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.


David Barry said...

Heh. Those are good points, but to me cricket and baseball will remain fundamentally different sports as long as cricketers refrain from all-in, bench-clearing brawls when a batsman gets hit by a bowler. Perhaps this could be introduced into T20 to make it more like baseball.

David Barry said...

Hi Andrew. I was going through your old posts and came across the one on partnership breakers. I've had a bit more of a look at this topic here.