ANALYSING BOWLING SPEED

NB: All speeds are in miles per hour. 

In T20 cricket bowlers changing their speed is one of their key weapons. Adjustments in pace can disrupt the rhythm of a batsman’s swing and force them out of control of their shot.

Beyond a bowler’s average speed and fastest and slowest balls, there are very few methods by which to quantify and analyse bowling speed.

The best illustration of how a bowler uses changes in speed is a simple line graph, such as the one shown below for Rajat Bhatia’s bowling for Rising Pune Supergiants against Mumbai Indians in Match 1 of the 2016 IPL.

From this graph we can see that Bhatia’s speeds hovered between 65 mph and 70 mph for his first 11 deliveries before he changed it up regularly for his last 13 deliveries, dropping to almost 50 mph and reaching towards 70 mph.

Basic analysis of Bhatia’s bowling is displayed in the table below.

BowlerAverage SpeedMedian SpeedFastest BallSlowest BallRange
Rajat Bhatia62.2865.7070.3152.3917.92

The table tells us that Bhatia had a significant pace range of 17.92 mph, however, it does not tell us how often or by how much he varied his speed.

Closer analysis of Bhatia’s bowling enables further quantification of his bowling speed on more detailed metrics, displayed in the table below.

BowlerSlower BallsFaster BallsMedian Speed Change
Rajat Bhatia933.83

For this analysis we are considering slower balls to be deliveries that are 7.50% slower than the bowler’s median speed and faster balls to be deliveries that are 5.00% faster than the bowler’s median speed. 7.50% is used for slower balls and 5.00% for faster balls because bowlers generally operate closer to their maximum speed than their minimum speed. We are using median speed as the benchmark figure because it is a better representation of the most common speed than the average which is skewed by outliers.

So, in Bhatia’s case, slower balls are deliveries that are 4.92 mph below 65.70 mph and faster balls are deliveries that are 3.28 mph above 65.70 mph. The slower and faster ball data tell us that Bhatia bowled nine balls 7.50% slower than his median pace and three 5.00% faster. This corresponds with the illustration in the line graph with Bhatia’s troughs outnumbering his peaks.

The median speed change figure displayed in the table above tells us how much a bowler varies his speed from delivery to delivery. This is an important figure because it quantifies the extent of variation from ball-to-ball rather than against a median or average figure.

The median speed change is calculated by finding the speed change from one delivery to the next, ignoring positives and negatives, and then finding the median figure of those differences. Median is preferable to average because average is skewed by significant changes in pace and is therefore less representative of typical speed change.

These two sets of data: slower and faster balls and median speed change enable a comprehensive assessment of bowling speed.

The number of slower balls and faster balls reveals how often a bowler makes significant changes of pace while the median speed change reveals how much a bowler changes his speed each ball.

When analysing median speed change it is more helpful to look the change as a percentage of the bowler’s median speed because that places the change in the context of that bowler’s regular speed. In Bhatia’s case therefore, his median speed change of 3.83 is divided by his median speed of 65.70 and multiplied by 100 to give a figure of 5.82. In the chart below this is displayed as Speed Change Rating.

SCR enables comparisons of speed change between bowlers regardless of their median pace and would allow us to ascertain which bowler changes his speed the most from ball-to-ball. This data could be analysed with regards to a single bowling spell, innings, tournament, or career.

Using the methods described above we have analysed four more bowling performances that have been hand-picked to illustrate different uses of bowling speed.

BowlerSlower BallsFaster BallsSpeed Change Rating
Rajat Bhatia935.82
Ishant Sharma203.17
Harbhajan Singh276.63
Mustafizur Rahman276.12
Adam Milne301.80

Ishant Sharma’s SCR of 3.17 indicates he changed his speed slightly ball-on-ball. The graph below shows a number of balls delivered below his median pace but only two were slow enough to register as slower balls.

Harbhajan Singh has the highest SCR of the five bowlers, indicating he changed his pace regularly and significantly and this is supported by the line graph. He favoured bowling quicker balls to slower balls.

Mustafizur Rahman is famed for changing his pace regularly and that is supported by the data which gives him the second highest SCR of the five bowlers. Interestingly the data has him bowling more faster balls than slower balls – this is perhaps because he is a seam bowler who regularly operates below his maximum speed.

Adam Milne’s SCR of 1.80 indicates he very rarely changed his pace, and the graph below supports that. The graph, with five troughs, does suggest that Milne bowled five slower balls, not three, but those two balls, recorded as 82.63 and 82.86 mph were not 7.50% slower than his median speed of 88.45 mph.

***

It is important to note that SCR, displayed without slower and faster ball data, could be misleading. For example, if a bowler’s first 11 balls were all of varying speeds but the remaining 13 deliveries all a very similar pace, that bowler would have a low SCR because their median change would be very low, despite almost half their deliveries representing significant changes in pace. This is because SCR is designed to show a bowler’s most common speed change ball-to-ball, not an average speed change. When SCR is displayed alongside slower and faster balls a comprehensive analysis of a bowler’s speed is given.

Freddie Wilde is an analyst at CricViz. 

Match 10: Brisbane Heat v Hobart Hurricanes

Match Analysis | Freddie Wilde

Full to Short 

For the second time in as many matches D’Arcy Short was bowled by a full length delivery, having faced just two full balls in his debut innings of 61 against Sydney Sixers in Match 4. This BBL season he has scored 25-2 (18) when playing front foot shots – well below his season strike rate of 186.

