du Plessis (SA) 21781150.171
JL Pattinson (Aus) 472310.173
Mohammad Ayub (Pak) 116310.189
Mushfiqur Rahim (Ban) 266410.19
DR Flynn (NZ) 61741530.199
SR Tendulkar (India) 92201370.199
Taufeeq Umar (Pak) 6164820.2
N Deonarine (WI) 61161020.204
MJ Guptill (NZ) 103062610.208

Suprisingly, Martin Guptill makes this list again this year, despite improving his activity rate by quite a margin. Generally this is a list of batsmen who are not in great form, and with an average in the twenties despite his obvious talent, this is probably a fair reflection. Daniel Flynn is also on the list, but this possibly has more to do with the way that bowlers have often been trying to get him out playing at wide balls, so have been bowling a 7th stump line to him, trying to get him to give in and have a slash at one. It's hard to hit a single off a ball that you really shouldn't be playing at.

One Day Internationals (min 100 balls faced, average of 20)

PlayerMatchesBoundry RunsRun RunsActivity Rate
AB Barath (WI) 260230.256
CH Gayle (WI) 11252930.279
CS Baugh (WI) 534300.297
DM Bravo (WI) 111041130.298
MR Swart (Neth) 260340.306
KJ O'Brien (Ire) 454350.307
Anamul Haque (Ban) 5110850.343
Imran Farhat (Pak) 5104700.348
Mohammad Nabi (Afg) 562670.358
MN Samuels (WI) 172482340.373

There are a lot of West Indians in this list. However, if I could hit the ball like Chris Gayle, I probably wouldn't bother running too much either.

Twenty20 Internationals (min 60 balls faced)

PlayerMatchesBoundry RunsRun RunsActivity Rate
DR Smith (WI)7152470.412
J Charles (WI)11176750.434
C Kieswetter (Eng)11108720.474
Imran Nazir (Pak)9126500.476
CH Gayle (WI)11270980.492
RE Levi (SA)13170660.5
RJ Nicol (NZ)171941210.515
WTS Porterfield (Ire)13148640.516
Mohammad Ashraful (Ban)660580.527
KJ O'Brien (Ire)1378640.533

It turns out that being a West Indian opener means that you are unlikely to be very good at running between wickets. Johnson Charles' numbers are even worse than last year when he had the lowest activity rate of any player. It's just that this year another West Indian has been even lazier than him. Rob Nicol is an interesting name there, because he's generally a very busy player in domestic cricket.

1000 test runs in a year.

Michael Clarke had a fantastic year in 2012. He scored 1596 runs at an average over 100. It brought up the question, how often do players score 1000 runs in a calendar year, and who has done it the most?

So I put together some data for all you trivia buffs out there

First the batsmen who have done it the most:

We can see that most of the players are from the modern era. The only players who are in this list who didn't play post 2000 are Taylor (retired '99), Border (retired '94) and Gavaskar (retired '87).

Interestingly Hayden managed the feat in 5 consecutive years, from 2001 to 2005, which is particularly impressive consistency. Mark Taylor is also quite impressive, because he only played test cricket in 11 years, so to score 1000 runs 3 times is outstanding.

The top few names are as we would expect for this sort of statistic. Tendulkar at the top, then Lara, Kallis, Hayden and Ponting. For me they are/were 5 of the 6 best batsmen of this era (along with Sangakkara).

The next list to look at is what countries have done the best.

Some countries play a lot more test matches than others. Of the 128 times that a player has scored 1000 runs in a year, only 11 times did that player play less than 10 test matches, and never less than 8. England have played 10 or more tests in a year 40 times, while Bangladesh have never played 10 tests in a year, so we would expect more English batsmen to have achieved the feat more often than Bangladeshi batsmen.

We would also expect batsmen from countries with easier conditions to do it more often than players who play half their matches on bowler friendly pitches. Since 1990, there have been more than 1.95 hundreds per match in India, Australia, England and Pakistan, but less than 1.7 in New Zealand, South Africa and Zimbabwe. As a result it's fair to expect there to be less South Africans, New Zealanders and Zimbabweans in the list than players from the India, Pakistan, Australia or England.

The surprise is that there are so many South Africans on the list. It is a clear example of their outstanding batting strength in recent years. Andy Flower managed it against the odds, having to play half of his cricket in Zimbabwe, and his team only playing 9 matches in 2000 when he achieved it. He was also keeping wickets that year, making him the only keeper to achieve the feat. He also lies second on the list for most runs in a year as keeper, with 899 in 2001, when he also only payed 9 matches.

The final thing to look at is how many times 1000 runs has been scored in any particular decade.

The trend towards bigger bats, shorter boundaries (except in the West Indies and New Zealand where cricket is being played more on single purpose stadia rather than rectangular ones) and more tests should lead to more players scoring 1000 runs in a year, and it has.

When Clem Hill scored 1060 runs in 1902 it was remarkable. Then Compton and Bradman joined the club in 1947 and 1948 respectively, with amazing years. However I don't think that Jonathan Trott scoring 1005 runs in 15 tests at 38.65 this year is quite as impressive an achievement.

It is another record who's significance has diminished somewhat in the age of the batsman, but that does not diminish from Michael Clarke's achievement. By any standard he has had a fantastic year.

Sunday 30 December 2012

End of year Mini-session Analysis review 2

One of the advantages of the mini-session analysis is that it allows me to quantify how well or badly a team went in a match in a way that is reasonably even for both teams. As a result we can get a series score, and even an annual tally.

This wouldn't be CricketGeek without some tables summarising things, so here is the complete mini-session analysis tables for the year:

TeamWonLostWinning %Match w/l
South Africa1339757.83%no losses
West Indies11610851.79%1.00
New Zealand8910845.18%0.33
Sri Lanka9512443.38%0.60

Interestingly Australia came out slightly ahead of South Africa, despite South Africa not losing any matches and Australia losing one. However South Africa drew half of their matches this year, while Australia had 7 wins, 3 draws and a loss, so it makes sense that both teams would come out at a similar level in the year.

The other big surprise was how high West Indies are. It has felt like there are three tiers of cricket at the moment, with Australia, South Africa, England and Pakistan in the top group, Sri Lanka, India, New Zealand and the West Indies in the second group and then Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in the third group. Each team is competitive with teams in their own tier and at home to teams in the group above. The only exception to that has been how badly England went in Pakistan and how easily South Africa seemed to cope with English conditions.

There is also something unfair in everybody not playing everybody else. For example, New Zealand thrashed Zimbabwe 11-2, but nobody else got to play Zimbabwe. As a result I produced a weighted score. Every team got a weighting based on their performance over the year, and then I used that to calculate a ranking. I don't think this is a ranking of how good the teams are, but it is an indication of how well they have played.

Another option would be to take a football style approach, where we award 3 points for a win and 1 point for a draw. Then we use the mini-session difference as the tie breaker. The problem with this is that England have played 15 matches, while Pakistan have only played 6 matches, so it is hardly fair to compare them with an overall score. As a result I've looked at points per match, and difference per match as the way of ranking the teams.

