Friday, 28 August 2009

Limited Vision?

The England and Wales Cricket Board has called for a reduction in the length of the first-class one-day international game.

I don't pretend to know a whole lot of the history of one-day cricket in England, but I do remember for many years there was a 40-over Sunday league, which I used to watch on the BBC. Since all televised cricket seems to have gone to Sky, which I don't have, I haven't the foggiest idea of whether this 40-over championship is still going. As I recall, at one time there was a range of one-day formats played, ranging I think from 40 to 50 to 55 or 60.

The point I'm driving at, though, is that 40-over cricket has a long history in England. What I see here is the English deciding, in their tradition of 'splendid isolation', to pursue their own market and attempt to persuade the rest of the world to follow suit. Good luck with that.

However, I don't disagree with the principle the ECB is embracing here. 50-over cricket, for all its popularity in India, is still too long a form of the game. As with sabermetrics, the ICC could learn a thing or two from the Americans about game lengths. It's a fact that most American sports, which are hugely successful money-making enterprises, have games that last three-to-four hours. 50-over cricket lasts a whole day of six or seven hours. That's still too long. Given the choice of options, the ECB should either get the ICC behind T/20 cricket as the main short form of the game, or rally support behind a number between 20 and 40. Whisper it in Calcutta or Mumbai, but 50-over cricket is en route to becoming a peculiar form of the game, like Test matches, appealing to a particular market.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Ashes Series' Bowlers Rated

Using my 'series score' system, which adjusts bowlers' statistics for the number of runs scored in the series and the consequent effect of this on the value of wickets taken, we get the following ratings:

Hilfenhaus 28
Broad 16
Siddle 16
Johnson 11
Onions 9
Hauritz 6
Harmison 2
Clark - 4
Katich - 4
Clarke - 5
Collingwood - 5
Bopara - 6
Swann - 7
Watson - 7
North - 8
Panesar -11
Anderson -14
Flintoff -17

England's victory was certainly not won by their bowlers. They were, however, more economical than the Australians, and that may be the key to victory. Swann's series score in particular probably understates his value. In the end, however, the series score is based on taking wickets, and on that basis Onions' score over 5 innings may be worth even more than Broad's score over 8. Onions probably is the most underrated bowler in the side. Flintoff's figure might come as a surprise-but he only took 8 wickets for an average of 52.13. Not a very impressive departure from Test cricket.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Kennington Oval, Ashes 2009, #4

England fans were whooping up a storm as Australian wickets fell before the spin of Swann and the pace of Broad. For once, it appeared, the English brains trust had out-thought the Australians'. Then, of course, one-two-three, wickets fell as England attempted to gain more ground on a strong Australian batting line-up that could be expected to crank out 400 runs.

At close of play last night, England's Win Expectancy stood at something around 32%, which isn't any better than what you'd get at the start of a Test. However, Strauss and Trott batted away the morning session, until Strauss's wicket fell just before lunch.

The Win Expectancy model would surprisingly suggest that England's chances of winning continue to dwindle. Go figure. One problem with my model is that there aren't many examples of a match like this Test.

CricInfo's Hawk-Eye (linked via the scorecard there) sees an 80 per cent chance of an England win. I can't help but think they are underestimating Australia's batsmen.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Cricket's Smoke

An Australian player may have been approached by a bookmaker. He reported the matter to the ICC. We also had gamblers in the vicinity of Pakistan cricket players recently. Where there's smoke, there's fire.

For me, cricket hasn't really recovered from the old Hansie Cronje scandal. I have too many questions still. I don't think the problem will be solved until cricket adopts the baseball solution - get caught betting on games, even if they don't involve your team, get permanently suspended. I would even take it further, and extend the ban on players betting to all sports. Gambling and sport just don't mix.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Kennington Oval, Ashes 2009, #3

At the end of the first day, this Test match is hard to read in terms of Win Expectancy. If the Australians can put up some good scores in their innings, they will probably win the match. However, England's actual position, at 307/8, is quite a decent chance to convert to a win. Throwing in all the factors - the Australian batting, the effect of the remaining resources for England, and England's current position - the draw remains the most favoured outcome (42 per cent), followed by an Australian victory (35 per cent), with an English victory the least likely (23 per cent).

Let's look at how England batsmen affected their chances:

Cook         -.034
Strauss +.016
Collingwood -.035
Bell +.062
Prior +.071
Flintoff -.151
Trott +.040
Swann -.013

Flintoff's was the most damaging wicket, which is to my mind somehow fitting given that this is his last Test. To prove the point about how he has been misunderstood by the selectors he should take ten wickets over the two innings, and go for not very many runs. His batting has always been overrated by England, and the persistence in regarding him as an all-rounder has weakened the side.

Australia have reason to be pleased with all their bowlers except Mitchell Johnson, who has been too expensive. Clark and Hilfenhaus may be lagging in taking wickets, but their economies are well-below the kind of number that characterizes a winning test side. Siddle's got the balance about right.

Kennington Oval, Ashes 2009, #2

Two points, at lunch.

On the win expectancy, the Cook wicket reduced England's chances of winning by .055. However, one might be surprised to learn that the stand by Strauss and Bell has had the effect of increasing the chances of a decision, which is helping Australia more than England. Australia's chance of winning is about 41 per cent.

I'm told Michael Holding, commentating on Sky, made a statement along the lines of 'Strauss isn't playing shots which suggests he might not have confidence in his batsmen'. I find statements like that beyond ludicrous. Strauss may have every confidence in his batsmen, but he's not taking risks because he recognizes he's got a chance to wear out the bowlers simply by defending his wicket. Or Holding could be right. But the point is Strauss's actions are open to more than one interpretation, and Holding is assuming Strauss has the same opinion of the England lineup as Holding does. That's not really very helpful or incisive.

Kennington Oval, Ashes 2009 #1

Hmm, I've come late to this, and missed the team news. I think both teams have made a mistake. Today's weather might favour the Australian option to go without a spinner, but over five days at the Oval I'd rather have five bowlers including at least one spinner. The Australian persistence with a four-bowler attack is mystifying me. I don't think this is good for pace bowlers' careers, although I'm still working on proving that.

But that's not as mystifying as England choosing Harmison, again. Onions has bowled at least one good innings in each Test he's played this summer. Harmison hasn't even bowled one good innings in the one Test he's played. It's just a joke, a triumph of media pressure over picking players currently demonstrating good form. I despair of England's selection policy, and have been doing so for seven years now.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

It Could Be Worse...

...for England fans. Imagine if McGrath and Warne were still in the side. Against the Spin looks at the numbers in a short post.

PS - I've hopped back across the Atlantic, which is why I haven't been blogging but jet-lagging and having some jolly 'welcome homes'. I am in London until early September. Home is quite close to Kennington Oval, so maybe I'll hang around outside the ground for a bit this weekend. Rain is forecast for Thursday, then the weather should improve.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Fresh Blood?

Simon Hughes reviews some alternatives for the next Test. Meanwhile, my preference from the aftermath of the Cardiff Test (not so sure now), Jamie Dalrymple, leads the England Lions in a two-day match against Australia at the weekend.

UPDATE, 20 AUG 2009: Dalrymple got 58 off 122 balls in the Lions' match. Why wasn't he picked for the side? Instead we had a lot of fuss about Ramprakash and even the retired Trescothick. I ask you.

Cricket's Testing Time

Dale Steyn has failed a drug test taken while he was playing in the IPL. His sample showed morphine, which it is said is a consequence of some codeine he was taking. One wouldn't say too much about it, unless an unreasonable punishment was imposed by the authorities, in the circumstances, were it not for the curious objections raised by the Board of Control for Cricket in India to the World Anti-Doping Agency's testing regime.

Ostensibly, the objections are in fact the players'; the BCCI's role in all this is purely a supportive one. However, you don't have to be particularly imaginative to raise questions about whether the organization put out the word that they'd certainly like it if players made objections. From my distance, I can only speculate.

The shocking thing is that cricket is known to have at least a few issues with performance-enhancing drugs. Furthermore, the ICC signed up for this not, a few months ago, but in July 2006. Lastly, Indian cricketers are not backed by their own international union.

The stakes here are potentially huge. Cricket is currently an Olympic sport, and that means the massive Chinese market is interested in taking up the game. For the Indian players and the BCCI to stand in the way of the WADA code puts that position at risk, and reopens the door for baseball to move into a space that it vacated when it lost its position as an Olympic sport. The ICC really needs to stand its ground, even if it makes conciliatory noises in public.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Fielding Statistics in Cricket

Samir Chopra has an important suggestion. I don't agree that for cricket statistics we need to go quite as far as baseball's newer fielding statistics like Ultimate Zone Rating, but it would be helpful to track chances and catches.

I get the feeling Samir is thinking of marking fielders for letting what should be a single or two runs go through for three or a boundary. I think it would be more helpful to track bowler's lengths, the overs and sessions in which wickets fall (which is now tracked in full scorecards, sometimes), and where catches were made, for starters. The last two are pieces of information that could easily be incorporated in existing full scorecards.

There's also an issue here about Moneyball and sabermetrics, which are not the same things. Moneyball is about finding 'market inefficiencies' - discovering things that are valuable and undervalued - in order to exploit them. You can't trade players in International cricket, so that's all a bit pointless. What a cricket sabermetrics needs to do is figure out what wins matches. There's a simple answer (wickets and runs) and a complex answer, which is a question of what skills are valuable and need to be coached. In other words, let's value results over technical mastery.

