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How would simplifying the LBW law change cricket?

CricViz analysis features in this week’s Telegraph newsletter, which utilises CricViz’s ball-tracking database to assess the effects of simplifying the LBW law.

CricViz have an agreement in place to provide The Telegraph newspaper in the UK with advanced data analysis and visualisations, delivered to their team of award-winning journalists via our team of analysts.

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This week Tim Wigmore’s newsletter utilises our extensive ball-tracking database to assess the potential impact of a change to the LBW law recently suggested by the former Australian captain Ian Chappell.

“The unscheduled hiatus to the game has brought reflection about all facets of the sport, even extending to the laws of the game,” writes Wigmore. “Earlier this month, former Australia captain Ian Chappell advocated drastic changes to the LBW law. The law, Chappell wrote, should be reformed. “The new LBW law should simply say: ‘Any delivery that strikes the pad without first hitting the bat and, in the umpire’s opinion, would go on to hit the stumps is out regardless of whether or not a shot is attempted,’” he said. “Forget where the ball pitches and whether it strikes the pad outside the line or not; if it’s going to hit the stumps, it’s out.”

Chappell’s suggestion is an interesting one. At CricViz we believe that the game should constantly look to evolve but that any changes should only be made after careful consideration based on as much empirical evidence as is possible.

“Newton’s third law states that every action always brings an opposite reaction,” writes Wigmore. “Without trialling the new rules we can’t be certain how they would play out, and what new strategies they would inspire. But CricViz’s ball-by-ball tracking data of all forms of the game since 2006 suggests that enforcing Chappell’s desired changes would be a boon to bowlers – in what is already a golden age for Test bowling.”

By applying filters to our ball tracking database to look at all deliveries that hit the batsman’s pad and would also go onto hit the stumps, irrespective of where they pitched or whether the ball hit the batsman in line with the stumps, we are able to identify the balls that would, technically at least, be out under Chappell’s suggestion. The results are presented in the graphic below.

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Wigmore describes the major takeaways. “In all three formats, there would be a 167% increase in leg-before dismissals if the ball did not need to pitch or hit the batsman in line, the analysis suggests. The upshot would be that a wicket would fall every 51 balls in first-class cricket, rather than every 61, and first-class averages would plummet a whole six runs. The average score for the loss of ten wickets in a first-class game would drop from 326 to 267. Bowlers would also benefit, to a lesser degree, in one-day international and Twenty20 cricket.”

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