Saturday 27 December 2014

New Zealand's remarkable consistency under McCullum

New Zealand have traditionally had reasonable bowlers and not very good batsmen.

Even New Zealand's best batsmen, Crowe, Reid, Turner and Sutcliffe didn't manage to hold the team together often enough for New Zealand to regularly score big scores.

Before the year 2000 New Zealand had only managed to pass 400 on 52 occasions. (roughly 10% of innings). From 2000 until the end of 2012, they managed to pass 400 on 32 occasions (roughy 17% of innings). Since then, under Brendon McCullum, they have managed to pass 400 on 12 occasions in 32 innings (37.5%).

The consistency has been remarkable.

Under McCullum New Zealand have scored under 200 in 27% of innings. The next best was Fleming with 29.3%. Under every other captain who had the team for at least 5 matches, New Zealand scored less than 200 on at least one third of their innings.

This graphic displays the difference quite well:

Under McCullum, New Zealand have scored over 400 more often than they scored over 300 with most captains.

The team's ability to score 400 regularly is actually impressive when compared globally also.

I decided to look at how often a team scored 400, divided by the number of times they were bowled out.  This eliminates situations where the match situation makes scoring 400 unrealistic, for example where a team scores 90/3 to win a match or declares for 385/7 to set up a win.

Here's the table:

Captain400'sAll Outs400s per AO
DG Bradman 16210.762
SR Waugh 36560.643
AJ Strauss 27470.574
MJK Smith 11210.524
SC Ganguly 27520.519
RT Ponting 45890.506
SM Gavaskar 21420.5
BB McCullum 12240.5
Imran Khan 20410.488
Mushtaq Mohammad 9200.45
GC Smith 501120.446
MS Dhoni 33760.434
MS Atapattu 9210.429
Waqar Younis9210.429
SM Pollock 11260.423
N Kapil Dev 15360.417
DPMD Jayawardene 17420.405
MJ Clarke 18450.4
WM Woodfull 12300.4

Some other New Zealand names on the list are Fleming, 0.298; Vettori 0.214 and Howarth 0.212.

It is still very early days, but this New Zealand team under Brendon McCullum are starting to show some real promise.

Sunday 30 November 2014

Grief and Success: The Blackcaps response to Phillip Hughes

The New Zealand team put out their bats in memory of Hughes
In the wake of the death of Phillip Hughes and the following outstanding performance by the Blackcaps, I was interested in the opinion of a sports psychologist as to if the two were likely to be connected.  I rang Vicki Aitken, a High Performance Sports Mentor who has a background working with a number of sports, including cricket.

I felt that it would be interesting to find out if she felt that the impressive performance might have been a part of how the New Zealand team responded to the death of Hughes, who was a personal friend of a number of members of the team.

Here's her response to my question:

So how does this play mentally?  I’m speculating from a distance but I would suggest a number of factors may have been involved here:

I believe there are 6 aspects that go into top performance one of which is the need to have a holistic life with good life balance going on. A death can help you put your own life into perspective and the game back into its rightful place as being exactly that a game (albeit a great game!). Athletes notoriously perform better when there is life balance and or perspective going on. The comments from Ross Taylor about playing naturally and like a kid give this argument some credibility.
Lack of emotional response can be a two edge sword. The positive side is that when they make a mistake or error by not responding emotionally rather than dwelling on the past it allows them to stay in the moment more easily which is where you need to be to perform at your very best.
Phil Hughes death (and commemoration of his life) can also be a motivational factor. Athletes have been known to use and attribute their successes at highly emotional times like this to their mate or loved one. Where thoughts are filled between balls of the man in question. So that by the time they switch on again to face the next ball they are 110% focused and in the moment inspired to do so by the legend that has now gone. Two golf examples spring to mind where this has happened: Darren Clarke at the Ryder Cup in 2006 shortly after his wife died of cancer, he played remarkably well helping the Europeans to victory. And back in the 1995 Ben Crenshaw used the death of his legend coach Harvey Penick the week before to go on and win the Masters.

Vicki Aitken – High Performance Sports Mentor – BA, PGDipPE, MPhEd; BASES Accredited, SESNZ Member.

Saturday 29 November 2014

The Miraculous Metamorphisis of Mark Craig

Mark Craig in action
In the first two tests in this series, Mark Craig looked like one of the worst spin bowlers to ever wear the black cap. And that is saying something, given that there have been some very ordinary spin bowlers produced by New Zealand in the past.

It looked like he really had no options for taking a wicket or containing the batsmen. His RPO being over 4 seemed to show that the batsmen had taken a cautious approach, rather than anything else. It could have quite easily been over 6, if they'd really gone after him.

Then, come day 2 of the third test, he picked up 5 wickets in a morning, to post the best ever bowling figures in Sharjah, and be described by one of the Pakistani commentators as Craig the Destroyer.

It's interesting to look at how this happened. How did the teddy bear turn into a grizzly bear?

I noticed two things in common with almost all the wickets: drift and bounce. Lets go though them individually.

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Is Daniel Vettori a good selection?

I've been asked by a few people what I think about picking Daniel Vettori for the 3rd test in Sharjah. So I've pulled some numbers from overseas tests (as performances in New Zealand conditions are fairly close to being irrelevant in Sharjah).

Firstly Vettori is quite different from most spinners. He takes more wickets in the first innings than he does in the second innings. This is partially because he relies more on bounce than turn, so he gets more assistance in the first innings than he does later on.

Also, his numbers away from home are better than I realised recently, but also he's not played many tests. In the past 5 years, he's only played 6 away tests, and 3 of them were in 2010. However in all 6 tests he's taken more wickets in the first innings than in the second.

During that time, however, despite only playing in 6 matches, he's taken more wickets at a better average than any other New Zealand spinner (not counting Ross Taylor's 2 wickets for 34 runs). Ish Sodhi, Mark Craig and Kane Williamson all have better strike rates, but because Vettori bowls so economically, he ends up with a better average.

This is also a big advantage when New Zealand are needing to get to the new ball (which they definitely need to do in UAE, the old ball is useless for both quicks and spinners). He can get through those overs without costing too many runs. This was the role that McCullum took on for himself in the first two tests.

This was also useful when the team is under pressure. In the game that he played at Antigua, Chris Gayle was in a destructive mood. West Indies were already on 96 when Vettori came to the crease in the 21st over. Vettori bowled the next 16 overs from that end for only 26 runs. While he didn't pick up Gayle, he did get him to inside edge just past his stumps twice.

Another interesting thing has happened as a result of Vettori's bowling: when he's played New Zealand won about as often overseas (20% vs 22%) but have lost a lot less often. As a result with Vettori NZ averages 0.46 wins / loss overseas, as opposed to 0.38 without him overseas.

It's certainly an interesting selection, and one that could work quite well.

Monday 17 November 2014

Preview 2nd Test, Pakistan vs New Zealand, Dubai 2014

After the towelling that New Zealand got in the first test, they have said exactly the sort of things that you would expect them to say. "It's about changing our mindset" "We need to win the toss and bat" "We've identified the areas that we need to improve." etc. The interesting question is more "are they good enough to adapt?"