Heat restrict Hurricanes 

The average first innings score at the Gabba last season was 184 and with a particularly short boundary on one side of the ground in this match, a competitive score was arguably nearer 200. The Brisbane Heat therefore did well to restrict the Hobart Hurricanes to 173 for 9 and the hard work to do that was largely put in in the first eleven overs of the innings, in which they restricted the Hurricanes to 85 for 4.

The two standout performers for the Heat were Samuel Badree, who had bowled his four overs by the eleventh over, taking 1 for 26, and Mark Steketee who had bowled three of his four at that stage, taking 2 for 20. That they bowled five of the six Powerplay overs, Badree with three and Steketee two, makes their figures all the more impressive. Across both their four over quotas they only conceded one boundary each.

Badree bowled with good control of his line and length, taking 1 for 12 from his 16 full length balls.

Steketee landed 12 of his 26 balls on a full length, taking 2 for 5 from them. However he conceded 21 from the 11 deliveries that pitched shorter than a full length.

Hurricanes squeeze out 173

The Hurricanes’ innings was a strange one with 84 for 4 after eleven overs and a top-score of 33 amounting to a final total of 173. That they eventually scrambled to as many as they did is largely testament to the quality of the pitch—all of the boundaries were clean-hits—but also to some wayward bowling. Heat conceded 14 runs in extras, bowling seven wide deliveries and one no ball: Mitchell Swepson conceded five wides from one delivery while Ben Cutting bowled two wides in the last over.

Broad finds his rhythm 

Stuart Broad’s opening two overs included two no balls, two fours and a six and were hit for 19 runs but the 14 deliveries were the best balls of Broad’s BBL so far and should offer the Hurricanes reason for optimism. Broad removed Jimmy Peirson with his first ball, extracting some extra bounce to draw a leading edge before the contest with Brisbane’s best two players, Chris Lynn and Brendon McCullum and a fervent atmosphere, seemed to help Broad find his rhythm. Broad beat the bat four times (6, 7, 9, 10) and hit McCullum on the helmet (12) in his two over spell. Broad found that precious in-between length on which he thrives, around 7.5 to 8.5 metres from the batsman’s stumps, five times, and got good carry through to the keeper.

 

Blitzkreig

Quite how far the Hurricanes were under-par was made abundantly clear by the batting of McCullum and Lynn. After Peirson was dismissed in the second over, McCullum and Lynn put on 109 in 8.5 overs, propelling Brisbane to 71 for 1 at the end of the Powerplay and 118 by the time McCullum was dismissed for 75. Lynn took Heat home with 22 balls to spare. Had they batted first the highest BBL score of 210 for 7, by the Hurricanes at the Gabba, would have been in danger.

Both innings were stunning displays of ball-striking, particularly McCullum’s in which none of his 35 shots were edged and only three were mis-timed while Lynn edged three and mis-timed five. Together they scored 128 runs from 34 beautiful clean hits and 160 off 85 balls overall. The pair complimented each other well with McCullum scoring 53 (25) v spin an 19 (10) v seam while Lynn scored 32 (24) v spin – at one stage 15 (19) – and 50 (26) v seam.

The pitch map indicates that it was the fuller length that was punished most severely. Across the whole innings the three seam bowlers conceded 36 (14) from full length balls, 16 (5) half volleys and 10 (5) full tosses. Shorter than full appeared to work well for the seamers with Brisbane scoring just 11 (14) from that length.

The spinners too suffered as they bowled fuller, conceding 44 (24) from full length balls. Interestingly Cameron Boyce and Short conceded 15 (17) from deliveries that pitched back of a length. Ultimately though, given the mood of Brisbane’s batsmen and how well they were timing the ball, there was no length that was safe from punishment.

No half measures 

Both Lynn and McCullum were dropped, on 4 and 22 respectively, and although both catches were tough chances, when teams make an under-par total they are catches that generally have to be taken if the score is to be defended.

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Match 9: Melbourne Renegades v Perth Scorchers

Match Analysis Freddie Wilde

Team efforts

The economy rates of the Perth Scorchers bowlers illustrate how their bowling performance was very much a team effort. Other than Ashton Agar, who bowled one over for 12, none of the Scorchers bowlers conceded runs at more than 8.25 per over. The Melbourne Renegades score of 148 was the lowest first innings score at the Docklands Stadium in six matches.

David Willey yet again bowled well in the Powerplay, escaping without too much damage after bowling full in an effort to look for the swing that makes him so dangerous. Andrew Tye was typically unpredictable, varying his length and pace regularly. The old potency of Mitchell Johnson’s full length may well have dwindled with age – he conceded 23 from his 13 deliveries pitched on a good length or fuller, but he made up for that by taking 1-8 from his 12 deliveries that pitched any shorter. Mitchell Marsh was metronomically accurate, landing 15 of his 24 balls on a good length, conceding just 15 runs and only seven of his deliveries pitched outside the line of the stumps.

Ashton Turner carried the spin burden and was arguably the pick of the bowlers with Marcus Harris being the only batsman to score at more than a run-a-ball against him. His tight line gave the Renegades batsmen very few freebies – the only two boundaries he conceded were when Harris used his feet to get to the pitch of the ball.

