Posts

Analysing Australia ahead of the 2017-18 Ashes

Australia pulled off an impressive victory within three days against India in Pune, their first win in India since 2004.  This comes off the back of a middling home season where they lost 2-1 to South Africa but recovered to beat Pakistan 3-0. CricViz looks ahead to what England might expect later this year in the 2017-18 Ashes

General overview

Australia lost the first two Tests of the season to South Africa with their worst performance occurring in Hobart, losing by an innings-and-80 runs.  They then won the day-night contest in Adelaide before sweeping aside Pakistan.  The chart below shows the scores and the number of wickets they lost in each of their 11 innings.

The blue bars (indicating victories) show that they generally racked up big scores in the first innings and either scored quick runs before declaring or chased down small targets in the second innings.

Driving these performances were Australia’s top order, three of whom scored at least 500 runs over the six matches.  The table below shows their top ten run-scorers.

Newcomers Peter Handscomb and Matt Renshaw have adapted to Test cricket quickly, scoring three hundreds and three fifties between them. This includes a Renshaw 184 against Pakistan in Sydney.

Australia’s attack was spearheaded by their opening bowling duo of Hazelwood and Starc, picking up 60 wickets between them, and adequately supported by Nathan Lyon’s offspin (17 wickets).  We will take a closer look at what made them so successful later in the piece.

The dependable Steve Smith

Firstly, let’s take a look at Australia’s captain and top run-scorer this season, Steve Smith, who scored two hundreds and three fifties from 11 innings.  The beehive plot below shows where he scored his 653 runs.

From first glance there isn’t much we can say.  Perhaps he puts away a lot of full or wide balls to the boundary and picks up singles from balls closer to the stumps.  We can filter this further to see how he performed against particular bowlers and types of bowlers.

Smith faced a lot of Yasir Shah so it’s not surprising that he scored the most runs and was dismissed by him most often.

The heat map above shows the distribution of deliveries faced by Smith from Yasir with his dismissals in red.  He favoured a good length just outside off-stump, shown by the dark green regions.  Smith pounced on anything marginally short or full.

The blue balls show Smith’s boundaries many of which are just above the dark green areas.  The pitch map below also illustrates how Smith punished Yasir for bowling too short or too full.

David the Destructive

Warner also enjoyed a prolific season scoring nearly 600 runs at a remarkable strike-rate of 93.

Warner targeted the spinners more than the seamers, scoring at a strike rate of 113.  The heat map below shows how he scored his boundaries against spinners.  Deliveries wide of off-stump and fractionally short were, more often than not, cut to the boundary.   

In contrast, the heat map below shows the distribution of dot balls for Warner.  Spinners who bowled closer to middle and leg stump with a more consistent length generally kept Warner quiet.

Against seamers it’s a similar story with Warner dispatching deliveries wide of off stump of any length, shown in the heat map below.

A seam bowler’s best bet to restricting Warner to dot balls is to bowl back of a length on off-stump as the heat map below shows.  There isn’t really an obvious pattern in his wickets (shown in red) which suggests his dismissals come about from a lack of concentration or simply one hit too many.

Starc and Hazlewood

Australia’s opening pair put in a big shift for their side, between them bowling more than half the total overs in their six home Tests.  The heat maps below show how they bowled to both right and left-handers with their wickets in red.

They both bowled quite consistently slightly back-of-a-length just outside off-stump.  They did however get many of their wickets from fuller and straighter deliveries indicating that they used movement in the air and off the pitch pretty effectively.

The histogram below illustrates how much Starc and Hazlewood swung the ball.  Negative values of swing, measured in degrees, indicate that the ball swung away from the right-hander and swung in to the left-hander and vice versa.  Starc mostly favoured outswing (to right-hand batsman), while Hazlewood employed inswing the majority of the time.  However, the distributions overlapped suggesting both bowlers had a number of deliveries that swung in both directions.  It’s notable how similar the distributions are in terms of height and width – both bowlers had similar plans in terms of how often they bowl their stock delivery compared to their variations.

We can take a look at how much Starc and Hazlewood swung the new ball and when it got older.

The graph above shows the absolute value of the swing (how much it swung regardless of direction) during a particular over.  A moving average of six overs is taken to dampen out the fluctuations.  Both bowlers swung the new ball, the magnitude of which steadily declined until the 10th over.  Hazelwood is generally a bigger swinger of the ball up until the 30th over, when Starc starts to visibly make use of reverse-swing between the 30th and 50th over.  Hazlewood swings the ball most prodigiously with a 70 to 80 overs old ball, although it should be noted that he only bowled two overs in this period.  When the second new ball is taken after 80 overs, a similar trend is seen as with the first new ball.

Additionally, Starc and Hazlewood extract pretty much the same assistance from movement off the pitch.  The histogram below illustrates this where, as before, negative values indicate movement away from the right-hander etc.  The opening pair marginally favour seam movement away from the right-hander but are more than capable of bringing it back in or away from left-handed batsmen.

Nathan Lyon

We can take a quick look at a similar plot that shows how much spin Nathan Lyon gets.

Lyon has quite a broad distribution indicating that he varies the amount of revolutions he imparts on the ball, as well as being a consequence of the different pitches he bowled on.  There is a slight bump at 0 degrees – his quicker and flatter delivery which he bowls about 5% of the time.

The beehive plot below shows Lyon’s release points when bowling.  Over the wicket, he is fairly consistent bowling quite wide of the crease.  When going around the wicket, he varies his release point a bit more, bowling from quite close to the wicket to very wide of the crease.

Ground analysis

Finally, we can also take a look at which grounds are most conducive to swing and spin bowling.