Australia 1171324452.184.09
South Africa 10505203623.6
Pakistan 631211-41.83-0.67
West Indies 104421481.40.8
England 155731851.20.33
India 935110-211.11-2.33
Sri Lanka 1035211-291.1-2.9
New Zealand 102628-190.8-1.9
Bangladesh 20200-120-6
Zimbabwe 10100-90-9

This probably feels more like a fair summary of how the teams have gone this year.

End of year Mini-sesison review 1

I started doing the Mini-Session analysis with the Boxing Day test last year. I decided to cover every test this year, and see what they showed up.

I've found them interesting (although time-consuming) to write, and have enjoyed the process of breaking down the tests into one hour slots. The formula that I developed will be tweaked before the next test, but I thought it was better to use the same formula for the whole year, than change it part way through.

At the end of the year I'm able to look back and see if breaking the games down hour by hour is a fair way to assess them.

There were 6 innings victories this year. Here's the margin and also the mini-session count for each of them

New ZealandZimbabweNapierinns & 30111-2
AustraliaSri LankaMCGinns & 20110-4
IndiaNew ZealandHyderabadinns & 11513-5
AustraliaIndiaSCGinns & 6816-7
AustraliaIndiaWACAinns & 379-6
South AfricaEnglandThe Oval
inns & 12

We can see that generally if a team won by an innings, they generally won at least double the mini-sessions of their opponent. The exception is the Australia-India match at the WACA. There Australia took 4 wickets in an hour 3 times. Those three hours were decisive in the outcome of the match.

There were a couple of other matches which turned out very one-sided by the mini-session count

EnglandSri LankaPSS8 wickets20-7
South AfricaSri LankaNewlands10 wickets16-6
AustraliaSri LankaBellerive137 runs18-8

All three of these were convincing wins, although the England win over Sri Lanka possibly wasn't as decisive as the mini-session count would indicate, as there were a number of mini-sessions where Sri Lanka scored about 35 and lost 1 wicket off 14 or 15 overs. These go in favour of the bowling side, but are really quite close.

There were some close wins this year here were the closest few by runs and wickets:

AustraliaWest IndiesBridgetown3 wickets17-12
West IndiesNew ZealandKingston5 wickets13-8
IndiaNew ZealandBangalore5 wickets11-11
EnglandWest IndiesLord's5 wickets15-9
South AfricaEnglandLord's51 runs14-13
PakistanEnglandDubai71 runs14-10
PakistanEnglandAbu Dhabi72 runs11-13

The most interesting there are the Pakistan-England game at Abu Dhabi, the India-New Zealand match at Bangalore and the England-South Africa match at Lord's. In the match at Abu Dhabi England got out to a 70 run lead in the first innings and lead the mini-session count 8-6 just before the end of the first innings. Then they bowled out Pakistan to set up a chase of 145. At that point they led the mini-session count 13-8. But Pakistan (or more specifically Abdur Rehman) dominated the next 3 hours as Rehman picked up 6/25 and England were bowled out for 72. Most punters would have expected England to be successful chasing 145, but Rehman is a strange bowler. He often looks completely innocuous, expecially with a new ball, or on the first 3 days of a match. But once the pitch starts to play tricks, and he can get some grip on the ball he looks like the second coming of Jim Laker.

In the Bangalore test New Zealand got a small first innings lead after hundreds by Taylor and Kohli, 7 wickets for Southee and 5 wickets for Ojha. New Zealand led the mini-session count 6-5 just before the end of the first innings. Then New Zealand scored 248 to leave India a challenging target of 261. India looked in a lot of trouble at 166/5 at which point they trailed the mini-session count 11-9, but a good partnership from Dhoni and Kohli brought India home, winning the last two hours.

In the Lord's match the game was close throughout. England got a small first innings lead, but then an Amla hundred resulted in England having to chase 351. A devastating opening spell from Philander left England on 45/4 at the first drinks on day 5. At this point South Africa lead the mini-session count 13-10. England fought back well from that point, but didn't quite do enough to win the match. The crucial moment was the run out of Swann just before the new ball became available. England played very good cricket to come back into the match, but South Africa did just enough to win it.

We can also look at some draws. There were some draws where the match was quite close, but others where one team escaped:

Close draws:

New ZealandSouth AfricaDunedin10-12
Sri LankaPakistanSSC10-12
Sri LankaPakistanPallekele12-10
AustraliaSouth AfricaAdelaide16-13
West IndiesAustraliaTrinidad11-8

The interesting ones here were the matches at Dunedin and Adelaide. In Dunedin New Zealand needed another 264 with 8 wickets in hand and Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum well set when the rain arrived. South Africa were in the lead, but not by much. In Adelaide, Australia were only a couple of wickets away from a convincing victory, but I awarded a number of the mini-sessions to South Africa as they were achieving their goal for the hour, of not losing wickets.

The next category are one-sided draws. While I would have expected Adelaide to have fitted into this category, some of these others didn't seem like such an escape.

AustraliaSouth AfricaBrisbane14-7
New ZealandSouth AfricaWellington8-15
EnglandWest IndiesBirmingham4-7
EnglandSouth AfricaLeeds9-15

One constant in these matches was rain. Each of them lost at least 80 overs to rain. I think the idea of a reserve day in case of weather is a good one, but I don't hear it from many people in power. The other thing they had in common was an outstanding innings. Alviro Petersen in Leeds, Kane Williamson in Wellington, Michael Clarke in Brisbane, and most surprisingly of all, Tino Best in Birmingham.

Overall I think that the mini-session count is a fairly good indication of how the games have flowed. It isn't a universally correct guide to the flow of a match, but it is a good guide none the less.

Thursday 27 December 2012

A tale of two bowlers

I was chatting to someone yesterday, and mentioned that I thought Shaminda Eranga was the real deal. That we might be looking back and say "I saw him at the start of his career." Not long after I said that he was smacked at more than 6 an over by the Australian openers. Fortunately I had put a caveat when I was chatting. I said "but he's still not very good against left handers. He looks amazing against right handers."

He seems to get a little swing, but then seam movement away from the right handers. The small bit of swing means that the batsmen start to follow the ball with their hands, and then he takes the edge with the seam movement. He doesn't swing it enough that they play and leave, but rather just enough to draw them into the shot. (Most balls seem to only swing about 5 cm - it's the movement off the seam that makes him dangerous). However against the left handers this small swing means that if it's straight, they tend to defend it, and if it seams back, they just hit an inside edge into their pads.

So I thought I'd go through his (brief) career so far and see if my feeling is correct. Here are Shaminda Eranga's test statistics against right and left handed batsmen (prior to the Melbourne test):

HandAverageStrike RateEconomy Rate

There is a significant difference.

Of players who have bowled in at least 20 matches, the best strike rate ever is Sid Barnes, with 41.6. Next is Dale Steyn with 42.0 and the Waqar Younis with 43.4. Eranga to right handers has a better strike rate than any of these.

However the other end of the tail we see a bunch of part timers. With a strike rate in the region of 195 are the likes of Shivnarine Chanerpaul (193.3) and Geoff Howarth (204.6). Even Geoffrey Boycott had a bowling strike rate of 134.8. These are good people to be compared to if you are talking about defensive technique when batting, but not so much if you're talking about bowling.