Similarly for the Renegades no one batsman stood out. Aaron Finch boasted the highest strike rate but was out before he could make a lasting impression. The lack of firepower in the Renegades’ middle order is something to keep an eye on: Dwayne Bravo and Cameron White both have career strike rates below 128 while Callum Ferguson’s is below 120. In this match the Renegades scored 42-6 off their last seven overs as they struggled to dominate Perth’s—admittedly excellent—bowling.

Tremain ties Scorchers down

In the absence of Peter Siddle and James Pattinson, Chris Tremain has led the Melbourne Renegades attack expertly in their first two matches. After conceding 1 for 21 from his four overs against the Sydney Thunder by bowling a very tight line and length, he did the same again here, conceding just four runs from his first two over spell and 15 from his second. Tremain’s control ensured that the Scorchers didn’t run away with the chase in the first half of their innings.

Renegades spin their web

In the absence of Dwayne Bravo who left the field with a hamstring injury in the eleventh over the Renegades desperately needed Sunil Narine to put in a good performance and he did so emphatically. Narine did not concede a single boundary in his four overs and took the key wickets of Shaun Marsh and Michael Klinger, bowling with exemplary control. Part of Narine’s skill is that his flat trajectory makes reading the length and playing off the appropriate foot very difficult. Although 22 of his 24 balls were full, the Renegades played ten of his balls off the back foot, duped into thinking the ball would pitch shorter than it did. Brad Hogg also bowled well, conceding 31 from his four. The overs bowled by Renegades’ two frontline spinners ensured the match would have a tight finish.

Klinger guides Scorchers

Although Agar will take the headlines for his last ball six, the Scorchers batting star was Klinger whose 77 (55) was the perfect innings in a high-pressure run-chase. Klinger was judicious in attack and defence, scoring at less than a run-a-ball against Tom Cooper, Tremain and Narine, who all bowled tightly, but he cashed in against Nathan Rimmington scoring 19 (10). Klinger also played out a superb fifth over, bowled by Bravo, off which he scored 12 of the Scorchers 14 runs, punishing one bad ball to the boundary but manufacturing the other eight runs with some neat footwork to a slower-ball, expert manipulation of the field and quick running. In hindsight to take 14 off the only Bravo over was a key moment in the match. That Klinger’s most frequent mode of scoring was to ‘work’ the ball is indicative of the nature of his innings that was busy as opposed to explosive.

Scorchers target Rimmington 

Athough Klinger’s innings was workmanlike that is not to say he did not play the big shots when they were needed. Speaking after the match he said that the injury to Bravo meant the Scorchers could take it easy against Narine and attack the overs that would replace Bravo. On another day, had Bravo been fit it is unlikely that Rimmington would have bowled the seventeenth over having gone for 22 from his first two. As it was he did and it was that over that the Scorchers attacked. First Marsh elevated a wide yorker over point for four before Klinger hit back to back boundaries, one a superb shot through the covers and the other a clinical punishment of a low full toss. 16 runs came from the over reducing the equation to 19 from 18.

Twists and Turner

The Scorchers appeared to have the match won with three overs to go seven wickets in hand. However after Klinger was dismissed from the second ball of Narine’s final over, Turner, a wonderful natural hitter of the ball, proceeded to play out two dot balls from Narine and a third from the next over bowled by Rimmington before smashing a ball that would have been called a wide right into the hands of deep extra cover leaving 11 required from 8. To make matters worse the batsmen didn’t cross, keeping Marsh off strike, and the over ended with the Scorchers requiring nine off the last.

Full toss Finch 

Although Finch was very lucky that his first two full tosses of the twentieth over brought him two wickets – one caught and one run out – that doesn’t translate into the batsmen being unlucky. With only five fielders outside the 30-yard circle professional players should be able to find the boundary off full tosses. If they don’t, then more fool them. Had Finch’s sixth ball – the third full toss of the over – not gone for six or four then he would have got away lightly, but the Scorchers would have got what they deserved. As it was, a messy last over went the way of the Scorchers as Agar dispatched the ball over the rope.

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Match 8: Sydney Thunder v Brisbane Heat

Match Analysis | Freddie Wilde

Heat exploit the conditions

The Brisbane Heat seamers bowled excellently according to the conditions, exploiting the uneven bounce and big square boundaries by bowling a high proportion of back of a length and short balls which forced Sydney Thunder to play cross-batted shots which appeared harder to time well.

Between them Mark Steketee, Ben Cutting and Jake Wildermuth bowled 23 short deliveries from which just 20 runs were scored and nine back of a length deliveries from which 10 runs were scored.

Kurtis Patterson and Eoin Morgan, who faced the most balls in Sydney Thunder’s innings, played 25 cuts and pulls between which brought them just 21 runs. 22 (22) of their runs were from edged or mis-timed shots.

The match flips

A lot of the good work of Brisbane’s bowlers was undone by the twentieth over of the innings, bowled by Mitchell Swepson, which went for 27 runs – 17% of Thunder’s final total. The decision to bowl Swepson, a leg-spinner, for the last over was a risky one – but was a tactic that is likely to have been decided upon a few overs previously when Brendon McCullum, perhaps looking to land a killer blow to Thunder’s innings, opted to bowl out his four frontline bowlers Steketee, Cutting, Wildermuth and Samuel Badree, and therefore was faced with a choice between Swepson (2-0-22-1) or Jason Floros (1-0-4-0) for the final over.

This is a tactic often utilised in run chases, when a tight over prior to the 20th can put the game beyond the chasing team. However, in the first innings – unless predicated on a favourable match-up, of which according to the career data of Ben Rohrer, Pat Cummins, Chris Green and Clint McKay, there wasn’t – it is a risky tactic given that the batsmen are compelled to attack whoever bowls the 20th over.