The table above shows the average swing, seam and spin in degrees at each of the grounds that hosted a Test this season.  England will be playing in all these grounds apart from Hobart.  The most swing-friendly ground was Perth although it was also the least seam-friendly and spin-friendly ground.  Brisbane offered the most spin of all the grounds.

The graph above shows distributions for Perth and Adelaide, the grounds with the highest and lowest average swing.  It is evident the Perth has a shorter and wider distribution indicating a large range of inswingers and outswingers.  Adelaide has a narrow range centred around 0 degrees, although there is a slight bump towards fairly big outswingers.  This data coupled with knowledge about how much a ball swings when it is a certain number of overs old can be exploited by England when choosing how many seamers to play and when to bowl them.

Imran Khan is a contributor to CricViz and the @cricketsavant

ANALYSING AUSTRALIA’S APOCALYPSE

Freddie Wilde examines the detail behind Australia’s innings and 80 run defeat in Hobart.

Read more

AUSTRALIA’S CAUTIOUS SPIN APPROACH EXTENDS THEIR LOSING RUN IN ASIA

As Australia slumped to a series defeat against Sri Lanka in Galle, their shortcomings against spin bowling were exposed in ruthless fashion. Now 2-0 down in the three match series after losing the first Test in Pallekele as well, Steve Smith’s side are set to lose their spot at the top of the world rankings as their wretched record in Asia continues.

Going back to the start of the India series in 2013 – the tour that became infamous for coach Micky Arthur’s ‘homework-gate’ fiasco – Australia have now lost eight consecutive Test matches in the subcontinent and the UAE. The common denominator across all eight matches has been the dominance of the home sides’ spin bowlers, as compared to the limited impact seen by the various spinners Australia have tried in the traditionally spin-friendly conditions.

The eight defeats in India, UAE and Sri Lanka have seen Australia lose a total of 159 wickets with 131 – or just over 82% – taken by spin bowlers. Conversely, of the 111 wickets that Australia have taken in those matches, only 51 of them (46%) have gone to their spin bowlers. As one would expect, Nathan Lyon has been Australia’s most prolific spinner in that period. He has taken 27 of the 51 wickets having played in seven of the eight defeats but the dismissals have come at a worryingly high average of 46.7. His strike rate of 67.5 is adequate and only a few balls higher than his career strike rate of 61.9 so the high average illustrates that batsmen are going after him, meaning that each wicket is far more expensive than his career average of 32.8.

The approach that Asian batsmen have taken to thwarting Lyon is something that Australia would do well to take on board. During the first innings of the Galle Test, Sri Lanka’s batsmen attacked 55% of all deliveries bowled by Lyon and debutant Jon Holland. When Australia batted in their first innings, that figure was just 38% and seven of the nine batsmen who fell to spin did so playing a defensive shot – or, in the case of Usman Khawaja, no shot at all. Sri Lanka were even more aggressive against Lyon and Holland in the second innings, attacking 63% of the deliveries they bowled and while Australia’s figure for their second innings was up to 47%, it nonetheless illustrated the tentative approach they had to the turning ball throughout the match.

There is one mitigating factor to consider and that is the state of the match when Sri Lanka started their second innings. Having bowled out Australia for just 106 and holding a lead of 175, the home side could bat freely without scoreboard pressure and targeting Holland, a left-arm spinner playing in his first Test, would have been a logical step. However, the data shows that Sri Lanka did not target Holland specifically as his percentage of balls attacked was almost identical to Lyon’s.

The difference in mind-set was evident to anyone who watched the extraordinary events unfold on Day 2 in Galle. Australia were tentative and prodding during a collapse that saw them lose 47-8 on their way to being bowled out for 106; Sri Lanka were aggressive and carefree as they put on 237 to bat Australia out of the game. For a side that prides itself on positive, attacking cricket and scored at an average rate of 4.3 runs per over during their most recent home summer, the contrast in Australia’s differing game plans could not be more pronounced.

After Australia lost the first Test in Pallekele, the Chairman of Selectors Rod Marsh lamented that there was little more that they could do in terms of preparation, highlighting the success Australia ‘A’ had had during their tour to India last year and questioning if the extra pressure of a Test match environment was playing on the players’ minds. It is as good an explanation as any for Australia’s failings against spin; batsmen famed for their bravado and aggression retreating into their shell when confronted with high quality spinners on a turning track.

So with the series lost and the number one ranking surely gone, Australia have the third Test in Colombo to salvage some pride. However, if their batsmen continue with the tentative approach to playing Sri Lanka’s spinners, their long wait for a win on Asian soil might yet continue.

WORLD T20 2016, SUPER 10 PHASE ANALYSIS

A summary of venue and innings-phase statistics from the Super 10 stage of the ICC World Twenty20 2016

The following data is comprised of the 38 innings that were played over 20 scheduled overs in the Super 10 stage of the ICC World Twenty20 2016. Therefore the rain-reduced match between India and Pakistan is not included.

Phase Breakdowns:

  • Powerplay: 1-6
  • Middle Overs: 7-16
  • Death Overs: 17-20

Venue Analysis

VenueAverage RunsAverage WicketsAverage Boundary PercentageAverage Dot Ball Percentage
Bangalore142.166.6614.52%36.69%
Delhi140.506.6613.75%38.79%
Dharamsala1388.5012.50%37.08%
Kolkata1456.6616.00%37.95%
Mohali170.665.3317.09%30.52%
Mumbai200.836.1622.07%28.93%
Nagpur1157.838.64%43.58%

Mumbai clearly emerged as the best venue for batsmen with the highest average runs, highest average boundary percentage and lowest average dot ball percentage of all seven venues. Mohali also proved to be a good batting venue coming second to Mumbai in runs, boundary percentage and dot ball percentage and recording fewer average wickets than any other ground.  Nagpur was the toughest batting venue recording the lowest average score, second highest average wickets, lowest boundary percentage and highest dot ball percentage. Dharamsala only hosted one Super 10 match, while Bangalore, Delhi and Kolkata proved similar venues across all metrics and make up the middle of the table.


