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CricViz Classics: New Zealand v Australia

As the Southern hemisphere rivals go head-to-head in the World Cup once again, Patrick Noone looks back on their last group match encounter: a thriller at Eden Park.

When New Zealand took on Australia at Eden Park in Auckland in the group stage of 2015 World Cup, the pre-match discussion was largely centred around the power of the two batting line-ups. Martin Guptill and Brendon McCullum v David Warner and Aaron Finch. Kane Williamson v Steve Smith. Corey Anderson v Glenn Maxwell.

Both teams were packed with talent who, at that stage of the tournament, had already shown themselves to be capable of making big scores; New Zealand through their all-out aggression from ball one, Australia with their well-grooved approach that was more measured, but by no means less effective.

And it was not just the identity of the batsmen on display that led to many assuming that this would be a run-soaked affair – the playing area at Eden Park is one of the smallest in world cricket, with tiny straight boundaries that batsmen of this calibre would surely have no trouble clearing repeatedly.

A washout in Brisbane for their game against Bangladesh meant that Australia had not played for two weeks since dispatching England with ease on the opening night of the tournament. Meanwhile New Zealand came into the Auckland game off the back of three comfortable wins against Sri Lanka, Scotland and England. Even at this early stage of the tournament, there was a sense that this was a battle between two of the strongest teams in the World Cup, the winner of which would likely top the group.

The game began much in the way that many expected. Australia hit 15 off the first over, nine off the second; Warner and Finch hit a six each – the former a top edge that flew over third man, the latter a booming drive over long-on. Those straight boundaries; so easily cleared.

The ball after Finch’s six, New Zealand struck back as Tim Southee bowled the right-hander. Relief for the bowler after conceding 17 runs from his first seven balls, but the respite was brief as Shane Watson worked his first ball – a leg-stump full toss – through square leg for four.

There was a chaotic, frenzied nature to everything in the opening stages of this encounter. Southee and Trent Boult had polished off both England and Scotland for less than 150 in their previous two matches, but Southee in particular was struggling for rhythm. He was either too full or too short, leaking boundaries and unable to string more than two dot balls together. After six overs, The Black Caps were staring down the barrel with Australia having raced to 51-1.

McCullum had to do something out of ordinary to change the momentum of the game, and he did so by turning to Daniel Vettori in the seventh over. New Zealand had not bowled a single over of spin in the first ten overs in any of their previous three matches, but desperate times called for desperate measures.

Bringing on a left-arm spinner to a well-set David Warner on a ground with short straight boundaries is about as gutsy as bowling changes get. But Vettori was one of the canniest operators around at the time and he repaid the faith his skipper bestowed upon him, beginning his spell with five successive dots before Warner finally cut him away for two off the last ball of the over.

Vettori’s would end up bowling his ten overs in succession, firing in darts at an average speed of 94kph, the fastest he’d ever registered in an ODI spell. He had two wickets to his name – the key scalps of Watson and Steve Smith – before he’d so much as conceded a boundary. Vettori completely changed the complexion of the match and his dismissal of Watson, coupled with Southee removing Warner for 34 with the very next ball, laid the platform for Boult to return for his second spell.

Having gone wicketless in his first five overs, it took the left-armer just two balls to strike in his new spell as Maxwell went for an expansive drive but could only drag the ball onto his stumps. Two balls later, Mitch Marsh was dismissed in identical fashion and it was now Australia’s turn to be in disarray.

Where McCullum was able to wrest back control of the game in bringing on Vettori, Australia were unable to stop the slide. 51-1 had become 97-6 and Boult’s tail was up – Clarke slapped him straight to cover in his next over – a wicket-maiden – before Mitchell Johnson did likewise in the over after that. Both were the kind of shot batsmen only play when their minds are muddled, when the game is so fraught that it does not allow for clarity of shot selection or execution.

Boult picked up his fifth when Mitchell Starc was bowled and the final analysis of his second spell was a staggering 5-3-3-5.

He and Vettori had changed the course of the game and Australia, rattled and reeling inside a now raucous Eden Park, were bundled out for 151 having scored 100-9 in the 25.2 overs since Vettori’s introduction.

This would surely be an easy chase for New Zealand, wouldn’t it? This was still Eden Park, with those short straight boundaries. Guptill and McCullum had chased down a similar target against England inside 13 overs just eight days previously; Australia’s chances looked slim.

They looked even slimmer still as soon as the run chase began. A no-ball from Johnson was glanced for four by Guptill and the ensuing free hit was disdainfully mauled over cover for six. Australia were defending 151 and had conceded 11 runs from one ball. Johnson would rein it back for that over at least, bowling five successive dots, but the carnage was set to continue, nonetheless.

