Welcome to the Bat and Ball Brimborion.
This is a blog about numbers (mostly).
Cricket statistics (mostly).
But they could be any numbers.
Or anything else that I may feel like rambling on about.
Whatever may interest me at the time.
And, in case you are wondering:
Brimborion – n. Something useless or nonsensical. From ‘The Superior Person’s Second Book of Words’ by Peter Bowler (not the first-class cricketer).


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Are Tests cricket’s answer to baseball?

Twenty20 is cricket’s answer to baseball, is it not? Many people have suggested this. There are certain similarities: Like baseball it lasts about three hours and must have a winner. (Even a tie seems to have been outlawed in Twenty20 with the advent of bowl-outs. Why do we not have ‘extra innings’ instead?). Arguably, there are also more shots played in Twenty20 that are similar to baseball shots than in Test cricket.

But, consider two points:

Firstly, the fundamental philosophy of what constitutes an innings (or inning). In Test and first-class cricket you are in until you are out, i.e. you are in until your 10th wicket falls (unless you declare). This could occur at any time. An inning (for one team) in baseball could take 3 pitches or it could theoretically go on forever. The longest recorded inning (both teams, i.e. 6 outs) in MLB is 1 hour, 8 minutes in a game between Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers on 8 May 2004 according to the following link: http://thelongestlistofthelongeststuffatthelongestdomainnameatlonglast.com/long490.html. (Which rivals ‘Bat and Ball Brimborion’ for absurd web-site names.)
Likewise an innings in Test or first-class cricket could take 10 balls or it could theoretically go on forever. The longest innings in first-class cricket is 335.2 (6-ball) overs when England scored 903-7* v Australia at The Oval in 1938.

In Twenty20 and all other limited overs games you are in until your overs are over. The end of the innings is pre-determined when it starts. So the clock, if you like, in baseball and Test cricket is the same (outs/wickets) while the clock in overs games is different. It is overs.

Secondly, consider the pace of the game. Here is an interesting stat: Using CricInfo’s ball-by-ball data we can calculate the percentage of balls on which nothing happens. No runs, no extras, no wickets. Dot balls. In Twenty20 approximately 31.0% of balls are dot balls. In 21st century Fifty50 games approximately 51.9% are dot balls. In Test cricket since 2000 nothing happens on approximately 73.3% of all balls. Retrosheet gives play-by-play data for baseball. From this we can calculate that in regular season games this century approximately 72.8% of pitches have no play, i.e. the equivalent of cricket’s dot balls. Remarkably similar to Tests, isn’t it? And a long way removed from Twenty20. So, perhaps not coincidentally to the first point, the pace of Test cricket is much closer to baseball in pace than Twenty20 is.

So there you have it. Baseball adheres to Test and first-class cricket’s fundamental philosophy of what constitutes an innings (even if it drops the ‘s’). And it is played at the same pace as Test cricket. So, even allowing for the time and result factors, Test cricket seems more like baseball than Twenty20 to me.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Is the captain a good tosser?

Graeme Smith has won the toss in 30 of the 50 Tests he has had as captain (if you agree with the ICC that the ‘Super-Test’ between Australia and the World XI in 2005/06 counts). This is a success rate of 60%. Smith also has an above average ODI toss success rate with 54 out of 103 (52.4%).

As we know there is a 50% chance of winning the toss. So, it is unlikely that Smith’s success rate is as a result of skill. Far more likely is that over time it will ‘regress to the mean’, i.e. get closer to 50%.

From binomial distribution probability we can calculate that the chances of a captain in 50 Tests winning the toss between 20 and 30 times (i.e. 5 either side of the mean of 25) is 88.1%. So, Smith’s success rate while quite useful is still well within the bounds of expected probability.

Of players with 20 or more captaincies the most successful tosser in Test cricket is Lindsay Hassett with 18 toss wins out of 24 (75.0%). He is followed by Zimbabwe’s Alistair Campbell with 15 out of 21 (71.4%). Zimbabwe would have preferred a higher success rate in matches won rather than tosses won out of him. Zimbabwe won only 2 of his 21 Tests in charge.

At the other end of the scale Len Hutton won only 7 of his 23 tosses (30.4%). Ricky Ponting has won only 14 of his 37 (37.8%), but more than makes up with that in the more important measure of matches won – 29. At 78.4% this is the highest success rate in Tests.

But the man who would keep statisticians happy is Nawab of Pataudi jr. He captained India 40 times in Tests, winning the toss 20 times and losing it 20 times.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Almost making Hay when the sun shines

Greg Hay scored 99 and 95* for Central Districts against Northern Districts in a State Championship match at Hamilton last week. Two scores in the nineties in one match is pretty rare: Only 57 such occurrences in first-class cricket.