Mark Richardson commented on the radio that New Zealand are a good team, but not good enough that they won't have occasional matches where they get blown away.

The pitch in Dubai is actually quite different to Sharjah. Teams don't often put up big scores batting first here. There's life for the seamers early on, and some reward if a bowler bends his back, but ultimately this is a ground that suits spin.

The most intriguing battle for me will be McCullum vs Zulfiqar. The other thing I'll be looking at will be the flight that the NZ spinners bowl with. If they can bowl flatter and faster without losing their rhythm they could be a real handful.

Overall, this is shaping up as another intriguing test.

Sunday 9 November 2014

Mini-session Analysis, 1st test Pakistan vs New Zealand, Abu Dhabi

Here is the final mini-session analysis for the first test between Pakistan and New Zealand at Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi, UAE

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.

Saturday 8 November 2014

1st Test Preview - Pakistan vs New Zealand - Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi, 2014

It can be very easy to get carried away with stereotypes when talking about "sub-continent pitches." There is a feeling that any pitch that is produced between Egypt and Myanmar has come out of the same package and will play exactly the same as any other pitch in that (enormous) region.

The stereotypes are certainly there for a reason, but there is actually significant variation from ground to ground within Asia. As a result it's important to make sure I treat each ground in Asia separately, and not make sweeping generalizations when writing a preview.

As part of my research, I looked at the batsmen with the highest averages, at Abu Dhabi (given that they had played at least 4 innings there). The 6 names that had good averages at the ground were Misbah-ul-Haq, Azhar Ali, AB de Villiers, Angelo Matthews, Kumar Sangakkara and Prassana Jayawardene.

I then looked at other grounds where these batsmen had been successful (2 or more matches, average over 50). There were 4 grounds that appeared in more than one batsman's list: Sinhalese Sports Club (understandable, as if you're Sri Lankan and can't score at the SSC, you really aren't cut out to be a batsman) Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, Headingley in Leeds and the Basin Reserve in Wellington.

The interesting thing in this group is that the last 3 are all famous swing bowling grounds. In fact, if a swing bowler was to nominate 3 grounds to play the rest of their career at, these 3 would probably be in their top 5. The batsman who succeed at Abu Dhabi are not a group of batsmen who have dominated against spin, but rather are batsmen who have managed to succeed against the swinging ball.

Then if we look at the sort of bowlers who have succeed at Sheikh Zayed, there are a couple of spinners and a bunch of swing bowlers, and in particular, left-arm swing bowlers.

The only name that stood out to me in the list of bowlers who had had success at this ground was Stuart Broad. He was the only bowler that I consider to be an "into-the-wicket" bowler that had been successful here. But on digging deeper, I noticed that all of his wickets at this ground were from balls that had been pitched up, and given a chance to swing.

In short, this is a swing bowlers ground, despite what the reputation might suggest.

The next question I had was "why did Australia lose so thoroughly then?" I went onto ESPNCricinfo and had a look at the pitchmaps that they provided there. Here's what I noticed:

To the left is the pitchmap of the Australian quick bowlers. The distances are from the back crease.

They bowled a lot of their deliveries in the 5.5-9m range, what I'd refer to as "back of a length" This is sometimes a very good length to bowl. When a pitch is two-paced (for example) back of a length bowling is ideal.

Pakistan tended to bowl a much larger proportion of their deliveries in the 4-6m range.

One of the things I'm going to be looking at in this match is the lengths that the bowlers are bowling at. we'll see if New Zealand have learned the lessons that Pakistan taught to Australia.

Betting tips:
If I had $50 to spend at the NZ TAB here's where I'd put it:

1. NZ top wicket taker in the 1st innings - $10 on Trent Boult at $4.00
I've chosen Boult ahead of Southee here simply because left armers have done better than right armers against Pakistan in recent times.  Also, on similar grounds, Boult averages about 21, whereas Southee averages about 28.

2. Misbah-ul-Haq to score more than Younis Khan $10 at $2.05
I'm honestly surprised by this option. Misbah-ul-Haq is in devastating form and is super consistent. He has scored 4 hundreds and 3 fifties in 10 innings in Abu Dhabi. Younis Khan has scored two big centuries and no fifties in 11 innings. I would have expected Misbah to only be paying something like $1.40

3. Kane Williamson to be one of the top 3 run scorers in the NZ first innings. $10 at $1.62
Again, this feels like very good odds that the TAB are offering here. Williamson is quickly becoming New Zealand's premier batsman, and these conditions are likely to suit him.

4. Azhar Ali to be one of the top 3 run scorers in the Pakistan first innings$10 at $2.00
Azhar is another batsman who really likes the Abu Dhabi pitch. He has scored 50 or more 5 times in the 5 matches he's played here. He also has a very good career record in the first innings, getting to 50 just under 40% of the time.

5. Draw no bet - $10 on NZ at $3.50
If there is nothing in this pitch, then there is no chance of New Zealand winning. I don't feel that New Zealand are good enough to blast Pakistan out twice without any assistance from the conditions.  But if there is some assistance, then I think New Zealand should be closer to $2.50 than $3.50.

Monday 27 October 2014

Preview ODI 3, New Zealand vs South Africa, Seddon PArk, 2014

NZ will need to overcome ring rust today
One of the reasons Mike Tyson was such a champion boxer was that in his early days he had fantastic defence. As a result, he was able to fight every 6 weeks rather than every 3 months (like most heavyweight boxers do) because he wasn't getting hurt in the ring. Fighting so regularly meant that he never got "ring rust." Ring rust is a condition where boxers miss out on the little details that make a big difference. An uppercut that connects with the right timing, on the right part of the jaw, knocks someone out. An upper cut that lands slightly to the left or the right of that, or arrives 1/4 of a second later hurts the opponent, but doesn't finish the fight.

It doesn't matter how much you spar in the gym, or hit bags, you can only fix ring rust by time in the ring.  Often when you watch a boxing match between two top fighters, the first 2 rounds tell you very little about the way that the rest of the match will go, they only tell you who is the rustiest.

In this series, New Zealand have been rusty. Very rusty. The bowlers have not bowled the right lengths consistently. The fielder have missed at least 4 catches and 3 run outs. The batsmen have hit the ball to fielders rather than into gaps, and thrown away good starts.

South Africa, on the other hand, were playing 5 weeks ago. They look refreshed and eager. The bowlers have been (generally) hitting good lengths, and the batsmen have (generally) made the most of the starts when they have go them.

It's hard to suggest anything different is going to happen in Hamilton today. Amla had two lives before he got to 20, then he cashed in. His technique looks totally unsuited to opening the batting in New Zealand conditions (especially pre-Christmas), but his hand-eye co-ordination is so good that he dominates when he gets the chance. If New Zealand give him more opportunities through poor fielding, then he will (in all likelihood) do exactly the same in Hamilton.