The counter argument is that had McCullum not bowled out his frontline bowlers when he had, and instead given Swepson his third over earlier, life could have been breathed into the Thunder’s innings sooner than the 20th and more damage been done. Regardless of why, the decision was a risky one, and given that Heat were in a position of strength already, it was arguably a risk that didn’t need to be taken.

Thunder dominate the Powerplay 

Although this was a match in which shorter length bowling appeared harder to hit—the economy rate for short balls was 6.51 and back of a length balls 4.94—the Sydney Thunder made significant inroads into the Brisbane Heat’s top order in the Powerplay by bowling full to exploit any swing movement. The fuller length, delivered at high pace by Andre Russell and Patrick Cummins and accurately by Clint McKay, took the wickets of Jimmy Peirson, Brendon McCullum and Alex Ross inside the first four overs with just 19 runs scored.

The warning shots

Bowling full is risky. It is a risk that in the first four overs paid off for the Thunder. However, in the sixth over of the innings that changed as Chris Lynn hit Cummins for five consecutive fours: four of them from full deliveries (two from full tosses and one each from a half volley and a length ball).

However, it would be churlish to be overly critical of Cummins for persisting with the full ball in that over given that it had already brought three wickets and one more, especially if it was Lynn, would have most probably put the match beyond Brisbane. While the result of the over was bad the process at least was sound.

Thunder let it slip 

It is harder to understand that ten overs later with Lynn still at the crease and requiring 12 runs per over and therefore compelled to attack, that Russell, McKay and Cummins all regularly bowled a fuller length once again. Six of Russell’s ten death deliveries were length balls or fuller, and cost 15 runs; four of Cummins’ six death deliveries were length balls or fuller, and cost six runs (he also conceded a four from a top edged short ball and two from a drop catch off a short ball) and five of McKay’s death deliveries were length balls or fuller and cost 17 runs.

In the match the economy rate of length balls and fuller was 8.37 compared to just 6 for anything shorter. 42% of deliveries bowled by Heat’s seamers were back of a length or shorter, compared to 27% for the Thunder.

The stats indicate that Thunder saw the yorker as their go-to delivery under pressure, which is understandable – it is a difficult delivery to hit, and they conceded 2 (5) from it. The trouble is an over-pitched yorker is a full-toss and an under-pitched yorker is a half volley. Thunder conceded 15 (6) from full tosses and 21 (10) from half volleys. The Heat instead looked to a shorter length and although they landed fewer yorkers, three, they also bowled fewer full tosses and conceded half as many runs from the half volleys they did bowl. Across the whole match Heat’s seamers delivered 23 short balls compared to Thunder’s 12. 

Fortune favours those who can catch? 

In such a tight match luck can play a decisive role. Brisbane Heat scored 33 (24) from edges and mis-timed shots, including 22 (9) from Lynn alone, while Thunder scored 32 (31). The Thunder did have their chances to kill the match though, dropping Lynn twice in the last two overs and Wildermuth once in the sixteenth. Had just one of those catches been held it is likely there would have been a different result.

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Match 7: Sydney Sixers v Perth Scorchers

Match-Ups

Five of the six overs in Perth Scorchers’ Powerplay were bowled by spinners with the Sydney Sixers aware that both Michael Klinger and Shaun Marsh favour seam bowlers and the ball coming on to the bat. Before this match Johan Botha had conceded just 17 (26) against Marsh while Stephen O’Keefe had conceded just 17 (20) against Klinger. Botha and O’Keefe, as well as William Somerville bowled a very tight line in the Powerplay. They conceded just five runs from the first two overs, and across the six overs bowled 13 dot balls (36%) and conceded just two boundaries each. The pressure built by the spinners brought two wickets and put the Sixers ahead in the game despite having lost the toss.

 

The squeeze

After the wicket of Sam Whiteman to a neat catch by Botha on the boundary, between the tenth over to the end of the seventeenth, the Scorchers scored just 38 runs and lost five wickets. In that period the Sixers bowled well and forced some ordinary shots which led to wickets and further stagnated the innings. It was a vicious cycle that begun with good bowling.

 

Of the two spinners Botha bowled a more defensive line, bowling straight and turning it in to the right handers and bowling wide and turning it wider to the left handers. O’Keefe, a left arm spinner, bowled less of a leg side line. Both of them bowled the large majority of their deliveries in line with the stumps and dropped just one delivery short between them.

 

Left armer Ben Dwarshuis ensured that after Botha and O’Keefe were bowled out Mitchell Marsh and the Scorchers deep batting order did not pull away at the death. Dwarshuis, bowling largely round the wicket, cramped the right handers for room, nailed his wide yorkers and gave no width to the left handers.

Scorchers struggle for timing

All eight of the Scorchers dismissals were caught and six of them were from shots that were mis-timed. This can in-part be attributed to good bowling which forced the batsmen out of control and also in-part due to the pitch which a number of players described as being slightly tacky, with the ball sometimes holding up in the pitch and not coming onto the bat as well as in match four at the same ground.