If Eranga wants to make the most of his obvious talent, he will need to figure out how to bowl to lefties. He is a fantastic prospect for Sri Lanka, but they can't keep picking him if he's going to be two bowlers: Steyn to the right-handers but Boycott to the left handers.

Wednesday 26 December 2012

Mini-session Analysis 2nd Test, Australia vs Sri Lanka, MCG, Melbourne, Australia 2012/13

Here is the final mini-session analysis for the second test between Australia and Sri Lanka at MCG, Melbourne, Australia

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.

1-1aSri Lanka 36/2 off 12Australia
1-1bSri Lanka 43/1 off 13Sri Lanka
1-2aSri Lanka 55/2 off 13draw
1-2bSri Lanka 22/5 off 5.4Australia
1-3aAustralia 90/0 off 16Australia
1-3bAustralia 60/3 off 23Sri Lanka
2-1aAustralia 47/0 off 15Australia
2-1bAustralia 41/0 off 15Australia
2-2aAustralia 60/0 off 16Australia
2-2bAustralia 34/3 off 11Sri Lanka
2-3aAustralia 51/1 off 16.3Australia
2-3bAustralia 57/1 off 16.3Australia
3-1aAustralia 20/2 off 5.4Sri Lanka
3-1bSri Lanka 43/4 off 13Australia
3-2aSri Lanka 59/2 off 10.3Australia
3-2bSri Lanka 1/1 off 0.5n/a

Final update, click here
Australia win the mini-session count 10 - 4

First drinks, Day 1: Australia lead the mini-session count 1-0

Great start for Australia, after Sri Lanka chose to bat. Bird looks like a handy bowler. There is a little in this pitch, but I think it should settle down this afternoon, it doesn't look like the sort of pitch that will misbehave for too long.

Lunch, Day 1: The mini-session count is tied up, 1-1

Take a bow Kumar Sangakkara! He battled through reasonably difficult conditions and saw off some good bowling to bring up his 10000 career runs in the same number of innings as Tendulkar and Lara. He chose a good way to bring it up too, with a scorching square drive along the slow outfield to what is probably the longest square boundary in world cricket.

Middle drinks, Day 1: The mini-session count is tied up, 1-1

While Sri Lanka scored quickly enough that the formula almost gave them the hour, the two wickets were very big wickets. Australia are probably actually in the lead in this match. Sri Lanka need a very big partnership here, and probably one other if they are going to stay in this match.

Tea, Day 1: Australia lead the mini-session count 2-1

Absolutely awful stuff from Sri Lanka. There was some good bowling and (particularly) good captaincy, but it was just brainless by Sri Lanka. Within 3 balls of every break Sri Lanka lost a wicket. And a lot of the wickets in the match have been to particularly poor shots. Sri Lanka have tried to attack, but I think they have been just too aggressive.

Final drinks, Day 1: Australia lead the mini-session count 3-1

Sri Lanka are in a world of trouble. Eranga looks very poor against left-handers, Welegedera has had trouble with his length, Prasad has been erratic, and Warner and Cowan have been imperious.

I was asked earlier today who I felt the best batsmen I had seen were, and I mentioned Matthew Hayden. I don't think even Hayden had scored an attacking 50 while opening as good as this innings from Warner. The big feature has not been his power, but his placement. He has only faced 17 dot balls so far in his innings. Phenomenal batting.

Stumps, Day 1: Australia lead the mini-session count 3-2

Sri Lanka struck back well there. It started when Angelo Matthews removed Warner, and then Rangana Herath came on and started to build the pressure.

It could have been a lot better too. First Dilshan dropped Michael Clarke on 5 and then, 3 overs later, Sangakkara put down a relatively tough chance off Watson. If those two had been taken the match would have potentially been all square, but Sri Lanka couldn't take the opportunities, and are behind in the match as a result.

Australia are still well in control, but Sri Lanka are back in it.

First drinks, Day 2: Australia lead the mini-session count 4-2

A good mornings cricket. Both batsmen were looking to attack, but the bowlers were bowling well enough to keep them honest. Eranga in particular put both batsmen under pressure. He hit Clarke on the head, and generally had him looking quite uncomfortable. Australia will be very pleased to have come out of this hour without losing a wicket and having scored at about 3 an over.

Lunch, Day 2: Australia lead the mini-session count 5-2

Both batsmen brought up their fifties in that hour, but both were given lives in the same over by Herath. First Clarke should have been stumped, but Sangakkara couldn't gather cleanly. Then Watson edged a ball that hit Mahela in the chest, but was moving too quickly for him to grab. Sri Lanka are generally a good fielding side, and they will be very disappointed to have missed 4 chances so far in this innings.

Middle drinks, Day 2: Australia lead the mini-session count 6-2

Michael Clarke is relentless. Despite the bowlers generally bowling very well in this hour, he has advanced the score, and brought up his hundred. Watson is almost fading into the background of this fantastic Clarke knock.

Clarke's innings hasn't been chanceless, however. Herath has really caused him some problems. In this hour he edged one between keeper and slip. Sri Lanka have now given him 3 lives. He's not often one to pass up such generosity.

Tea, Day 2: Australia lead the mini-session count 6-3

Sri Lanka finally hung onto a catch. And it was contagious. After they got one they picked up two more. But it couldn't last: Hussey was missed by Sangakkara off the luckless Herath in the last over before tea. It was a good hour for Sri Lanka, but it's a long way back from here.

Final drinks, Day 2: Australia lead the mini-session count 7-3

Another good hour for Australia, but with a significant highlight for Sri Lanka, a brilliant catch by Rangana Herath to dismiss Hussey. Australia batted quite cautiously, but managed to score relatively quickly regardless. The Sri Lankan bowlers are starting to look tired.

Stumps, Day 2: Australia lead the mini-session count 8-3

Mitchell Johnson is working his way towards being back for the ashes. He has been sublime in this innings, looking almost completely untroubled throughout. It was Australia's day today. Sri Lanka are going to need to bat very very well in order to get back into this game. They really need to bowl Australia out quickly, then score something like 500 to have any chance.

The pitch is not nearly as easy as the score would indicate. There have been a couple keep low, balls have moved off the seam (even with the old ball) and some have stood up and bounced sharply. This has really been a fantastic effort from Australia, and they deserve to be in the lead.

First drinks, Day 3: Australia lead the mini-session count 8-4

Sri Lanka have managed to clean up the tail for the addition of only 20 runs. Another right hander dismissed by Eranga, although this one was not in the usual manner of caught behind the wicket. Now they have the small matter of knocking off the 304 run lead then posting a target.

Lunch, Day 3: Australia lead the mini-session count 9-4

If there was any doubt who was winning this hour has cleared it up. First Karunaratne was run out after turning blind. Next Dilshan hit a leg glance into his thigh pad and got hit at short leg. After that Mahela summed up his match by attempting to leave the ball, but just chopping it on instead. The final wicket in the hour was Samaraweera who was out plumb lbw. He reluctantly challenged, but it was to no avail. At the other end, Sangakkara is batting as well as anyone has this test. It was said of the New Zealand team's bowling in the 80's that it was like facing the World XI at one end, and the Illford 2nd XI at the other end. It must feel like that for the Australian bowlers at the moment.

Middle drinks, Day 3: Australia lead the mini-session count 10-4

Possibly the most futile drinks break in history, Sri Lanka effectively have only one wicket left. It looks fairly likely that Australia will win now.

End of Match, Day 3: Australia win the match by an innings and 201 runs and the mini-session count 10-4

And it only took 5 balls to wrap it up. This is the first time that a team has had an innings closed to lose a match after losing only 7 wickets. It's also Australia's biggest ever win over Sri Lanka. This match would have been much closer if the Sri Lankans hadn't been struck down with injuries (4 players injured, first Kulasekera in the warm up, then Jayawardene, Welegedera and Sangakkara), and also if they had taken their chances. It was really a case of poor concentration more than anything else. Sri Lanka lost wickets straight after every break except the final lunch break. They missed vital chances in the field. Then once the Australians got on top, they made the Sri Lankans pay.

Australia weren't as clinical or as comfortable as the scoreline would suggest, but they still played a lot better cricket than Sri Lanka and thoroughly deserved their win.

The news has come in that Sangakkara is out for 6-8 weeks, so this loss will have serious repercussions for the next test and the One Day Internationals.

Monday 24 December 2012

Slow and steady?

There is a famous fable about a tortoise and a hare. They decide to have a race. The Hare runs off at great pace, gets close to the finish line and decides he is so far ahead he can afford to have a sleep. While he is sleeping, the tortoise catches up, over takes him, and finishes the race just as the hare is waking up. The moral of the story is supposed to be "slow and steady always wins the race."

Of course that moral is ridiculous. Slow and steady gets beaten by moderately fast and steady. Which in turn gets beaten by fast and steady. If slow and steady won the race I'd back myself to beat Ussain Bolt in the 100m. I reckon I can do it much slower than him.

However the true moral is that reliability is a very important virtue. And yet it is a very difficult one for us to take account of. There is inherently more interest in the unusual than the usual. Occasional exceptional performances are given more prominence in our memories than consistently good ones.

For example I can clearly remember Chris Pringle bowling a maiden in the last over of a match when Australia needed 2 runs to win. It was exceptional. Something that I'm never likely to see again. However I also watched a game where Gavin Larsen bowled 10 overs for 12 runs, including 5 maidens. I can't remember a single second of Larsen's performance. We tune out consistency, because it isn't memorable.

When asked who the best bowers in t20 cricket are, it is natural to tend towards the spectacular. We remember Mendis introducing the carrom ball and bamboozling everyone. We remember Malinga sending the stumps flying. We remember Narine, reviving the tradition of the West Indian mystery spinner like in the days of Sonny Ramadhin. We remember Warne saying how he was going to get McCullum out, and then doing it.

However we don't remember Samuel Badree, Daniel Vettori, Mohammed Hafeez, Nathan McCullum, Angelo Matthews or Darren Sammy. These names are ones that we remember, and can at times recall them doing something with the bat, or in the field, but their bowling tends to be unspectacular.

I was chatting with a top football coach recently, and he said to me "that Vettori chap, what he does must be harder than it looks." This guy has coached football at international level, and has been hugely successful at many different levels. His comment indicated the workings of a great sporting mind. He knows that often the things that look easy on a field take a lot more work than the things that look spectacular.

If we can't remember reliability, we need a metric to measure it. The standard cricket averages are not particularly helpful for this, as they can be skewed by occasional particularly good or particularly bad performances. Instead I decided to look at how often a bowler produces a good performance.

That in itself causes some problems. What is a good performance? In a t20 game, the aim of the bowlers is really to defend runs. Taking wickets is part of that, but often the real job is to not concede too may runs. So I'm going to define a good performance as being one where the bowler bowls at least 2 overs and conceded no more than a run a ball.

If every bowlers in the team did this, the maximium their opposition could score would be 120 plus any byes or leg byes. This is almost a guaranteed losing score, so there is some justification for defining 6 an over as a good target.

Here is a list of the number of good performances the top few bowlers have had. The innings column is innings where they have bowled at least 2 overs.

NameInningsInnings at 6rpo or less
Saeed Ajmal (Pak) 4728
Shahid Afridi (Pak) 5527
DL Vettori (NZ) 3324
NL McCullum (NZ) 3520
J Botha (SA) 3618
Umar Gul (Pak) 4918
BAW Mendis (SL) 2717
GP Swann (Eng) 3817
Mohammad Hafeez (Pak) 3116
DT Johnston (Ire) 2515
DW Steyn (SA) 2815
M Morkel (SA) 3013
DJG Sammy (WI) 3113
SCJ Broad (Eng) 4113
AD Mathews (SL) 2512
Harbhajan Singh (India) 2411
SL Malinga (SL) 3811

The two names at the top of the list have both bowled in a lot of matches, which is what we would expect. Matthew Hayden scored more centuries, fifties and overall more runs than Don Bradman, but it took him a lot more matches to do it. There won't be many people claiming that Hayden was better than Bradman. It's because the number of good performances themselves are not so important as how often you did them.

So I sorted the table by percentages. The numbers were quite interesting really:

NameInningsInnings at 6rpo or lessReliability
DL Vettori (NZ) 332472.73%
BAW Mendis (SL) 271762.96%
DT Johnston (Ire) 251560.00%
Saeed Ajmal (Pak) 472859.57%
NL McCullum (NZ) 352057.14%
GH Dockrell (Ire) 181055.56%
DW Steyn (SA) 281553.57%
DJ Hussey (Aus) 191052.63%
Mohammad Hafeez (Pak) 311651.61%
J Botha (SA) 361850.00%
Shahid Afridi (Pak) 552749.09%
AD Mathews (SL) 251248.00%
Harbhajan Singh (India) 241145.83%
GP Swann (Eng) 381744.74%
M Morkel (SA) 301343.33%
DJG Sammy (WI) 311341.94%
KMDN Kulasekara (SL) 241041.67%

Some of the names at the top of the list are spectacular players: Ajantha Mendis, Saeed Ajmal and Dale Steyn. But there are more of the other sort. Well ahead of the pack is Daniel Vettori, but also Trent Johnston, Nathan McCullum, George Dockrell, Dave Hussey and Mohammad Hafeez.

It's players in this second group that often get forgotten when great teams are picked. One of my favourite cricket analysts, Gary Naylor, wrote an interesting piece about greatness. His definition of greatness is one that relies on the aesthetics of the player. Gavin Larsen could never be a great under that criteria.

And yet perhaps better than being great is being consistently good. Glenn McGrath was consistently good. Shaun Pollock was consistently good. Whereas Brett Lee and Alan Donald were spectacular. We remember Donald, and forget Pollock, despite Pollock having had a much better record.

So I challenge you to look at a different type of greatness. The greatness of being consistently good. Next time you see Nathan McCullum or Mohammad Hafeez bowling, stop to admire how they manage to get fantastic results, without ever looking like fantastic bowlers. That is a form of greatness in itself.

