Ryan Higgins: winning fast and slow

Readers may be familiar with Daniel Kahneman’s book on human nature and how we evolved with two ways of reasoning – fast, intuitive thinking, and slow, rational thinking. What kind of logic are we using when we notice cricketers? We love the quick seizing of initiative, the moment when the tide turns. Think of that Flintoff over in the 2005 Ashes. Here’s a link to Youtube.

Today (18th July) Gloucestershire beat Leicestershire by six wickets. A thrilling win finishing in the last over of the fourth day. Ryan Higgins deserved his praise for taking 5-71 in the second innings. What is less notable is his first innings contribution. Used as the fourth bowler, not brought on until the 21st over, he removed two of the top seven and finished with 2-44 from 17 overs. Unremarkable, and yet vital.

That two-fer is a typical Higgins return. On his County Championship debut in 2017 (for Middlesex against Yorkshire), his match figures were 26-8-61-3. A great support role – yet he didn’t get a mention in Cricinfo’s writeup of the game. After all, where’s the narrative in mid-innings wickets and a miserly economy rate? We tend to underappreciate players who nudge the odds their team’s way. Had the three wickets been a hat-trick, it might (literally) have been a different story.

A move to Gloucestershire meant more first team Cricket in 2018 and more success. Two five wicket hauls in friendly April conditions got Higgins noticed. Skip to 2019, and the weight of numbers start to look persuasive.

Fig 1- Higgins and Archer career red-ball Cricket records. Higgins has the better batting and bowling average, while Archer has a greater impact, with a whopping 4.7 wickets per game. Who would you prefer in your team?*

Did I mention Higgins can bat? Coming in at 131-5 against Leicestershire last month, he put on 318 with Chris Dent for the sixth wicket. This year he has 632 runs, averaging 70. Quite an achievement when he has bowled the sixth most overs in the Division (with a game in hand).

To support the theme of the unseen, I submit a niche event to highlight Ryan Higgins in 2019 – Gloucestershire’s other red ball win this summer (against Durham). Match figures of 4-48. I could go into more details, but that’s not the point. Four wickets at 12 runs each is what matters, everything else** is just noise. It takes 20 wickets to win a match, it’s a great help when you have a middle order batsman who can be relied on to cheaply take one fifth of them.

I’ve never seen Higgins play. Am off to Cheltenham for the festival tomorrow – looking forward to finding out what the lack of fuss is about.

There’s two points I hope you take from this. Firstly, Ryan Higgins is a very successful twenty-four year old cricketer. Secondly, look past the headlines and pivotal moments, and put the right value on each player’s contribution throughout the game. You’ll know when Ben Stokes wins a match. Make sure you know if Ryan Higgins wins Gloucestershire promotion.

*Admittedly Archer is an excellent three-format Cricketer.

**Well, who the wickets are also matters. Three wickets of top seven batsman, and one tail-ender, if you were wondering.

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