Powerplay Analysis: Batting

TeamAverage Runs ScoredAverage Wickets LostAverage Boundary PercentageAverage Dot Ball Percentage
Afghanistan40.252.0014.58%54.86%
Australia53.001.0018.41%47.89%
Bangladesh38.251.7511.80%43.05%
England54.502.2522.91%38.88%
India36.002.3312.03%45.37%
New Zealand46.250.7520.13%50.00%
Pakistan54.001.3325.92%45.37%
South Africa55.501.2527.77%46.52%
Sri Lanka40.752.2515.27%46.52%
West Indies42.661.3319.44%50.00%
Match Winners47.151.3620.61%45.17%
Match Losers44.891.8917.54%47.26%

The most striking set of data from this phase belongs to India who are one of the four Semi-Finalists despite recording the lowest average score, the highest average wickets lost and the second lowest average boundary percentage. Interestingly another Semi-Finalist, West Indies also struggled in the phase, recording the fifth lowest average score and third highest average dot ball percentage. South Africa and Semi-Finalists England both boasted high average runs scored and average boundary percentages largely due to their record-breaking aggregate Powerplay total in their match in Mumbai of 172. England did however record the second highest average wickets lost. Another intriguing set of data belongs to Pakistan, who despite becoming the first ICC Full Member to be unable to qualify for the Semi-Finals recorded the second highest average score, fourth lowest average wickets lost, second highest average boundary percentage and fifth lowest dot ball percentage. Fourth Semi-Finalists New Zealand have batted in all four of their matches and have been chasing modest totals in three of them which accounts for their mid-table average runs scored and high dot ball percentage. Notably they did record the lowest average wickets lost and a healthy boundary percentage. Australia had success in the phase with the fourth highest average score having scored more than 50 in each of their four Powerplays and second lowest average wickets lost.


Powerplay Analysis: Bowling

TeamAverage Runs ConcededAverage Wickets TakenAverage Boundary PercentageAverage Dot Ball Percentage
Afghanistan45.752.0022.91%51.38%
Australia42.251.5016.66%45.14%
Bangladesh46.750.7520.13%42.36%
England50.002.0023.61%49.30%
India45.661.3318.51%48.14%
New Zealand43.752.0017.36%43.05%
Pakistan50.661.3319.44%43.51%
South Africa59.252.2523.61%43.75%
Sri Lanka36.751.0014.58%44.44%
West Indies40.502.0013.88%51.38%
Match Losers47.151.3620.61%45.17%
Match Winners44.891.8917.5447.36%

West Indies emerge as the success-story of this phase, conceding the second lowest average runs, taking the joint highest average wickets, the lowest boundary percentage and the joint highest dot ball percentage. Their bowling statistics are boosted by virtue of being the only team to play two matches in Nagpur – the best bowling venue. Sri Lanka also recorded impressive data in this phase conceding the fewest average runs despite taking the second fewest average wickets. They were the only team who didn’t concede more than 40 in the phase.  Semi-Finalists New Zealand recorded impressive figures: the fourth fewest average runs conceded, joint second highest average wickets taken and the fourth lowest boundary percentage and they did so despite playing at four different venues including the relatively high-scoring Mohali. Australia recorded the third lowest average runs concede. Semi-Finalists England and India recorded high average dot ball percentages, the former’s average runs conceded is dented largely by conceding 83-0 against South Africa, India meanwhile, struggled to take wickets finishing with the joint third fewest average wickets taken alongside PakistanSouth Africa, who played twice at Mumbai where attacking cricket is encouraged by conditions, conceded the highest average runs but took the most average wickets.


Middle Overs Analysis: Batting

TeamAverage Runs ScoredAverage Wickets LostAverage Boundary PercentageAverage Dot Ball Percentage
Afghanistan66.753.2510.00%36.25%
Australia72.003.2510.93%36.67%
Bangladesh60.754.2512.16%43.76%
England77.252.2511.25%27.08%
India62.003.007.22%35.00%
New Zealand63.003.508.75%36.66%
Pakistan86.332.0016.11%25.55%
South Africa71.502.509.58%27.50%
Sri Lanka69.503.0011.25%35.83%
West Indies78.662.3315.00%38.33%
Match Winners74.102.6312.10%31.66%
Match Losers65.843.319.93%35.88%

Fascinatingly it is Pakistan who boast the most impressive middle over batting statistics ranking first in all four metrics. Of course, this data does exclude their match against India in which they scored 118-5 in 18 overs on a difficult pitch, and they did play two matches in the second highest scoring venue Mohali, but even considering these factors their numbers are still impressive enough to suggest the existence of a trend. Semi-Finalists England and West Indies both registered high average runs scored and low average wickets lost, England also had an impressive dot ball percentage. This is the phase where the Bangladesh batting came unstuck. They recorded the lowest average runs scored, highest average wickets lost and highest dot ball percentage. Interestingly unbeaten Semi-Finalists New Zealand also registered some poor figures in this phase: the third lowest average runs scored, second highest average wickets lost, second lowest average boundary percentage and fourth highest dot ball percentage. They were, of course, chasing relatively low totals in three of those four innings. India recorded a high average wickets lost having lost three and four wickets against New Zealand and Bangladesh respectively. India’s boundary percentage is dragged down by hitting none in the phase against New Zealand. Afghanistan and Australia both lost a relatively high number of wickets in this phase.