McCullum charged his first ball from Starc – a harbinger of what was to come later in the tournament – nailing it for six over long-off. The Black Caps skipper followed that up in Johnson’s next over with a six and a four before misjudging a bouncer and being struck on the arm as he tried to duck. McCullum was deemed fit to carry on, but the whole episode added to the gladiatorial, frenetic nature of the contest.

Johnson had dealt a blow to McCullum but, in a game where only 303 runs were scored across both innings, his eventual figures of 6-1-68-0 are almost fascinatingly bad, not least because he managed to somehow sneak a maiden in there despite conceding more than 11 runs per over.

Those numbers illustrate the ruthless efficiency of Guptill and McCullum’s attacking against Johnson. Guptill’s free hit six was the only ball of Johnson’s he attacked, while McCullum attacked 11 balls, scoring 34 runs including five fours and two sixes.

With Johnson unable to get any semblance of control over the run chase, it was left to Starc to step up and try and drag Australia back into the contest. The left-arm quick picked up Guptill’s wicket at the end of the fourth over and delivered a body blow to the Kiwis when both Ross Taylor and Grant Elliott were bowled in successive balls after Pat Cummins had dismissed McCullum in the meantime.

Taylor was bowled by a searing 145kph in-swinging yorker before Elliott suffered the same fate, though on that occasion, Starc cranked it up further to 149kph and found even more swing. It was as close to perfection as you’re likely to see; a fast bowler delivering two balls on an almost identical spot at a crucial stage of a tight run chase.

Suddenly New Zealand were 79-4 and it was Starc’s turn to have the wind in his sails. The second of the tournament’s leading bowlers taking centre stage as a previously buoyant Eden Park was plunged into uncertainty.

A period of relative calm followed as Anderson rebuilt the innings with Williamson but, when the former was dismissed by Maxwell with the score on 131, it reopened the door for Starc to have one final push for victory.

Luke Ronchi gloved one behind in the second over of Starc’s new spell. Williamson remained as the sole recognised batsman, and after Cummins saw off Vettori in the next over, it became clear that this was going to the wire. New Zealand were 145-7, seven to win, three wickets in hand, Starc at the top of his run up.

Williamson took a single from the second ball of the over, giving Adam Milne four balls to survive. He would not even make it through one of those deliveries as Starc speared in another yorker that made a mess of his stumps. Southee was next and he was no match for the Starc yorker either; stumps flying again, and Australia were on the brink of a famous victory.

Boult came to the crease as the number 11.

Two balls to survive.

The two protagonists of this most brilliant, blistering and downright bonkers game facing off against each other with the match on the line.

Boult was able to defend his first ball, Starc’s length comfortable enough for him to deal with

One ball to survive.

Starc went for his yorker again but for once his line was off and Boult could let it go through to the wicket-keeper. He had survived; six to win.

In amongst the madness, Williamson was a sea of calm at the other end. Allowing Milne to take strike in the previous over was about to become the costliest of errors, but you wouldn’t have known it from the way he nonchalantly backed away and struck the first ball of Cummins’ over for six over long on, one of only two sixes he would hit in the entire tournament.

For all the talk of this being a batting paradise, it was the performances of two bowlers that defined this match and turned it into a classic. Though, perhaps the discussions about the dimensions of the ground weren’t as ill-founded as it appears at first glance. Either side of the Boult/Starc heroics, this was a game that began with a six over third man and ended with a six over long-on.

Those straight boundaries; so easy to clear after all.

Patrick Noone is an analyst at CricViz.

@patnoonecricket

CricViz Analysis: The Genius of Kane Williamson

Patrick Noone looks at how the New Zealand captain has quietly gone about his business on his way to successive World Cup centuries.

Kane Williamson is not an obvious modern-day batting superstar. He doesn’t possess the power of Andre Russell, the swagger of Virat Kohli or the innovation of Glenn Maxwell. He is an old-fashioned batsman in a modern world, breaking the mould in the most measured way imaginable.

Williamson might lack the obvious charisma and rock-star status of some of his contemporaries, but that should never be mistaken for timidity or meekness. Beneath the calm exterior is a sharp cricketing brain, a steely mental resolve and, above all, a relentless thirst for runs.

Since New Zealand’s tour to England in 2015, Williamson has played 12 ODI innings in the UK across that bilateral series, the 2017 Champions Trophy and the ongoing World Cup. Only twice has he failed to pass 50, and even on those occasions he made 40 and 45. That is an astonishing level of consistency for a player in foreign conditions over such a prolonged period of time.