Hay also scored 98* on his first-class debut v Wellington at Wellington last season.
There are 169 players who have made a score in the nineties on first-class debut. But Hay is only the 3rd player to appear in both of these lists. He has joined West Indies Test cricketer John Holt and Tanvir Razzaq of Pakistan. Holt scored 94 on first-class debut for Jamaica v Trinidad and Tobago at Kingston in 1946 and 92 & 94* for West Indians v Baroda at Baroda in 1958/59. Tanvir Razzaq went one better than both of these by getting his two scores in the nineties on his first-class debut: 98 and 90 for Water and Power Development Authority v Lahore City at Lahore in 1984/85. You will be pleased to know that all three of these players did score first-class centuries, Holt getting 2 of his in Tests.

Holt scored 1066 runs at 36.75 in 17 Tests in the 1950s, amazingly including another 94 on debut. (Maybe one day, when I really have nothing better to do, I might research players who made the same score on Test debut and first-class debut).

Despite the title of this post, it was not likely that the sun was shining much for any of Hay’s innings. The sun is not in the habit of making too many appearances in New Zealand.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Super Mario

Mario Olivier achieved the rare feat of taking all 10 wickets in a first-class innings (10-65) for Warriors v Eagles at Bloemfontein last weekend. As has been noted this was only the 3rd time this had occurred in a South African first-class match. It was the 81st occasion of all 10 wickets in an innings in all first-class cricket.

This number excludes cases of 10 wickets in first-class matches of more than 11-a-side. The concept of playing more than 11-a-side is a 19th century one. It disappeared in the 20th century although for some reason it seems to be creeping back into the game in this century (see tour matches, super-subs, etc).

So, there is a ten-for roughly once every 600 first-class matches. But, it has become much more rare in recent history, with only 11 since 1969/70 making it closer to a once-in-2000-match occurrence in that period. Ten wickets in an innings may be regarded as being the closest cricketing equivalent of baseball’s perfect game (no runners allowed on base in the whole game). The pitcher’s perfect game in baseball is extremely rare (about 1 every 11 000 games), but the no-hitter, a lesser, but still phenomenal feat happens once every 800 games. So, perhaps the ten-for is more the equivalent of a no-hitter. Statistically anyway.

13 of the 81 ten-fors have happened at London’s 2 main grounds, with The Oval leading Lord’s by 7 to 6.

Olivier managed to be on the losing side in the match. Somewhat surprisingly, as many as 20 of the 10 wickets in an innings brigade have ended up losing the match (At least, after some initial confusion, Olivier was actually given the Man of the Match award). 52 of the ten-wicket takers have been for winning teams while 9 have been in draws. Two players actually ended up losing by an innings while taking a ten-for: James Lillywhite, 10-129 for South v North at Canterbury, 1872 (http://www.cricketarchive.co.uk/Archive/Scorecards/1/1775.html) and Vallance Jupp 10-127 for Northamptonshire v Kent at Tunbridge Wells, 1932 (http://www.cricketarchive.co.uk/Archive/Scorecards/14/14345.html). Olivier joined Trevor Bailey as a loser by 10 wickets in match in which he took a ten-for. Bailey took 10-90 for Essex v Lancashire at Clacton-on-Sea in 1949 (http://www.cricketarchive.co.uk/Archive/Scorecards/14/14345.html ).

Some interesting ten-fors:
Hedley Verity 10-10 for Yorkshire v Nottinghamshire at Leeds in 1932 is the cheapest, while Eddie Hemmings 10-175 for an International XI v West Indies XI at Kingston in 1982/83 is the most expensive. John Wisden, founder of the famous Almanack, took ten wickets in an innings all bowled for North v South at Lord’s in 1850. Albert Moss took 10-28 for Canterbury v Wellington at Christchurch on his first-class debut in 1889/90. And, Tich Freeman did it three times.

Olivier also took the first 2 wickets to fall in the Cape Cobras innings in the Warriors’ next match. Thus he took 12 consecutive wickets for his team. This kind of stat is a bit difficult to research for first-class cricket, but in Test cricket I can only find one case of a player taking 12 or more consecutive wickets for a team. No prizes for guessing Jim Laker here. During his 19-90 for England v Australia at Manchester in 1956 he actually took 17 consecutive wickets. The only other cases of 10 or more consecutive wickets that I could find in Tests were: 11 by Sydney Barnes across 2 matches for England v South Africa and Australia in 1912, 11 by Anil Kumble in his 10-for match v Pakistan at Delhi in 1998/99 and 10 by Clarrie Grimmett, another reasonable leg-spinner, for Australia in 2 matches v South Africa in 1935/36.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A big turnaround

There was a remarkable Pura Cup game at the Gabba this week. Queensland bowled Victoria out for 113 and replied with 341. In the local parlance “How good is Ashley Noffke, mate?” He took 6-33 in Victoria’s innings and followed this up with 82 for Queensland. He is having a career year, having scored 448 runs at 64.00 and taken 27 wickets at 16.40 in first-class cricket so far this season. Noffke toured England with Australia in 2001 without playing in any internationals. While always being a useful batsman he was not really an all-rounder…until now.