Friday 21 December 2012

Land of the long list of lefties

In a few hours New Zealand will take the field against South Africa. There are two players likely to be named in the team who's selection will be quite remarkable.

Corey Anderson is a big all rounder from Canterbury (originally) who hits a big ball and bowls left-arm medium fast. He was a prodigious talent at youth level, making the Canterbury side at age 16, while still at school.

Mitchell McClenaghan is a left-arm fast bowler who is a little erratic and injury prone, but who has a tendency to take wickets. Lots of wickets. Think of him as a New Zealand version of Mitchell Johnson. Not always on target, but capable of occasionally bowling a ball that could get through Rahul Dravid or Brian Lara.

While their selections are not in themselves particularly notable, there is one thing that is: they are both left-arm pace bowlers, adding to a very long list of NZ left-armers.

This year New Zealand has used Trent Boult, Niel Wagner, Andy McKay, James Franklin and Michael Bates at the bowling crease. There is only one other year in history when a team has selected 5 left-arm pace bowlers to play international cricket. In 2007 Sri Lanka actually picked 6 (although Zoysa didn't actually bowl in the one match he was selected for).

And New Zealand are probably against the best team to bowl left-arm pace against. South Africa's batsmen have done well against every type of bowling, but they have done less well against left-arm pace than any other type. In the last 4 years they average about 41 against right arm spin, 39 against left-arm spin or right arm pace but only 35 against left-arm pace. An average of 35 suggest that left-arm pace isn't a silver bullet, but it is a significant difference, and one that New Zealand might be aware of.

So far this year most of the South African batsmen have been dismissed at least once by a left-armer, despite many of them having only faced a couple of innings from a left-armer. Here are the stats for everyone who has faced a left-arm pace bowler at least 5 times:

NameTotal RunsTotal DismissalsAverage
A Petersen66416.5
de Villiers1421142
du Plessis96196

The New Zealand bowlers are likely to be eagerly waiting to bowl to Petersen and Kallis. The battle between the South African batsmen and the New Zealand left-armers is certainly one aspect of the tour that I'm going to be looking forward to watching immensely.

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Book review: Guile and Spin by Stuart Larner

Guile and Spin by Stuard Larner is a novel based around a tennis coach taking up cricket in order to earn a grant for his recreation centre. It is set in a small town in England, and follows the interaction between a handful of characters through a cricket season.

When I first started reading Guile and Spin, I was quite disappointed. The book starts off going into excruciating detail about everything in a way that is quite distracting. The writing at first seemed quite clumsy and the characters quite plastic. However, the book is written as a fun read and not as a piece of high brow literature and it succeeds in that. Eventually I quite enjoyed it.

Once you look past the overly stereotyped characters, and the annoying detail, the story is a good fun read, that has a couple of plot layers, some of which are fairly predictable, but others that throw up some surprises.

It is ideally suited to the e-book format, and would be a good read while sitting on public transport. It's also probably a great read for a teenager who is a fan of cricket. I could imagine a number of the boys that I coach really enjoying reading this.

In summary, it's not going to win any prizes for literature, but it is a fun read, that may be a very good Christmas present for a cricket obsessed teenager.

You can purchase the book on Amazon here

Monday 17 December 2012

Does Tendulkar do badly after breaks?

A while ago I was referred on to this article about Sachin Tendulkar having trouble after having a break from cricket. I get sent quite a few Tendulkar stats articles and normally I see them as a bit of a waste of time. There are a lot of articles and most of them are poorly written and make dubious statistical claims. There are some exceptions (Nicholas Rohde's contriversial piece springs to mind), but most are either Indian fans wanting to say that their man is the greatest ever, or anti-Indian fans trying to get a reaction.

When I read Jigar's piece, however it read well, and seemed well researched. My statistics antenna picked up, however when I read through his research, and wondered how significant his findings really were.

Here is a brief summary, for people who haven't read the article: Tendulkar has scored a large number of low scores immediately after returning from an injury or other extended time away from the game.

Jigar's theory was that SRT needed some time to get back to top form, and the troubles against New Zealand were simply because he hadn't been playing enough.

But I wanted to know if the numbers that he had provided were significant. The more I looked at them, the less certain I was. I needed a statistical tool to assess the significance.

To do this in a non-cricketing environment, the first call would have been to look at a confidence interval. Find a 95% confidence interval for the scores where Tendulkar was coming off a break, and, if his actual mean lay outside that, then we could say there was a significant difference. The only problem is that means and standard deviations don't really work with cricket. Not outs make things complicated. I've tried to develop a cricketing equivalent to standard deviation, but have yet to be successful.

My next port of call statistically would be to get an informal confidence interval based on median and inter-quartile range. The problem with this is that again not out's become very tricky to deal with fairly. If a batsman come in with 8 runs to win and scores 2*, how do you count that?

So I had to use a technique that I had heard about, but hadn't actually used myself previously: randomisation.

The idea with this technique is to see if a particular sample fits within the normal range for something. I attended a lecture where it was explained how it was used to test the distribution of berries in a forest and various other conservation related topics. The way that I approached it was this:

Jigar had taken out 47 innings that he described as being shorty after a break. So I looked at those 47 innings and found their batting average. Then I took a random sample of 47 out of the 773 international innings that Tendulkar had played (he's played since I started working on this) and found the batting average of the sample. I took 1002 samples (I intended to take 1000, but forgot to clear my first two test samples before running the program) and looked at how they were distributed.

The 47 innings that came after a break had an average of 41.8.

Here is a graph of my results (I grouped them by the nearest 0.25 of a run).

We can see that the idea of a set of 47 innings having an average of 41.8 isn't particularly unusual. There are a number of samples that were in that region.

We can also see that the distribution looks normal. I calculated the mean and standard deviation of the averages and looked to see how it fitted. Here's the graph of the distribution:

Given that it is so well modeled by a normal distribution, we can use the mean and standard deviation to decide if we can make a call.

The mean of the averages is 49.41. (this is slightly higher than Tendulkar's career average across all formats of 48.68, but close enough to use). The standard deviation was 8.24.

If we were able to make a call that Tendulkar was badly affected by a break, we would expect his average in matches where he has had a break to be at least two standard deviation lower than the mean. This would require the average to be lower than 32.2. Instead his average in the 47 innings that Jigar mentioned was 41.8. It is lower, but we can't really claim that it is significantly lower.

Friday 14 December 2012

Mini-session Analysis 1st Test, Australia vs Sri Lanka, Hobart 2012/13

Here is the final mini-session analysis for the first test between Australia and Sri Lanka at Bellerive Oval, Hobart, Australia

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.

1-1aAustralia 49/1 off 14Australia
1-1bAustralia 48/1 off 12.2Australia
1-2aAustralia 39/0 off 15.4Australia
1-2bAustralia 57/1 off 15Australia
1-3aAustralia 43/1 off 16Sri Lanka
1-3bAustralia 63/0 off 17Australia
2-1aAustralia 27/1 off 12Sri Lanka
2-1bAustralia 38/0 off 12Australia
2-2aAustralia 65/0 off 14Australia
2-2bAustralia 21/0 off 3draw
Sri Lanka 21/0 off 7
2-3aSri Lanka 24/2 off 10Australia
2-3bSri Lanka 42/2 off 12.1Australia
3-1aSri Lanka 70/0 off 17.5Sri Lanka
3-1bSri Lanka 30/0 off 9Sri Lanka
3-2aSri Lanka 31/0 off 19draw
3-2bSri Lanka 31/1 off 15Australia
3-3aSri Lanka 67/2 off 15.4Sri Lanka
3-3bSri Lanka 20/3 off 3.5draw
Australia 27/0 off 14
4-1aAustralia 60/0 off 18Australia
4-1bAustralia 59/2 off 17Sri Lanka
4-2aAustralia 63/3 off 14Sri Lanka
4-2bAustralia 69/4 off 10.5Australia
4-3aSri Lanka 37/1 off 18Australia
4-3bSri Lanka 28/1 off 19Australia
5-1aSri Lanka 45/0 off 17Sri Lanka
5-1bSri Lanka 34/1 off 16Australia
5-2aSri Lanka 25/1 off 14.2Australia
5-2bSri Lanka 17/0 off 9.4draw
5-3aSri Lanka 62/4 off 21Australia
5-3bSri Lanka 7/2 off 4.2Australia

Final update, click here

Australia win the mini-session count 18 - 8

First drinks, Day 1: Australia lead the mini-session count 1-0

A perfect first hour of a test. The batsmen have struggled at times, and have thrived. The ball swung, and did a bit off the seam, but the bad ball was generally put away. Cowan fell victim to some clever captaincy, where Mahela got into his head by leaving a massive gap for him on the leg side. He was dismissed trying to hit a ball into that gap that should have probably been cut instead.

Lunch, Day 1: Australia lead the mini-session count 2-0

That was a fine test fifty from David Warner, ended with an unfortunate run out. It has been a good first session of cricket. Sri Lanka have generally bowled demanding lines and lengths, and the batsmen have been generally patient. There was one small scare for Australia when Warner edged a good ball from Welegedara through the recently vacated third slip, but other than that the pitch looked quite friendly for the batsmen.

Middle drinks, Day 1: Australia lead the mini-session count 3-0

Australia are doing well here. They have seen off the new ball, and are playing sensible, low risk cricket. Sri Lanka need a breakthrough or else this game is capable of getting away from them very quickly.

Tea, Day 1: Australia lead the mini-session count 4-0

Australia just won that hour, but it was close. Sri Lanka have taken a wicket off a no ball. That is really the ultimate sin. They have now bowled 9 no balls in 2 sessions of cricket. To put that in context, they bowed 5 no balls in the entire series against New Zealand. It makes me wonder if the harder ground in Australia causes the bowlers to spring forward more in their run up.

Final drinks, Day 1: Australia lead the mini-session count 4-1

Sri Lanka just keep chipping away the wickets. They will now be looking forward to the new ball. If they can pick up another one by then, things could really start to get interesting. A good innings from Hughes, he certainly proved me wrong, because I expected Kulasekera to really trouble him.

Stumps, Day 1: Australia lead the mini-session count 5-1

Clarke and Hussey are just in devastating form at the moment. Their average partnership so far this year is 107.9, having put on 1187 runs together in 2012. That's the second highest contribution in a calendar year by one non-opening partnership ever. And they still have a potential 3 innings left this year. They are still 343 runs away from Younis Khan and Mohammed Younis in 2006, but catching them is a distinct possibility now.

First drinks, Day 2: Australia lead the mini-session count 5-2

Shaminda Eranga bowled a magic delivery to dismiss Michael Clarke. He came wider on the crease and angled in towards Clarke's off stump. Then the ball moved away off the pitch, and Clarke was possibly the only batsman in the world good enough to actually hit that one. The Australians managed to rebuild well, but the wicket was such an important one that the hour goes to Sri Lanka.

Lunch, Day 2: Australia lead the mini-session count 6-2

A very good hour for Australia. This isn't a pitch where we are likely to see 60 runs in an hour too regularly, so 38 runs in 40 minutes represents a good return for Australia. Sri Lanka will rue the missed chance, where Randiv missed a difficult chance to catch Wade. They have now missed at least 3 chances, and they could be crucial. If Australia get to 450 on this pitch the game is effectively over for Sri Lanka.

Middle drinks, Day 2: Australia lead the mini-session count 7-2

Another missed chance for Sri Lanka. They may be good enough to take 20 wickets cheaply against Australia. However I'm not sure if they can take 24 or 25 wickets cheaply against Australia.

Tea, Day 2: Australia lead the mini-session count 7-2

While Australia scored much faster than Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankans managed to survive the first bite of the new ball. Often the ball plays tricks for the first 5 or 6 overs, then again overs 13-20. Karunaratne looked particularly impressive.

Final drinks, Day 2: Australia lead the mini-session count 8-2

Two wickets in the hour for Australia, and Sri Lanka are now in trouble. This is the innings that they really would have been targeting to score their runs in.

Stumps, Day 2: Australia lead the mini-session count 9-2

Sri Lanka are in trouble here. They will need a very good day tomorrow to avoid this match ending very badly for them. They still have two solid batsmen left with Mathews and Jayawardene, but they don't have much room for error left. While Sri Lanka won the first 3 overs of the day, the rest of the day was very much Australia's.

First drinks, Day 3: Australia lead the mini-session count 9-3

What a fantastic fight back from Mathews and Dilshan. They need to keep this going for another couple of hours, but they have scored quickly, and put pressure on the bowlers.

Lunch, Day 3: Australia lead the mini-session count 9-4

Dilshan is scoring beautifully. He's brought up his hundred and is looking sharp. Matthews seems to have gone into his shell. He's scored only 10 runs in the last 9 overs.

Middle drinks, Day 3: Australia lead the mini-session count 9-4

Mathews has continued to stagnate. After his solid start he has not really looked likely at all. He's scored only 11 runs in the last 19 overs. For Australia the real bright light with the ball has been Shane Watson. He has kept the batsmen under pressure, and in two minds. While he is at the crease the pitch looks like a minefield.

Tea, Day 3: Australia lead the mini-session count 10-4

Mathews fell to a ball that moved off the seam. This pitch is starting to play some tricks. Dilshan has taken a turn going into his shell now. This time he has scored only 11 runs in 15 overs. Australia have replicated what Sri Lanka did on the first day: kept the scoring down despite not making much progress against the batting.

Final drinks, Day 3: Australia lead the mini-session count 10-5

Good positive play by Prasana Jayawardene has advanced the game in Sri Lanka's favour. They are still behind, but they are getting closer.

Stumps, Day 3: Australia lead the mini-session count 10-5

Australia cleaned up the tail, and their openers managed to survive, but they didn't score many runs, and despite having a chance to start to build an imposing lead, they batted without much intent, and let the game slide somewhat.

There are a couple of possible scenarios for the game tomorrow. One option is that Australia go on to score about 250, then bowl Sri Lanka out on a wearing pitch. However another option is that they take too long to get their 250, and Sri Lanka bat out the final day to draw the test.