Middle Overs Analysis: Bowling

TeamAverage Runs ConcededAverage Wickets TakenAverage Boundary PercentageAverage Dot Ball Percentage
Afghanistan64.502.759.58%35.41%
Australia73.752.7512.08%31.25%
Bangladesh81.003.0015.00%29.16%
England90.503.0015.41%28.33%
India65.003.338.33%37.22%
New Zealand47.754.505.91%42.51%
Pakistan74.332.6614.44%33.88%
South Africa73.753.0011.25%27.08%
Sri Lanka68.252.0011.25%36.66%
West Indies60.752.757.08%37.08%
Match Winners65.843.319.93%35.88%
Match Losers74.102.6312.10%31.66%

It is in this phase that New Zealand clearly set themselves apart from the other nine teams in the competition. They are not only ranked first in all four metrics but are so by large margins, particularly in terms of average runs conceded and average wickets taken. Astoundingly in the four combined six over periods between overs seven and thirteen New Zealand conceded only two boundaries and took 12 wickets for just 89 runs. That is a boundary percentage of 1.38% across 24 overs. India were also impressive in this phase, recording the second highest average wickets taken, third lowest average boundary percentage and second highest dot ball percentage. Although they did not take a high number of wickets West Indies conceded very few runs in this phase and had low boundary and high dot ball percentages. Interestingly the fourth Semi-Finalist England conceded more runs on average in this phase than any other team. They did at least take the joint fourth average number of wickets in the phase. Sri Lanka had the lowest average wickets taken while Pakistan were second from bottom in terms of wickets and also had a high boundary percentage.


Death Overs Analysis: Batting

TeamAverage Runs ScoredAverage Wickets LostAverage Boundary PercentageAverage Dot Ball Percentage
Afghanistan36.753.0021.87%35.41%
Australia36.002.0519.85%27.65%
Bangladesh36.002.2521.66%27.70%
England49.501.7532.00%21.49%
India30.661.6626.47%38.06%
Match Losers34.502.6618.28%30.53%
Match Winners38.521.5725.15%24.67%
New Zealand39.002.7515.62%20.83%
Pakistan36.662.6615.27%16.66%
South Africa33.002.0011.17%25.04%
Sri Lanka29.252.5018.49%35.34%
West Indies23.501.5012.63%36.49%

Semi-Finalists England dominated this phase scoring the highest average runs and highest average boundary percentage and doing so by considerable margins. They also registered the fourth lowest average wickets lost and third lowest dot ball percentage. Despite completing their run-chases in this phase with relative ease in all four of their innings New Zealand recorded impressive results in all four metrics, particularly average dot ball percentage where they ranked second and did so despite not once facing the full four overs. They did have a high average wickets lost but of all four metrics in this phase wickets lost can be said to be the least important. Although the other Semi-Finalists India and West Indies recorded poor figures in this phase their data is to an extent excusable because India’s numbers are dragged down by being bowled out by New Zealand in the phase after scoring just 13 while West Indies didn’t once face a full four overs having completed their run-chases on three occasions and being bowled out on the other. Having recorded strong numbers for the other two batting phases it is here that Pakistan drop off. They set a mid-table average runs scored and had the lowest dot ball percentage but had the second highest average wickets lost and crucially the third lowest boundary percentage. Sri Lanka struggled in this phase with the second lowest average runs scored, the second highest average wickets lost and the fourth highest dot ball percentage.


Death Overs Analysis: Bowling

TeamAverage Runs ConcededAverage Wickets TakenAverage Boundary Percentage Average Dot Ball Percentage
Afghanistan 45.501.2528.61%20.46%
Australia41.752.0027.46%15.40%
Bangladesh34.503.0021.66%29.79%
England34.501.2518.75%34.45%
India33.002.6616.66%25.00%
New Zealand25.002.6618.28%30.53%
Pakistan48.001.0025.00%18.05%
South Africa 28.253.5019.04%42.43%
Sri Lanka38.251.0029.22%19.73%
West Indies36.002.7518.75%31.25%
Match Winners34.502.6618.28%30.53%
Match Losers38.521.5725.15%24.67%

After their sensational middle-over phase it is unsurprising that New Zealand dominated the following death over phase recording the lowest average runs conceded, joint third highest average wickets taken and second lowest average boundary percentage – and they did this despite bowling first in their four matches. India also fared well in this phase, registering the third lowest average runs conceded, joint third average wickets taken and the lowest average boundary percentage. Semi-Finalists England were relatively frugal, notably bowling a large number of dot balls. So too were West Indies who recorded the third lowest average runs conceded and third highest dot ball percentage. They were also potent too collecting the third highest average wickets taken. Pakistan, having struggled in the corresponding phase with the bat, did so also with the ball, recording the highest average runs conceded, joint lowest average wickets taken  and second lowest dot ball percentage. Sri Lanka struggled to collect wickets and had high boundary and low dot ball percentages. Afghanistan had a high average runs conceded.