Hamilton tends to be a difficult place to start batting. Matthew Hayden described it as the hardest place in the world to see the ball. However, he also carried his bat for 181 in a match there.

In the last 10 years about 59% of top order innings in Hamilton have scored 25 or less runs. That's on a par with the overall average (61%) but the interesting thing is that in the innings where a batsman reaches 25, they go on to do better. The overall average is 52.22 (so they get another 27.2 once they get to 25). The average in Hamilton is 58.35 (an extra 33.35). This is actually a very significant difference. Of the 132 grounds that have hosted ODI's in the past 10 years, only 5 have had more then 5 games and a higher average once a player gets to 25.

As a result, making the most of early chances is vital. It's where New Zealand's rustiness could come back to haunt them. Although, there is one thing that will work in their favour: the weather.

It is likely to rain in Hamilton today. As one of only two inland cities in New Zealand, it's one of the easiest places to forecast the weather for. The game is likely to get a small shower during the first innings, a small shower near the start of the second innings, and then be curtailed by rain. With the overhead conditions, both captains will probably want to bowl first, and that is likely to be an advantage. However, the rain is likely to mean that batsmen will have to re-start their innings after they get started, so the normal Hamilton pattern might not play ball.

Betting tips.

If I had $50 to bet on this match, here's where it would go:

1. $10 on NZ to win at $2.45

It's almost always a better idea to bowl first in an ODI, especially when there's a breeze and cloud cover. This is simply because of winning the toss

2. 2 x $10 Over on any South African batsman that gets to 25.

They all have such good hand eye co-ordination that once they get to 25, they are likely to score more than 60. Watch the live betting, and go over whatever line the TAB offer.

3. 2 x $10 Under for any New Zealand batsman that gets to 25.

They are all looking so rusty, that it feels likely that they will throw it away. Other than Luke Ronchi.

(All odds accurate at time of writing from the NZ TAB)

Friday 24 October 2014

Match 2, NZ vs South Africa preview

Trent Boult may be a key player in match 2
We now have a little more information about Bay Oval, and what it's all about.  We also have seen both teams play.  And really, we don't actually know much more.

Here are some things that I noticed, and some battles to look forward to.

1. Trent Boult vs Quentin de Kock.  de Kock is a good batsman, in good form, but he looked somewhat clueless against Boult, and it looks like he will need to develop a better plan as to how to bat against him.

2. Vernon Philander vs Martin Guptill. Guptill looked completely out of form in the first game, but that's at odds with how well he played in the CPL just recently. Often a batsman looks out of form when a bowler is bowling in places that makes it difficult for him to score.  I think that is what actually happened in the first match. It will be interesting to see if Guptill has managed to figure out how to get some runs off Philander's bowling.

3. Kyle Mills vs Hashim Amla. If Mills plays in this match, it will be interesting to see if he can repeat the dose against Amla. Mills bowled 21 deliveries to Amla, and he managed to only score 12 before getting out. And those 12 mostly came from streaky, un-Amla like shots. Conventional wisdom would say that Amla's too good to repeat that performance, but Mills is a very crafty bowler, and his successes against Chris Gayle say that he is capable of targeting a player and really getting on top of them.

4. Brendon McCullum vs Morne Morkel.  McCullum backs himself to dominate anyone, but he has always found Morkel a difficult bowler to face. Morkel got him in the first match, and McCullum will not want a repeat in the second.

5. Jimmy Neesham vs Dale Steyn. Steyn will be particularly grumpy with the way that Neesham approached their confrontation in the first match. Neesham didn't look phased by the great bowler at all. It will be interesting to see what lengths Steyn bowls to him today.

Betting tips.

If I was betting $50 on this match, here's where it would go:

1. Total match run outs $10 on over 1.5 at $2.80
There were non in the first match, but there were 3 close calls, and that was without the sort of scoreboard pressure that normally brings about run outs. McCullum sets fields trying to get run outs, and ABdV has been working hard on getting the South African fielding back to where they were in years gone by.

2. South Africa top run scorer $10 on AB de Villiers at $5.00
de Villiers has a phenomenal record in the second match of a series. Over the past 3 years he's only had 2 times that I could see that he's hit less than 50 in the second match in a series. He's hit 3 centuries and 2 not out fifties.  He's also got the wood on most of the New Zealand bowlers.

3. New Zealand top run scorer $10 on Tom Latham at $7.50
Latham looked fantastic, and would have been likely to got a big score other than a piece of bad luck against Duminy.

4. Hashim Amla runs $10 on 0-20 at $2.55
I think opening against a line up featuring (at least 2 of) Mills, Southee and Boult is a very difficult prospect.

5. Head to Head $10 on New Zealand at $2.60
New Zealand are a better team than they showed in the last game.  Look for a big step up.

All odds are from NZ TAB and are accurate at time of writing.

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Match preview 1st ODI NZ vs SA, Mount Maunganui,

The circular Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui
The countdown to the World Cup finally feels like it's started for real. South Africa are touring New Zealand for 3 ODI matches that are more a means to an end than an end in themselves.  Both teams say that they want to win these matches, and the players who get on the field definitely will.  But they are both aware that the real target is the World Cup.

Surprisingly this match is being played at Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui. It's the 4th ground in the Northern Districts area to hold an international match, and is not going to be used in the World Cup.  However, it is in New Zealand's fastest growing region, and is likely to be a place where a lot of international cricket will be played in the future.  It is also on the east coast, so it is a lot less likely to be rained off in spring time than somewhere like Auckland or Wellington.

As there has never been an international at the ground, there are some aspects that are hard to predict. A par score for the ground really has not been established at this level, and almost all of the players will go in without too much baggage (positive or negative) at the ground.

There were a number of warm up matches played there, and we can tell some things from those.

Firstly, bowlers that tend to bang the ball in were punished.  It seems that the fuller the pace bowlers bowled, the better they did. Secondly the scores were all over the place. Some teams were scoring 300+ while others were struggling to pass 150.  Also, the spin bowlers took lots of wickets but (with two exceptions) went for lots of runs. The two exceptions were Daniel Vettori and local boy Jono Boult (brother of Trent)

The ground is an interesting shape, particularly given it's name of Bay Oval. It is a perfect circle. The boundary is 68m from the centre of the pitch in every direction. This means that it has a straight boundary of 79m and a square boundary of 67m. This obviously favours players who are good at playing the hook, cut and scoop shots (which probably explains why bowlers who bang the ball in get punished).

I've looked through the records of the players at similar shaped, coastal grounds in the past 3 years and there are three names that feature at the top of the list: de Villiers, McLaren and well ahead of all else, du Plessis. The top New Zealand name is Williamson (who is not playing) followed by Neesham.

If I was looking to make a couple of bets, I'd look at putting some money on both du Plessis and McLaren to be top scorer. While it's guaranteed that at least one of these bets will fail, I think it would be a sensible move to cover both.  At time of writing, du Plessis is paying $4.50 and McLaren is paying $26 to be top scorer at the NZ TAB. I think this is good money for both of them. du Plessis has gone past 90 in 5 of his last 9 ODI innings. That's compelling form. I'd look at McLaren for a different reason.

The ball is likely to swing at Bay Oval. It's overcast, with showers likely. The tide will turn at about 11:00, an normally the ball swings around the turn of the tide (either just before or just after). Trent Boult grew up in Tauranga so this is his home ground. If he starts getting the ball to go round corners (as he can) he is almost unplayable. In the matches at the Champions League T20 when the ball swung, he was almost unplayable. To go with that, Kyle Mills has been a beast at similar grounds in recent times. He's averaged 11 at an economy rate of under 4. To back that up, in one of the warm up matches (for Auckland against Afghanistan) he took 2/14 off 7 overs. Mitchell McLenaghan is not in such form, but he has a good record against South Africa, and the ability to hurry up batsmen.  I think it's actually quite likely that New Zealand will take early wickets, and South Africa will need to rebuild. That will create a platform for someone like McLaren to succeed.

As far as New Zealand's batting goes, it is a bit difficult to make too many predictions.  Despite his game being suited to grounds like this, Brendon McCullum has never really been successful at this sort of ground. Neesham is opening for the first time, so that will test his technique more than coming in at 6 does, especially against Steyn, Morkel and Philander (Steyn has the second best figures at grounds like this, after Mills, with an average about 18 and an economy rate just under 5). The other interesting selection is Dean Brownlie. Brownlie is particularly good off the back foot, and has had some success against South Africa, but in every large innings that he has put together, he was dropped early (often more than once). If he gets started, he might be worth putting some money on for NZ top scorer, but I certainly wouldn't back him until he made it to 25.

The other thing to watch out for in this match will be the rain.  There may be some showers early on, but it's quite likely that there will be some serious rain in the evening. This means that there is a reasonable chance that the game will be called off early, and Duckworth-Lewis will need to be used.  I'm a big fan of the Duckworth-Lewis system, but it does hurt teams with good batting depth.  The two teams in world cricket that it works against the most are these two. As a result, the team that bats first is likely to have a slight advantage if it rains.

If I had $50 to bet on this match, I'd suggest these:

1. AB De Villiers to outscore Hashim Amla $10 at $1.92
2. Total match run outs over 1.5 $10 at $3.00
3. Faf du Plessis top South African scorer $15 at $4.50
4. Ryan McLaren top South African scorer $5 at $26.00
5. Whoever bats first to win the match $10 at what ever the odds are post toss.

(all odds from the NZ TAB at the time of writing)

Monday 13 October 2014

Maxwell joins Pringle

One of the matches that got me hooked on cricket was this one in Hobart in 1990, when Australia needed 2 runs to win going into the final over, and Chris Pringle bowled a maiden (assisted by a slightly dubious non-wide call early in the over).

Today, Glenn Maxwell has joined Pringle in the required last over maiden club by bowling Australia to victory in similar circumstances.

It was an incredible effort from Maxwell, but unfortunately, with the history of both Pakistan and of matches held in the Emirates, there is a sniff of suspicion about it.  I really hope that every player was making a genuine effort, as the result is a storybook one.

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Winning an ODI from the front

Is Cook the captain to correct England's ODI ship?
There have been a lot of debates recently about the role of the top order in an ODI. Is it more effective to come out swinging or is a more cautious approach more appropriate?

Until 1992 the expectation was that the top order's job in an ODI was to see off the new ball, and scoring at 3 an over was fine. If you look at the great opening bowlers of the 80's you will see that most of them had economy rates near 3.5 rpo. Then in the 1992 World Cup something wonderful happened. In the 10th match, New Zealand were playing South Africa, and one of New Zealand's premier batsmen, John Wright, got injured. In came Mark Greatbatch. Rather than playing the traditional openers role, he took advantage of the fielding restrictions and scored 68 off 60, including hitting Allan Donald back over his head for a 6 that landed on the roof of the stand. From this point onwards, New Zealand's approach changed, and the first 15 overs were seen as the best time to score quick runs.

In the 1995/6 Australian tri-series, Sri Lanka took that tactic to the next level. Kaluwitharana and Jayasuriya batted like whirlwinds and not long later they helped take their team to victory in the World Cup. At this point the world really stood up and took notice. The dashing opener was now the in thing. New Zealand had Astle, Australia had Gilchrist, India used Sehwag, Pakistan opened for a while with Afridi. An attacking opener had become as much a part of the game as using a spin bowler in the "boring middle overs."

But recent changes to the game, such as the different fielding restrictions at the end of the game and 2 new balls have meant that some people have questioned if going for it at the outset is such a good tactic now. Is it a better idea to keep wickets hand and "go harder, later."

The majority of this discussion has come out of England, where the roles of captain Cook, Bell and (before he dropped out of the game) Trott have been coming under increasing scrutiny. Are they batting too slow? Are they putting too much pressure on the players coming in after them?

This led me to have a look at the role of the top 3, in the past 2 years. What I wanted to know was what had the biggest impact on a team winning, the openers batting a long time, them scoring a lot of runs or them scoring at a quick run rate.

The first thing that I did was I got a list of the scores when the second wicket fell in each match in the past 2 years, and the outcomes of the matches.

The next step was to graph it, and see what came out.

First I looked to see if there was a different relationship between the overs taken and runs scored for the first 2 wickets for teams that won and teams that lost.

We can see that there is a fairly strong relationship with both graphs.

I set the intercept of the trend lines to 0, so that the gradients are effectively the run rates.

There are a few noticeable differences.  Firstly the teams that win tend to score at a higher run rate for the first 2 wickets than the teams that lose. However when I overlapped the two graphs, this difference was not as striking visually as it is numerically. (After 40 overs the trend lines are actually only 28 runs apart)

More significantly, there's a lot more data above 15 overs on the winning graph than on the losing graph. There is also a lot more instances on the winning graph where the first two wickets have contributed 150 or more runs.

I ran a quick bootstrap analysis and found that there was a statistically significant difference between both the median number of runs scored at the fall of the second wicket by the winning teams and the number of overs that they batted for.

To highlight that difference, I drew a cumulative frequency graph. The difference in the distribution of the number of overs faced by the winning and losing teams is quite striking.

That gave me some reason to search further.  It seems that there is a statistical evidence to say that there is a difference between the performances of the top 3 batsmen of teams that win and lose.

The next question was to see which made more of an impact: the number of runs, the number of overs or the rate that the runs were scored at.

To do this I ordered the innings by each of these three variables, and then looked at how many of the 9 innings surrounding each one were won and lost. This is not particularly intuitive, but it did give me some idea about the impact an increase in the variables would have on the likelihood of winning.

First I looked at run rate:

There is a trend here, but it's certainly not a strong relationship.

It's clear that increasing the run rate that the first two partnerships score at can contribute to increasing the likelihood of winning.