First drinks, Day 4: Australia lead the mini-session count 11-5

Great work this morning from Cowan and Warner. This would be one of the most restrained innings I've seen from Warner, similar to his second innings at Hobart last year. Sri Lanka are bowling quite well, and are trying to keep the Australians tied up. Clarke is an aggressive captain, but he will be aware of the power of the Sri Lankan line up, and is likely to make sure they are chasing well over 350.

Lunch, Day 4: Australia lead the mini-session count 11-6

That was a good hour of cricket. Wickets, runs, both teams playing positive cricket.

Middle drinks, Day 4: Australia lead the mini-session count 11-7

Herath looks like a completely different bowler once he has a right-hander to bowl at. The Watson dismissal was a classic orthodox spin wicket. He drew Watson out with the pace, deceived him with the flight and dip, spun past the outstretched bat, and then Jayawardene produced a very sharp stumping. It was almost poetry.

Tea, Day 4: Australia lead the mini-session count 12-7

If Herath can do that against Australia on a pitch that isn't taking turn, what will he do on the SCG? Australia have set Sri Lanka a target of 392. It's an unlikely target, but not an impossible one. Sri Lanka will have to bat well, but they have 5 phenomenal batsmen in their team. Only South Africa at the moment have a reasonable claim to having a better batting line up.

Final drinks, Day 4: Australia lead the mini-session count 13-7

The pitch is starting to look quite tricky to bat on. It looks positively unplayable while Shane Watson is bowling. Some bowlers know how to get the worst out of a pitch, and Watson is certainly one of those.

Stumps, Day 4: Australia lead the mini-session count 14-7

While Sri Lanka have made it to the end of the day only 2 down, Australia are now odds on to win this match. The pitch is quite up and down, and even a good go with the heavy roller in the morning isn't going to make much difference. There is one thing that could make it a lot easier for Sri Lanka, and that is that there is rain forecast for tomorrow. However there's probably not enough rain tomorrow to actually make much of a difference.

First drinks, Day 5: Australia lead the mini-session count 14-8

A very good hour for Sri Lanka. If they have 5 more like that they will win the test. However there were some promising signs for Australia, They managed to get some reverse swing, and drew one false shot out of Jayawardene.

Lunch, Day 5: Australia lead the mini-session count 15-8

The Australian bowlers really dominated that last hour. The key moment was the hopefull review by Sangakkara that turned out to be a good decision. Another interesting thing was the way that the Australian fielders made a point of walking between Sangakkara and Samaraweera whenever they tried to have a chat. I'm not sure what the thinking behind that behaviour was, but perhaps they feel Samaraweera is a little weak mentally, and relies heavily on his batting partner. If that's their tactic, then I think they've done their scouting badly, because Samaraweera is about as tough as they come mentally.

Rain break, Day 5: Australia lead the mini-session count 16-8

Sri Lanka are fighting hard, but Australia are gradually taking the game. These two and Prasanna Jayawardene are quality batsmen, but the pitch is playing too many tricks to expect them to last until stumps.

Tea, Day 5: Australia lead the mini-session count 16-8

Great effort from Mathews and Samaraweera. They have mostly seen off the new ball despite things being really quite difficult. The bounce has been eratic, and they have had their concentration interrupted by rain breaks. Australia are probably still favourites, but I think the draw is starting to look a lot more likely.

Final drinks, Day 5: Australia lead the mini-session count 17-8

Surely Australia can't fail to wrap this up. Could they?

End of match Australia win the match and the mini-session count 18-8

The end had a certain inevitability about it. Sri Lanka fought well, but Australia win the match. Australia played the better cricket and deserved the win. Peter Siddle in man of the match, and he was a fantastic performer, but I think this game was mostly won because Michael Clarke made such a bold declaration at the end of the first innings. He was my man of the match for that.

Thursday 13 December 2012

Mini-session Analysis, 4th test, India v England, Nagpur 2012/13

Here is the final mini-session analysis for the fourth test between India and England at Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium, Nagpur, India

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 31/2 off 14India
1-1bEngland 30/0 off 19draw
1-2aEngland 40/0 off 16England
1-2bEngland 32/2 off 16India
1-3aEngland 33/1 off 17India
1-3bEngland 33/0 off 15England
2-1aEngland 42/0 off 17England
2-1bEngland 36/2 off 15India
2-2aEngland 53/3 off 16.5England
2-2bIndia 32/1 off 12draw
2-3aIndia 30/1 off 15England
2-3bIndia 25/2 off 14England
3-1aIndia 26/0 off 17draw
3-1bIndia 33/0 off 15India
3-2aIndia 45/0 off 16India
3-2bIndia 36/0 off 11India
3-3aIndia 42/0 off 16India
3-3bIndia 28/4 off 14.1England
4-1aIndia 29/1 off 12.5England
4-1bEngland 17/0 off 13India
4-2aEngland 31/1 off 16.5India
4-2bEngland 33/1 off 16.5India
4-3aEngland 49/1 off 17.2England
4-3bEngland 31/0 off 15England
5-1aEngland 45/0 off 18England
5-1bEngland 34/0 off 13England
5-2aEngland 34/0 off 15England
5-2bEngland 36/1 off 14India
5-3aEngland 42/0 off 15England

Last update, click here

England win the mini-session count 14 - 12

First drinks, Day 1: India lead the mini-session count 1-0

When Monty Panesar got a bad decision in the last match, it really wasn't a big deal, because he isn't really likely to score many runs. Losing Alister Cook to a poor decision is a completely different matter. This was a massive bonus for India.

The slow scoring rate that the openers went at wasn't a massive problem if they hadn't been dismissed, but it's very much advantage India after the first hour.

Lunch, Day 1: India lead the mini-session count 1-0

30 runs in 19 overs is very slow going. However it's not a case of the batsmen not showing any intent, it's more that the Indian bowlers have been bowling very straight and quite flat on a pitch that at the moment looks to have more in common with a tortoise than a hare.

Middle drinks, Day 1: The mini-session count is tied up, 1-1

Another very slow hour. This one saw England edge it, but the Indian bowlers are not letting the batsmen have much to play with.

Tea, Day 1: India lead the mini-session count 2-1

When even Kevin Pietersen is scoring slowly it's clear that either the pitch is difficult, or the bowling is very good. I think that the bowling has been demanding, but certainly the pitch is the major factor. Trott will probably be still shaking his head at his decision to leave that ball, it turns out that slow straight ones can be deceptive after all.

Final drinks, Day 1: India lead the mini-session count 3-1

If they keep this over rate up, India are going to through a seriously large number of overs. It will almost be like the 1930's when teams would regularly bowl over 100 overs in a day. Pietersen's wicket was the big news here, at the end of what was possibly his most patient innings, he tried a crazy agricultural shot. There is some sort of irony there.

Stumps, Day 1: India lead the mini-session count 3-2

Joe Root possibly hasn't ever played on a pitch like this. The fact that he has survived over 100 deliveries for 31 runs is certainly going to be encouraging. Prior looked like he was batting on a different pitch to everyone else just like he did in the first test. It was a reasonable final session for England, but I think India are ahead in the match.

Lunch, Day 2: India lead the mini-session count 4-3

Despite the two wickets it really was England's morning. They managed to score relatively quickly, and hence have advanced the game. It's still fairly even, but England will be pleased with their progress.

