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Strategic & Tactical Analysis, Champions Trophy Final, India v Pakistan

Freddie Wilde analyses some of the key strategic decisions and tactical battles ahead of the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy Final between India and Pakistan at The Oval.

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MATCH ANALYSIS: INDIA V ENGLAND, FOURTH TEST

CricViz analysis of the fourth Test between India and England in Mumbai.

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MATCH ANALYSIS: INDIA V ENGLAND, SECOND TEST

CricViz analysis of the second Test between India and England in Vizag.

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MEHEDI MAGIC: HOW TIGERS’ TALENTED NEW SPINNER UNPICKED ENGLAND

You would not have required an expert knowledge of cricket to make the visual observation that the wicket prepared for Bangladesh’s historic Test win over England was a raging “bunsen”. The pseudo-Cockney slang term (bunsen burner = “turner”) indicates a wicket particularly conducive to spin, and traditionally alien to cricketers brought up in English conditions.

What was less usual about this particular surface was that it turned from the word go and did not deteriorate as such. CricViz ball-tracking data shows England debutant Zafar Ansari was getting deliveries to turn a whopping 11 degrees on day one. The most successful bowler in the match by some distance – Mehedi Hasan, who brilliantly captured 12 wickets – was peaking at between nine and 10 degrees deep into the final session.

The BatViz slider on the CricViz app provides further evidence to support this theory. Rather than showing a gradual move towards maximum difficulty, it reveals fluctuations throughout the course of the match.

And that’s really what made the Test match quite as fascinating as it was: three big partnerships, one of 170, one of 100 and one of 99 (by England’s ninth-wicket pair, no less) and yet modest totals of 220, 244, 296 and 164. If ever there was a track where batsmen had to get themselves in before finding any confidence then this was it.

What was surprising was that only one spinner in the match consistently caused problems, and that was Mehedi – the man who turned 19 in the short window between the Tests. A fairly conventional off-spinner in style, he would have been delighted to find himself up against four left-handers in the England top six – and by bowling round the wicket to them he worried the outside edge of their bats with the one that turned a lot, and the stumps with the one that didn’t turn so much.

Mehedi removes Woakes

Mehedi removing Woakes on day two and ending a 99-run stand for England’s ninth wicket

His first wicket in the match was the key one of Alastair Cook, and it came early. The six balls in Mehedi’s first over had turned between 3.7 degrees and 6.9 degrees. The six in his second varied even more widely, turning between 2.7 and 7.3 degrees. Cook had faced 10 of those 12 deliveries and was on strike again when Mehedi bowled the first ball of his third.

This one turned the least of all of Mehedi’s deliveries up to then, just 1.7 degrees. You may have heard commentators at the time mentioning the ball “skidding on”. Well that’s partly becuse the ball didn’t bounce particularly high either – 55cm from a pitching position five metres from the stumps. A considerably fuller ball in his previous over had bounced higher. With variable bounce and variable degree of spin to account for, there was much in favour of high-quality spin even against the most watchful batting and Cook was a gonner – lbw after a successful review by the Bangladesh team.

Even good right-handed batsmen were prey to Mehedi’s variations. Jonny Bairstow, statistically England’s best batsman in 2016, had survived for almost an hour when also falling lbw to the young man from Khulna. This one was pitched 58cm shorter than the ball he had trapped Cook lbw with but bounced even less and Bairstow, playing off the back foot to give himself time to assess the degree of spin, was unable to adjust to the low bounce.

The most important wicket of all for Mehedi was Cook in the second innings. England were by now in deep trouble at 127-4 needing 273, but with their captain still there on 59, an in-form partner in the shape of Ben Stokes and a capable tail to come the beast had not yet been slain.

“I always wanted to do well whenever I got the opportunity. I didn’t really think it would be this series. It could have been any time in the next year or two. I wanted to come into the national team with a strong mentality so that I could perform well” – Mehedi

This delivery was again at the perfect in-between length. On another pitch Cook might well have played back to it, but perhaps wary of the manner in which he had fallen in the first innings, he came forward and looked to push runs into the off-side. But this was a slower one from Mehedi and it turned a fair bit, not too much as Cook would have missed it and the delivery would have been wasted but at 6.2 degrees of spin it was just right, slightly more than the average spin achieved by Mehedi through the match, and enough to locate a thick outside edge – and for the man at silly point to complete a fine catch.

Mehedi’s consistency of length was so important. He bowled 78% of his deliveries in the match on a good length, so was constantly provoking doubts in English batsmen. As for England’s spinners, they fell well short of this, particularly in the first innings where they collectively sent down just 40% of deliveries on a good length (Moeen Ali the best of a very poor bunch with a 50% ratio). And that really says it all: when you’re a slow bowler there is no substitute for being able to exert control over your opponents – just think back to the halcyon days of Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne. Mehedi had it; England’s spinners did not.