It speaks volumes that even after such a long run of success, Williamson has arguably elevated his game to a higher level in this tournament, having played two of the finest innings of the competition so far. First, against South Africa at Edgbaston, his ice-cool hundred got the Black Caps over the line in a difficult chase, before he repeated the trick in the next match against West Indies, rescuing New Zealand from a precarious position at 7-2 to take them to what turned out to be a match-winning total.

With the exception of the ten-wicket win against Sri Lanka, New Zealand have lost their first wicket within 5.1 overs of every innings they’ve batted so far in this tournament. On two occasions – against Afghanistan and West Indies – Martin Guptill has been dismissed from the first ball of the innings, leaving Williamson to come in as a de facto opener.

Against South Africa, Williamson was afforded slightly longer as Colin Munro lasted 2.1 overs with just 12 runs on the board in a chase of 242, but his task was the same: rebuild, consolidate, accumulate. But that’s not to say Williamson was negative or was guilty of getting bogged down. In a relatively brisk partnership of 60 with Guptill, the skipper was happy to attack when South Africa over-pitched or erred with a wide line. He scored at 5.40 runs per over in his first 30 balls, quicker than any subsequent chunk of his innings, until his final match-winning flourish.

Rather than building a platform and kicking on, Williamson instead played the situation, reined his innings back as wickets began to fall around him and continued to score at a measured, but remarkably consistent rate throughout.

This was a batsman showing complete faith in his technique to get his team over the line. It was far from Williamson’s most fluent innings – the 15% false shots he played is the highest he’s ever registered in any of his ODI hundreds – but he knew that if he was there at the end, he would get the job done. And so it proved.

Three days later at Old Trafford, Williamson again strode to the crease with his side in trouble. 0-1 from 0.1 overs promptly became 7-2 after 0.5 overs and The Black Caps were left to rely on their two most experienced heads to get them out of another difficult situation. Williamson, alongside Ross Taylor, rebuilt the innings and drove New Zealand towards a competitive total.

But Williamson would not have it all his own way. His battle with West Indies left-armer Sheldon Cottrell, the other outstanding performer in the match, made for compelling viewing. After serving up a juicy full toss that was dispatched for four for Williamson’s first ball, Cottrell would then bowl 14 dots from the remaining 17 balls he bowled to the New Zealand captain in his opening spell.  

Williamson picked his moments to score off Cottrell – his only boundaries coming from the occasions when the seamer was too full, too short or angling into his pads. A further illustration of Williamson’s judiciousness is the nature of the balls he opted to defend. When Cottrell hit the line and length just outside his off-stump, Williamson showed no interest in scoring during the early part of his innings. It was only during the death overs when looking for quick runs that he played an attacking shot to a ball in that region, costing him his wicket and giving Cottrell a victory of sorts.

Williamson is already rightly considered one of the finest batsmen New Zealand has ever produced. Perhaps only Martin Crowe can rival the current skipper for that particular gong, but what sometimes gets overlooked is his prowess across formats and across conditions. Williamson was the leading run scorer in the 2018 IPL, has the most Test hundreds by a New Zealander (20) and averages 51.44 in ODIs since the 2015 World Cup. You can make a strong case that, alongside Virat Kohli, Williamson is the greatest all-format batsman in the world.

And that’s before we even consider the mental strength of the man. As is often the case, the numbers are informative, but they only tell half the story. Williamson’s finish at Edgbaston was reminiscent of the Eden Park thriller of 2015, when he held his nerve to hit Pat Cummins for six over long-on to beat Australia. For a player not renowned for his power, to have hit a decisive six in a high-pressure World Cup run chase not once, but twice, only serves to highlight the calibre of batsman we’re talking about.

After hitting that six in Auckland four years ago, Williamson celebrated with a gentle fist pump before embracing Trent Boult in the middle. At Old Trafford on Saturday night, Boult again was involved in the winning moment, taking the catch that ended Carlos Brathwaite’s onslaught. Once again, Williamson was as calm in the victory moment as he had been with his captaincy in the overs leading up to the finale.

Nothing seems to faze him on or off the field. While 20,000 people in the Old Trafford crowd were losing their minds, while the New Zealand fielding was becoming ragged and while cracks were starting to appear in his charges, Williamson kept his cool. It was an all-round performance that epitomised the emotions of both Williamson the captain and Williamson the man.

New Zealand so often fly under the radar, but in Williamson they have an indisputable world great leading them. In each of the last two World Cups, they have been a team built in the image of their skipper and, while they might lack the fireworks and the brutality of the McCullum regime, the 2019 Black Caps vintage have quietly gone about their business in a manner befitting their captain.

Williamson has taken his team to almost certain qualification for the semi-finals, not quite single-handedly but with a single-mindedness that few in the game can match. Williamson is always under-stated, often under-rated but after the tournament he’s having, he will never be under-appreciated.

Patrick Noone is an analyst at CricViz.