Innings Analysis: Batting

TeamAverage Runs ScoredAverage Wickets LostAverage Boundary PercentageAverage Dot Ball Percentage
Afghanistan143.758.2513.75%41.66%
Australia161.006.5016.81%32.03%
Bangladesh142.166.6614.52%36.69%
England181.256.2518.85%29.43%
India128.667.0011.68%36.88%
New Zealand148.257.0013.54%37.50%
Pakistan177.006.0018.88%29.72%
South Africa146.007.5011.75%36.96%
Sri Lanka139.507.7513.40%38.60%
West Indies137.505.5013.76%41.31%
Match Winners159.785.5716.88%31.13%
Match Losers143.427.7313.70%38.13%

Having performances well across all three phases England top the batting rankings in terms of average runs scored and average dot ball percentage. Strong showings in the Powerplay and middle over phase from Pakistan as well as two matches in Mohali see them end up with the second highest average runs scored, third lowest average wickets lost, highest boundary percentage and second lowest average dot ball percentage. The runs scored data for New Zealand is somewhat skewed by them having batted second in all four innings but they still managed to be ranked fifth. New Zealand’s high average wickets lost is their weakest performance across phase metrics; they also struggled to hit boundaries – but this can in part be explained by comfortably chasing totals. The West Indies fared poorly in terms of average runs scored but batted second on all four occasions, chasing two out of three low totals. India had the lowest average runs scored and lowest average boundary percentage, two statistics which are largely shaped by being bowled out for 79 against New Zealand. Australia were ranked in the top five across all four metrics. Afghanistan and Sri Lanka had the highest average wickets lost.


Innings Analysis: Bowling

TeamAverage Runs ConcededAverage Wickets TakenAverage Boundary Percentage Average Dot Ball Percentage
Afghanistan155.756.0016.87%36.87%
Australia157.756.2516.26%32.45%
Bangladesh162.256.7517.85%33.07%
England175.006.2518.54%34.79%
India143.667.3313.05%38.05%
New Zealand110.258.509.62%40.89%
Pakistan173.005.0018.05%33.61%
South Africa161.258.7516.46%35.09%
Sri Lanka143.254.0014.90%36.14%
West Indies137.257.5011.45%40.20%
Match Winners143.427.7313.70%38.13%
Match Losers159.785.5716.88%34.13%

England and Pakistan, who had the highest average runs scored also register the highest average runs conceded, low numbers for average wickets taken and the highest two average boundary percentages. Bangladesh had similarly high average runs conceded and average boundary percentage and also bowled relatively few dot balls. Interestingly Australia, who performed mid-table in terms of average runs scored, average wickets taken and average boundary percentage had the worst dot ball percentage. Semi-Finalists New Zealand and West Indies, who batted second in all four of their matches registered the best two average runs conceded figures, second and fourth highest average wickets taken respectively and the two lowest boundary percentages. India recorded mid-table average runs-conceded and took a relatively high number of wickets. South Africa were the most potent bowling team, collecting the highest average wickets taken and Sri Lanka were the least potent bowling team.


Super 10: Aggregate Trends

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 10.12.30 Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 10.12.33 Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 10.12.36 Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 10.12.39


Freddie Wilde is a freelance journalist, @fwildecricket. 

Read Kartikeya Date’s application of CricViz data in an excellent dissection of bowlers’ length in ODI cricket

Australia v India and the ineffectiveness of the full-length delivery

http://www.espncricinfo.com/blogs/content/story/982187.html

CricViz data to be used in Channel Nine’s Australia v India TV coverage

CricViz is continuing its association with Channel Nine by agreeing to provide statistical analysis of the Australia v India ODI and T20I series in January 2016. Win probability and innings projection graphics will be in operation throughout the five-match ODI series and three T20Is, with CricViz’s statistical support also helping the production of other statistical graphics in the broadcast.

LYON’S SHARE

Little is likely to be remembered of the third Test between Australia and West Indies, so ransacked of playing time has it been by inclement weather, in a series already convincingly won by the hosts. Yet one statistical quirk – that of Nathan Lyon bringing up his 100th Test wicket in Australia, removing Kraigg Brathwaite on day one – should ensure it is not completely lost in the ether.

It’s taken a long time for the 28-year-old twirlyman’s value to be truly appreciated, but one that is now receiving rightful recognition after becoming his nation’s most successful Test offspinner in history earlier in 2015. Following a decent Ashes showing in England, where most of his team-mates floundered, Lyon has continued his impressive form since returning home.

And his experience and, crucially, ability to adapt to slight changes in pitch conditions is demonstrated clearly when compared to current young counterpart, West Indies’ Jomel Warrican.

Warrican, 23, has made quite an impression in his short Test career, stunning Sri Lanka by removing 4-67 on the first day of his debut bout with them back in October. However, while also exciting during the ongoing Australia tour, a mixture of zapping rigours and youthful exuberance has prevented him from adding the consistency required to frustrate and topple Australia’s batsmen.

Lyon showed the benefits of regularly bowling good lengths in the first Test, 80% of his deliveries at Hobart either landing on or just back of a length, while Warrican wasn’t far behind (70%), 23% of his deliveries were sent down as half volleys, accounting for 46 runs.

1st Test, HobartGood lengthBack of a lengthHalf volley 
Lyon59%21%17%
Warrican63%7%23%

The Australian further proved his reliability by maintaining a line of outside or on offstump 86.1% of the time, where as Warrican managed 74.3%, straying down leg too often and releasing the pressure he had built up.

The difference in control is exemplified again by the number of full tosses bowled by the pair, Lyon sending down just a single full delivery – coming in the second innings of the 2nd Test – unlike Warrican who has bowled 11 so far.

Lyon is, of course, notably aided by a better pace bowling unit who can almost constantly nag away at opposing batsmen. Warrican, meanwhile, is not afforded such a luxury, his side still to undo more than four Australian batsmen in a single innings.

