England’s spinners just took 8-405 within a total of 657. Pace bowlers only sent down a third of the overs: 50 across three days. A guy with 21 first class wickets at 53 bowled as much as the opening bowlers combined. So what happened, any why?
Anderson got 3 overs with each new ball, then three or four overs with a 30 over old ball. Just 16 of the first 120 overs. No doubt one eye on the second innings, and one on the Test starting on the 9th. I presume he would have bowled more had he had more success (22-4-52-1). Seems that England used short bursts to explore if Anderson would have favourable conditions (with new or old ball). He didn’t.
Stokes similarly got 3 overs with a 40 over old ball, then with the second new ball had a go slightly earlier with a 24 over old ball. That wasn’t what I’d expected – but Stokes averages over 40 with the new ball, so credit to Stokes’ England for giving new(ish) ball duties to the spinners.
Robinson had eight overs with new balls, then only 13 overs at other stages in the innings. He bowled so little that I didn’t see much of it, and can’t really comment.
Expect Mark Wood to return to the side for the second Test, in place of Liam Livingstone (knee injury). I see two reasons why Robinson didn’t bowl more: either rest bacause he’ll play the second Test ahead of Jamie Overton, or he looked so ineffective his overs were given to the part time spinner.
Will Jacks wasn’t someone I thought we’d see bowling much. 21 wickets at 53 in First Class cricket, and just as significantly he has bowled fewer than nine overs per game.
He made a good start – exerting control over the top four (1-76 at 3.3 rpo).
Babar Azam counter attacked, scoring at 7.4rpo before Jacks got him caught at point – a win for Will Jacks
Then 4-37 against numbers seven to eleven. Admittedly only two wickets were against the top order, but a good return (6-161) from a sixth bowler.
Imam ul Haq received more than half his balls from Jack Leach, making 54 before being dismissed. Not clear that England got their matchup right there if that was pre-planned.
So I can sort of understand England’s approach, and they may yet win. But when the opposition make 579 and you’re conserving bowlers because there are 15 days of Test cricket in 21, then maybe the scheduling is having unintended consequences that devalue the sport.
England 24%, New Zealand 46%, Draw 30% for Lord’s says my model. Here I’ll explore why I disagree with the bookmakers (who say 40%/25%/35%*), then give crusty crumbs of comfort to England supporters, and finally share what I think players would average if we played the series forever.
Advantage New Zealand
The visitors will have seven batters who have performed at Test level (Devon Conway came along just when needed, with 767 runs in his first seven Tests). Meanwhile England’s top three average in the twenties (Lees/Crawley/Pope). Yes, two of them are better than that, but you get the point.
New Zealand should have four front-line pace bowlers, well suited to early-summer in England. As a collective, their five possible quick bowlers have 105 wickets at 26 in blighty**. The hosts chose Jack Leach (which I see as a brave move at Lord’s). Pace tends to do well at Lord’s – 26 rpw vs 39 spin. I expect pace to dominate in early June.
Have an actual allrounder (Colin de Grandhomme). Contrast this with England who will probably gamble on Root to be fifth bowler. England may need to discount Stokes’ bowling (four wickets at 57 this summer, 11 at 43 in the last year of Tests). With Leach/Root as two of the five bowlers, England would have to field last if they won the toss, even if that’s not optimal. New Zealand can be more flexible.
Reasons to be cheerful (if you’re English)
New Zealand (World Test Champions, last two years W8 D2 L3) have an excellent record but may have peaked as a team. Ross Taylor and BJ Watling have retired. Trent Boult (32) is likely rested for the first Test, having only played four Tests since Jan 2021. Like all modern tourists, they’re undercooked. Being 70-8 last week against an attack featuring Ben Gibbon hints NZ aren’t in mid-season form. Don’t mention: England have W7 D7 L12 in the last two years.
James Anderson. Last three years averages 23. Yes he’s two months shy of his 40th birthday, but still has 12 wickets at 23 in the county championship this summer, which is strong in the context of the runfest we’ve seen. Don’t mention: Anderson’s strike rate is 69 this championship summer, and in the last 12 months averages 29 in Tests. If NZ can see him off, plenty of first innings overs against spin await.
Pope – averages 32 against pace, 22 against spin. Has a great chance to prove himself at number three. Similarly, Stokes (40/33) prefers pace. And Leach (37/6, tiny sample size) Don’t mention: Root (44/69), Bairstow (29/43) are the opposite. Or that Crawley averages 18 against Right-arm Medium in Tests.
