Sunday 30 December 2012

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.


  1. I've been waiting with interest to see how you would use these mini-session analyses - and am not disappointed. I recognise the effort it must have taken to record an analysis of every hour of every test. Will you publish your revised scoring formula?

    One of the pervasive clich├ęs of test cricket is "the next session will be crucial". I wonder if the analysis points to swing sessions, or patterns of mini-sessions results that predict match victory (e.g. 4 wins in a row). I'd also be interested if there is a number of mini-session victories in a match which makes defeat improbable.

    Best wishes for 2013. Chris

    1. There's a couple of interesting questions there. I might have to look into a couple of them. Often the 2nd mini-session in an innings is very important. Teams can recover from a bad start in the first hour, but losing the second hour seems to be a very bad sign.

  2. '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.'

    Of course you don't: Day 5 is the 'reserve day' - or rather, it was, but for that to apply again, they would have to start preparing proper pitches again, and we all know that is not about to happen any time soon. Infuriatingly.

    To me, as an Australian, the recent matches in Adelaide and Hobart were quite interesting: we should have won the former and drawn the latter. The reason we didn't, I think, seemed mostly to do with the mindset of our respective opponents: South Africa initially playing for a win and then switching when too many wickets were lost, whereas Sri Lanka played for a draw from the word get-go and had nowhere to go when that didn't work out. (Obviously, South Africa is a much better Test XI than Sri Lanka, but the mind-set still matters; I'd argue that the different mind-sets are part of that qualitative difference. Having better fast bowlers didn't exactly hurt either, of course.)