Here you will find detailed analysis highlighted from the CricViz app.

ENGLAND’S TOUGH ASSIGNMENT

England know full well the perils of facing Pakistan after a successful home summer. In 2005 they suffered a 2-0 defeat in Pakistan that showed the team that had regained the Ashes had reached its peak. They were whitewashed in a three-match series in 2012, a few months after claiming top spot in the ICC Test Rankings.

Injuries and a lack of preparation were major factors in those defeats, but if a degree of complacency had crept into the tourists’ mind-sets, it will surely not be repeated this time around. Pakistan are unbeaten in their last seven Test series in UAE. Only Australia, in 2002, have won a Test series against Pakistan in the Emirates. This will be the 10th series held there.

New Zealand fought back to draw a series last November, but that came hot on the heels on one of the most one-sided series in recent times. In winning both Tests against Australia, Pakistan recorded their largest run-margin Test win (356 runs at Abi Dhabi) and nine centuries, the most by a team in a two-Test series.

Australia averaged 25.7 with the bat in that series and 80.2 with the ball, a month of toil that hinted at their problems in unfamiliar conditions which persisted this Ashes summer. England’s bowling stood up well on their UAE visit in 2012 – Pakistan’s average of 25.8 runs per wicket was their second lowest in their 10 UAE Test series.

Unfortunately for the visitors their batting was fragile, producing totals of 192, 160, 327, 72, 141 and 252. Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman took 24 and 19 wickets respectively, hauls which create alarm bells for an England batting unit that rarely looked at ease against orthodox spinner Nathan Lyon this summer. Legspinner Yasir Shah – 31 wickets in his last four Tests – will be licking his lips.

ENGLAND CATCHING ON

When the England squad headed to Spain for a pre-series training camp it was derided as a holiday by the Australians. Some form of team bonding was required by a team that had only just been introduced to new coach Trevor Bayliss, but it became clear that their Almeria trip was far more than a jaunt in the sun.

In his post-match interviews at Trent Bridge Alastair Cook placed heavy emphasis on the fielding preparation done in Spain. The slip cordon became settled and hard work was done, with the captain keen to point out how much catching practice was conducted.

The rewards are clear – England have saved more runs through their fielding than Australia. CricViz measures the fielding actions of both teams in each game, producing a run value that their fielding has had on the opposition’s score. The use of projected averages and a detailed rating system allows the accurate measurement of fielding impact.

Australia recorded negative fielding scores in each of the first four Tests, combining to produce a total of -124. England saved runs in three of these four Tests, heading to The Oval with a fielding score of +67.

Fielding impact (runs)EnglandAustralia
Cardiff84-26
Lord's-133-58
Edgbaston41-2
Trent Bridge75-38
Total67-124

The worst fielding score of the series so far was England’s -133 at Lord’s, part of a performance where nearly everything went wrong. England showed they could bounce back better from a nightmare performance than Australia, and this was especially true in their fielding.

They dropped just one chance at Edgbaston – a difficult opportunity that flew high through the slips – and were flawless in the first innings at Trent Bridge. Not only was every catch opportunity taken, but no ground fielding errors were recorded in Australia’s 111-ball procession.

With the urn within reach chances were spilled in the second innings, but the work done in Spain was evident. Ben Stokes and Joe Root pulled off memorable diving efforts and whilst Steven Smith did something similar for the tourists, it was an act of defiance that did not represent the team’s fielding standards.

CRICKETELLIGENCE

Few words have invoked such derision within cricket as ‘cricketainment’ – which is, if you can distance yourself from the pious conservatism of much of cricket’s commentariat, rather strange.

‘Cricketainment’ can be said to have begun almost innocently way back in 2003 in England in the Twenty20 Cup. Hugh Chevallier recalled in the Wisden Almanack, “jacuzzis, fairground rides, bouncy castles, face painting, barbecue zones, boy bands, girl bands—you name it, it was there as a sideshow.” It has spawned from these modest beginnings to encapsulate essentially anything seen to be ‘adding’ to the entertainment of the cricket.

But what cricketainment represents—beyond the admittedly sad depreciation of cricket’s perceived commercial value without such epiphenomena—is an attempt to expand cricket’s audiences and grow its revenue. Which is, like it or not, principally one of the main objectives of cricket administrators in the fiercely competitive capitalist jungle that is modern sport and leisure.