There is a footnote to this blog and it concerns the value of picking a talented young player unexposed to the rigours of hard-toil professional cricket across multiple formats. Mehedi is the first teenager ever to take 19 wickets in his first two Tests.

England are famously reluctant to pick teenagers for Test cricket. One of the most remarkable stats I found during the Dhaka Test was that in all, only five teenagers have ever represented England in Test cricket. Bangladesh, who began playing Tests more than a century after England, have had 26.

And another thing: when given their head, talented youngsters have tended to do well in the bowling department. Three bowlers took 50 Test wickets as teenagers, and you may well have heard of them: Waqar Younis, Daniel Vettori and Mohammad Amir.

Bangladesh have produced four of the most productive teenage batsmen ever, including England’s nemesis Tamim Iqbal, in a list headed overall by a certain Sachin Tendulkar, who amassed 1,522 runs before turning 20.

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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IPL PLAYERVIZ ANALYSIS – TEAM OF THE TOURNAMENT

As the IPL group phase nears completion, Patrick Noone takes a look at the players who have most positively affected their team’s chances of winning throughout the tournament.

Using CricViz’s PlayerViz statistics, it is possible to create a playing XI from the players with the highest impact scores. A player’s impact score provides a measure in runs of the impact that player’s performance has had on the match score. A player’s performance is measured against the average level of performance in that game and a positive or negative runs figure is produced to determine the extent that player has increased or decreased his team’s chances of winning. Scores are produced individually for batting, bowling and fielding, as well an aggregated overall figure that can be used to compare players by the same metric, regardless of their role in the team.

From the overall impact leaderboard, we are able to rearrange the top 11 players into a team as follows:

1. Quinton de Kock (Delhi Daredevils); Matches: 11, Runs: 383 (100s: 1, 50s: 2), SR: 144, Overall impact: +90 runs

The South African wicketkeeper has added consistency to his game to go with his obvious talent, with scores of 40+ in four consecutive innings before missing out against Rising Pune Supergiants. As he showed in his 108 against Royal Challengers Bangalore, he also has the ability to bat deep and convert those starts into more significant scores. de Kock’s preference to pick gaps in the field during the powerplay rather than go over the top have seen him hit 47 fours and just 12 sixes, with over 55% of all his runs coming in the first six overs.

IPL Fact: de Kock has been involved in five of Delhi’s 10 50+ partnerships this campaign.

2. David Warner (Sunrisers Hyderabad) Matches: 12, Runs: 567 (50s: 6) SR: 155.8, Overall impact: +187 runs

Warner tops our impact leaderboard thanks to a brilliantly consistent season at the top of the order for Sunrisers Hyderabad. With only three scores below 46, the skipper has relished his return to the opener’s spot after batting in Australia’s middle order at the ICC World T20. His side owe a lot to that consistency, with his 567 runs representing over 32% of the team’s total runs for the tournament, helping to overcome the stuttering form shown by their other top order batsmen.

IPL Fact: Warner is currently level with Ajinkya Rahane for the highest number of 50+ scores (6) without making a hundred.

3. AB de Villiers (Royal Challengers Bangalore) Matches: 12, Runs: 597 (100s: 1, 50s: 5), SR: 173.5, Overall impact: +145 runs

As Virat Kohli has taken most of the headlines in RCB’s star studded batting lineup, de Villiers had almost slipped under the radar for the first 10 games of this year’s IPL. That was until he hit 129 of his side’s 248 against Gujarat Lions to post the highest individual score of the season; and then followed it up with an unbeaten 31-ball 59 at Eden Gardens to help see off Kolkata Knight Riders. de Villiers’ record of batting with Kohli has been one of the stories of the IPL, with the pair putting on the top three partnerships of the tournament – the 229 in that game against Gujarat leading the way – and five century stands in total. De Villiers has also been electric in the field, taking 14 catches that represent a tournament high for non-wicketkeepers.

IPL Fact: de Villiers’ 129* against Gujarat Lions featured 112 runs from boundaries (10 fours, 12 sixes).

4. Aaron Finch (Gujarat Lions) Matches: 9, Runs: 313 (50s: 4), SR: 132.6, Overall impact: +92 runs

Three fifties in his first three innings at the top of the order for Aaron Finch hinted at a stellar tournament for the Australian, before an injury against RCB saw him lose his place to Dwayne Smith as Brendon McCullum’s opening partner. Since then, Finch has batted at three once and at five three times as the Lions have struggled for balance in their batting during the second half of the group phase. Nonetheless, Finch has still shown admirable resolve in his new role, most notably in match 34, when he made an unbeaten 51 against Sunrisers Hyderabad while his side stuttered to 126. Finch remains Gujarat’s top scorer with 313 runs and his strike rate is only bettered by McCullum and Smith, suggesting he will still have a big role to play for the new franchise in the knockout phase of the competition.