The important number here is the R² value of 0.35914. The closer to one this value is, the more linear the relationship is. While it is not a perfect measure of how strong a relationship is, it is a good indication.

The next graph that I looked at was the total runs scored.

This is a similar relationship, but it is clearly stronger.

The points are generally closer to the trend line and the R² value is higher (0.44074).

The data (expectedly) thins out as the number of runs increases, as it's quite rare for teams to get to 200 for the loss of only one wicket.

The R² value is less than 0.5, so there's still more of the variation that is unexplained than explained by this relationship, but again that is to be expected, as there are a lot more factors in a game than the first 3 batsmen, and it is always possible for a game to change suddenly.

The total runs scored for the first two partnerships seems so far to be a better predictor of success than the rate that they scored at.

The third factor is the one that I found the most interesting.

The relationship between the overs batted and wins looks (unsurprisingly) quite similar to the relationship between runs and wins.

The R² value for overs is lower than the corresponding value for runs, but both are higher than the relationship with run rates.

The point where the teams are winning more than they are losing are roughly 14 overs, 75 runs and 4.7 rpo respectively. These numbers start to give us an idea about what we should be looking for in an opener.

However, I wasn't totally convinced by these graphs.  I wondered if they would have turned out the same if I had chosen to look at 15 innings or 5 innings, or some other slightly different way of looking at it.  So I decided to try looking at the winning probability for individual points.  To do this I rounded the run rates to the nearest 0.1 rpo, the overs faced to the nearest over and the runs to the nearest 5 runs.

Again these graphs were quite interesting.

Visually, the strength of the relationship is indicated by the degree to which the top of the colours bars get close to trend line.

The runs and overs graphs look like they are a better fit than the run rates graph. But we can get extra evidence for the strength of fit from the R² value again.

This time the R² value for overs was significantly stronger than it was for either the run rate or the total runs.

The lower (green) graph suggests that for every extra over before the second wicket falls, the probability of winning increases by about 1.7%

Likewise, for every extra 5 runs scored, the probability of winning increases by about 1.7%

At this point I started to feel like there was some fairly significant evidence that having a top 3 that can see off the new ball is definitely the way to go.

The rate that the top order score at is important, but it doesn't seem to be as important as the number of overs that they bat for.

This makes sense for a couple of reasons. Firstly, a cricket ball is at it's most hittable when it is about 15 overs old. At this point it's still hard enough to go quickly off the bat, it has normally stopped swinging conventionally and hasn't yet started to swing unorthodoxly. The ball is the hardest to play when it is less than 10 overs old, because the ball will swing and seam, and the edges will go to hand, rather than dying as quickly as they do later on.

When the balls are 15 overs old, the match is 30 overs in.  At this point it's sensible for teams to have their best hitters at the crease.  If they are in too much before the 20th over, the hitters are being exposed to a swinging ball that makes it difficult to time their shots.

The next bit of analysis I did was to look at those 3 marks from above (14 overs, 75 runs and 4.7 rpo) and look at the difference in the results between teams that reached these milestones and teams that did not.

The outcomes were again quite interesting:

Here fast was any innings where the first two partnerships scored at more than 4.7 runs per over, big was where the second wicket fell when the score was over 75 and long was where the wicket fell after the 14th over.

The column titled "Relative" is the relative probability.  This means that teams that have their first two wickets score at more than 4.7 rpo are 37% more likely to win than teams who score slower than that.

Again we see that the biggest advantage is when the first two wickets last more than 14 overs.  It isn't a panacea, but it is important.

The final thing I did was to look at two similar skilled options, with different approaches, and see which was best.  To do this I looked at every innings where the second wicket fell between the 7th and 14th over, and the run rate was between 4.7 and 5.3 (this puts them roughly in the 2nd quartile for scoring rates and the 3rd quartile for length). I then also looked at times where the second wicket fell between the 14th and 19th over, with a run rate between 3.8 and 4.7 (which puts them roughly in the 3rd quartile for scoring rates and the second quartile for length).  Again the more cautious approach paid dividends, although this time with a much smaller sample size.

The more attacking start yielded 9 wins and 13 losses (40.9% winning record.) The more cautious start also yielded 9 wins, but only 8 losses (52.9% winning record). The difference here, however, is not statistically significant, given the low sample size. 

Putting this all together, an ideal opener is a player who averages at least 37.5 (half of 75), averages lasting 42 deliveries (half of 14 overs) and has a strike rate of at least 78.3 (equivalent to 4.7 runs per over).  If they a compromise has to be made on one of these it should be the strike rate, as that's the least important to help the team win.

So, finally, how does Alastair Cook stack up to these criteria?

At the time of writing Alastair Cook averages 37.51 runs from 48 balls at a strike rate of 77.66.

He (just) makes two of the 3 criteria, and the one that he misses out on he is very close to, and is the least important.

England have not been going well in ODI cricket recently, but Cook's batting is not the right thing to blame. The issues are clearly elsewhere.

Thursday 12 June 2014

Some stats after the first test in Jamaica

BJ Watling

BJ Watling has taken 5 dismissals again. He's now joined Parore and McCullum as the only New Zealanders to have taken 5 dismissals in an innings 4 times. Ian Smith only did it 3 times.

He also leads the way in terms of 8 dismissals in a match. He's done it 3 times now, there have only been 3 other times a kiwi has done it, Once each for Smith, Lees and McCullum. He's 5th overall for that, behind Boucher, Gilchrist, Healy and Marsh. (But they all had much longer careers)

He's taken 2.296 dismissals per innings. Nobody who has kept for more than 3 matches has managed that.

He also leads the way for NZ with the bat, averaging 47.25 when he is keeping. The next best is McCullum at 34.18, followed by Blain at 32.30, Parore at 26.94 and Smith at 25.56.

Globally he's 4th of all time, behind AB de Villiers (56.96) Andy Flower (53.70) and Adam Gilchrist (only 0.35 ahead on 47.60). The guy that has traditionally been considered the best ever is Ames, in 5th. He averaged 43.40.

NZ under McCullum

New Zealand have won 4 and lost 4 under McCullum. There have not been many New Zealand captains who had a winning record. Only Fleming, Coney and Howarth have winning records, and Fleming and Coney only by one match.

Under McCullum, they have averaged a collective 33.70, which is only slightly behind the 33.99 that NZ averaged under Wright, but they were ahead of it before they came out swinging to try and get quick runs in the second innings.

McCullum has led NZ to a score of 400 in 9 out of his 15 matches. Only Steve Waugh has a better % of getting 400s.

To put that in context, New Zealand averaged 26 under Taylor with roughly the same players, despite having played in South Africa and England under McCullum.

Boult - Southee combination

In matches where they have played together, Boult and Southee have a combined average of 24.08. This puts them close to the all time great mark (McGrath Gillespie averaged 23.02 and McGrath - Lee averaged 25.32). They are clear of New Zealand's other very good combinations - Bond & Martin averaged a collective 25.01 and Chatfield & Hadlee averaged 25.39.