Stumps, Day 2: England lead the mini-session count 6-4

England will be very happy with their day's cricket. India were probably in the lead at the start of the day, but it is certainly advantage England now. The two wickets in the final hour have really put India in a tricky position for tomorrow morning. The pitch is likely to start deteriorating more tomorrow afternoon, so they really need to start scoring runs. However, being 4 down they need to be cautious, because a dramatic collapse is a distinct possibility if they lose a couple of early wickets. It was an interesting decision of Dhoni's to bat himself at 6 and Jadeja at 7. Taking on that responsibility might be the sign of a captain trying to lift his team. If it works then it's genius captaincy.

First drinks, Day 3: England lead the mini-session count 6-4

India didn't score many runs, but they also didn't lose any wickets. Both batsmen have put away their natural games, each only scoring one boundary off an attacking shot. They are now starting to get to the point where they can start scoring runs. This could be turn into a fantastic match if this pitch actually breaks up. If it doesn't then this could be one of the most boring draws to have ever been played outside the SSC.

Lunch, Day 3: England lead the mini-session count 6-5

India continue to make (very slow) progress. This game isn't moving particularly fast, but it is moving. The new ball is approaching for England. If they can get one more wicket before it arrives, they will hope to finish off India quickly and take a first innings lead. However if India can survive the first 20 overs with the new ball they will be in a good position to build a big score.

Middle drinks, Day 3: The mini-session count is tied up, 6-6

India are making good progress now. Dhoni is playing an innings that is probably going to keep the wolves at bay for a while. He has taken on the responsibility of batting at 6 and so far has played a particularly responsible innings.

Final drinks, Day 3: India lead the mini-session count 8-6

India are probably now in the lead. It has been a fantastic partnership from Kohli and Dhoni. England really need to find a wicket soon. A brilliant 100 from Kohli, this has been an innings of real character. However the job is still not finished, these two (and the next 3) need to put on some serious runs because if the pitch does break up at the end (as it is likely to do) they don't want to be chasing 200 in a couple of sessions, it is very important that they manage to secure a reasonable lead.

Stumps, Day 3: India lead the mini-session count 8-7

One of the most dramatic hours play in this series. Dhoni became the 15th member of the run out for 99 club. At least he isn't like John Beck or Dipak Patel, both of whom never went on to hit a century. England did very well to keep Dhoni away from the strike while he was in the 90s. He went to 90 off 216 balls in over 112.2. He was out for 99 off 246 in over 129.1 meaning that in the 101 balls that England bowled in that time, only 30 went to Dhoni. They managed to keep him in the 90's for over an hour, and it was that pressure that told in the end, resulting in him trying a risky run to try and bring up 3 figures. England are now in a strong position in this match. If they can pick up the last two wickets quickly they can potentially score a relatively quick 250 by the end of the day, leaving India 300 to chase on the last day on a wearing pitch.

First drinks, Day 4: The mini-session count is tied up, 8-8

What a strange hour. India didn't seem to want to score. England didn't seem to want to take wickets. I'm not sure why on either hand. For some reason then at the end of the hour Dhoni declared. I'm interested to see how this develops from here.

Lunch, Day 4: India lead the mini-session count 9-8

England are getting close to batting themselves out of the game here. Positive play is often safer play. They really should try and score runs instead of just batting time.

Middle drinks, Day 4: India lead the mini-session count 10-8

Incredibly slow progress here by England. They need to actually score enough runs to make sure India can't chase them down.

Tea, Day 4: India lead the mini-session count 11-8

A slightly more productive mini-session from England, but still too slow. They need to score runs now, because this pitch is very likely to break up tomorrow.

Final drinks, Day 4: India lead the mini-session count 11-9

England are starting to score some runs, but they are now in a position where they are very unlikely to be able to get into a position where they could win the match. It still might happen, but it was a lot more likely at the start of the day than it is now.

Stumps, Day 4: India lead the mini-session count 11-10

England are executing their plan well. I don't think they have the right plan personally, but they are doing it well. I don't think it's a good idea to ever give up on a winnable game, but perhaps that's part of the reason why I'm not a test captain. (That and not actually being very good at cricket)

First drinks, Day 5: The mini-session count is tied up, 11-11

England are probably safe now.

Lunch, Day 5: England lead the mini-session count 12-11

Trott and Bell have batted very well. They have taken India completely out of this game. It's all about personal averages and scoring psychological points now.

End of match, Day 5: England take the mini-session count 14-12

The match is drawn, but England win the series. It was a clinical performance from England from the last hour of day 3 onwards. From that point on England had their road-map to a series win, and they followed it assiduously.

Is Dale Steyn the best bowler ever?

I recently read a (typically) good piece by Ant Sims about Dale Steyn. Some of the numbers that she came up with were very impressive. It got me wondering. Is Dale Steyn the best bowler ever?

She had the idea to compare him to other bowlers at a similar stage in their career. I decided to do something similar, so I looked at a large number of bowlers who had bowled in either 60 matches or 100 innings to look at how they compared at that point of their career.

Some players tend to hold on for a long time after their peak. Sometimes it is because everyone (including them) thinks that they are just one innings away from recapturing their glory days (think Ricky Ponting), or because they are still one of the best from their nation, even though they are no longer nearly as good as they were (think Sir Frank Worrell). But for what ever reason, about 60 games is often when a lot of bowlers reach their statistical zenith. They are experienced enough to know how to take wickets, but not old enough that they have lost too much energy.

Probably the most important statistic for bowlers in test matches is the average. Once I had pulled out all the bowlers data, there was one extraordinary number in the list: 20.14 by Shaun Pollock. Steyn is in the middle of this list.

The next thing that I look at is strike rate. Steyn is a strike bowler. It is not his job to hold up one end. He is there to take wickets. Strike rate is a measure of how many deliveries it takes a bowler on average to take a wicket. Generally the best bowlers tend to take wickets slightly better than every 10 overs, giving a strike rate under 60.

Here Steyn really shines. He has the second best strike rate of any bowler after 60 matches. And then he's only marginally behind Waqar Younis. Here's another way to put it. The first two bowlers I remember vividly from when I grew up were Malcolm Marshall and Richard Hadlee. Steyn is more likely to get a wicket on any given ball than either of them were.

Another measure is bowling index. This is a more complicated statistic, which is described in the glossary. While it is best suited for comparing bowlers in limited overs matches, it does tell a story in tests also. It really tells us who has kept the batsmen honest while they have been taking their wickets. It's not perfect, but it is interesting. (You may need to scroll to see Steyn's numbers in this one)

Again we see Shaun Pollock on top, and by a reasonable margin, this time ahead of Deadly Derek Underwood. Steyn is near the bottom of the list, along with the majority of the bowlers in the era of boundary ropes and uncompressed bats.

So to answer the question: is Dale Steyn the best bowler ever? Probably not, that's possibly Shaun Pollock, but Steyn is certainly up there with the best.

For a different way of looking at the greatest bowlers ever, and to see where Steyn is placed on that list, you can also try this article that I wrote at the beginning of the year. The numbers need updating, but they were right as at the 7th of January.