Expect an even contest between bat and ball, with average scores just over 300.
And, in case my model is running in Garbage In Garbage Out mode, here’s the expected averages I fed it:
Am all ears as to how England are favourites – find me @edmundbayliss on twitter, or comment here.
*I’m so far off-market here that this can’t be right. What could I be missing? Leach’s spin? Overrating Williamson? Is Potts the new Archer?
** Synonym for England / Great Britain. Note: must check how proper writers avoid saying “England” as every tenth word.
Here’s some brief notes written ahead of the first Test. I really should have put this up before the Test started. Anyway:
I give England only a 31% chance in the first Test. The betting markets say 39%. Why the difference? The toss is vital and England’s batting isn’t at full strength.
Batting first is key. SL are W7 L1 D1 batting first, W3 L4 D0 batting second recently. Batting first is worth 148 runs (runs per wicket by innings over the last 10 years: 40, 28, 29, 26). A 400 pitch becomes a 280 one after the successful tossers have had their fun with it.
Note spin is no good in first innings (average 42, SR 77). If you field first and get nowhere in 20 overs, you are in very deep trouble.
England have a lot of right handers. A tasty matchup for a leg spinner or SLA bowler. There are two in the Sri Lanka squad: Lasith Embuldeniya averages five wickets per FC game, PWH de Silva is more an all rounder who averages two per game. Embuldeniya averages 40 after seven Tests, but with a FC average of 25 in Sri Lankan conditions, he has a great opportunity. Surprised to see Embuldeniya’s odds 25-1 for Man of the Match. Oh, and he’s Sri Lanka’s leading wicket taker over the last two years.
On the topic of Sri Lankan FC averages, there’s a gulf between Test Cricket and the Sri Lanka Premier League Tier A. It’s hard to estimate because there are few (if any) overseas players for calibration, but I make the increase in bowling average 70%: a 25 average in Tier A translates to a Test average of 43. Here’s the expected averages for Sri Lanka’s attack:
Away teams pick too many spinners (over the last ten years away spinners average 35 at Galle) likely because teams pick more spinners than are Test standard. The relevant decision is “who will do better, our third spinner or our first change pace bowler”?
In England’s case they that’s not a question of spinning ability, more the balance of the side. With Ali unavailable, England don’t have the batting depth to pick a third specialist spinner. Expect Curran+Bess+Leach+Two Pacers+Root. Sri Lanka will know this, so have an incentive to prepare a spinning pitch and nullify England’s pace attack. Unclear what the pitch will be like as has to be good enough to take back-to-back Tests.
Curran and Bess may not offer enough in either batting or bowling to balance the team. Maybe in a couple of years, but today England look beatable.
Put all that together, England have the better bowlers, but the toss is so important that it’s a great leveller. Win the toss, bat, win the game.
I hadn’t noticed this change – it used to be that the 2nd innings was the time to bat in Sri Lanka. Now it’s the 1st innings. See below the difference in runs per wicket from batting first/third versus second/fourth. A big advantage to winning the toss and batting.
Why should that change happen? Different groundsmen? Different grass? Playing at a different time of year? Either way it shows the importance of “live” queries feeding models rather than fixed assumptions.
PS. Reflecting after the first day’s play I need to think about specific matchups. Bairstow and Root are good against spin, even when it turns away from them.
PPS. There’s a lot of Test series happening right now – will December/January become the annual window of international red ball cricket?
PPPS. The comments about the importance of the toss look silly when spin took 6-85 in the first innings. Was I wrong or were Sri Lanka’s batsmen wrong? Hard to gauge without xW data.
An impressive batting unit supported by an exciting bowling attack versus an impressive batting unit supported by an exciting bowling attack.
What will decide the series? Here’s my usual pre-series ramble, with stats on the Pakistan squad at the bottom.
All rounders. England are running out fast. Debateable whether England will even have an all rounder for the first Test. Some names to mull: Ben Stokes (is he fit to bowl?), Joe Denly (dropped), Moeen Ali (dropped), Chris Woakes (struggling with the bat), Sam Curran (is he good enough at either discipline)? As for Pakistan, Shadab Khan averages 34 with the bat from five Tests, but only 27 in First Class – more a number seven than a six. Pakistan will be gambling either way: a five man attack lengthens the tail, an inexperienced four man attack has nowhere to hide.
Pitch preparation. England would be stronger if they could confidently not pick a spinner (Bess didn’t contribute a lot with the ball against West Indies). Pakistan are itching to play two spinners. Why would the Old Trafford groundsman produce a deck that turns? Worth noting in the two Manchester Tests this summer, spin averaged 52 while pace was around half that at 27.