However consistency is key to Warrican’s development, and importantly he has already attempted to make improvements, exhibiting an enhanced understanding and awareness in this series by tightening his lines in the second Test (85.3% outside or on offstump). It is a skill that Lyon built up over a number of seasons, and Warrican can expect to need just as long. Then he may be in a position to know when and how to pitch the ball a little bit fuller or shorter, extracting extra bounce to deceive a batter, just as Lyon did to remove Brathwaite and record his ton.

OPENING VOID

We are in an era of Test cricket, or a mini-era at least, in which opening partnerships are struggling almost as much as they ever have. In only two half-decades since the Second World War have opening partnerships averaged fewer than they have since 2011.

Since January 1st 2011 opening partnerships in Test cricket have averaged 35.07, which is 2.52 runs fewer than the historical average for the first wicket and more notably 6.05 runs fewer than the half decade between January 1st 2006 and December 31st 2010. An even sharper decline can be traced back to the first half decade of this millennium in which opening partnerships averaged 41.60, 6.53 more than they have in the most recent half a decade. The fall of 6.05 runs from the last half decade is considerably greater than the overall fall in average for all wickets of 2.09, suggesting that the decline in the average for opening partnerships is not only the product of an overall decline in averages.

PeriodOpening Partnership AverageOverall Average
All Time37.5932.17
2011-Present35.0733.51
2006-201141.1235.60
2001-200641.6034.24
1996-200133.2330.81
1991-199637.8432.04
1986-199136.9232.84
1981-198635.5532.98
1976-198136.5431.08
1971-197640.3434.24
1966-197138.9330.83
1961-196641.1133.70
1956-196135.6928.02
1951-195633.5929.68
1946-195145.2734.37

The last half decade of opening batting in Test cricket has been defined by the relative lack of consistently successful players. Since January 1st 2011 only Alastair Cook (4839) and David Warner (4277) have scored more than 3000 Test runs as openers while in the half decade before that Cook (4363), Virender Sehwag (4305), Andrew Strauss (3990) and Graeme Smith (3855) all scored well over 3000 runs, and in the decade before that Matthew Hayden (6366), Marcus Trescothick (5162), Justin Langer (4631), Herschelle Gibbs (3955), Chris Gayle (3476), Smith (3332) and Marvan Atapattu (3136) did so too. This abundance of successful openers established a relative golden age for opening partnerships between 2001 and 2011.

PairInningsRunsAverage100s50s
Sehwag & Vijay1079879.8031
Hayden & Jacques1178471.2726
McKenzie & Smith27166466.5658
Gambhir & Sehwag61350560.431019
Hughes & Katich1160460.4024
Jaffer & Karthik1474457.2332
Gibbs & Smith56298356.28710
de Villiers & Smith30164654.8656
Katich & Watson28152354.39310
Petersen & Smith1475954.2125
Strauss & Trescothick52267052.35812
Hayden & Langer113565551.881424
Farhat & Umar1575450.2631

Therefore, principal among the reasons for the sudden and dramatic decline in the returns of opening partnerships since 2011 has been the retirements of many of these hugely successful opening batsmen. Namely, Smith (last Test 2014), Sehwag (2013), Strauss (2012), Hayden (2009), Gibbs (2008), Langer (2007), Atappattu (2007) and Sanath Jayasuriya (2007) as well as the inconsistent selection of Chris Gayle for the West Indies who has only played 27% of West Indies’ 43 Tests since 2011.

reu_273408

Replacing such prolific batsmen was of course never going to easy; but every team—perhaps with the exception of Australia—have failed to do so. Since 2011 nine of the ten Test match teams have averaged less than 36.66 for their opening partnership and only Australia, with an average of 48.66, have managed more.

TeamPartnersInningsRunsHighAverage10050
Australia11104501323748.661721
South Africa767234613836.65510
Bangladesh848166331235.5825
England10105360423134.65812
India1388288928933.20413
Sri Lanka1491287820732.70315
New Zealand1081263215832.49414
Pakistan1380249517832.40711
West Indies1483245725430.7159
Zimbabwe82864310222.9612

The struggles of opening partnerships since 2011 is reflected in the relative instability of them. Since 2011 the average number of innings per opening pair is 7.17 which is the shortest life-span of an opening partnership since the half decade between 1996 and 2001.

PeriodInningsNumber Of Opening PairsAverage Innings Per Opening Pair
2011-Present7751087.17
2006-20117651067.21
2001-20069221227.55

Of course, replacing players of the quality that retired was never going to be easy, but teams have almost universally struggled to do so. Since the turn of the decade only Warner has emerged to join Cook as a consistently successful Test match opener.

Perennial strugglers Zimbabwe have predictably fared the worst, averaging just 22.96 since 2011.

Sri Lanka and West Indies have tried fourteen different opening combinations, more than any other team, [Sri Lanka, West Indies] but have only given more than ten innings to two and one of those combinations respectively.

Dimunth Karunaratne appears to be a promising prospect for Sri Lanka, with a Test average of 35.97, including a healthy average of 49.66 in bowler-friendly New Zealand, but they are yet to find a partner for him, with Kithuruwan Vithanage the latest to occupy the spot.

West Indies meanwhile are desperately missing Gayle who is 461 runs shy of becoming his country’s most prolific opening batsman ever but is nowhere near the team currently. Kraigg Brathwaite is, and has now played 25 Test matches. With three ducks in his last six innings and five single figure scores in his last ten, he is far from consistent but 94 in his most recent innings against Australia and an average of 33.76 suggests he is worth persisting with. Rajendra Chandrika is Brathwaite’s latest partner.

Similarly to Sri Lanka and West Indies, Pakistan have tried a lot of opening combinations: 13 to be precise, and have had a few relatively successful pairings. After Cook and Warner, Mohammad Hafeez is the next most prolific opening batsman in this half decade and he takes up one spot at the top of the order, leaving Azhar Ali, Shan Masood and Ahmed Shehzad to fight over the second spot.

4700601

New Zealand, who possess the third worst average (30.48) for opening partnerships after Bangladesh (28.55) and Zimbabwe (21.72) since the turn of the millennium, have the makings of a successful pairing in Martin Guptill and Tom Latham. Guptill’s Test record is uninspiring but the Kiwis will hope a century last week against Sri Lanka in Dunedin can be the beginning of him translating the quality he has displayed in limited-overs cricket into the Test arena. Latham meanwhile is arguably the most promising Test opener in the world. In Dunedin Guptill and Latham recorded 50 partnerships in both innings of the Test—the first time a New Zealand opening partnership has done so for six years. Admittedly, the Sri Lankan bowling attack is not the most threatening, but perhaps a corner has been turned.

Ostensibly India appear to have finally solved their opening partnership conundrum which has seen them attempt thirteen different combinations since January 2011. Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan have now opened together on 33 occasions and average 46.20. However, that average is inflated by huge partnerships of 289 against an Australian team that would go onto be whitewashed by India and 283 against Bangladesh. Excluding those two partnerships Vijay and Dhawan average just 23 together.  With a Test average of 41.09 overall, 47.75 this year and and 45.93 since 2013, Vijay looks to be a solid option for India. It is Dhawan, who has an average of 29 outside of Asia who remains something of a concern. Admittedly, India’s problems are not as serious as those facing other teams, but it would be wrong to assume the Vijay-Dhawan axis is a stable one.

England’s opening problems have attracted a lot of attention, possibly because they have attempted seven combinations (excluding Moeen Ali & Jos Buttler’s cameo in Abu Dhabi) in just 19 Tests since Andrew Strauss’ retirement, but in fact their first wicket average of 35.41 since Strauss’ retirement is merely in line with the global average of 35.07 since January 2011. Indeed, the downward global trend makes England’s decision to axe Nick Compton, who averaged 57.93 with Cook, all the more surprising. None of the other opening partnerships attempted by England since 2011 have averaged more than 36.60. Alex Hales is expected to be the next to be given an opportunity.

Bangladesh have only played 25 Tests since January 2011only Zimbabwe have played fewer—but their first wicket average of 35.58, is only bettered by South Africa and Australia. In that timeframe, Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes have the best average of opening pairs who have played more than ten innings together. However, the only time they batted together outside of Asia was against Zimbabwe.

Despite never appearing to be totally secure Alviro Petersen managed to form a fairly strong partnership with Graeme Smith for South Africa, and at least gave the top order some consistency. However, with Smith and Petersen now retired, neither opening position is safe. It is expected that Stiaan Van Zyl will partner Dean Elgar against England next week with Temba Bavuma, who opened in the final Test against India, lurking down the order. It is apposite of the age that the weakest link of the world’s number one ranked Test nation is their opening batting.

With Chris Rogers and Warner, Australia were the only team in the world with a stable and consistently successful opening partnership. Now Rogers is gone not one team can claim to have two openers who are assured of selection. Joe Burns has made a promising start to his career, but it is far too early to pass judgement on his new axis with Warner.

4637178

Without diminishing what Warner and Rogers achieved it is revealing that they are the most prolific opening partnership of this half-decade with just 2053 runs. In the half-decade before that Cook and Strauss scored 3678 runs together, and in the half-decade before that Hayden and Langer scored 5122 runs together.

Rarely in the history of Test cricket have opening batsmen struggled as much as they are now. The extent to which that is self-inflicted is uncertain but what is certain is that as selectors and coaches itch to make changes to their struggling partnerships they should bear in mind that statistically at least, opening the batting has rarely been harder.

The seeds of success at the top of the order are there for most teams; but they will need patience and care in this harsh age.

With inputs from Patrick Baatz.

WEST INDIES: THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL

Are things getting gradually better or gradually worse for West Indies cricket? In terms of the fortunes of the Test team, the answer, regrettably, must be the latter.

In the year 1988, West Indies followed up four wins in England with three in Australia: seven successes in a calendar year in two of the toughest places to tour (and in those days tours were tough, long assignments with many additional fixtures). Greenidge, Haynes and Richards were still on the scene, and they together with a young Ambrose and a battle-hardened Marshall formed the nucleus of such a formidable side.

The decline was just around the corner, however. There were 25 overseas Test wins in all for the Windies in their golden era of the 1980s, but just 11 in the 1990s. And since then it’s been even worse. In the 16 years that are almost complete of this millennium there have been just nine overseas Test wins achieved by West Indies. Shockingly, only two have been against teams other than Zimbabwe or Bangladesh.

Given this background, it is hardly surprising that even after reducing Australia to an almost precarious 121-3 at lunch on day one of the Hobart Test, our WinViz barometer almost scoffed at the suggestion of anything other than an Australia victory. It gave the hosts an 81.4% win chance, with “gun” batsmen David Warner and Steven Smith back in the changing rooms.

Let’s be clear: this was the one point in the match when we appeared to be witnessing a genuine contest between two proud cricketing nations, but Australia were in fact unusually robust favourites considering the score, and their position became ever rosier from that point.

Indeed, what happened after lunch only served to back up all negative preconceptions of the state of West Indies cricket. Despite being fresh, having bowled a short, single opening spell each, the new-ball bowlers Kemar Roach and Jerome Taylor were not called upon at all until deep into the middle session.