@patnoonecricket

MATCH ANALYSIS: INDIA V NEW ZEALAND, SECOND TEST

India 316 (Pujara 87, Rahane 77, Saha 54*, Henry 3-46) and 263 (Rohit 82, Saha 58*, Boult 3-38, Henry 3-59, Santner 3-60) beat New Zealand 204 (Bhuveneshwar 5-48) and 197 (Latham 74, Jadeja, 3-41, Shami 3-46, Ashwin 3-82) by 178 runs

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MATCH ANALYSIS: INDIA V NEW ZEALAND, FIRST TEST

India 318 (Vijay 65, Pujara 62, Boult 3-67, Santner 3-94) and 377 for 5 dec (Pujara 78, Vijay 76, Rohit 68*, Jadeja 50*) beat New Zealand 262 (Williamson 75, Latham 58, Jadeja 5-73, Ashwin 4-93) and 236 (Ronchi 80, Santner 71, Ashwin 6-132) by 197 runs

Unsurprisingly since India’s home Tests have begun being played on big turning pitches, this match was decided by spin: both how it was bowled and played. On both counts India were the better of the two teams. India’s two spinners, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja took 16 wickets at an economy rate of 2.65; New Zealand’s three spinners, Mark Craig, Michell Santner and Ish Sodhi took eight at 3.58.

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MATCH ANALYSIS: SOUTH AFRICA V NEW ZEALAND, 2ND TEST

After South Africa’s large first innings score in the Second Test at Centurion it was always going to be difficult for New Zealand to save the match with South Africa able to set aggressive fields and reap the benefits of scoreboard pressure. However South Africa still had to take twenty New Zealand wickets and they did so thanks largely to Dale Steyn who took 8-99 from 36.2 overs in the match.

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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

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Freddie Wilde is a freelance journalist, @fwildecricket. 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

AUSTRALIA V NEW ZEALAND 1ST TEST ANALYSIS

Australia’s Test record at the Gabba makes it the most well-known fortress in cricket. Only one other home team have gone more than five Tests undefeated at a venue since 1990: India, nine matches without a loss at Delhi. Australia have played 25 Tests at Brisbane in this period.

There are various factors that explain this streak beyond ones specific to the venue. Australia have lost only 18 times in 143 home Tests in this period, with five reverses in 24 Tests at Perth their worst return.

Being the traditional series opener also helps Australia at the Gabba. In the last 10 years the difference between home team win and loss percentages in the first matches of series is 30% (48% won, 18% lost). It reduces to 22% in the second Tests of series and 18% in the third.

In this era of compressed tours and brief warm-up periods away teams often get caught cold in series curtain-raisers, regardless of the conditions.

However, the CricViz model is more concerned with the expected performance of the players involved in the game in question. It evaluates each player in the context of the opposition and the expected conditions.

It was Australia’s suitability to the bounce of the Gabba wicket that contributed to their win probability of 65% after the toss. They had the stronger seam attack and batting unit and the better spinner. New Zealand started at 27%, with 8% for the draw.

This is a seemingly low stalemate probability for a Test match, but a decent weather forecast and high projected scoring rates made this the least likely outcome, despite the good batting conditions.

The match unfolded in a way that was unsurprising to most observers. The Aussie openers survived a brief testing spell before piling up the runs against a toiling seam attack and a spinner who lacked control. The average projected outcome of a 223-run home win in PredictViz at the start of day two was very near the mark.

The suitability of the home seamers to Brisbane became clear when New Zealand batted. In the last 10 years 33.9% of Test wickets have been LBW or bowled. At the bouncier Gabba that figure is 24.1%.

Wicket distributionLBWBowledLBW + Bowled
Gabba - home batsmen7.9%10.5%18.4%
Gabba - away batsmen13.5%14.1%27.6%
All Tests16.9%17.0%33.9%

Australian bowlers are largely responsible for this figure – 27.6% of the hosts’ wickets in this period have been LBW or bowled, compared with just 18.4% of visiting teams’ scalps. The extra pace of the home pacemen, of whom Mitchell Starc in particular likes to attack the stumps, was a major cause of New Zealand’s first innings collapse.

The Black Caps were seemingly cruising on a hot second day, 56 without loss in prime batting conditions. Most expected them to go on to score more than the 353 PredictViz projected, but the underlying expected averages produce a sound prediction when re-simulated 10,000 times.

New Zealand’s problems mounted throughout the Test. They have lost their all-rounder to injury – the performance of the fifth bowler is a key factor in the CricViz model – and have a concern over Tim Southee, a crucial part of their attack. Don’t be surprised to see a high Australia win probability at Perth, a venue that brings the opposition into the game more than most in Australia.