Naseem Shah and Kashif Bhatti. Pakistan’s batting is solid, enough talent that they can cover if any one of them goes full Shai Hope. For all the excitement, I’m uncertain about their bowling. Mohammad Abbas is a banker (Test average 21, and the same average in two devastating seasons at Leicestershire). Shaheen Shah Afridi has 30 Test wickets, so has some track record. Yasir Shah has a proven record – it’s just a bit mediocre (averaging 34 in the last four years). One of Naseem Shah or Bhatti thus has to step up. The signs are good – both average 17 in domestic cricket in the last four years (Bhatti has 125 wickets, the younger N. Shah has only 26).
Rest. West Indies clearly don’t read this blog (or The Daily Telegraph), else they wouldn’t have knackered their bowlers playing three back-to-back Tests. A three Test BTB series is more like a tournament than a traditional Test series: you’ve got to manage bowler workload. The easiest way to do that is to pick the best team for the first game, then half the pace bowlers miss the second Test, and the others miss the third. Sohail Khan is good enough to rotate in – but are the other Pakistan squad bowlers Test standard? With England’s squad depth, their edge will get bigger as the series goes on.
England’s Ashes tunnel vision. Picking Crawley and Bess with an eye on December 2021 is silly. When the West Indies series got real, Crawley was dropped and Bess didn’t get a chance to bowl. Pakistan will be only too happy if England’s team sheet has a number three with a First Class average of 31, and an off spinner for Pakistan’s right handed middle order to milk. Bess isn’t a bad player, it’s just that England would have a better chance of winning playing an extra pacer.
England start as favourites. Burns, Sibley, Root, Stokes are a fine core of a batting order, and there’s healthy bowling options. If Stokes can bowl, a balanced England team playing on increasingly familiar territory should be too strong.
I recommend you read this back-to-front. Like a newspaper: skip to the tables at the end, digest the stats, make your own mind up – then read my words and see if we’ve reached the same conclusion.
On paper this series is a mismatch – the fourth ranked team hosting the eighth. West Indies averaging 23 runs per wicket over the last three years, facing English bowlers in English conditions. Yet there are reasons to believe in the tourists: eight of their expected top nine are peaking, aged between 27 and 30. They could have the best Test opening bowlers right now in Kemar Roach and Jason Holder. Roach averages 22 over the last four years; Holder 23.
Talk is cheap. It’s easy to argue this either way. What does the data say?
By my ratings, England are 50 runs per innings stronger, a 59% chance of winning (West Indies 29%, Draw 12%). Bookmakers only give West Indies an 11% chance. Intriguing.
Do people underestimate this West Indian side? The difficulty of batting in the West Indies Regional Four Day Competition is roughly comparable with County Championship Division 1 – so the last-six-year domestic records of Brathwaite (avg 45), Hope (57) and Chase (46) indicate their underwhelming Test records are misleading. Note Hope hasn’t played a domestic game in three years. He averages 52 in ODIs, but it looks worryingly like he’ll never fulfill his Test potential. Modern cricket.
Some thoughts on the optimum makeups of the sides:
Holder is best at eight. West Indies’ strength is in bowling; their weakness in batting. With canny selection they can paper over the cracks. Jason Holder, Raymon Reifer and Rahkeem Cornwall could feasibly be 8-9-10 giving West Indies the best of both worlds. However, the lure of picking the best bowlers would lengthen the tail with a batsman being displaced (Holder, West Indies’ highest placed batsman in the ICC rankings, moving up to six as part of a five man attack). That would be a mistake – the West Indies win probability would drop by 4%.
West Indies only have one other decision to make: do West Indies need a front line spinner? This decision should be based on reading the pitch. If not, Roston Chase covers those overs. If they do, then J Holder, Cornwall, Reifer/Gabriel, Roach is logical. Cornwall isn’t the Test prospect he appears: expect a mid-30s average. While he has a fantastic domestic average (23) over the last four years, this is flattered by spinning domestic conditions. Remember that Chase also averages 24 in that period, but 42 in Tests.
The hosts’ shaky top order means England have to pick a number eight that can bat – which limits their choices. If Jack Leach plays, then one of the batting bowlers (likely Chris Woakes) needs to play. Woakes loves bowling at home: in the last four years he averages 21. Alternatively, Moeen Ali could play: this is Stuart Broad’s best chance of joining Archer/Anderson/Stokes as England’s pace quartet. Broad may not make the cut– he’s played every home Test since 2012, but is sliding down the pecking order.