Peter Fulton

Fulton has only scored 306 runs in his last 10 tests, at an average of 17. However he has still averaged about 30 since he came back, which is still quite high by NZ standards. Even with these games, and the ones where he came in earlier, he's still New Zealand's 11th highest averaging opener ever, one place ahead of Guptill.

His double hundreds against England were not flukes. He was in very good form at the time. In the 21 innings leading up to them he averaged 52.7 in first class cricket. But in the 31 innings since then he has averaged only 18.7. I think it is possible for the selectors to drop Fulton despite still keeping faith in him. They need to say "you are not in great form, but we know that you are a capable player. Go away and get some runs under your belt and we'll pick you straight away."

Wednesday 30 April 2014

Bowling in the IPL

Last year I had a look at how much wickets cost in the IPL, and devised a formula to calculate the value of a bowler in a team. I used that formula in a number of other cases throughout last year, and it seemed to bring some fairly sensible results each time, so I've decided to try it again with this years IPL as the first stage draws to a close.

Here is the top 15 bowlers, with their modified run rates. This takes into account the benefit that they have provided to the other bowlers in the team through the wickets that they have taken. I limited it to who had bowled at least 10 overs.

NameTeamOversWicketsModified Run Rate
Sandeep SharmaPunjab1172.45
VR AaronBangalore14.582.97
SP NarineKolkata2093.10
YS ChahalBangalore1973.47
SL MalingaMumbai15.373.61
AR PatelPunjab1864.06
MM SharmaChennai15.584.17
KW RichardsonRajasthan1564.40
PV TambeRajasthan2074.60
R DhawanPunjab13.244.65
R AshwinChennai17.554.65
B KumarHyderabad15.364.71
MA StarcBangalore2074.80
IC PandeyChennai1534.87
R BhatiaRajasthan1664.94

Somewhat unsurprisingly the top name in the list is the current rising star of the IPL - Sandeep Sharma.

His heady medium pace bowling has been a big part of the success that Kings XI have enjoyed. Often medium pacers can enjoy good results in limited overs cricket through consistency, But Sharma offers something more than that.

Right arm inswinger is a style of bowling that is normally only seen at the junior grades. Top senior batsmen normally develop a technique that allows them to avoid being dismissed by it, and then they can just wait for the inevitable bad delivery that slips into the pads and can be dispatched.

Sharma has managed to bowl consistently enough that he has only been hit for one leg-side boundary in 11 overs. If players are having to look on the off side for their runs from an inswing bowler then they are at risk of leaving the gate open.

If Sharma manages to continue to bowl as consistently, he could be potentially be a real force, not just for Kings XI, but also for India. He could be particularly useful in the World Cup in Australia/New Zealand where the ability to move the ball in the air is a real asset.

Saturday 15 March 2014

Is it game over if you lose more than 2 wickets in the powerplay?

I recently observed this conversation on twitter:

It immediately made me wonder if Aakash was correct. Do you lose if you are more than 2 wickets in the power play of a T20 International.

I decided to find out. I felt that it was probably best to only look at situations where a team had batted first, as there is not any external scoreboard pressure (or lack thereof) interfering with the batsmen's mind sets.

I looked at every match where there was a result inside 20 overs (I ignored matches that had ended in a super-over or bowl-off) and looked at how many wickets down the team were after 6 overs. I didn't count "retired hurt" as a wicket, despite there being a change of batsmen and the batting team losing momentum similar to when a wicket falls.

Once I did that I came up with some quite interesting numbers.

Wickets DownWinsLosesWinning %

It's fairly clear here that losing wickets early hurts the probability of winning. This is not really a surprise, often teams bat their best batsmen at the top, and the subsequent batsmen have to take fewer risks if there are not many wickets left above them. However while there are a lot of incidents of teams losing 1 or 2 wickets, our sample size is quite small for the other number of wickets. I've graphed it, adding in a 95% confidence interval. This indicates what range we can expect the actual winning probability to lie in per wicket loss: The shorter the line, the more reliable the data.

We can clearly see the trend here. But we also notice the huge gap between being 2 down and being 3 down. There does seem to be a difference between losing 2 wickets or losing more than 2 wickets.

Accordingly I broke it down into 3 groups. Less than 2 wickets, 2 wickets or More than 2 wickets. Here's how that looks:

Roughly teams win two thirds of the matches where they lose less than 2 wickets, half of the matches where they lose two wickets and about a quarter of the matches where they lose more than 2 wickets.

I also broke it down further by team, and this holds true for almost every team. The only team that has won more than half of their matches when batting first and losing more than 2 wickets in the power play is Ireland. (Interestingly Ireland has the 4th best winning record of any team batting first, and then they are not far behind Pakistan, Sri Lanka and South Africa).

Sri Lanka win just under 80% of t20's when they lose 2 or less wickets in the power play, but 20% when they lose 2 or more wickets. England win just over 60% if they keep their wickets in hand, but only 20% when they lose 3 or more in the power play.

With the World T20 getting underway, how the teams approach the first 6 overs could be a fascinating thing to keep an eye on.

Sunday 9 March 2014

Who are the most reliable 6 hitters

I noticed that the ICC have set up a new game, where you need to pick a player who is going to hit a 6.

This is an interesting option, as there are not many stats out there for how reliable batsmen are at hitting 6's. We know how many 6's a player has hit, but how regularly they hit them is another issue. For example, Aaron Finch has hit 21 sixes in the 9 matches he has played in the last 2 years. However those 21 sixes came in just 4 innings. In the other 5 matches he didn't hit any. Once he gets going he really starts to pepper the boundary. In comparison, Ziaur Rahman from Bangladesh has hit 10 sixes in the 11 matches he's played in that time. However he's hit those 10 sixes in 6 matches, meaning there are only 5 that he hasn't hit a six in. In other words Finch has hit more sixes per match, but Rahman is significantly more reliable.

As the ICC game is about either hitting a six or not, the most important stat is their reliability, not their sixes per match.

To help out anyone who is playing that game, I've compiled a list of the 6 hitting reliability of players who had played 5 or more matches in the last 2 years. I've listed everyone who has hit a 6 in 40% or more of the matches.

If you want to join my league - here's the link.