Hat tip to Baseball Think Factory.

Cricket's Enduring Scandal

Well, here we go again. Rumours swirl around Pakistan's cricketers. You'd think the ICC would have put some kind of policy in place by now that would make it absolutely clear to players that associating with gamblers would lead to trouble. They should take a leaf out of Major-League-Baseball's book and post in all dressing rooms that gambling on matches is prohibited and will result in a lifetime suspension. And add to it that being seen in company with known gamblers and bookmakers will lead to an investigation.

Sloppy Playing, Sloppy Thinking

England's cricket team were completely outplayed at the Ashes Fourth Test at Headingley. But this is sports, you learn from your mistakes, put it behind you, and focus on winning the next time. Well, unless you're a panicky England fan.

This is the perfect example of the kind of sloppy, knee-jerk thinking that characterizes the English way of doing things. Go back to that Justin Langer document. Beneath all the Australian arrogance are two key points: 1) England's players like to feel they are making progress; 2) England are psychologically weak. Point two is the kind of 'cod psychology' that gives successful athletes a bad name. I'd almost recommend ignoring that nonsense, except in making that point, this document actually tells us something important.

Let's go back a bit here. England picked an XI at the start of the series that excluded Bell and Harmison. So why are they in the side now? We know the answer to that — injuries. The question is whether they are worth retaining as injury substitutes. Harmison was, apart from Anderson, the most expensive English bowler. That's fine if you take 4-5 wickets, but he took 2. He's been found wanting, and I don't need sabermetric methods to tell me he should be dropped. Bell is a different issue, in that there isn't an obvious alternative. I'd actually stick with him over any inexperienced batsmen, such as Trott.

The real England problem is a sabermetric issue. Basically, the batsmen don't seem to know where their stumps are, and can't seem to accept that they can be making progress in a Test match if they are not giving up their wickets. This isn't ODI or T/20 territory. You can bat all five days and be guaranteed not to lose the match. So it's a simple psychological tweak needed with the batsmen. Instead of them getting fidgety when they are not scoring, they should get fidgety when they are playing shots they don't need to. Also, they should try to reset themselves more often, so they have a clear idea where the stumps are. It doesn't matter what some sledging Ocker, with more lip than brains, has to say about it.

The bowlers have a similar issue. The trouble is in their heads. Yes, short-pitched, aggressive bowling sure looks good, but the reality is that if it's not productive, go for a longer length and if your deliveries are drifting wide, aim a little bit more at leg.

With Langer's (1), the issue is simply to redefine what making progress is.

(2) tells us more about Australia than England. The Australians have a confidence that comes from a tradition of winning, and look down on a side that during the Nasser Hussain years had all the charm of a little kid looking up to the 'Australian way' as the best. Normally, the English can look at these jumped-up transportees with a confidence that comes from greater sophistication. That doesn't quite carry over into the realm of sports (particularly with Nasser), so let's draw on some other good English traditions that have equated to winning. The England side needs to remember the kind of bloody-minded stubbornness that made its soldiers and sailors the best in the world in the eighteenth century and after. 'Throw everything you like at us, mate, we'll be here tomorrow.'

Saturday, 8 August 2009

'Oh, Calamity' - Headingley Test 2009

Michael Henderson just about says it all about the Headingley Test, although I haven't actually seen any of the action. I'm told CricInfo had rather over-egged the pudding in describing North's catch off Strauss.

Looking at a rough estimate of Win Expectancy at the end of England's first innings, they had about an 18 per cent chance of winning the Test from that point. Looking at how those wins were achieved, they fall into two categories:

1) Bowling out the other side for even less. ENGLAND FAIL
2) Keeping the other side's score within about 100 runs. ENGLAND FAIL

That leaves us commentators with not much to write about.

I could talk about England selection, and even Australian selection. After the Australian's hinted at something really radical, like using five bowlers, they fell into their default option, merely replacing the spinner with a pace bowler. Meanwhile, England, confronted with Flintoff's injury, were forced to think through all the permutations. One wonders if they thought at any length about sticking Trott in the side and going with four bowlers. I doubt it.

EDIT: Couldn't we make the same complaint about both Flintoff and Harmison? They bowl to too short a length? Food for thought there.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Andy Flower is a genius.

Because he agrees with me. Squad system for bowlers? Absolutely, positively!
'Test-class bowlers are the rarest and most valuable currency in the the old saying goes, bowlers are born, batsmen are made.'

And, thus, you want to protect them from injury through overuse.

Edgbaston Win Expectancy Shifts

The Third Test between England and Australia produced, apart from this curiosity, some big shifts in win expectancy. I've pulled out the three biggest positive shifts, in terms of the side batting, and the three biggest negative ones. Reverse the polarity if you want to look at it in terms of bowling.

BIG Plus
Watson-Ponting, 41 runs for the 2nd wicket in AUS1 (+.218)
Watson-Hussey, 85 runs for the 3rd wicket in AUS2 (+.197)
Cook-Bopara, 58 runs for the 2nd wicket in ENG1 (+.171)

BIG Minus
Hussey, 0, in AUS1 (-.287)
Collingwood, 13, in ENG1 (-.188)
Ponting, 5, in AUS2 (-.178)

Honourable mention has to go to Cook, 0, in ENG1, which was worth -.176.

It's worth noting that for wickets or stands to count, they really need to come in pairs. It's no good piling on 100 runs and follow it with a pittance. Nor is taking a top batsman's wicket for a low score worth much if you don't break up the next partnership pretty quickly. You can let the wicket after that go for a bit, though. Anapestic metre, if you're of a poetic mind.

Are you surprised that the massive Clarke-North stand in the Australian second innings didn't appear? Probably not, as it was too late in the match to affect anything other than their averages. It actually did produce a positive effect, but I just wonder if the Australians should have cut it short when it was around a hundred and gone for a win. You never know.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Passing Observation

I am currently doing some win expectancy analysis of the Third Test in the Ashes series, and I noticed a curious fact. It seems that Australia's 7th and 8th wicket stands, which between them added a single run, actually improved their chances of winning. Is there some kind of cricket Moneyball-style market inefficiency we can take advantage of here? 'Hey, Johnson, throw your wicket away so we can win the match.'

The only explanation I can come up with for that, without examining all the Test scorecards, is that it suggests that the pitch or conditions favour the bowlers to such an extent that the side in can expect to take a lot of wickets quickly once the innings finish. If anyone has a better hypothesis, I'd be interested to hear it.

As soon as I finish the analysis, which I hope is later today, I'll post some thoughts about the drawn Test.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Edgbaston vs Washington, DC

Washington wins! Regrettably, the Society for American Baseball Research scheduled its annual conference to coincide with the Third Test of the Ashes series. I'll try to keep up with the news from there, but from past experience I know it's quite hard unless there's another cricket fan in the neighbourhood.

Hopefully, I'll get some ideas for further studies so that the temporary cricket famine will be a price worth paying.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Sir Geoffrey's Edgbaston Recipe

Boycott, writing before the bad news about Kevin Pietersen, reconstructs the England side for the Edgbaston Test.

His recipe is:
Bell for Pietersen
Harmison for Onions
Sidebottom for Broad

As much as I think Sir Geoffrey is the closest thing to a real, live cricketer who thinks along sabermetric lines, I can't back all his suggestions. Although Sidebottom had a good first innings at this same ground against South Africa last year, he's not a particularly penetrative bowler against top batting sides. I don't think he'll provide sufficient difference to Broad. I don't mind giving Broad a match off, on my 'rest the bowlers' principle, but I don't see them as significantly different.

Harmison is an idea I can get behind. He's had his moments against Australia, especially during the 2005 Ashes series. He also did well against the South Africans at the Oval last year. However, he hasn't really been a consistent bowler since that last home Ashes series, so if he flopped at Edgbaston I'm not sure I'd go back to him. I'm not sure I'd bring him in to replace Onions. Onions has, in limited playing time, shown some ability to get Australian wickets.

Bell is a risky pick. I'm not sure I'd do it, but I don't know who else is available. People have suggested Key, but he's risky, too. He's vulnerable batting at the end of sessions as the Australians have shown in the past. But who else is there? The only players whose County Championship statistics are making an obvious case are Key and Jamie Dalrymple. I feel the stats have to yield first place to the people who actually watch a lot of cricket, and know the players, in making this pick. However, given Broad's spectacular catch, I'd give extra weight to fielding ability here.

So, my recipe has two changes from the Lord's Test.
Harmison for Broad
Best fielding batting candidate for Pietersen

Broad for Onions only if Onions is hurt.

Johnson: Rest or Play?

Mitchell Johnson's form seems to be causing some concern in Australia. Even CricInfo bloggers compare him unfavourably with Stuart Broad, which is pretty damning considering one is an opening bowler and the other a 'change' bowler. One of my many theories is that, to paraphrase a baseball expression, There Is No Such Thing As a Reliable Bowler (TINSTARB). Here are some interesting figures to ponder.

Series Overs Economy
07/08 Aus vs SrL 82 2.94
07/08 Aus vs Ind 250.1 3.15
07/08 WIn vs Aus 355 3.31
Three months off
08/09 Ind vs Aus 166 3.14
08/09 Aus vs NZl 231.4 2.35
08/09 Aus vs RSA 391.2 2.76
08/09 RSA vs Aus 530.2 2.88
Three months off
09 Aus vs Eng 82.4 4.00

Notice that the more overs Johnson bowls, how his economy in each series goes up. He also saw his economy start high in the first series of the Southern Hemispher season. I think a combination of these factors is involved here. He's bowled, in Tests alone, over 900 overs in the past two years. This number is probably about the norm for the typical pace bowler at Test level; but since I think bowlers' workloads are too high, for the moment this is a datapoint in my argument.

On the other hand, he also does worse away from home. He wouldn't be the first cricketer in the world who thrived on home cooking. (See Trescothick, Marcus.)

Give Johnson a Test match off, then bring him back. If he still underperforms his average, and there's a better option, play the better option.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Bangladesh Makes History?

England won, ending 75 years of Lord's discomfort. What more can one say? Well, a few things, but let's savour the moment, and turn instead, for today, to events in the Caribbean.

While I've been on hiatus, the fragile West Indian side, which seemed finally to be coming out of a long funk after battling stoutly in a drawn series against New Zealand and then beating England in the Caribbean, gradually fell to pieces again. They basically rolled over against almost the same England side. They reached the semifinals of the 20/20 World Championship, and had a slightly dispiriting one-day series against India. Then the Player's Association fell out with the Board, which has been making a lot of bad decisions lately.

Thus, a profoundly weakened side took the field against Bangladesh, who promptly beat them, twice. Now, I happen to think people underrate Bangladesh a little bit. They're not as good as those Zimbabwe sides of 1998 to 2001, but they're definitely in reach of the sides just above them on Test ladder.

In other words, for West Indies to field a second-string side against them is an idea not likely to end successfully. And that's what happened. Bangladesh took on a weak side and won not just a Test, but a whole series.

Was this good for Bangladesh cricket? I wouldn't like to say no, but it's a response worth considering. Was this the kind of humiliation that West Indies' cricket needs to shake up its house? Definitely not. Both sides in the dispute can blame the other for the debacle.

What makes matters worse, is that the ICC has no real sanction available to solve this problem by suspending West Indies' Test status until they get their house in order. The best West Indian players can look forward to Indian Premier League money, while others can play in England for the time being, so it's basically taking the players' side against the Board's, which would be inappropriate for the ICC.

Frankly, as an international sport, cricket is looking more and more of a shambles. Maybe the time has come for something like a cross between the English Premier League and the American system, with franchises around the world, playing T/20, while local associations administer some international five-day matches as a sideline. Those countries that want to have Test matches can fit them in around this 'Super League'.

But you know what? I think some cricket boards might find themselves without a franchise.

Monday, 20 July 2009

The Bump in the Road

'Records are made to be broken.'

No-one has chased down 522, but every patriotic Englishman or Englishwoman must have gone to bed tonight with that saying at the back of his or her mind. Might I draw your attention to this test? Or, more worryingly, this one? Yes, those teams didn't chase down 522 runs, but they did go into their final innings with challenging targets. The only big difference is they achieved their victories at home.

Clarke and Haddin have actually shifted momentum towards Australia in a decisive way. England are looking like they are on the ropes now, if you ask me. In fact, calculating Australia's chances of victory suggests to me that they are above 50 per cent. I don't believe it, myself. (Sometimes, the numbers lie.) I think we'll see a draw. Tommorrow will see whether I should trust the numbers.

If they do pull it out, expect to see more articles like this one. I have a bone to pick with it, where Mr de Lisle writes:
In fact [the bowlers] batted better than most of the batsmen.

Good, I say. The issue is whether it's more important to win matches or to avoid losing them. In my italianate way, I lean toward the latter. Don't give away wickets with a long tail of feeble batsmen, especially against a strong batting side like the Australians. West Indies show you the flaw in that strategy. It's more important to bat as deeply as you can. I'd even argue that Australia's difficulties arise out of taking that advice to the extreme. They almost certainly need another bowler. Three seamers and a spinner are not enough, unless two of those are all-time greats like McGrath and Warne. You need five bowlers, although one of them can just be a 'change' bowler who keeps the runs down and gives the attacking bowlers a rest. But perhaps that's better discussed another time.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Declaration Time?

England face a nice problem in the Lord's Test against the Australians. How many runs will make the game safe? How much time is needed to take ten Australian wickets? It was exercising the Sky commentators through most of the session after Tea, but I thought Atherton summed it up well. 'Bat through to about 40 minutes of the morning session, then declare,' he said.

At the time he made that statement, I thought England needed less time and more runs, and suggested batting through to mid-afternoon. Then, somebody made the comment that Lord's lately had proven to be a hard ground to take wickets on days 4 and 5. (Or maybe it was just day 5.) People often say such things, then you look it up and they are completely wrong.

Test             Day 4      Day 5
2004 vs NZL 9 3
2004 vs WIN 8 7
2005 vs AUS 5 n/a
2006 vs SRL 3 3
2006 vs PAK 8 4
2007 vs WIN 11 0
2007 vs IND 11 6
2008 vs NZL 10 6
2008 vs RSA 1 2

Mostly memory is a case of people remembering the last time. In 2008, England couldn't buy a wicket at Lord's against South Africa for two days. In fact, looking over the past six years, taking ten wickets starting sometime on the fourth day looks pretty attractive. With a full day on Monday, I think England should calculate on getting 4 wickets. So how much time will it take to break the first six partnerships on Sunday?

I think Atherton has it about right. Declare sometime during the morning session, and go for it.

Lord's Nelsons

111 was bad news for the Australians today.

I've been playing around with a slightly modified version of the Runs/Wickets state ideas I'd mentioned earlier this year. I'm moving in the direction of 'Win Expectancy', although to do it properly, one needs to use a Markov chain I think.

Here are my calculations of the chances of an Australian victory after the fall of each Australian wicket:

Opening of Australian innings: 11.2 per cent
Hughes +8.6
Ponting +2.5
Katich no change
Hussey -9.3
Clarke -2.6
North +4.6
Johnson +1.2
Haddin -2.2

This data might indicate something I've been thinking about for a while, which is that the openers' wickets aren't as important as may be thought. Any runs they score helps their team's cause. The crucial point in the match is the battle for the 3rd and 4th wickets. If these fall cheaply, in quick succession, that shifts the advantage toward the bowling side quite strongly.

In today's play Katich's and Hussey's stand didn't help out very much, because after Hughes and Ponting were out for low scores, it was vital for the third-wicket partnership to make up the difference. They didn't, and to dismiss Hussey for only eight more runs after Katich was caught by Broad put the Australians in a very difficult situation.

Of course, each wicket only affects the match a small amount, so one shouldn't put too much weight on the third and fourth wickets. It's not hard to recover lost ground with a fifty partnership for the sixth or seventh wicket. That's the beauty of Test cricket, that it's so finely balanced at any given moment.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Flintoff's Farewell to Test Cricket

Andrew Flintoff, England 'all-rounder', is to retire from Test cricket. It's too early to do a post-mortem on his Test career, but this is momentous news, worthy of a post.

Flintoff played a significant role in the development of sabermetric cricket. One of the first studies I ever did—on paper, not electronically, so no link—told me straightaway that he had been mislabelled, and it was to curse him for all his career. As I heard Jonathan Agnew say, on the BBC Radio 4 Midnight News, 'In black and white, Flintoff's career figures don't add up to much...a bowling average...higher than his batting.'

Yes, they don't add up to much because people were so in awe of his batting style when he was brought into the side back in 1998, that it was overlooked that he was an excellent 'change' bowler. With 'all-rounder' attached to his name, Flintoff was always doomed to disappoint in the Test arena. His attacking style of batsmanship had too many holes that could be exploited by good bowling. He never 'adds up', because people are too busy looking at his shortcomings, not at his successes.

There's a joke in the world of baseball sabermetrics about how 'statheads' live in their mothers' basements studying spreadsheets on a computer. 'Get your head out of a spreadsheet and watch a game,' goes the jibe. Yet it only took some dozy Yank who never played the game, and barely watched it, (I am a radio listener) a few minutes one lunchtime with a pen, a calculator, a bit of paper and some cricket statistics copied off the Internet to figure out that all those people watching the games had Flintoff tagged wrongly. He was a world-class Test bowler who could bat a bit. I salute him.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Something in the Air

Here's a query for Statsguru at how many times has a team given up six hundred runs in a match's second innings and drawn the match? The answer is eight.

The interesting point is that three of those draws have occurred this year, and two of those matches involved England.

During the first day, I commented to my erstwhile associate Mr Austin, that it seemed as if England had finally figured out something I learned almost as soon as I started using sabermetric methods to look at cricket: to build a winning team, first build a platform to avoid defeat. Or, in other words, make sure your tail is not full of cheap wickets, even if your attack suffers.

I just wonder if this reflects the Strauss-Flower combination. It's not the sort of attitude the Hussain-Fletcher era would have endorsed. They played to win, on Australia's terms; and never did against Australia. Let's see how things develop in this series.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

I Don't Like Cricket

It's very frustrating trying to do sabermetric-style analysis for cricket. Basically, there is much more effort involved in trying to assemble statistics in a form suitable for doing a study than there is in baseball. CricInfo's Statsguru is a major step forward compared to the situation that confronted me during 2003-4 at the old site, but still I had a very instructive experience recently.

I wanted to do some projections for the 1968 American League season. It was quite easy to go to the Baseball Prospectus web site and download some stats to help me find the players I wanted to project, a simple cut-and-paste job into a .csv file. Then the Lahman Database makes it a simple matter to gather together stat lines for individual players. By contrast, a cricket study involves a Statsguru query followed by the laborious task of copying and pasting scorecards, then editing the data into a form suitable for doing the research. I can gradually build up a database with the information arranged in a way suited to me, but it really is a tedious prospect.

Just an excuse, really, for my long silence. But when are we going to get a cricket version of Retrosheet? If someone with some money would come forward, I could make a start. Until that happens, performance analysis in cricket is going to remain in the Dark Ages, relative to baseball.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Gone Too Long

I've been away for Easter, so here's a holding post reporting that I'm back and working on some analysis.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Nightwatchmen Discussion

Here is a post about using nightwatchmen by a real sabermetrician, Phil Birnbaum.

I haven't read it properly yet myself, but I link to it in case you've missed it.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

No Loss

After four days, the Second Test between New Zealand and India is headed for a draw. Using Runs/Wicket State data, the odds of either side losing are nil.

The fascination, for me, of cricket matches is the question of balance. There is balance between batsmen and bowlers both within the sides and as matched against the opponents. There are also points at which the match itself balances between winning and losing. In this specific case, the question that should haunt us all is whether New Zealand left it too late to declare. I think they did. When they were 415/5 they had nearly a 60 per cent chance of winning the match. They did, however, have a small chance of losing. When the Black Caps reached 605/7, that chance of losing had vanished. I'm not sure why they hung on for two more wickets after that, but those two fell so quickly I don't think they made much difference to the outcome.

But, think of it this way—India is one of the Test sides that is best equipped for batting itself back into a match. The New Zealand attack is nothing special. The balance there suggests that if you're playing the Test 'by the book', your first mission is to bat yourself into a position where you can't lose. The gamble you take is that your bowlers can draw on that reserve of will sometimes needed to shatter the opposition. The Black Caps came close, but I think having to bowl twice in a row took too much out of their attack.

So maybe the point of balance in this match came after India's first innings. A tired New Zealand attack was sent out against a top batting side to get ten more wickets. How realistic was that? Should the follow-on have been enforced? There's something for you to argue about.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

West Indies vs England Test Batting

In between posts on the Napier test I offer some of my Series Score data for the batsmen during recent Tests between England and the West Indies.

Strauss      21
Collingwood 18
Pietersen 10
Prior 8
Bopara 8
Ambrose 4
Cook 2
Sidebottom -6
Bell -6
Swan -6
Anderson -7
Panesar -10
Flintoff -12
Harmison -13
Shah -14
Broad -24

Seeing Bell at -6 and Shah at -14 tells you that England need to think again, as that Scottish song puts it. And one really wants a better performance that that from Pietersen. Frankly, I fear the worst for this England team this summer. They'll probably be able to exploit home advantage enough against the West Indies that they'll get revenge in the first series, but at the moment I see them getting massacred by Australia.

West Indies
Sarwan       47
Chanderpaul 7
Gaye 6
Ramdin 1
Nash -1
Baker -5
Marshall -5
Simmons -6
Taylor -9
DS Smith -10
Benn -13
RO Hinds -14
Edwards -22
Powell -22

It was Sarwan that won it on the batting front. Ramdin also deserves some credit for taking the pressure off Gayle and Chanderpaul. One might consider Nash disappointing, but a -1 is still moderately useful

Thinking strategically, West Indies really need another batsman, and probably two. Chanderpaul will not be around forever, and who is going to take his place? I suspect his career will end abruptly. One series he'll stink, then he'll stink again, but not having an alternative they'll be tempted to keep putting him in so he'll stink some more, putting an ugly punctuation mark on a wonderful career.

Friday, 27 March 2009

New Zealand in Charge!

Now's the time to deploy that headline. I'm not too fond of today's effort, either, about a relentless New Zealand. Rather, I wonder about this curious fact: when Franklin was out the Black Caps' chances of winning were actually higher than at the end of the innings.

New Zealand certainly were the most 'sabermetric' of sides, it seemed back when I started analysing cricket in this way. They surely know, if any side does, that there is a chance of diminishing returns if one keeps batting for runs in the first innings. Yet they have done exactly this in a series where they are one match down. As things turned out, their chances of winning are exactly 50/50 by my reckoning. What they have successfully done is put any chance of losing out of the picture.

The Indians are, to my mind, still the same group that was once (and may still be) the best batting side in the world. You have to respect that, but I wonder if New Zealand took it too far. It's a question of how much confidence they have in their attack, I suspect.

At this stage, though, they are looking smarter than me.

India opened with a .322 success rate, against a New Zealand one of .500.
The first wicket (Gambhir-Sehwag) advanced them to .430 for a gain of .108
The second wicket (Gambhir-Dravid) regressed them to .314 for a -.116.
The third wicket (Dravid-Sharma) regressed them .067 for a -.247.

CLARIFICATION: A better writer would have made it more clear that the Success Rate reflects the chance to win the match, and thus excludes draws. So the Black caps had a 50 per cent chance of winning and a 50 per cent chance of losing when I wrote the above, but no chance of losing. [z0345]

Thursday, 26 March 2009

New Zealand in Charge?

That's what the headline on CricInfo's home page says—that New Zealand are in charge of the Second Test against India. Well, as my little series about Runs/Wicket States showed, it's possible to get some sort of measure of that.

The question as I left was whether we can really use a team's first innings to draw much of a conclusion about the match state. I'm not sure they are entirely useful even when a team might find itself at 23/3. At this stage there are just too many variables of what could happen—like a fourth-wicket partnership of 271!

However, I'd say that after the first wicket New Zealand's chance of success was .278, after the second it stood at .074. The third wicket wasn't so catastrophic, taking the success chance down to .061. The key wicket to fall, from India's point of view, was the second. That one put them in control, and they merely needed to keep up the pressure by taking wickets for an average of around 25 runs apiece.

They didn't. Ryder and Taylor increased New Zealand's chances of winning to .434. That's 37 per cent, in case you hadn't worked that out. Wow! D--n good stuff.

However, are New Zealand in charge? I don't think so, not yet at least. 'Taylor and Ryder save sinking ship' is how I would have put it. They might, however, fancy their chances. This match didn't happen all that long ago, and they are already ahead of the fourth-wicket score.

CORRECTION (27 Mar 2009): I did not apply the correct formula for the success rate. The fall of the Black Caps' first wicket took their success chances down from .331 (the percentage of all Test matches turning into wins for the opening batting side before a single ball is bowled) to .321. The second wicket took the chance down to .215, and the third down to a round .100. Taylor and Ryder did still add 37 per cent, though, taking the rate up to .473.

My figures for the Cape Town test were also a bit out, but as they were for illustrative purposes, I'll not correct them at this time.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Runs/Wickets State 3

As stated in the last post, the problem with looking at a single innings in isolation is that it does not take into account the match situation. Mitchell Johnson may have been improving Australia's chances of winning the match, but did they have much chance to begin with? For that, we need to look briefly at South Africa's second innings.

When the ninth wicket fell, the chances of South Africa winning, based on previous results were about.667—that is, two-thirds of all matches where the team batting in the second innings stood at 637/9 ended up with that team winning. However, there had been no matches that had seen the second innings finish on 651. Thus, at that point, we go with the available data, and wait on the outcome.

When the fifth Australian wicket fell, their chances of winning were .288-.667=-.379. When the tenth Australian wicket fell, we learned that the 422 score in the second innings results in defeat 2 out of 3 times. Australia's chances of winning were .333. South Africa's chances of winning on 651 go up to 1.000. They are the only team to reach that score at the end of the second innings of a match. However, the net effect of Hilfenhaus losing his wicket took Australia from -.271 chance of success to -.667, or a swing of -.396. But it would be unfair to pin all that blame on him. We need to share it out among all eleven players. Cricket is a collective effort, Mitchell Johnson gets the same blame for falling short as Hilfenhaus. Everyone gets a reduction in their score of -.032. The table produced yesterday now looks like this:

Johnson +.109-.032=+.077
McDonald +.101-.032=+.069
McGain +.014-.032=-.018
Siddle -.007-.032=-.039
Hilfenhaus -.032

Just because Hilfenhaus' was the last wicket to fall doesn't mean he deserves all the blame. Siddle's wicket was actually more significant in leading to a defeat. McGain's performance goes from being a positive to a negative.

One could argue that we need to adjust South Africa's score for Australia's first innings. I'm not sure. We'll take a look at that another time.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Runs/Wickets State 2

So, now the match is finished, let's take another look at how we can use the Runs/Wickets State to measure a player's contribution.

When Mitchel Johnson came in, the runs/wickets state was 218/6. Teams at 218/6 had gone on to win .294 of their Test matches.

Johnson and McDonald took the score to 381/7. Teams at 381/7 went on to win .389 of their Test matches. Thus, Johnson and McDonald in this wicket managed to increase Australia's chances of victory by .095.

Siddle was out next ball, but at 381/8 we're looking at .382 wins, so Johnson's score stays the same but Siddle gets a -.007. (We'll punish the player whose wicket falls with any negative, and share the credit for any positive.)

Johnson and McGain put on 7 runs, so at 388/9 we're looking at .396 wins. Johnson's score goes up to .109, McGain gets credit for .014.

Johnson and Hilfenhaus take the score to 422. But defeat in this match transforms a score of 422 in the third innings of the match from a .500 win to a .333 win. That's a big -.063 for Hilfenhaus? Or is it a plus .104 for both?

Ah, you see, you can't just use a single innings' score. You have to remember that in the third innings of a match a team is chasing a pre-existing state.

Anyway, for the purpose of this post, let's call the scores as follows:

Johnson +.109
McDonald +.101
McGain +.014
Siddle -.007
Hilfenhaus -.063

Runs/Wickets State

Following on from yesterday's post, about Base/Out States in baseball, I thought I'd take a snapshot of the current Test Match, which will perhaps explain more plainly the direction that I'm going in.

When I checked the South Africa v Australia score, at tea Australia were 231/6. Teams at 231/6 in the third innings of the match have a cumulative record of 243 wins, 330 losses and 235 draws. That's a success rate of .301, which tells you that, even not knowing South Africa scored 651 runs, that Australia weren't in good shape to win the match.

At 365/6, the current score, the success rate is .383, still not good, but better, an improvement of .082. Thus, we can calculate that this current stand by McDonald and Johnson has increased the Australian chances of success.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Base/Out Musings

Thinking about the way sabermetrics analyses baseball, and trying to translate that to cricket, is the main area where not enough work has been done. There's a tendency, even on my part, to focus on trying to keep too close to the baseball model, and not enough on adapting the underlying principles to the very different game of cricket. The first big breakthrough I made was in recognizing that cricket is a mirror image, so some things need to be reversed. Thus, wickets in cricket are more analytically useful than runs, whereas in baseball runs are of more use than outs.

Looking at the idea of the base/out state in an inning has brought me to the realization that in order to estimate win expectancy, a cricket sabermetrics would do better to look to Duckworth-Lewis, and think about resources in a Test match. This opens up some fascinating potential in the analysis of bowling, but also some interesting perspectives on batting. I'm working on a way to deploy this so that we can follow a Test match via this blog and see if practice leads to understanding.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Ladder Alert!

Hmm, while I've been away, the ladder's taken on a whole new look. (Which led me to the discovery that the ladder hadn't been imported from the original Blogger site.)

Anyway, after the baseball came a ton of work, so I had to shelve this blog for a bit. I still have a ton of work but if I manage my time better perhaps I can post at least once a week until this ton is lifted off my shoulders.

What about those West Indies, eh? I don't think I've seen them this high since I started thinking sabermetrically about cricket back around 2001/2. And didn't I say that England could come a cropper there?

Yes, Australia back on top. Ho-hum. The sun rises in the east, too, you know. It just gets old after a while.

I'll try to do a post soon comparing my test batting projections in that series against what really happened.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Missing, in action

Sorry not to have posted for a while. Baseball season is approaching, and I've been doing sabermetrics in that field, instead of the more needful realm of cricket, where we hear a lot of unsabermetric nonsense still. I'm nearing the end of the preseason baseball work, so I should resume posting here with more frequency.

I'll start with a post based on watching the first day's play of the Third Test between the West Indies and England. Some comments by Michael Holding really 'got my goat'. He was complaining, towards the end of the day's play, that Edwards and Powell and Taylor hadn't bowled enough overs.

I'm still in two minds about Chris Gayle's captaincy. I've already characterized him privately as the anti-Nasser Hussain. Nasser, God bless him, was a fidgety captain in the field. If something wasn't succeeding the way he anticipated, he'd tinker with it, even though it wasn't necessarily failing. Often, he'd make matters worse. Gayle, by contrast, is possibly too laid back. Sometimes he should press a little more.

It's pretty clear that there is little in the pitch for the bowlers. So what's the point of sending your quicks out there to toil in the midday heat for little or no reward? Far better to bring on the spinners. If there's nothing there for your chaps on the first day, chances are there won't be much for their chaps later on. We know that in baseball pitchers can be driven into injury by overwork, and I'm fairly confident based on limited work I have done that the same applies to bowlers. Gayle was being pretty shrewd. He spared his best bowlers needless work, and possibly ensured they are less likely to suffer injury.

On other point, Holding said that Pietersen was capable of destroying an attack, where Strauss wasn't. Excuse me? Strauss had just batted all day, taking more than 270 deliveries, and scored over 150. Think about that - 270 deliveries is over 40 overs. That's seeing off two bowlers, bowling all day, without giving up a wicket. And then they have to come back and bowl the next day, when they won't be as fresh.

I shouldn't have taken a break. There's such a lot of nonsense being spoken.

Sunday, 1 February 2009


Charles Davis' 'Sundries' column this week suggests there's more to Matthew Hayden's departure than just his batting. This is the link to the article on the Melbourne Age site. Once again he refers to a chart that isn't there. I don't know why they can't post it. Try his site. Point your browser using the link to Z-Spot on this blog. Maybe it's better to give him the traffic than the Age.

Looking Forward to: England's Tour of the West Indies 2

My long-promised Sabermetric Cricket West Indies' batting projections:

Gayle 39.22 28.83
Marshall 32.29 20.58
Sarwan 42.38 44.42
Chanderpaul 48.64 51.63
Nash 31.72 16.18
Ramdin 16.84 14.39
Taylor 16.03 13.66
Powell 7.34 6.77
Edwards 3.41 5.57
Benn 9.17 6.39
Baker 0 0.75

The first column is unregressed, the second regressed. There's not a lot of data for some of these players, so confidences are poor. I also went with four seamers and a spinner, but I think I'd rather have an extra batsman. Gayle and Nash between them could pick up the bowling slack. In some cases I prefer the unregressed figure (eg, Nash) and in others the regressed (eg, Marshall).

The unregressed order produces an innings total of 247.
The regressed order produces an innings total of 209.
The average of the two is 228.

286, 225 and 256 were England's counterparts. It's too close for my comfort as an England fan, especially if West Indies can add another batsman in place of one of the bowlers.

Remember, all these numbers are a batsman's anticipated performance against an average set of bowlers. I'll start work on the bowling sides post haste, and hopefully I'll be able to give adjusted figures before the first Test starts.

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Bill Frindall

The Times
The Telegraph
The Guardian
(The Independent hasn't put one up yet.)

Two people alerted me promptly yesterday to the passing of Bill Frindall, scorer to the stars of Test Match Special on the BBC.

Frindall seemed a permanent part of the cricket landscape, in a furtive kind of way. That's the lot of scorers - always in the background yet, like historians, the authors of how events will be remembered.

The word scorer describes Frindall's work better than would the term statistician. In no way would I associate him with the ideas of sabermetrics, performance analysis and forecasting. His forte was the far more important work of accounting for what had happened. Indeed, from the obituaries his scoring system sounds not only comprehensive but innovative.

Without meaning to sound dismissive, I don't think I ever once heard him mention sabermetrics. I wonder if anyone else did? I suspect he believed the sample sizes for cricket were too small for any such work to be meaningful. But it would be interesting to know if he ever considered what was going on in other sports. That's not meant to sound negative about him, but about those who think that all statistics are the same. It is a shortcoming of people's way of looking at the world.

Frindall and I may have started from the same place, a cricket match, but we were travelling in different directions. Sadly, one can no longer wish him 'bon voyage'.

'The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed is the name of the Lord.'

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Bat or Ball?

My Level 1 Series Scores are calculated 'out of context'. Level 2 scores attempt to adjust the values of wickets taken and runs scored according to the average standard of the series. Level 1 scores have an element of adjustment, but only to runs scored. Thus, the ratio of total points allocated to runs scored will offer some indication of whether a series was dominated by the batsmen or the bowlers. A high ratio of runs scored means the batting was dominant, a lower one the bowling.

Here are the ratios for the 'Christmas Tests', which I have been analysing over the last week or so:

Ban v SrL 1.22
NZl v WIn 1.18
Aus v RSA 1.16

I'm surprised that the New Zealand series with West Indies was more 'bat' than the Australia vs South Africa showdown.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

The VisibleHand

Unlike Adam Smith's 'invisible hand', the very visible hand of IPL money is disrupting the ICC's world. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) needs to decide whether it wants to run cricket globally (which I think it does), or whether it is one member which must compromise with the requirements issued by the ICC.

However, it's not that simple, either.

Arguably, the BCCI is defending its turf against the Indian Cricket League, and needs the ICC's support in this. That's a decision that must be reached in conversations between the BCCI and the ICC. England and Australia, amongst others, should butt out, or at least do all their talking through the ICC, and not via the papers. This sort of press coverage is typically English, in that it stirs up a public controversy where there needn't be one, as a certain KP might attest.

If the BCCI needs to fend off the moneybags of the the Indian Cricket League, then it should fight them aggressively by running their competition at the same time.

If the ICC wants to control Twenty/20 cricket in the largest market (which it should), then it needs to work with the BCCI in accommodating its needs.

If England's cricket season clashes with the BCCI's IPL, then the England and Wales Cricket Board has a problem that ranks behind the ICC's, but is equivalent to the BCCI's. That becomes a money question, and the interest of the board with the bigger revenues must prevail.

So now you're left with the players' question of whether they prefer the money or the pride of competing for their 'country' (in quotes because of KP again). I'd be interested to see what an Australian cricketer would do faced with such a dilemma. That would tell you all you need to know.

Of course, if you employed a squad system for Tests, then the problem might well go away!

'Christmas Tests XI'

This is my cricket XI, based on my sabermetric-inspired series scores for this season's 'Christmas Tests'. The number is their overall level-2 series score, combining bowling and batting scores.

Gayle (WIn) 38
Smith (RSA) 20 (captain)
Chanderpaul (WIn) 20
Samaraweera (SrL) 24
Ryder (NZl) 19
Dilshan (SrL) 62(!)
Haddin (Aus) 10 (Wk)
Steyn (RSA) 28
Johnson (Aus) 26
Muralitharan (SrL) 15
Edwards (WIn) 8

First off, Dilshan's score is astounding. That it came against Bangladesh is a mark against it, and with three Sri Lankans in the side, one could argue that strength of opposition isn't getting a big enough weighting. (That would be a level-3 series score.) Australia's Clarke could have been expected to put in an appearance, but his bowling against South Africa totally ruined an excellent batting score of 28. I guess with four full-time bowlers plus spells from Gayle and Dilshan, one could drop Ryder and put in Clarke. For this attempt, I decided to go straight by the numbers.

With three number 5 batsmen, there could be some trouble if the openers go early, although I have confidence in Chanderpaul at any position. The tail is a bit long with both Muralitharan and Edwards. There's an argument for putting Siddle in ahead of Edwards, but Edwards (believe it or not!) comes out the better batsman. Haddin might not be my first wicketkeeper with the gloves (that might be H Jayawardene of Sri Lanka), but he was far and away the best batsman of the six. So, with those little caveats, I throw the comments section open for discussion. You've seen the sabermetric points; you have the standard averages to look at; you may have seen some of the Tests. Who is in your XI for these three series?

Bangladesh vs Sri Lanka Tests Reviewed: Bowling

Muralitharan (SrL) 25
Dilshan (SrL) 18
Mendis (SrL) 17
Vaas (SrL) 10
Mashrafe Mortaza (Ban) 1
Shakib al Hasan (Ban) 0
Mohammad Ashraful (Ban) 0
Tamim Iqbal (Ban) 0
Herath (SrL) - 1
Raqibul Hasan (Ban) - 1
Imrul Kayes (Ban) - 1
DPMD Jayawardene (SrL) - 3
Mehrab Hossain II (Ban) - 9
Enamul Haque (Ban) -10
HAPW Jayawardene (SrL) -11
Mahbubul Alam (Ban) -12
Shahdat Hossain (Ban) -21

Ugly figures from Bangladesh, there. Giving 72 overs to Shahdat Hossain won't have done his confidence much good.

As for Sri Lanka, Muralitharan, one of my favourite players, just keeps going on. But we should be aware that we are probably in the afternoon of his career. Tea is approaching, if not already past, so take pleasure in his acheivements while you still can - for the night is coming.

I was a bit surprised at the relatively low scores for the Sri Lankan bowlers in this series, especially compared with the bowlers in the other two. However, it does seem to indicate that Sri Lanka won this series with the bat. This raises an interesting question, which I promise to look at it another post later on. Dilshan managed to do remarkably well in less than nine overs. He's probably player of the 'season'. We'll see how many others here can crack a 'Christmas XI' in yet another post.

Comments on Rankings

Although I claim to have the oldest cricket website on the web that uses sabermetric methods, Charles Davis can also claim to have used sabermetric methods, and his web site was around before mine. He wrote a little piece for the Melbourne Age which is worth a read, although the rankings he advertises are not apparent on the web site. Check out his blog, which is in my links, where the rankings might appear. (Haven't looked myself.)

Saturday, 24 January 2009

West Indies XI

Stand by for a posting blizzard today, as I do a bit of catching up on my cricket.

We've got a West Indies' squad named for the Tests against England now. As I had suggested, retain Marshall and drop Chattergoon, if you've got an alternative. Gayle is an effective bowling option, so they could, in theory, go with an extra batsman. With Ramdin's rickety recent record, I think I'd load up on batsmen and ask Gayle to take the strain when bowling. England, I reckon, can be taken by this West Indies team, provided the chaps in Maroon Caps can stay in long enough. The question mark hangs over Baker, who is inexperienced. From a sabermetric standpoint, his economy is a little high for no wickets, but he should take a few more as he gets more cricket. Then we'll be in a better position to make judgements.

I'm still working on batting projections for West Indies, by the way. I don't have all the data I'd like for West Indies' domestic matches, so I'm struggling.

Bangladesh vs Sri Lanka Tests Reviewed: Batting

Dilshan (SrL) 44
Samaraweera (SrL) 24
Kapugedera (SrL) 17
DPMD Jayawardene (SrL) 16
Sangakkara (SrL) 10
Shakib Al Hasan (Ban) 10
Mohammad Ashraful (Ban) 9
Mushfiqur Rahim (Ban) 4
Warnapura (SrL) 0
Vandort (SrL) - 1
Junaid Siddique (Ban) - 3
Prasad (SrL) - 4
Mendis (SrL) - 4
Herath (SrL) - 5
Fernando (SrL) - 5
Tamim Iqbal (Ban) - 6
Vaas (SrL) - 7
Mehrab Hossain, II (Ban) - 7
Mashrafe Mortaza (Ban) - 9
Enamul Haque (Ban) - 9
Imrul Kayes (Ban) -10
Mahbubul Alam -10
Muralitharan (SrL) -10
Raqibul Hasan (Ban) -12
HAPW Jayawardene (SrL) -13
Shahadat Hossain (Ban) -18

I'm watching Sri Lanka demolish Pakistan in the third ODI as I type this. Sri Lanka have flirted with breaking into the top three positions in the Cricketing Sabermetrics' Test Ladder in the five years I've been monitoring such things. They've done very well since entering international cricket. This series against Bangladesh simply underlines how, in contrast, Bangladesh haven't measured up to the standards of earlier sides granted International Test Status. Sri Lanka's top-order batsmen massacred the Bangladesh bowlers in this series. Dilshan's 44 is a remarkable score, and he claims the 'silver slugger' award for this set of 'Christmas Tests'.

For Bangladesh, the question is what to do? They need to play more first-class cricket, I think, but other boards seem increasingly reluctant to give them a game. The Indian board, in particular, deserves criticism for not hosting them in a Test series yet supporting their promotion to Test status in the first place. Shakib al Hasan and Mohammad Ashraful managed to give a good account of themselves. You could probably go as far as Mehrab Hossain II in the scores to get a core to build around with the bat. The rest of the side are not holding up their end. Whether it was simply a reflection of their predicament in the first test, when they chased a big lead effectively, if in vain, their 46% percent (a measure of how many runs are scored in 4s and 6s) of 55 is very high for a Test side. Maybe they should go out there and just block and block again, and play for draws. They might fluke a few more results when they bat first.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

New Zealand vs West Indies Tests Reviewed: Batting

Series Scores first:

Gayle (WIn) 37
Chanderpaul (WIn) 20
Ryder (NZl) 20
McIntosh (NZl) 14
Nash (WIn) 13
Flynn (NZl) 12
Taylor (WIn) 8
Vettori (NZl) 0
McCullum (NZl) - 2
Gillespie (NZl) - 2
Taylor (NZl) - 4
Patel (NZl) - 5
How (NZl) - 5
Baker (WIn) - 5
Chattergoon (WIn) - 6
Marshall (WIn) - 7
Benn (WIn) - 9
O'Brien (NZl) - 9
Mills (NZl) -10
Powell (WIn) -10
Edwards (WIn) -12
Sarwan (WIn) -12
Ramdin (WIn) -12
Franklin (NZl) -13

The traditional Black Cap strategy for success involves someone like McCullum coming out and blasting the ball over the boundaries for a fifty in short time. Prior to that, they have three or four batsmen come in who just block and block and block, not worrying about the run rate. The gives the blaster the chance to take advantage of an older ball and tired bowlers. Unfortunately, How couldn't quite pull off his planned role, while Ross Taylor didn't defend his wicket well enough, either. Taylor probably wasn't supposed to defend, but How's short stays at the crease left him exposed. They might do better to switch Ryder and Taylor, but given Ryder's temperament that might not be such a good idea, either. Vettori did well. A nought score for a bowler puts him in all-rounder territory. McCullum needs to get rid of that minus.

You might think a 2 from a wicketkeeper like McCullum is not a good score, but look at Ramdin! He's no different to a rabbit coming in at 11 nowadays. While Gayle is man of the series, West Indies' supporters will be looking at Sarwan and thinking about what might have been. His failures were quite disturbing for someone who projects as well as he does. If he gets back on track, it could be 'watch out England'. Chattergoon and Marshall are interchangeable as batsmen, and not really good enough on this showing. However, Marshall's done good work in the field. Plus, he's young, and West Indies' pathetic development programme means he's probably better off getting Test time. I might, just might, consider moving Marshall down the order a little bit. He shows a tendency to want to blast the ball.

On the evidence of this series, I see a rosier future for West Indies than New Zealand at the Test level. Which is sad, because Vettori is an impressive captain, and the Black Caps are the Thinking Fan's Side.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

New Zealand vs West Indies Tests Reviewed: Bowling

Bowlers ranked by series scores

Edwards (WIn) 20
Vettori (NZl) 19
O'Brien (NZl) 10
Patel (NZl) 8
Powell (WIn) 1
Gayle (WIn) 1
Ryder (NZl) - 1
Nash (WIn) - 3
Mills (NZl) - 4
Taylor (WIn) - 4
Benn (WIn) -10
Franklin (NZl) -11
Baker (WIn) -12
Gillespie (NZl) -15

Edwards had a good tour. He was a bit expensive, but took wickets at an impressive rate. Powell was a bit better at preventing runs, but more than a bit worse at taking wickets. However, if he can improve even a little bit on taking wickets, without getting worse at preventing runs, he would give West Indies a very good pair of bowlers, especially with Taylor also flirting with the 'at least useful' category. Nash offered more support, but it's hard to make too much of such a short series, in the light of his relative lack of international experience. The point being that given the immense frailty of the West Indies' batting order, they desperately need a trio of average-or-better wicket takers in order to have any chance in Test matches.

New Zealand makes a case for bowling two spinners against the West Indies. Vettori and Patel amassed 27 points, which is equivalent to one exceptional bowler. England should take note, especially since there is a history of useful spin bowling on West Indies' tracks. Apart from that, you really have to be concerned at the state of New Zealand's bowling. Against a lineup of two batsmen and nine also-rans, their pace options scored all of -21. It could be that West Indies are just that much better against pace - more food for English thoughts - but it could also be that New Zealand pace bowlers are not very good. Although the Black Caps survived a drop this series, on the evidence of the bowling I don't fancy their long-term ability to keep above the Maroon Caps.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Australia vs South Africa Tests Reviewed: Bowling

I'll start with the Series Scores for the bowlers, then I'll supply the analysis.

Steyn (RSA) 30
Johnson (Aus) 29
Siddle (Aus) 20
McDonald (Aus) 6
Duminy (RSA) 3
Hussey (Aus) 2
Harris (RSA) 1
Kallis (RSA) 1
Symonds (Aus) - 3
Morkel (RSA) - 4
Hauritz (Aus) - 7
Bollinger (Aus) - 7
Clarke (Aus) - 10
Ntini (RSA) - 12
Krejza (Aus) - 21
Lee (Aus) - 27

Overall, Australia had an economy of 2.84 for the series. That's very good. Unfortunately, they had strike rate of 90.05. That's exceedingly poor. One of my benchmark series for poor performance is West Indies' tour of Australia in 2005/6. West Indies' strike rate of 86.27 left them hopelessly outclassed. That Australia managed to stay in this series at all is a testament to their batting strength. You don't win Tests by holding the runs down; you win them by taking wickets.

That's why Steyn is at the top of this list. He was expensive, with an economy of 3.59 (which wouldn't win a team many Test series) but a strike rate of 43.78. He carried the South African bowling attack almost single-handed. He was the Man of the Series by any estimation, and won it for the Proteas. If he can't repeat his magic on Australia's return tour, I can't see how the South Africans can win. Overall, their strike rate didn't even get past the notional minimum needed for a series victory of 65. They finished on 66.41. As the first-level Series' Scores show, this series was dominated by the batsmen.

While South Africa can carry Steyn around on their shoulders, Australians will be pushing Brett Lee and Jason Krejza into the dunce's corner. Between them they probably cost Australia the series. Those are horrific scores for men bowling 120 overs between them. (That's 20 an innings over three tests - the equivalent of one front-line bowler at -48.) While the Australians probably could have survived the poor batting of Hayden and Hussey (the latter of whom actually helped out with the ball), there was just nowhere to hide Lee and Krejza (plus Clarke, who goes from 28 with the bat to 18 overall, thanks to some dreadful bowling).

Let's conclude by putting Australia's chances in perspective. In the entire history of Test cricket, how many times do you think a team with a stingy economy of 2.84, but a bowling average of between 42.06 and 43.05 (indicating a lack of penetration), has won a Test match? There have been 42 matches involving such a team.

Try once.

How to Win a Test Match 2

OK, your Test opening wicket (first wicket, first innings) stands for 100 or more runs. How often do you win the match?

According to StatsGuru:

84 Wins
27 Losses
86 Draws

So not even half the time.

Australia vs South Africa Tests Reviewed: Batting

Back on the old site, I developed a little fun stat, originally designed just for bowlers, called the 'match score'. I've been tinkering with it ever since, and one day I saw how you could usefully use it to compare batsmen and bowlers across series. It's been through a few refinements. As things stand, the 'second-level' series score for batsmen sums to zero. (That is, the sum of both teams series scores equals zero.) The 'second-level' series score for bowlers usually sums to zero, but not always. (I'm still trying to solve that one.) The 'first-level' scores just sum to a big number; the batsmen's score does a better job of comparing players across series than a simple tally of runs. The bowler's score is better at telling you about run prevention than about winning. The really neat thing about it all is that you can directly compare batsmen and bowlers, and work out which players were most important to their sides. Second Level scores are more precise than First Level ones in measuring that contribution, so I prefer to work with them.

Without further ado, here's the Second Level series' scores for batsmen, in order.

Clarke (Aus) 28
Smith (RSA) 20
Katich (Aus) 15
Ponting (Aus) 14
Duminy (RSA) 13
de Villiers (RSA) 12
Amla (RSA) 10
Haddin (Aus) 10
Kallis (RSA) 4
Krejza (Aus) - 1
Boucher (RSA) - 1
Steyn (RSA) - 2
Symonds (Aus) - 2
Johnson (Aus) - 3
McDonald (Aus) - 3
Bollinger (Aus) - 5
Hauritz (Aus) - 6
Lee (Aus) -10
Morkel (RSA) -11
Hayden (Aus) -12
McKenzie (RSA) -12
Harris (RSA) -13
Siddle (Aus) -14
Ntini (RSA) -15
Hussey (Aus) -17

Under this system a par score would be equal to zero. So a small negative score is, after a fashion, useful. A recognized batsman really should have a minimum score of 10. A tailender doing -5 or better is an asset. You'd want an all-rounder to be above zero, or not much below it.

You can see here how critical Hussey's non-performance was, more so than Hayden's. Together, these two probably killed Australia's chances. (And while we're at it, Mr McKenzie needs to buck up.) We'll look at the bowling next, and another key reason for the South African series win.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Forbes' Rankings

I found an old article on the Internet showing the revenues and profitability of cricket boards. (You need to scroll down to the Approximate Valuations slideshow.) Forbes does something similar for professional teams in the North American leagues as well as some football (soccer) teams globally. I've avoided going by value, for reasons concerning the methodology. Sums are in millions of dollars, but I expect the renewed strength of the dollar may have altered them badly.

England & Wales CB $138
Cricket Australia 53
Board of Control, India 45
Cricket South Africa 40
New Zealand Cricket 15
Pakistan CB 11
Sri Lanka CB 10
Bangladesh CB 7

They don't give figures for West Indies or Zimbabwe, althought I found a revenue figure of $17 million for the West Indies. It's very clear that there's a large gulf between the Big Four and the rest. Sri Lanka's accomplishment, of constantly staying up there with the big boys, deserves wider acknowledgment than it gets. The biggest surprise to me was the relative poverty of the Pakistan board.

Now for the profits, again in millions:

England & Wales CB +$17
Sri Lanka CB + 6
Board of Control, India + 1
Bangladesh CB + 3
Pakistan CB - 1
New Zealand Cricket - 4
Cricket Australia - 8
Cricket South Africa - 16

Again, some surprises. Who'd have thought Cricket Australia and Cricket South Africa so extravagant? Look at the profitablity of Bangladesh! My West Indies' figure suggested a profit of about $4 million, but I don't believe that.

Of course, we now learn Pakistan is possibly worse off than it was in 2006. The security situation hasn't helped, and things don't look likely to get better in the short term.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Off topic: Fathers of the Church

You’re St. Justin Martyr!

You have a positive and hopeful attitude toward the world. You think that nature, history, and even the pagan philosophers were often guided by God in preparation for the Advent of the Christ. You find “seeds of the Word” in unexpected places. You’re patient and willing to explain the faith to unbelievers.

Find out which Church Father you are at The Way of the Fathers!

Well, it beats the goofier sorts of these quizzes one finds. Hat tip to What Does the Prayer Really Say?.

Stew & Pid

- The Board of Control for Cricket in India has come out against the Reliance Mobile ICC Rankings.

- Great, they must be thinking sabermetrically!

- Well, no, they are against it because the list of batsmen only has Sachin Tendulkar at 26.

- Oh, I see. That's not very clever. Still, how do the rankings work? Maybe the BCCI is right and the methodology is poor.

- Umm, I don't know. I looked at the FAQ, but there's no description of the methodology. They do seem to weight more recent performance, and adjust for run environment and level of opposition. They talk about a computer, too.

- Yes, but I've got a computer. It's an iMac I bought in 2000.

- Believe it or not, these rankings are older than that. They're the old Price Waterhouse Cooper system, that people used to love and Wisden used to publish.

- Someone should blog about this system. I'd forgotten all about it.

- Actually, there is a blog. They've even done a bit of work about cricketers' aging patterns. But it's only been running a short time, and they don't post very often.

- About those aging patterns...

- Better than nothing. Did you know there was a Wikipedia page about Cricket Ranking Systems?

- Does it mention Cricketing Sabermetrics?

- No.

- Not very well researched, then.

- Did you know that, according to a BCCI official, ‘There are so many other companies in India doing these sorts of rankings and the ICC just wants to get some publicity for their own system.’

- So if Cricketing Sabermetrics could demonstrate that the best batsman of all time was Sachin Tendulkar, we could get some dosh from one of these companies. Or even the BCCI?

- It's worth thinking about. But then maybe Cricket Australia would complain we'd overlooked Bradman.

- That gives the option of a lucrative book contract! Put in Sir Geoffrey! Sell on three continents!

- I like your thinking.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Hayden Quits

Sometimes you wonder whether people get the best advice. Poor Matthew Hayden. Was he really done? He's a reprise of an earlier chart, showing his balls faced totals converted into 'bowling overs per innings'. The yellow line indicates an annual average. The green lines the trends. For the annual averages, I've taken the midpoint between the averages of six-month periods. Of course, sometimes the Australians don't play in the 'English season', so we just go straight through 'Southern Summer' averages. Now, ask yourself which is the outlier here, the 2007-8 peak or the 2008-9 trough? Or both? Could Hayden still have contributed? The thing is, we don't really know. Is such a sudden collapse a traditional sign of the end of a career?

But if he didn't want to go on, better not to. Maybe being dropped from the One-Dayers, the spell of poor form and the media pressure was overwhelming. Or maybe the selectors had already decided, and he left before he got the push.

I projected him at 32 for the Sydney test; his average was 35.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

This way...

madness lies.

What an awful idea. Does Bransgrove really think the Ashes series will retain importance if it is not part of a World Championship Test series? Does he think the all-competitive Ockers will give a monkeys about a series against some second-division England side?

If you ask me:
1) More T20, at international level. (Stop laughing at it; take away some of the 'razzmatazz' and you've got a good bite-sized game, completely different from Test/4-day.)
2) Less 50-over cricket, at all levels. (It's been overtaken by T20.)
3) More Tests. (And a squad system.)

But nobody ever does.

And Martin Lawrence is right. Live international cricket needs to be on free TV in the UK. It doesn't have to be a main terrestrial channel, but they've got quite a few digital ones they could play around with.

Having said that, though, the EWCB could do well to look at, and think about streaming its matches over the Internet, for a fee, with full access to archives. Please throw in radio commentary, too, while you're at it.

Friday, 9 January 2009

'Our Best Batsman'

So says Chris Gayle, of Shivnarine Chanderpaul. He's moving him up to open the next ODI against New Zealand. I seem to recall Chanderpaul did some opening in Test matches, too. In fact, somewhere on the old site there's an entry about moving Chanderpaul up in the West Indies' batting order, but I can't find it right now and I have work to do.

Meanwhile, here's his Test record as an opener, and here's his record opening against New Zealand.

First-Class in West Indies

First-class cricket outside of Tests deserves a better following than I've seen it get in England (he says, sounding like recently-MBE'd Christopher Martin-Jenkins). The Australian game appears to be of exceptional standard, for example, so anyone doing well there ought to translate into Test cricket with ease. For those of you who would like to follow such things, the West Indies begins its four-day 'domestic' tournament today. The excellent Fazeer Mohammed gives a sense of the mood in the islands at the moment, of course focusing on the coming visit by England.

Fixtures starting today:
Windward Islands vs Guyana
Barbados vs Trinidad & Tobago
Leeward Islands vs Jamaica

You can 'watch' them all on CricInfo.

Of course, with the West Indies Cricket Board lacking a tournament sponsor, the marketing of these matches has suffered. So I'm doing my bit here.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Maestro Boycott Speaks:

Here, in the Daily Telegraph. I have to say that there is a consistent anti-Moores bias emerging here. The paper broke the story, Scyld Berry was for Pietersen, and now Boycott, a hero round here for his near-sabermetric understanding of the game on the field, comes out with a few choice anti-Moores comments.

It has to be said that the EWCB emerges with very little credit from all of this. They seem to have chosen Moores rather hurriedly - he was a pal of Hugh Morris, the managing director - then chose as captain a man who clearly didn't have much faith in Moores, but who fit a different criterion, unifying the captaincy of both the Test and One-Day sides. Then, the EWCB's man, Moores, gets summarily dumped when it gets a bit hot for the EWCB. If a Test side's quality is revealed from the top, no wonder England are in a bit of a downward spiral at the moment, since the board running the show seems to lack grit.

Living in England as I did for so many years, I did find that a chronic problem was what I call 'isolated decision-making'. This is the sense that you narrow a question down to its absolute core, applying Ockham's razor (and what country did that come from?). The board identified a problem in having separate captaincies, and solved it by selecting the player most likely to keep his place in both sides. Unfortunately, this isn't my preferred method of 'consequential decision-making' - the first decision is the crucial one, and all subsequent decisions must take this into account. After selecting Moores, the ability to work with Moores became a significant factor. As long as Pietersen can't work easily with Moores, better to live with the separate captaincies problem. It's something you learn from studying military history: lay down your logistics network first, then the conduct of operations fits into that template.

Maybe it's a bit early to believe the Australians are taking much interest in this at all. A scan of one paper shows they're busy patting themselves on the back for an excellent Test series. The English are obsessed with the Ashes, when they can't even get past the likes of India, South Africa and Sri Lanka. It's back to Ockham's razor - what's essential is beating Australia. But if I were an England commentator, I'd be more worried about what's going to happen in the West Indies.

Who Started It?

The Pietersen Mess, I mean.

Not in the sense of Pietersen or Moores, but what media source broke the story?

This story from the Daily Telegraph, in this case republished in the Sydney Morning Herald, appears to have been the original piece. Note the measured tones - 'it is not inconceivable' - about the ultimatum.

Contrast that with this from the Daily Mail. 'Back me or I quit.' It's not like the Mail would be the first paper you'd pick up to read about cricket.

So it looks to me like the Telegraph broke the story, but the Mail raised the stakes. And we hear that KP is unhappy about the media in Britain. Did what he thought he said become what they thought he said? And he paid for the mistake with his job? Cricinfo has this telling quote from his statement:

However, in light of recent communications with the ECB, and the unfortunate media stories and speculation that have subsequently appeared, I now consider that it would be extremely difficult for me to continue in my current position with the England cricket team.

You don't have to be an expert to divine that the recent communications were his, the unfortunate media stories were those that raised the temperature, and the speculation may have been about 'back me or sack me'. Let's remember that Pietersen insisted on a 'clear the air' meeting when he took on the job. Perhaps his experiences in India led him to think that the boundaries set up in the first meeting had become blurred, and that he needed to redefine them again.

So I'm changing my view. If Pietersen didn't actually say 'back me or sack me', then he's been hard done by. Could it be the EWCB simply manoeuvred two men out of their jobs because of what the papers say? That would indeed be spineless.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Surprise, surprise, surprise

Even at 48 years old, I can still be surprised by England cricket.

I really believed they would sack Moores and retain Pietersen, in spite of not thinking it was the best move.

They sacked Moores, but Pietersen went, too. In the best of all possible worlds, I'd rather they had sacked Pietersen and gotten Moores to resign, but maybe Moores didn't see why he should go. In which case, I'd have done it like this, too.

Meanwhile, I'm pottering around with West Indian batting projections for the coming tour. Make sure you've linked to the RSS feed so you'll know when they are posted.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

How to win a Test Match 1

OK, so sabermetrics is all about evaluating players to see who contributes to winning. Here's an interesting question. How many times has a side batting first in a Test match, taken twenty wickets, lost the match?

According to CricInfo's StatsGuru, twice, both Ashes Tests. In each case Australia batted first, forced the follow-on, and then failed in the run chase.

Meanwhile, if you field first, and get the opponent all out in their 3rd innings, you can lose 247 times out of 904 matches, or only 27 percent of the time.

Grasping Raspings

The England set-up now looks more like Pakistan's than Australia's. For an England fan, it is very disappointing to see what is happening, especially on the verge of an Ashes series with a vulnerable-looking Australia. I'll do a quick tour of some of the press coverage on the current spat between captain Kevin Pietersen and coach Peter Moores.

Scyld Berry openly takes Pietersen's side. Then he goes on to say 'as [Vaughan] has done it before, he is – at 34 – far, far likelier to perform again than Ian Bell (502 runs against Australia at 25) or Owais Shah, or anyone else currently playing, bar Pietersen.' You fail. Sabermetrics hasn't told us much of anything about the aging curve in cricketers. It's just wishful thinking.

John Stern has more of a 'plague on both your houses' approach, yet subtly indicts Moores with failures on the playing field, lack of influence on the players and a want of tactical thinking.

Nasser Hussain clumsily expresses the view that EWCB boss Hugh Morris must make the two work together or else Moores has to go.

The BBC quotes David Gower basically saying Pietersen's going to win if it comes to an outright choice between him and Moores.

Stephen Brenkley, at The Independent, gives a thoughtful summary of the problem.

However, Peter Hayter implies that Pietersen has given an ultimatum, and that the captain is not the first one to have problems with Moores.

It's all pretty unsightly to the bystander, but the reality is that a mistake was made in selecting Pietersen as captain, since all this talk about a 'clear the air' meeting with Moores at the start of his captaincy suggests the possibility of trouble was there for all to see. Moores has the moral high ground, since he was there first.

No-one ever listens to me about anything, but I think the only decent solution would be for both Moores and Pietersen to resign. Pietersen's sort of ultimatum has to be resisted (it would be even better if they sacked him anyway), but the general tenor of press comment suggests Moores has lost the confidence of the media. This is not good in this day and age, and it would only be a matter of time before they 'got' him. I'd even go so far as to say that the sympathy to Pietersen is probably down to the fact that journos know he's still going to be in the side, even if he's not captain, so they'll still need a quote from him now and then. Whereas Moores generally seems rather reticent around the press, so nothing gained there.

However, I think the heart of the matter appears in, of all places, the Sunday People, normally little more than a football comic. Right at the end.