Adam Voges and Shaun Marsh, the latter in particular under pressure to keep his place in the side with Usman Khawaja due to re-enter the fray at some point, were allowed to play themselves in against two far more inviting bowlers. They were Jomel Warrican, the 23-year-old left-arm spinner who had bowled one ripper to send back Smith but otherwise lacked either consistency or menace, and the skipper Jason Holder, an honest seam-up medium-fast man who has not exactly blown away middle orders in his Test career to date.

The defensive fields in operation were hopelessly naïve too; West Indies were rapidly sleep-walking their way into a losing position. And though Holder may have argued that Roach and Taylor’s opening bursts had not been up to scratch, by holding them back for so long before their second spells on that opening day he was draining the last drops of positivity from their muddled minds.

When Australia subsequently recovered so effectively through Voges and Marsh that they were able to declare at 583-4, they then showed the value of bowling at the right length. This was a good pitch to drive on, and West Indies bowled too many half-volleys. Jerome Taylor, in taking 0-108 in 17 overs, dished out 17 juicy half-volleys which disappeared for 39 runs. Work it out: exactly one freebie an over in the perfect slot to drive and plenty of them being hit for boundaries.

Josh Hazlewood, the best bowler in the match, bowled just eight half-volleys across both West Indies innings, during which time he sent down 28.3 overs. That’s about one every four overs. Discipline is such an important part of Test match bowling and West Indies (Taylor in particular) were lacking.

When trying to pick the pieces out of this innings-and-212-run reversal in Hobart, it’s important to offer some balance and perspective when looking at West Indies cricket. Outside the Test sphere, they have enjoyed a couple of important high points in the last dozen years.

On a bitterly cold late September evening in London in 2004, they lifted the ICC Champions Trophy, unexpectedly beating the hosts in a low-scoring final thanks to a late batting heist by Courtney Browne and Ian Bradshaw. Then, in 2012, they again found a way to poop a home nation’s party, trumping Sri Lanka in Colombo in a remarkable, low-scoring ICC World Twenty final.

Amid all the internal conflicts, the lure of the Twenty20 leagues, the battle for cricket to resonate culturally in the Caribbean in this era, perhaps the most dispiriting aspect of all has been the state of pitches in the West Indies. It’s little wonder that fast bowlers have struggled to prosper given the surfaces simply don’t suit them any more.

In that World Twenty20 final, West Indies only needed two seamers and relied on four spinners, among them the excellent Sunil Narine. With some decent power hitters in the team as well, they had morphed into a perfect side to challenge for honours in this kind of tournament in the sub-continent. It’s a bizarre state of affairs for those who remember the West Indies teams of old.

So while the Test side is in danger of losing eighth place in the official Test rankings to Bangladesh, in the shortest format the West Indies team continues to prosper and will have a shout in next year’s World Twenty20 in India.

Of much more immediate concern is the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, which they enter with only one batsman (Darren Bravo) boasting a career average in the 40s, an important bowler (Shannon Gabriel) out injured, a captain who looks strategically lost and some motivational issues to sort out. It may not be a pretty sight.

HAZLEWOOD’S LEARNING CURVE

Josh Hazlewood is suddenly the key man in Australia’s Test bowling attack. Mitchell Johnson’s retirement and Mitchell Starc’s latest injury have put more pressure on the 24-year-old, but his performance at Adelaide has also been instrumental in his promotion.

There was talk of resting Hazlewood for the Adelaide Test, a move which would not necessarily have reflected his prominence in the fast bowling pecking order.

With James Pattinson and others desperate for a chance to impress, being out of the side is not a good place to be for a bowler who had taken four wickets in the first two Tests of the series. A rest can easily become a longer spell on the sidelines.

However, a nine-wicket haul in the maiden Day/Night Test has assured Hazlewood’s status as Australia’s leading seamer and key bowler for the forthcoming West Indies series. His Test best second innings figures of 6/70 showed just how much the New South Welshman has developed since the Ashes and throughout this series.

He hit an excellent length at Adelaide, something he had not done as consistently in the first and second Tests. His good length percentages at Brisbane and Perth were 61.7% and 57.9% respectively. It was 69.2% in the third Test.

Overall seam bowling improvement was a feature of the Day/Night Test. A grassier wicket, a swinging pink ball and the lure of floodlight assistance encouraged better performances from all the pacemen. Real or imagined, the bowler-friendly Day/Night conditions saw all seamers raise their game.

BowlerGood length % - Adelaide 1st inns
Hazlewood59.6
Starc61.1
Boult70.6
Southee73.5
BowlerGood length % - Adelaide 2nd inns
Hazlewood75.8
Starc-
Boult81.4
Southee70.8

An analysis of the three other regular opening bowlers shows they all recorded their highest good length percentages of the series at Adelaide, with Trent Boult (75.9%) leading the way. Tim Southee’s was 72.2% and Mitchell Starc’s 61.1%.

This left Hazlewood, Boult and Southee with similar overall good length percentages across the series, with the Australian producing a consistent pattern: his good length percentage was higher in the second innings than the first in all three Tests.

BowlerGood length % - series
Hazlewood63.1
Starc43.5
Boult64.4
Southee63.5

Some might say Hazlewood should learn faster than taking an innings in each match to find the appropriate length, although different conditions do call for varying approaches. Nonetheless, he has made great strides since the Ashes, when he mixed occasional unplayable deliveries with too many half volleys, seemingly striving too much for the perfect delivery with the Dukes ball.

As the occupier of the perhaps over-rated role of leader of the attack, Hazlewood justified his captain’s faith in him. Steven Smith pressed for his state colleague’s inclusion at Adelaide, knowing Hazlewood is now capable of attacking and containing as is required. A useful combination, and one which makes him the bowler to watch in the West Indies series.