IPL Fact: Finch’s average of 52.2 is by far the highest of any Gujarat player in this year’s IPL. Dinesh Karthik is second with 29.8.

5. Shane Watson (Royal Challengers Bangalore) Matches: 12, Runs: 152, SR: 153.5, Wickets: 14, Economy: 8.5, Overall impact: +75.4 runs

Perhaps a surprise inclusion given his relatively quiet tournament with the bat – his high score is just 33 against Delhi Daredevils in match 11 – but Shane Watson has been a revelation for RCB with the ball. He leads his side’s wicket takers list with 14, picking up a wicket every 18.2 deliveries thanks to some canny changes of pace. Watson has only bowled 33 off-cutters in his 12 matches, but he has picked up 5-25 from those deliveries; the genuine variation proving enough of a surprise delivery to catch out batsmen on a regular basis.

IPL Fact: Watson is the only RCB bowler to have bowled three four-over spells with an economy of under seven runs per over.

6. Krunal Pandya (Mumbai Indians) Matches: 11, Runs: 233 (50s: 1), SR: 192.6, Wickets: 6, Economy: 7.1, Overall impact: +87.7 runs

The elder brother of India’s ICC World T20 squad member Hardik, Krunal Pandya has emerged as a genuine all-rounder for Mumbai Indians as they seek to defend their IPL title. Beginning the campaign primarily as a left-arm spin option to supplement Mumbai’s seam-heavy attack, Pandya has caught the eye with the bat in the middle order as the tournament has progressed. His unbeaten 49 from just 28 balls against Sunrisers Hyderabad in match 12 gave a glimpse of his potential before he repaid his side’s faith in sending him in at number three against Delhi Daredevils, blasting 86 from 37 balls to score his maiden IPL half century. Pandya’s versatility has afforded his side a flexibility that all T20 teams crave as he fulfils the coveted role of frontline bowler capable of batting in the top six.

IPL Fact: Krunal Pandya dismissed AB de Villiers in both matches between their respective sides.

7. Chris Morris (Delhi Daredevils) Matches: 11, Runs: 168 (50s: 1), SR: 184.6, Wickets: 12, Economy: 6.8, Overall impact: +80 runs

Another player who fits into the ‘genuine all-rounder’ category, Morris has lived up to his big price tag with his performances with both bat and ball during this campaign. A bowler of genuine pace – his speeds have consistently been around 85-88mph, with a tournament high of 89.2mph against Kings XI Punjab in match 36. A batting strike rate a fraction below 185 shows his prowess as a lower order hitter, with his undoubted highlight the 82* from 32 balls that saw him bring up the tournament’s fastest 50 (17 balls).

IPL Fact: Morris is ranked first and second in Delhi Daredevils’ leaderboards for batting average and bowling economy rate respectively.

8. Axar Patel (Kings XI Punjab) Matches: 12, Runs: 97, SR 149.2, Wickets: 11, Economy: 7.3, Overall impact: +81 runs

In another difficult season for Kings XI Punjab, Axar Patel has once again proved himself to be a consistent performer both as a canny left arm orthodox bowler and a reliable lower order batsman. He took career best figures of 4-21 against Gujarat Lions in game 28, a performance that included the only hat-trick of the tournament to date. Meanwhile his highlight with the bat came in a losing cause in Hyderabad against the Sunrisers as he smashed 36 off just 17 balls to propel his side to 143.

IPL Fact: Patel has hit more than twice as many sixes as fours in this competition (3 fours, 7 sixes).

9. Yuzvendra Chahal (Royal Challengers Bangalore) Matches: 9, Wickets: 12, Economy: 7.8, Overall impact: +66 runs

Chahal has become a key figure for RCB since his breakthrough IPL in 2014 and this year he is their second highest wicket taker behind Shane Watson, while in the tournament as a whole, Amit Mishra is the only spinner to have taken more wickets than RCB’s 25-year old legspinner. Chahal does not rely too heavily on variations – only three of his 12 wickets have come from googlies – preferring instead to beat the batsmen with subtle changes of pace and drift. Asked to bowl in the powerplay on five occasions this season, he is the highest ranked spinner on our bowling impact leaderboard in that part of the innings. He has only gone wicketless in one of his nine matches this campaign and is fast establishing himself as one of the leading young spin bowlers in the Indian game.

IPL Fact: No one has taken more wickets (3) through stumpings than Chahal in this tournament.