PlayerMatchesSixesInnings with a 6P(hits a 6)
SE Marsh (Aus)55480%
DR Smith (WI)916666.7%
Yuvraj Singh (India)1121763.6%
MDKJ Perera (SL)1114763.6%
AM Rahane (India)54360%
SR Watson (Aus)1430857.1%
RR Patel (Kenya)1417857.1%
MJ Guptill (NZ)1415857.1%
HD Rutherford (NZ)79457.1%
MN Waller (Zim)75457.1%
Gulbadin Naib (Afg)1112654.5%
Ziaur Rahman (Ban)1110654.5%
MEK Hussey (Aus)118654.5%
Mushfiqur Rahim (Ban)1311753.8%
BB McCullum (NZ)1726952.9%
KA Pollard (WI)1725952.9%
DJ Bravo (WI)19181052.6%
MN Samuels (WI)1626850%
MJ Lumb (Eng)1213650%
R Gunasekera (Can)84450%
JL Ontong (SA)66350%
MW Machan (Scot)64350%
CH Gayle (WI)1526746.7%
DA Warner (Aus)1522746.7%
LMP Simmons (WI)1112545.5%
MR Swart (Neth)1112545.5%
DA Miller (SA)117545.5%
AD Hales (Eng)2018945%
AJ Finch (Aus)921444.4%
Ahmed Shehzad (Pak)1614743.8%
Mahmudullah (Ban)1412642.9%
Mohammad Shahzad (Afg)1411642.9%
Asghar Stanikzai (Afg)75342.9%
LJ Wright (Eng)1920842.1%
DT Johnston (Ire)129541.7%
Shakib Al Hasan (Ban)127541.7%
Mohammad Hafeez (Pak)25201040%
GJ Bailey (Aus)2016840%
F du Plessis (SA)1511640%
RS Bopara (Eng)1010440%
NJ O'Brien (Ire)52240%

Thursday 6 March 2014

Who should win the NZ cricket awards

I was asked by Tony Veitch to put together some stats for the different awards on offer for the New Zealand Cricket Awards tonight.

I could have just brought up a list of averages, but that's really not the CricketGeek style, so I decided to delve into things a little more closely.

One of the difficult things in cricket statistics is to compare bowling success with batting success. For example, which is better taking 5/84 or scoring 172? We need a device to compare the two disciplines.

I decided to compare each player's year with the historical averages for their position. For example, for batting I compared the batting average with year end batting averages throughout history. I had a cut off of 10 innings, as making a cut off much higher than that excludes too many players, as most teams play less than 10 tests per year. I then compared a player's average to the historical average of averages, and the standard deviation of averages to generate a z-score. (For more on Z-scores, see This NFL blog post)

I used batting average and bowling average for test cricket, as really what we care about is scoring runs and taking wickets. I wasn't totally happy with the results, as there was no advantage for the players who had maintained a high standard over a number of games, rather than just one. (James Neesham, for example, averaged 171 this season, but only over one match).  I first filtered out anyone who hadn't either batted in 10 matches or who had bowled less than 100 overs. Then I multiplied the z-score by the square root of the number of innings that they had applied their skill in, in order to get a fairer list. It only caused a couple of positional changes, but the new lists looked more appropriate.

Here's the test lists.

Player - SkillAverageRanking
LRPL Taylor - batting81.6012.3
BB McCullum - batting52.735.0
TG Southee - bowling20.073.8
TA Boult - bowling22.363.6
KS Williamson - batting47.213.4
BJ Watling - batting42.272.0
N Wagner - bowling30.421.1
CJ Anderson - bowling30.541.0
CJ Anderson - batting32.70-0.3
TA Boult - batting32.25-0.4

I would give the award to Ross Taylor. He scored 816 runs at an average of 81.60. He past 50 in half of his innings. McCullum, Southee, Boult and Williamson all had great years, but Taylor's average really makes his numbers stand out.

Next I looked at the ODI lists.

Here I decided to use the batting and bowling index developed by S Rajesh from Cricinfo (and me separately). Again I compared the players index to the historical data.

Here's the list:

Player - SkillIndexRanking
CJ Anderson - batting 84.4816.1
LRPL Taylor - batting 43.776.9
MJ Guptill - batting 44.226.4
KS Williamson - batting 39.044.7
MJ McClenaghan - bowling 23.871.1
NL McCullum - batting 26.230.9
JDS Neesham - bowling 23.690.8
CJ Anderson - bowling 24.850.7
KD Mills - bowling 25.970.7
L Ronchi - batting 22.93-0.1

Again a batsman takes the title. This, however was not particularly surprising. Anderson was immense with the bat, and generally the games were played on high-scoring pitches, which don't really flatter bowling statistics.

For the T20 award I used batting index, but my own metric for bowling. In a previous post I showed how each wicket worked out to roughly 5 runs in a t20. Accordingly we can take 5 runs off a bowler's total for every wicket they have taken. They then get a modified run rate. I used this to compare the NZ players' years to the historical data. This is a little less relevant, as there is not a lot of historical data (about 1/10 the quantity of test and ODI information) and also New Zealand only played 6 matches, so the sample size is very small.

Here is the list:

Player - SkillIndex/Modified run rateRanking
L Ronchi - batting221.1114.7
BB McCullum - batting101.084.1
AF Milne - bowling2.752.9
AP Devcich - batting73.341.7
C Munro - batting60.041.5
JDS Neesham - bowling5.000.5
JD Ryder - batting44.020.0
NL McCullum - batting42.25-0.1
NL McCullum - bowling5.64-0.3
HD Rutherford - batting40.02-0.3

Luke Ronchi is a bit of a surprise here, but I remember looking up his stats and being surprised as to how effective he has been in t20s recently. During the course of the year he averaged 133 at a strike rate of 166. Those are quite ridiculous numbers.

The last major prize left is the Sir Richard Hadlee Medal, for the best overall. For me that goes to Brendon McCullum. He managed to attract the attention of the whole nation with his 300, and he also captained the side particularly well across all the formats. There would be a fair argument for Taylor and Anderson, but for me, McCullum needs to be acknowledged some how, and that award seems appropriate.

Who would you give the overall award to?

Sunday 9 February 2014

Mini-session Analysis 1st Test NZvInd, Eden Park 2013/14

Here is the final mini-session analysis for the first test between New Zealand and India at Eden Park, Auckland

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.

Monday 13 January 2014

The McCullum Conundrum

There seems to be a regular pattern to cricket related chat in New Zealand. It often refers to Brendon McCullum.

A number of people want him dropped. They mention that he has only scored 1 hundred in the past 3 years. That he averages in the low 30's in test cricket and that he's too arrogant.

A roughly equal number of people want him to remain in the team, talking about how "form is temporary, class is permanent" and mentioning his successive fifties against England, his double century in India and his good captaincy.

While engaging in one of these fruitless (but fun) discussions, I noticed something surprising in his numbers. His away form has been horrible recently, but his home form has been remarkably good.

Here's what I mean. He has played exactly the same number of tests both home and away. In 41 tests at home McCullum has scored 2531 runs at a respectable average of 41.49. However, in 41 tests away he has scored 2153 runs at a much more pedestrian 29.90.

That's a fairly significant difference, but it wasn't always like this. Up until the end of 2010 his numbers were fairly similar. It's only since then that things have changed.

Home Away
Year Matches Runs Average Matches Runs Average
2004-2010 29 1669 37.93 27 1563 36.34
2011-2013 12 862 50.71 14 590 20.34

His career progress in terms of home and away is visually quite interesting.  Here are a couple of graphs to show the difference:

If we break it down by year we also see something interesting:

We can see that there has been a big difference in average per year at home and away from 2011 onwards.