Things started to go pear-shaped for Queensland in the second innings. Noffke and Andy Bichel were injured, seriously depleting their bowling resources. As a result Nick Jewell and Brad Hodge batted through the whole of day 3 without being parted. Their partnership was finally ended at 379, Jewell making 188 and Hodge was 286 not out when the declaration came at 581-5. Cameron White, Victoria’s captain, decided not to wait for Hodge’s 300, unlike Ricky Ponting who let Hodge score his 200 in the Test against South Africa at Perth in 2005/06 before declaring. South Africa then proceeded to save the match. But, back to the Gabba this week. Having set Queensland 354 to win, Victoria promptly bowled them out for 77 to win by 276 runs. You can find the scorecard here: http://www.cricketarchive.co.uk/Archive/Scorecards/124/124264.html

It is pretty rare for teams to concede a first innings lead of more than 200 and win, but to do so by such a big margin is special. There have only been 2 bigger winning margins (by runs) by teams that have conceded a first innings lead over 200
in first-class cricket:

Somerset beat Yorkshire by 279 runs at Leeds in 1901. See http://www.cricketarchive.co.uk/Archive/Scorecards/5/5740.html. This was Yorkshire’s only defeat of the season. Wisden said “... cricket history can furnish few parallels.” 106 years later there have only been 2 ‘parallels’. This week’s match and the record winning margin by a team conceding a first innings lead of 200. And guess who achieved this? Victoria. They beat South Australia by 287 runs at Melbourne in 1925/26 (http://www.cricketarchive.co.uk/Archive/Scorecards/11/11755.html). This timeless match took 8 days to complete, two of which were washed out and must have been hard work for the Victorians who finished their previous Sheffield Shield match, which took 5 days, the day before this one. They must have appreciated the rain days.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Let's do it again, partner

Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis have developed a liking for batting together. Their last three partnerships in Test cricket have been: 170 v Pakistan at Karachi, 330 v New Zealand at Johannesburg and 220 v New Zealand at Centurion. All of which makes them the 4th pair to have had partnerships over 150 in three consecutive innings and the 9th pair to have consecutive partnerships over 200. Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan had a near miss of 4 consecutive partnerships over 150 when they added 319, 142, 242 and 158 in the series against India in 2005/06.

Only two other pairs have added 300 and then 200 in consecutive partnerships: Don Bradman and Bill Ponsford added 388 for the 4th wicket for Australia against England at Leeds in 1934 and then, apparently unsatisfied, went even better by adding 451 for the 2nd wicket at The Oval. And, Denis Compton and Bill Edrich in their great summer of 1947 added 370 at Lord’s and 228 at Manchester against South Africa. Compton scored 3816 runs (avg 90.85) and Edrich 3539 runs (avg 80.43) in first-class cricket in that season. These remain (and most likely will always remain) the two highest aggregates in a first-class season.

In 18 partnerships together Amla and Kallis have now added 1265 runs at an average of 74.41. They have a perfect conversion rate of fifties to hundreds with 5 hundred partnerships and no fifties (The same as Mike Atherton and Mark Butcher, incidentally). Amla has been involved in 6 century partnerships in Tests, 5 of them with Kallis.

Their average of 74.41 is in a relatively modest 19th place of all pairs with over 1000 runs together. Bradman and Ponsford, with a little help from the 2 partnerships mentioned above, average 128.40 in their 10 partnerships together. Of those with over 2000 runs together it is interesting to note that Javed Miandad and Shoaib Mohammad average the most with 91.43 from their 2103 runs. The great opening pair of Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe had an average of 87.86 from their 3339 runs in 39 partnerships (including a spell of 9 consecutive partnerships over 50). And, in case you are interested, Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer averaged 51.53 in their 122 partnerships.

Andy Moles and Paul Smith (Of ‘Wasted?’ fame) hold the record of 8 consecutive opening partnerships over 50 in first-class cricket while playing for Warwickshire in 1986.

And, finally, here’s a really obscure stat (brimborion):
Both of Amla and Kallis’ partnerships in the New Zealand series were in low scoring Tests. In fact, the next best partnership for either team in the series was 72*. Their 330 in the 1st Test represented 35.18% of the total match aggregate and their 220 in the 2nd Test was 31.11% of the total match aggregate. This makes them the first pair to have had a partnership of over 30% of the match aggregate of a completed Test (i.e. excluding draws) in two consecutive matches in the history of Test cricket. Ever.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Cricinfo Blog

If you are interested I have done some stuff for a blog on Cricinfo. You can find some truly fascinating stuff on ducks here: