CricViz Analysis: Using Reviews

Ben Jones analyses how Test teams use their reviews.

It was one of a few moments which defined the climax to the Headingley Test. Nathan Lyon, down on his haunches, imploring the umpire to give Ben Stokes out, the Englishman struck on the pad by a spinning, drifting delivery, plumb in front. Lyon’s hands waved, he sunk lower into his stances, then as the penny dropped that Umpire Wilson would remain unmoved, he fell backwards.

It looked dead – it was dead. DRS replays confirm that had Australia reviewed the decision, they would have had their man. Except, of course, they didn’t review it, because they couldn’t. They had wasted their final remaining review on a speculative call in the previous over, an LBW appeal for Jack Leach which even to the naked eye pitched well outside leg. Australia’s desperation to win lost them the match.

An umpiring error was to blame, primarily, but Australia’s misuse of the review cost them the match just as clearly. Reviews, whether you like it or not, are a skill like any other. Some teams are good at it, some teams aren’t, just like slip catching, in-fielding, and getting the ball to reverse.

The irony is that over the last two years, Australia have actually been rather solid at reviews, among the best in the world when it comes to overall success. 28% of their reviews have led to the decision being reversed, the same figure as the average for all teams. That places them as the fourth best reviewing side in the world, just below the leading trio of West Indies, England, and Pakistan.

When you look just at batting reviews, Australia are similarly bang in the middle. On average, if a batsman is given out and he reviews it, there’s a 35% chance it’ll be overturned, and again Australia just match this figure. Bangladesh have an astonishingly good record in terms of overturning decisions.

As a fielding unit, if you review a decision then 22% of the time you’ll have it overturned. Australia are below that rate, but only slightly. They have form for being better than Cummins/Paine/Leach incident.

These international numbers can be skewed of course, and don’t offer a completely foolproof way to assess this as a skill. Speculative reviews at the end of innings could alter things, but over a large enough sample you’d suggest that such opportunities will smooth over any anomalies.

The point is that just like any other skill, the ability to review well can degrade under pressure. Players with otherwise bucket hands can shell the softest chance when there are 10 runs to win, batsman can miss straight ones when the heat is on. Just like that, a player’s ability to judge a review well is decreased under pressure. Which is what happened on Sunday.

Perhaps it’s time then that players took this more seriously. Are teams practising reviewing? Are batsmen being bombarded in the nets with deliveries targeting their pads, being asked to make a call on if it’s hitting? Are bowlers watching their deliveries back and being forced to re-assess their heated initial decisions. Is there any level of training at all for a skill which could, as we saw at Headingley, decide matches, define careers? Perhaps there is, but some teams are still significantly better than others. In a sporting landscape of aggregated marginal gains, of stealing a march on your opponents wherever you can, this feels a small new area for savvy teams to get ahead. Tim Paine might agree.

Ben Jones is an analyst at CricViz.

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5 replies
  1. Dave
    Dave says:

    Ben do you know how this translates into wickets/wickets per match?

    Also have you got anything on standard of umpiring? Ie. Number of overall decisions that were and would have been wrong (including both where reviews weren’t used because of a misjudgement or reviews having run out). And umpire rankings?

  2. John Cray
    John Cray says:

    While I am not talking about this contentious decision alone, wouldn’t cricket be better off if all decisions could benefit from being reviewed like in runouts? At the end of the day cricket is not a game of choosing your reviews wisely so why hamper the game with restrictions on their usage? I know there are arguments saying that it would unnecessarily drag the game along, but is there any feasible alternative to the current system? Maybe dock the captain’s fees for stupid reviews?

  3. Looc
    Looc says:

    Umpiring errors are becoming significant, so much so that it affects the results of the games.
    Error do not give justice to both winning and losing team. England’s wins recently seems like umpiring errors helped them. It takes away the shine off those wins, and some may even believe that they didn’t deserve the win.
    LBW decisions may be made by video evidence, just like run outs. Or, increase the number of reviews drastically. The delay due to this, will be well compensated by truthful results.

  4. Matt
    Matt says:

    This one wasn’t an umpiring error. When you watch the slow mo you can see that the first impact after pitching was on Stokes’ front pad and that the ball hardly turned. After hitting the front pad, it deflected onto his back leg and that’s where Hawkeye registered the contact. If Hawkeye had registered the first contact, it would’ve predicted that the ball would’ve missed leg stump.

    Jim Maxwell tweeted something about this yesterday.

    My view is that for all the challenges that have faced him this series, Joel Wilson was spot on this time around.

    The bigger question here is, just how accurate is Hawkeye, not whether skippers are using the review system effectively enough.


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