10. Jasprit Bumrah (Mumbai Indians) Matches: 13, Wickets: 14, Economy: 7.6, Overall impact: +87 runs

The young seamer is enjoying quite a year since he made his ODI debut at the SCG in January, going on to become a key part of India’s Asia Cup and World T20 sides. His ability to bowl yorkers has made him an excellent death bowler; in this tournament he has successfully landed 29 such deliveries, conceding just 27 runs. This, allied to his unusual action, has allowed Mumbai to play him in tandem with fellow seamers Tim Southee and Mitchell McClenaghan as part of a varied attack that has taken 42 of the side’s 60 wickets.

IPL Fact: When Bumrah took 3-13 against Delhi Daredevils on 15th May, he became the first Mumbai seamer to bowl a four-over spell with an economy less than four since Lasith Malinga in 2014.

11. Mustafizur Rahman (Sunrisers Hyderabad) Matches: 12, Wickets: 14, Economy: 6.7, Overall impact: 104.79 runs

Bangladesh’s most recent star is taking his first IPL by storm, sitting fourth in the wicket taker’s list and playing a major role in what is arguably the best seam attack of the IPL. The off cutter has been Mustafizur’s most potent weapon – his ability to bowl at such a reduced pace with so little change in action has brought him plenty of reward; most notably against Kings XI Punjab on 23rd April when his 10 off-cutters produced two wickets, conceding no runs.

IPL Fact: Mustafizur is only the fifth Bangladeshi to feature in the IPL after Mohammad Ashraful, Mashrafe Mortaza, Abdur Razzak and Shakib Al-Hasan.

Where’s Kohli?
One notable omission from the CricViz XI is Virat Kohli. Despite scoring 752 runs at an average of 83.6, RCB’s captain sits in 14th place in our overall impact leaderboard, with a cumulative score of +51 runs. The reason for this incongruity is because the PlayerViz model that is used to generate these scores is resource-based, meaning that credit is not given to performances that are expected in the context of variables such as balls faced.

An example of this aspect of the model penalising Kohli can be seen in RCB’s match against Rising Pune Supergiants, when he scored 80 off 63 balls. Kohli’s batting impact score for this match was -16, despite his contribution to his side winning the game. This is because an opener facing just over half the balls available in the innings should be closer to a hundred than Kohli was. By contrast, in the same match AB de Villiers batted at three and scored 83 off 46 balls to finish with a batting impact score of +22 runs.

Virat Kohli, down the track to success

Virat Kohli’s astonishing form with the bat has continued as the IPL reaches its halfway stage. At the time of writing, the Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper is the tournament’s second highest run scorer with 381 runs scored at an average of 76.20. The only man to have scored more than Kohli at this juncture is Sunrisers Hyderabad’s David Warner who has five more runs having played seven matches to Kohli’s six. Analysing the two players’ performances alongside Kohli’s team mate AB de Villiers reveals some interesting trends about how each batsman accumulates their runs.

What has stood out during Kohli’s scores of 75, 79, 33, 80, 100* and 14 is the way he has used his feet to both the spinners and pace bowlers. 87 of his 381 runs (22.83%) have come from shots played coming down the track, scored at a strike rate of 164.15. By contrast, Warner has only come down the pitch on five occasions across his seven innings, scoring just four runs. The Australian opener prefers instead to play aggressively on the back foot – 202 of his 386 runs (52.33%) have been scored from back foot shots at a strike rate of 165.57.

Kohli has had great success batting with AB de Villiers – the pair have put on stands of 157, 107, 59 and 155 in this campaign – and RCB’s number three currently lies third in the tournament’s top scorers with 316. Like Warner, de Villiers has been reluctant to go on the charge as our data shows him to have only played seven shots after advancing, scoring six runs in the process. Instead, de Villiers has attacked primarily on the front foot; using his ability to score all around the ground, the South African has plundered 164 runs (51.9% of all his runs) from that position at a strike rate of 159.22.

This contrast in approach between Kohli and de Villiers is perhaps a factor behind their success as a pair. Bowling attacks will struggle to find the correct lengths to bowl if a batsman’s footwork disrupts their rhythm; a problem only compounded when each batsman adopts such different methods of run scoring.

Despite Kohli’s scintillating form up to this point, his method of walking towards the bowler has proved his undoing on two occasions – significantly his two lowest scores of the IPL. Against Mumbai Indians, Kohli advanced on three occasions but was twice beaten by the away swing of Tim Southee and ultimately holed out failing to get to the pitch of a Krunal Pandya delivery. Then, in his most recent outing against Sunrisers he was unable to get on top of an off cutter from Mustafizur Rahman and picked out backward point.

Kohli’s approach is unlikely to change in light of these relative failures, and nor should it. However, they do offer a glimmer of hope to bowling sides in the remainder of the tournament that a player’s greatest strength can sometimes be their weakness.