Cricket is not a simple game and it never will be – its laws are voluminous and complex, its language confusing and contradictory, its traditions myriad and bizarre; and cricket is in far more than merely competition with itself – namely other leisure pursuits, and a rebranding of its image via cricketainment is not only logical but perhaps even advisable, especially so in an age of brevity and distraction.
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Cricket’s problem with cricketainment should not be cricketainment itself, but rather the effects cricketainment has on other aspects of the game’s presentation.

Cricketainment’s influence has been pervasively significant. Although it has directly impacted T20 most conspicuously it has broadly devalued the essence of all cricket to make the sport itself merely another wheel within the machine ‘product’ that cricket has fast become.

Television coverage of almost all international cricket is fiercely oligopolistic. Very few channels, which themselves are subsidiaries of even fewer owners, namely Zee Entertainment, News International and Disney, dominate the global cricketscape. So intwined are the fortunes of these owners with the ‘product’ of cricket given the money invested in it, that coverage and promotion are becoming one of the same.

Cricket is increasingly commentated on as an entertainment first, and a sport second. This coverage is pervasive. Only some areas of the written media, and to an extent English broadcasters, BBC and Sky Sports, have escaped the black hole of hyperbolic, trash-talk more interested in trivialising than teaching. That is not to say the trivialisers are wrong and the teachers right, rather they are different. Harsha Bhogle, speaking to ESPNcricinfo’s ‘The Huddle’ during the 2013 IPL explained the rationale behind excitable modern commentary.

“A lot of the research is showing that all of us who like to believe that we are very knowledgable and know everything that is happening around the game…we are in a very tiny minority. That most people who watch cricket [on TV] have not actually been inside a stadium, so they don’t even know the layouts of stadiums, they don’t know the geography they don’t know what moving backward square leg a touch finer is and they are the majority. That’s what research is saying. Which is why all our promos are about fours, sixes and wickets! With the amount of cricket there is and attention spans getting shorter and the non-core viewers coming in and out…they are looking for fours, sixes and wickets.”

Given the inaccessibility of cricket to first-time and early viewers, cricketainment is a useful, perhaps integral tool in cricket’s future. But so too is what we could call ‘cricketelligence’ – the in-depth analysis and evaluation of the game itself, and there is no doubt the latter has been tarnished by the former in cricket’s headlong pursuit for more money. 3161166

It’s perhaps easy to believe that beneath the vernacular of contemporary cricket coverage, from the commentary box to the newspaper column to the Twitter storm, the game itself has become more unsubtle and more vacuous. In fact, the opposite is the case.

While at every visible level cricket is lobotomising itself; at every invisible level cricket is intellectualising itself. Forget the administrators, forget the media, forget the fans, forget just for a moment, everything but the game, and the game itself has never been more fascinating. A grand coalescence of globalisation, modernisation and technological development have accelerated and radicalised the depth, breadth and scope of analysis and intellect within the game to levels never before reached. With every passing day cricket becomes more interesting to follow.

In August 2011, an interview with England’s analyst, Nathan Leamon in The Sunday Times revealed the depth of cricket’s cyber advancement. Leamon, a former Cambridge mathematician, revealed how he had built a computer program that using deep and exhaustive historical data simulated hundreds of possible scenarios of matches to enable England to gain a tactical advantage over their opponents.

“We feed into the simulator information about pitches and the 22 players who might play, and it plays the game a number of times and tells us the likely outcomes,” Leamon said. “It helps us in strategy and selection. I’ve checked the program against more than 300 Tests and it is accurate to within 4-5%.”

Leamon is at the forefront of such analysis and it is spreading around the world with similar, real-time data tools beginning to be utilised in the IPL. Indeed, it could be argued that T20, with its emphasis on the finest of fine margins, is the format where deep data-analytics is more valuable than any other. According to AR Srikkanth, Kolkata Knight Riders data analyst, “T20s have made data analysis more complex.” he said in 2013. “For instance, for a batsman, a release shot – a stroke that follows a couple of dot balls – has become very important, so you have to let a bowler know what a release shot usually is.”

Crucially this intense level of analysis has not yet made it to the coverage of cricket, especially in the telecast. In an age in which administrators are very eager to point out “revenue streams” cricketainment gets one stream flowing but builds a Danny Morrison-sized dam to cut off another.

If, as is often pointed out, cricket is being run like a business, then it is being run like a very bad one. A good business would maximise profits. In ostracising its oldest and keenest followers cricket isn’t doing that. There remains a huge and high-value market in deep-level analytics. Cricket, immersed in numbers and obsessed by statistics is sitting on a gold mine.

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ESPNcricinfo have begun the shift. Their live-scorecards recently have included “control” statistics for batsmen and more nuanced pitch-maps and wagon-wheels, their Statsguru tool is also being updated. Wisden India have teamed up with Impact Index while WASP, poorly explained and widely misunderstood, does feature on one or two broadcasts. CricViz is another revolutionary chapter in this crucial struggle.

A struggle—not to rid the game of cricketainment, but to counter it with cricketelligence—that could well shape the future of the game. Cricketainment v Cricketelligence represents the conflict between cricket as entertainment and cricket as sport.

Freddie Wilde is a freelance cricket journalist. 

1ST ASHES TEST ANALYSIS

FIELDING COMPARISON

With two well-matched sides, each batting and bowling well, to a large degree the deciding factor in the series opener was the quality of their fielding in the first innings. In a game where both sides got a number of half-chances, England were sharp and clung onto theirs, Australia spilt a few and suffered as a result.   The difference between the impact of the two sides’ fielding in the first innings was 113 runs, almost the entire 1st innings lead that gave England control of the match.

Eng Fielding ScoresAus Fielding Scores
1st Innings51-62
2nd Innings3336

At the end of Australia’s first innings WinViz had England at nearly 70% to win the match.

Take away the 113 runs between the teams’ fielding and the situation would have been different. England would still have had a small edge – Australia still had to bat last on a wearing wicket – but it would have been far more evenly poised contest.

1st-Test-CricViz-Analysis-WinViz-2

AUSTRALIA’S AGGRESSION AGAINST SPIN

Australia pursued a policy of aggression against the English spinners, but in doing so lost 7 wickets for 158, including 4 key top order wickets to Moeen Ali. Australia’s record against spin overseas has been poor in recent years, and Ali was the bowler against whom they underperformed most in this match.

Test Avg Overseas – since 2010
SpinPace
Aus30.732.3
Eng35.230.8

From the Hawkeye data, BatViz predicts that an average Test batsman would have attacked 39% of the balls bowled by English spinners in Cardiff. The Australians attacked almost exactly half. On this occasion, the strategy hurt them considerably.   With long periods when there was little assistance for the spinners from the pitch, BatViz estimates that an average Test side should have averaged 45 against spin in this match, but instead Australia lost their wickets at 22.6.

Australians v Spin in Cardiff
BatViz PredictionActual
Batting Avg45.122.6
Attacking %39%50%

DIFFERENT APPROACHES FROM THE TWO SETS OF BOWLERS

CricViz’s analysis of the two pace attacks shows that while both sides bowled well in Cardiff, they did so in slightly different ways. Australia bowled slightly quicker, and swung the ball more in the air.

England in contrast, were able to get more movement off the wicket (often through the use of cutters) and were far more accurate. Australia were able to induce slightly more mistakes from the batsman, England did so in more dangerous areas.

FLUCTUATIONS IN THE CONDITIONS

With little pace or life in the surface, the pitch became more of a new ball wicket as the match went on.

BatViz Predicted Average by phase of innings
BallsInn 1Inn 2Inn 3Inn 4
5027.522.233.521.7
10027.632.326.734.3
15024.338.639.135.3
20031.545.641.735.0
25033.337.136.040.7
30032.439.734.149.5
35035.649.436.936.8
40037.633.231.838.5
48031.841.825.3
53028.623.5

On the first day, under cloudy skies, the ball swung for most of the day, and batting although slightly easier after the first two hours, remained difficult all day. As you can see from the graph, England’s new ball spells were more potent, but as the ball stopped swinging they were unable to sustain the threat to the batsman that Australia had in more helpful conditions on Day 1.

PLAYVIZ

This was a high quality encounter. An excellent Australian side buoyed by recent successes, and a good, young England side playing in their home conditions. As we can see from the PlayViz output, the general standard of play was very high.

1st-Test-CricViz-Analysis-PlayViz-1

Over the course of the match, England’s batting was 79 runs better than an average Test side’s under the same conditions, their bowling 81 runs better and the quality of their fielding was worth another 84 runs.

Australia’s bowlers were outstanding, 150 runs better than a typical attack, but they were let down by their fielding, particularly in the first innings. The Australian batting, whilst 17 runs better than a par Test side, was also down on their usual performance levels.