This isn't due to the teams that he has played either.  In that time McCullum has played Zimbabwe, England, South Africa and West Indies both home and away, and has played against Pakistan at home, and Sri Lanka, Australia and Bangladesh away. There is no particular difference in the strength of his opponents at home and away in that time.

I also looked at a weighted 7 match average. This is where I look at an average for 2 games either side of a match, and 3 games either side of a match and average those two averages. It's a reasonable guide to the form that a batsman is in, and it normally covers 12-14 innings, so it is a reasonably reliable guide.  Again I broke it up into home and away.

We can see here that his career was tracking along similar lines for a long time, but then they started to split. The latest weighted average is at just over 57 for home matches, and just under 16 for away matches.

If McCullum was able to replicate his home form away from home, there would be no more questions asked about his place in the side.

I wondered if part of the difference was due to where he batted. He has moved around the order a bit recently, and wondered if he was more likely to play in positions that didn't suit him away than at home.

However I quickly checked his averages at different positions options, and found that there was a significant difference in his average at home and away for every group of batting positions. As an opener he averages 51.80 at home and 32.13 away. Batting from 3-5 he averages 37.40 at home and 30.57 away. In the lower order (6-9) he averages 41.26 at home and 27.72 away.

The question then remains as to what he can do about it. How does he become good at batting in conditions he can't practice in?

One option is to play a season of first class cricket as an overseas player.  He has played 3 matches in his career as an overseas pro, in 2007, and was quite successful, but picked up an injury doing so.

The difficulty is finding somewhere that takes overseas players, and plays their first class cricket when NZ is not playing, where the standard is high enough to be useful. Martin Guptill played second division cricket in England, and dominated, but that did not translate to his test game improving significantly.

Given that he's captain, it makes it more difficult for him to be able to find time to play in England also. But that does bring another question. Is the difference due to captaincy? Are the difficulties of captaining a side on tour affecting his game?

This is a difficult question to answer initially, as he wasn't captain at the start of his career when he was going well, but he also wasn't captain all the time when his away form started to dive. I first of all looked at the over all numbers, which are quite different. When he was not captain, he averaged 39.11 at home and 32.55 away. When he is captain his numbers are truly astounding. His home average is 59.85, while his away average is 15.18. However, if we just look at the matches where he was not captain since 2011, his averages are 44.30 at home and 23.50 away. It seems as if the impact of captaincy is exaggerated due to the fact that he is captain at a time where he is already struggling away from home. Also his away matches as captain have been against South Africa, England and Bangladesh. McCullum has struggled against left-arm spin at times, so Bangladesh, with 3 left arm spinners, is hardly the best tour option for him personally. (Just under half of his dismissals as a captain have been to left arm spin bowlers) Also England and South Africa are two of the more difficult places to tour.

If Brendon McCullum can find his form away from home, he is capable of becoming one of New Zealand's greatest ever captains. He has at his disposal probably the most solid batting line up New Zealand has ever produced combined with what is turning into one of the most lethal opening bowling attacks ever.  It may be worth playing a tour without him, in order to get him to play some serious first class cricket overseas and allow him to improve his away game.

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Mini-session Analysis, 2nd test, Pakistan vs Sri Lanka, Dubai 2013/14

Here is the final mini-session analysis for the second test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka at Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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.

Monday 6 January 2014

Don't steal Corey Anderson's moment

Michael Jeh is a fantastic writer. When I see that he has written an article, I often read it.

Recently he wrote an article about the New Zealand - West Indies match in Queenstown, in it he suggested that Corey Anderson's innings was more a case of bad bowling than good batting. He even suggested that the game contained "possibly an unofficial record for the most full tosses bowled (including junior cricket!)"

I hadn't had a chance to see the innings before reading the article, and so I naturally assumed that Anderson's innings had involved him hitting a number of full tosses for 6. I was quite surprised, therefore, when I watched the highlights that I didn't notice a single full toss before he got to 100.

A few days later, I had a chance to sit down and watch the game closely, and actually see if Jeh's criticism was valid. Not every ball is shown on the highlights, so I wanted to be careful to not judge his article based on the work of the Sky editors.

After watching it I noticed a few things.

There are a few reasons I can think of why a bowler will deliver a full toss. Here is a list of some possible reasons:

  • Perhaps they decided that a particular batsman has trouble with full tosses. 
  • Perhaps they want to bowl a slower ball, and they know that slower balls are much more effective if the batsmen are attacking them. As a result a wide half-volley or a full toss often pick up wickets. 
  • A good tactic for spin bowler who sees a batsman charging down the wicket is to throw in a flat full toss. The batsman often ends up just hitting the ball straight back to the bowler.
  • Perhaps they just executed a yorker/full ball badly.
  • A bowler who has been hit a number of times sometimes just wants to get through their over, and doesn't focus as much on where the ball lands.
Some of these are a result of poor skills, but some of them are actually caused in reaction to the batsmen. It is important that we identify which is which before we criticize too harshly.

Jesse Ryder has a history of getting out to full tosses. It is not a good idea to bowl one every ball to him, but it is a valid tactic to occasionally bowl one to him, especially outside off stump, where he has a tendency to mistime them and hit them at catching height to cover. This is a risky tactic, and not one you would try every delivery, but it is a valid option occasionally.

Corey Anderson, however, doesn't have a reputation as a bowler who is likely to get out to a full toss. He is possible only behind James Franklin and Colin de Grandhomme in his ruthlessness at dealing with full tosses.

The first 5 full tosses were all bowled to Ryder. The first one was in the 9th over. There was not a single full toss in the first 53 balls. The first one was mistimed for a single. In the next over the West Indians bowled another. It was also mistimed for a single. A couple of overs later Ryder received two in a row. He hit the first for 4, but failed to score off the next one.

About 3 overs later Ryder received another full toss, and again managed only a single off it.

The first full toss that Anderson received was the ball immediately following him bringing up his hundred. There was not a single full toss in the 36 balls that he took to get to 101.

Ryder got 2 more full tosses. The first he managed to score 2 off and the second one dismissed him. Ryder scored 9 runs and was dismissed off the 7 full tosses that he faced. Off the other 44 balls he scored 95 runs. Overall Ryder scored at a higher rate off the balls that bounced than off the ones that didn't.

Anderson received 4 full tosses. He hit two of them for 6 and two of them for 2.

Overall the "unofficial record for the most full tosses bowled" is apparently 11. Only 2 of those 11 were in the first half of the innings. They were a result of good batting, putting the bowlers under pressure and getting them to go searching. 

They also didn't actually contribute that significantly to the overall score. Anderson and Ryder scored 25 runs off the 11 full tosses. This equates to 2.27 per ball. Off their other 87 balls they scored 210 runs, or 2.41 per ball.

The bowling performance by the West Indies may not have been the best ever, but the real story was the extraordinary batting. To focus on the bowlers bowing too many full tosses is to steal the glory that Corey Anderson and Jesse Ryder richly deserve. It is a disappointing angle for such a high quality writer to take, and makes me wonder if it would have been taken if it had been Warner or Dilshan scoring the runs.