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.