Sixers stroll

There are two ways to go out chasing a small total such as the one the Sixers were faced with, either go out all guns blazing and break the back of the chase early and cruise from there, or manage it carefully from start to finish. The first minimises pressure but increases risk, the second increases pressure but minimises risk. The Sixers opted for the second option, hitting the same number of boundaries as the Scorchers (14) but facing just 35 dot balls compared to the 47 of the Scorchers. It was fitting that when the game did appear to get a little tight with the wicket of Jordan Silk, the experienced head of Botha was there to propel the Sixers over the line.

Sixers go spin-heavy

Speaking after the match Botha said the Sixers felt they had too much pace on the ball in their defeat against the Hobart Hurricanes hence why they made the change to their team of dropping seamer Joe Mennie and bringing in spinner Somerville, who justified his selection with two big wickets.

Selection muddle

It was interesting to compare the Sixers selection against the Scorchers’ who opted to change the balance of their team, resting Mitchell Johnson and replacing him with batsman S Marsh. In hindsight leg spinner James Muirhead, on a pitch that appeared to suit the spinners, would have been a better option. The problem for the Scorchers appears to be they have eight batsmen for seven slots and the only batsman who could conceivably make way for S Marsh is the captain Adam Voges.

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Match 5: Perth Scorchers v Adelaide Strikers

Match Analysis | Freddie Wilde

Weatherald’s costly drop

Had Jake Weatherald held onto Ian Bell’s top edged pull shot first ball, which would have left Perth Scorchers 7 for 2 after 1.1 overs, the result of this match could well have been different. Bell went on to make a match-defining 61 (42), establishing the foundation for the highest score at the WACA since January 2014 and the sixth highest score ever at the ground. It was a target that proved too many for the Adelaide Strikers. Based on Bell’s career statistics and the probability of the catch being taken, Weatherald’s drop is the most costly drop of the season so far. In simple terms, it cost the Strikers the match.

Bell makes Strikers pay

After being dropped first ball Bell made the Strikers pay for their error with an innings of high class. Bell is not a power-hitter yet he scored at strike rate of 145 in his innings and did so by playing conventional cricket shots, drawing on his skill and running well to maximise runs off good balls and punishing bad balls. At the end of the Powerplay having faced seven dot balls Bell had scored 27 runs off his other 11 balls, pulling one short ball and driving one wide ball from Billy Stanlake for four, brilliantly lofting Chris Jordan for six over cover and steering Kane Richardson through third man. Neither the ball from Jordan or Richardson necessarily deserved to be hit for a boundary, but through skill against Jordan and awareness against Richardson, Bell turned what could have been 2 (2) into 10 (2).

In the nine overs after the Powerplay Bell scored at a similar rate, facing five dot balls and adding 34 (24), hitting four boundaries: one of them a brilliant six over long off against Liam O’Connor, one a freebie short ball from Richardson, one a fortunate edge and another that was half fortunate edge, half late adjustment, to glance a ball from Jordan through the vacant slip region for four.

Perhaps the most important aspect of this phase of Bell’s innings was his ability to stay in while scoring at such an impressive rate, and he owes that largely to his willingness to defend good balls, but also his ability to score off them. On six occasions (7.5, 9.1, 11.4, 12.2, 13.1 and 13.3) Bell took singles through backward point and third man using his trademark deflected-late-steer-cut. More power-minded players may have tried to hit those balls in front of square for boundaries, perhaps sometimes succeeding but perhaps sometimes getting out. Bell knows his own game and knows that while he may lack the power to muscle balls for four, bad balls will come, and if he picks the right ones, he can hit some good ones for four as well.

The engine room

Beneath the classical aggressors of Bell, Michael Klinger, Sam Whiteman (and Shaun Marsh when fit) the Scorchers have their engine room of Mitchell Marsh, David Willey and Ashton Turner. Here, while Willey failed, Marsh and Turner contributed 75 (38) converting Perth’s strong start into a fantastic, and ultimately unassailable, score. While Marsh struggled for fluency, edging or mis-timing 11 (5) Turner’s innings was characterised by clean and clinical ball-striking. It seemed like every time he committed to a boundary shot he got a boundary, scoring 33 (7) of well-timed shots, happy to milk 11 from the other 12. The slog – 18 (3) – and the pull – 14 (5) – were Turner’s most prolific shots, while Marsh’s was the drive – 22 (9).

Scorchers attack with the ball

This pitch was more similar to WACA pitches of old than most at the ground these days – the extra bounce and pace was evident in Klinger’s top edged dismissal and Bell’s first ball drop. As a result both teams appeared to decide that bowling short, or at least back of a length, was their best option in an effort to exploit that extra bounce. While both teams had success with with balls pitching back of a length or shorter – the Strikers taking six wickets and the Scorchers seven, the Scorchers, namely David Willey, had success pitching the ball up as well, taking two wickets with drive-balls in the Powerplay. In Willey the Scorchers had a bowler that the Strikers didn’t have, having dropped Ben Laughlin, namely someone who pitches the ball up, swings it and attacks the stumps. By the time Willey had removed Ben Dunk with an away swinger that found the outside half of the bat and was caught at cover, and Weatherald with a full, straight ball after having conceded one run from the preceding five deliveries, an unlikely chase had become almost impossible.

Living life on the edge

The pace and bounce in the pitch induced more runs through edges and mis-timed shots than any match so far this season. The Scorchers scored 32 (22) from them – a season record – until the Strikers scored 50 (36). The more edges, the less a batsman is in control and the more luck regarding where the ball lands is relevant. At least in this match the margin of victory was such that luck didn’t play a defining role.

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Match 4: Sydney Sixers v Hobart Hurricanes

Match Analysis | Freddie Wilde

Sloppy Sydney

While attention understandably focused on D’Arcy Short as he blitzed his way to a staggeringly bold debut fifty off just 21 balls, very little was paid to the seam bowling he was tucking into which was inaccurate and appeared to be poorly planned. Whether or not the Sixers knew much about Hobart Hurricanes’ new left-handed opening batsman—and given that he made his return to the professional circuit almost 12 months ago they really should have—is irrelevant when you consider that most of their bowling would have been considered poor whoever the batsman, and wherever their strengths and weaknesses.

Short scored 56 of his 61 runs against seam from 19 of his 29 balls. The seamers’ line was generally either too straight or too wide and afforded Short easy pickings on the leg side or room to free his arms on the off side. Their length was too short and gave him the opportunity, on the rare occasion when they did get their line right, to back away and open up his arms, which he did on six occasions, bringing him 26 runs.

That Short only played three shots off the front foot against the seamers is reflected in the fact that they only bowled two deliveries fuller than 6.64 metres from his stumps. The Sydney bowlers appeared to decide very quickly that there was no swing or seam to be had and fell back onto a short length at an average pace of 78mph with no apparent plan and no control over their line, or respect paid to their field setting or the shorter boundary. They were punished appropriately.

The Big Short

That said, the inadequacy of Sydney’s bowling should not take anything away from Short’s innings. His fifty was impressive as much because of its nature as its detail – the bowling being poor doesn’t mean his ball-striking and confidence were not hugely impressive. Short did not edge a single shot and only mis-timed one in his innings. He scored 54 (13) from clean hits.

Spin slows the charge

While Short dominated the Sixers seamers, he scored just 5 (10) against the spinners. Stephen O’Keefe conceded just three runs from the eight deliveries he bowled at the left hander. O’Keefe simply bowled a tight off stump line, turning the ball into Short, and that was enough to keep him tied down.

Paine times his run 

While Short was attacking in the Powerplay Tim Paine did little more than turn over the strike and at the halfway stage of the innings he was scoring at less than a run-a-ball on 24* (26). With Short gone however Paine kicked on from there, scoring 39 from his next 19 balls. The shift was clearly intentional with Paine having defended 40% of his first 26 deliveries but 30% of his last 19.

Roy shows his class 

Jason Roy has played two template Powerplay innings this season, maximising the fielding restrictions with unfettered, albeit controlled, attack. At no point was that more apparent than from his fourth ball in this innings when, having edged a Shaun Tait away swinger wide of slip for four the ball previously, on the downswing of the next ball he followed the swing with his hands and drove through the covers for four.

Rose ruins the response 

Only twice before has a score of more than 200 been successfully chased in the BBL and neither of them have been at the SCG. Unless the Hurricanes bowled as poorly as the Sixers did in the Powerplay or someone played a special innings then this was an unlikely run-chase. Any slim chance that they would pull it off was all but ruined in the fourth over by two excellent pieces of fielding: first Stuart Broad took a tumbling catch at short third man to dismiss Jordan Silk from a Clive Rose ball that gripped and turned, then Rose himself took a brilliant reaction chance off his own bowling to remove Moises Henriques for a duck. The Hobart Hurricanes’ fielding score of 4.77 was 14.67 better than the Sixers’ -11.9.

Hurricane

Tait’s pitch map does not suggest a particularly good bowling performance; the line is wide and length very short. Tait is not your normal bowler though. Pitch maps such as the one above are to be expected – the key to his bowling is whether he can produce wicket-balls, and today he could. Five times Tait breached 90mph and his 92.23 mph in-swinging yorker to bowl Sam Billings was T20 fast bowling at his best. If he can produce two or three of them a match it almost doesn’t matter what he does with the rest.

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Match 3: Melbourne Renegades v Sydney Thunder

Match Analysis Freddie Wilde

Finch right at home 

During his innings Aaron Finch went past 700 runs at the Etihad Stadium – he loves batting there and his innings was yet another example of that. Using the dimensions of the ground to his advantage two of his three fours and three of his four sixes were hit to the shorter square boundaries while five of his six twos were hit straighter. Finch scored 42 (20) off the front foot and 12 (3) when backing away towards the leg side to give himself room over to hit over the off side. He only scored 9 (13) off the back foot and was happy to duck under or defend short balls from Patrick Cummins and Andre Russell – perhaps wise given that his opening partner Marcus Harris attacked a Russell short ball, was rushed by the pace, late on the shot and caught at mid-on.

The pitch map below reflects Finch’s front-foot heavy run-scoring in that all of his boundaries were from full deliveries. The pitch-map also indicates that the Thunder bowlers gave him very little width – shrewd given the short square boundaries. That Finch scored as many as he did as quickly as he did was as much testament to his power and ability than it was any notably poor bowling. All it took was a handful of balls that were a tad too straight and a tad too full and Finch punished them. On a good batting pitch such as this the margins of error are so small. Credit should be given where it is due: Finch looked imperious from his very first ball, 39 (8) of his runs came from clean hits, and he only mis-timed the ball twice in his innings and did not edge any shots.

Fawad snares Finch

The story of Finch’s dismissal was a lovely sequence of three deliveries from leg spinner Fawad Ahmed displayed on the pitch map below. The first two were straight, average paced leg breaks, not bad balls, that Finch shimmied down to and brilliantly lofted inside-out over extra cover for six. Anticipating another charge, Ahmed bowled the third delivery quicker and didn’t impart as much spin – while the first two had turned 2.65° and 5.00° respectively, this one skidded on, deviating just 1.30° off the surface. The subtle change worked as Finch was was caught 15 yards inside the boundary after making a poor connection on his third inside-out drive.

Thunder’s silver lining

In an otherwise disappointing performance the bowling and batting of Cummins was a bright spot for Sydney Thunder. Cummins bowled with good pace, five times breaching 90mph, but more impressive was his accuracy – to both right handers and left handers he maintained an excellent tight line before nailing his yorkers in his one over at the death. With the bat his cameo of 36 (23), following his 30 (20) v Sydney Sixers suggests he could be a genuine batting option for the Thunder.

Spin and bounce does for Patterson 

Melbourne Renegades’ total of 179 was the highest at the Etihad Stadium since December 2013 and the third highest score ever at the ground. Chasing the runs was always going to be tough against a strong bowling attack and that task was made considerably more difficult when Kurtis Patterson was dismissed first ball by Tom Cooper. While the shot itself was loose, especially with a gully and a point in place, the ball did turn and bounce more than any other delivery bowled by Tom Cooper in his two overs – explaining but not excusing the dismissal.

Tremain stays in the tracks

While Dwayne Bravo, Sunil Narine and Brad Hogg collected two wickets with typically accurate and intelligent bowling, significant damage had been done to the run-chase before then by Chris Tremain who bowled three of the opening seven overs, conceding just 16 runs and dismissing Eoin Morgan. At the end of his third over Tremain’s tight stump-to-stump line had kept the Thunder to 42 for 2, and the required run rate had risen to 10.61. With one more from Tremain and 11 from Bravo, Narine and Hogg still to bowl, the defending champions had left themselves with too much to do.

Tremain later returned and although he bowled two height wides he also bowled two legitimate short balls to Russell, both of which were swung at and missed before he had Russell dropped off the fifth ball of the over.

CricViz are covering all 35 Big Bash League matches @CricProf.

 

Match 2: Adelaide Strikers v Brisbane Heat

Match Analysis | Freddie Wilde

Brisbane’s Blitz

The boundary dimensions in this match with one short square boundary and one short straight boundary made this a difficult day for the bowlers, and as such it was unsurprising that the match produced the highest aggregate runs scored at the Adelaide Oval.

At the end of the Heat’s six overs Brendon McCullum had scored 37* (14), hitting four fours and three sixes. McCullum’s value in the Powerplay was best displayed in the third over, bowled by Michael Neser, as he hit four consecutive boundaries: 4, 6, 6, 4. Both sixes were hit over the short straight boundary and the second was hit over a fielder at long off who had been dropped back from mid-off after the previous six. McCullum knew that the boundary was short and hitting with the wind behind him he backed himself to clear the fielder. He didn’t time the shot properly but the ball still carried all the way. Calculated aggression.

Dancing with the devil 

In the Powerplay McCullum came down the pitch three times, backed away three times and moved across his stumps once, while his opening partner Jimmy Peirson came down the pitch twice and moved across his stumps three times. Beyond the obvious benefit of creating new angles at contact and through and over the field, the value of moving around the crease without comprising impact is that the movement throws bowlers off their lines and lengths and that was evident in the second half of the Powerplay as Jake Lehmann dragged his third delivery short, Chris Jordan delivered a low full toss and Ben Laughlin strayed too straight to Peirson and all their errors were punished to the boundary.

Pace off, runs down 

Having scored 79 for 0 in the first six overs, Brisbane Heat scored 23-2 in the next six. Key to the slowdown was the change in the pace of the bowling. After Jordan and Laughlin had bowled overs five and six, the medium pace of Kieron Pollard and spin of Liam O’Connor was a significant change and on a pitch that McCullum described as having “tennis-ball” bounce it is likely that it was more difficult to time the ball as well when pace was taken off it. Indeed, in the Powerplay 36% of Brisbane Heat’s shots were well-timed, in the six overs immediately after the Powerplay that figure fell to 13%.

Ross bides his time

This was a pitch on which no one who came in to bat outside of the Powerplay scored quickly straight away. It appeared to take some time getting used to. Whether through fortune or design, that Alex Ross was 3* (10), then 10* (16) and 16* (20) appeared to help him from thereon as he became the only batsman in the match to launch a sustained attack outside of the Powerplay. Just 5% of Ross’s first 19 shots, one shot, was timed-well compared to 58% of his last 17 as he blitzed 49 runs, hitting five fours and four sixes from the second half of his innings.

Slam Dunked

Perhaps encouraged by the tacky nature of the pitch in the first innings Brisbane Heat bowled four overs of spin the Powerplay. A combination of some superb shots – three off side boundaries against the spin from straight balls in particular – and some short and overly straight bowling, meant 43 runs were plundered from the spinners and 72 from the Powerplay overall.

Unlike in the Heat’s innings the Strikers continued their onslaught until the eleventh over. McCullum, who was miked up, said that he felt the pitch, where it was sticking in the surface for them, was skidding on under lights. While the Heat timed just 13% of their shots well in their post-Powerplay slow-down, the Strikers timed 29% well as they continued their march.

Badree turns the match

At the start of the fourteenth over, the Strikers, requiring 62 from 42 balls with eight wickets in hand were favourites. Samuel Badree’s maiden to Travis Head that followed was partly clever bowling and partly poor batting, but regardless, it changed the match.

As the pitch map above illustrates, Badree, who had conceded 17 from his first two overs and then just five from his third before the maiden, bowled a wider line in his second two overs than he had in the Powerplay and rather than turning the ball back into the left handed Head, as he had with Dunk and Weatherald, he opted instead for sliders and wrong’uns, refusing to direct the ball into Head’s arc, instead skidding it across him and twice the outside edge was beaten. However, for all the intelligence of Badree’s altered line and spin, that Head didn’t attempt a single boundary shot in the over was strange batting given the circumstances.

Yorkers and captain cool 

With 24 required from the last two overs and Brad Hodge and Pollard at the crease the match was perfectly poised. What followed was an exhibition in death bowling and captaincy. McCullum stayed totally calm as he marshalled his fielders, in discussion with his bowlers, back and forth. From round the wicket Ben Cutting bowled a magnificent nineteenth over, conceding four off the first but just three off the next four before bowling Pollard with a yorker from the sixth. Every ball McCullum adjusted the field significantly. Fine leg, cover, mid on and mid-wicket were in and out during the course of the over. It was set-play cricket. Whether it was a plan or a bluff was unclear but it worked. The final over was even better as Mark Steketee landed four yorkers, one at 87mph that bowled Lehmann and another that Jordan lofted to mid-off where, fittingly, McCullum took the catch.

CricViz are covering all 35 Big Bash League matches @CricProf.

Match 1: Sydney Thunder v Sydney Sixers

Match Analysis | Freddie Wilde

Sixers stray off line

Speaking after the match Sydney Sixers’ captain Moises Henriques said that he felt in Sydney Thunder’s Powerplay it was poor bowling more than it was good batting that contributed to the Thunder’s score of 64-1 after six overs. 39 of those runs came from just two overs – five and six, bowled by Joe Mennie and Doug Bollinger – and were indeed largely the product of poor bowling. To the left handed Eoin Morgan, Mennie and Bollinger bowled too straight and leaked four boundaries through fine leg. To the right handed Ryan Gibson, Bollinger a left-armer bowling over the wicket, gave too much width outside off stump from balls angled across the batsman and on three occasions he was lashed for fours through cover point and third man.

 

Sixers squeeze, Thunder splutter

In T20 cricket after the Powerplay when the field drops back and more spinners are deployed the pace of the game changes. Here the Sixers thrived on the transition while the Thunder struggled as the three overs immediately after the Powerplay brought just ten runs and the wicket of Morgan. Stephen O’Keefe and Johan Botha bowled very straight and Sean Abbott in a channel outside off stump, angled in from round the wicket. With boundary-riders on both sides of the ground the boundary supply was cut-off, but crucially eight dot balls were bowled too as Morgan and Gibson struggled to pierce the gaps, twice timing shots straight to fielders, and on one occasion Morgan swung wildly and missed.

The Thunder had got ahead of the game in the first six overs but this stagnation prior to the collapse meant the lower-order were left with a lot of ground to catch up in the final third of the innings.

Roy’s leap

The value of good fielders was displayed spectacularly by Jason Roy as his full length dive at backward point turned what would have been a four through third man into a wicket, transforming Thunder’s post-Powerplay blip into a Sixers surge. Later in the innings the Sixers’ other England import Sam Billings took a fine tumbling catch running in at mid-wicket to dismiss Gibson.

Russell restrained

Short and straight is the best place to bowl to Andre Russell who has on occasion been floored by short balls in the past. Against such a powerful player it won’t always work and will sometimes be punished, but here Bollinger was rewarded for just that line and length with the key wicket, as the pitch map below illustrates.

Attack: two can play at that game

With the wicket of Russell, Thunder had lost four for 15. After the onslaught of the Powerplay the tables had turned. Henriques spotted the opportunity and went on the attack, bringing in a slip for the new man Chris Green. The move was vindicated moments later as Green edged his second ball straight to Daniel Hughes at a wide second slip who took a sharp catch.

Thunder’s fielding let the Sixers slip away

Fielding proved to be a major difference between these two teams: the Sixers recorded a fielding impact score of +11.2 – 27.25 runs more than the Thunder’s -16.05. While the Sixers took some excellent catches to restrict the Thunder to a below-par score, the Thunder made some costly errors, turning what could have been a tight chase in to a procession. Henriques, who finished with 76* (41) was dropped twice, first on 0 (1) by Clint McKay at short fine leg – a tough but catchable chance – and then on 28 (26) by Pat Cummins – a tougher chance, running back at mid wicket – but one Roy, for example, would have taken.

Additionally, just before the second drop, building pressure was diminished as Gurinder Sandhu conceded four through his legs at short third man. When defending a low score the fielding team can’t afford to make such mistakes.

Clean-hitting Henriques

Although the Thunder’s fielding let them down and Henriques off, Sixers’ number three made the most of his good fortune and played a captain’s innings to guide the chase. He displayed wonderfully clean ball-striking, with just 5 (2) of his 76 runs coming from edges and 51 (12) coming from well-timed shots, in contrast 12 (4) of Hughes’ 54* (49) came from edges or gloved deflections, while 16 (7) came from well-timed shots. Perhaps the most important of Henriques eleven boundaries was a shot of class, not power. In the tenth over after just 11 runs had come from the preceding 14 deliveries, he cut a quicker ball from Ahmed off middle stump and through third man to release the pressure.

CricViz are covering all 35 Big Bash League matches @CricProf.