Leach (SLA) is the best slow bowling option. West Indies’ middle order is packed with right handers. Leach & Parkinson turn the ball away, so have an advantage. Leach also has the best county average over the last four years (23). Meanwhile Ali averages 40 against right handers. If Ali plays (for his batting), the West Indies should focus on seeing off the new ball, because favourable conditions await.
It doesn’t really matter which ‘keeper England choose. The gap was marginal when I looked at it before [link]. This just isn’t a debate that excites me- it’s a judgement call, and no criticism should be levied at selectors if it fails. Unlike Zak Crawley, who would be a bold and wrong selection, going against the publicly available data. His best first class season saw an average of 34. If he’s picked and fails, it’s not his fault- blame the selectors. If he succeeds, I will give them credit.
Both teams impress with the ball. The batting will decide the series. England at full strength are better than the West Indies. Most of that advantage comes from Root and Pope. Neither team has much in the way of batting reserves. With Root unavailable for the first Test, England have a lacklustre choice of alternatives. Ballance and Kohler-Cadmore aren’t in the squad. The replacements are c.14 runs per innings weaker than Root.
While the West Indies batsmen are at their peak, England are looking to the future. If England go 2-0 up (which is perfectly plausible), they could have six players aged 24 or under (Sibley, Lawrence, Pope, Bess, Curran, Mahmood) in the dead rubber to ensure the old farts don’t break down with three tests over 21 days. Need to keep something in the tank for Pakistan.
Look out for bowler workloads. Tests on the 8th, 16th, 24th July. James Anderson is 37 years old. Roach and Holder are easily West Indies’ best bowlers. This might have some anti-cricket effects: if the opposition are 200-1 chasing 260 on the fifth day, do you take your best bowler off the field to rest for the next Test? Don’t want to risk them in a lost cause. No problem to fatigue (not injure) Reifer or Archer, but not the star bowlers.
And a left-field hypothesis, which I don’t really believe: Stokes will fail with the bat because he needs a crowd. He feeds off it. Away from thousands of fans he isn’t the same player. In six years of county cricket he averages 25. In the UAE he contributed 88-6.
When England fans are nervous, hits to my summary of their Test batting options spike. This is the companion piece for bowling, allowing me to monitor a nation’s worries about replacements for Broad and Anderson.
We’ll start by looking at how performances since 2016 translate to expected Test averages, then discuss the implications of that.
Here’s my view of the expected batting and bowling averages of the leading contenders:
1. Older players & Succession
Five of the top 17 players are aged over 33. That means England
need clear succession plans. Conversely, it also suggests Woakes and Broad
might have more Tests in them than we think: Stevens, Anderson and Clarke have
not diminished with age.
2. Ben Coad
Coad has consistently performed well in Division 1 for Yorkshire. Last three years: 50 wickets at 21 (2017), 48 wickets at 16 (2018), 36 wickets at 25 (2019). You know how Simon Harmer has been tearing up Division 1 and winning games for Essex? He has 156 wickets at 20 since 2016; comparable with Coad’s 135 wickets at 21.
It was a surprise that Coad came out so much better than all other bowlers bar Anderson. Consistency is key – for instance Broad and Woakes had a bad year in 2017 (averaging 36 and 51 in Tests respectively).
next red ball Lions activity should feature Coad. It’s astonishing that he
hasn’t played yet. England weren’t far off with the Lions attack of S.Curran,
Gregory, Robinson, Leach, Porter- but they’ve got to find a way to look at Coad.
3. Division 2: Ben Sanderson and Ryan Higgins
I’d like to see Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire get promoted
to Division 1, mainly as the neatest way to get these two playing the best
standard of Cricket available. There’s a significant leap in standard between
Division 2 and Test Cricket, so without ball-by-ball data it’s hard to be sure
how good Sanderson and Higgins are.
If Gloucestershire don’t get promoted this year, I wonder if someone will have a quiet word with Mr Higgins and suggest he seek a Division 1 employer. Higgins is very good. I wrote about him here.
Sanderson is the wrong side of 30, so if he were to get a Test callup it would be following a lot of injuries to younger alternatives. Like James Hildreth he’ll be someone who could have made the step up from Under 19s to the full England side, but never got the chance.
4. Spin options
There’s only one viable spinner- Jack Leach. Even adjusting for the advantage he gets from playing at Taunton, he’s the best England have got. His batting’s not great, so in non-spinning conditions England should consider a batting all rounder instead. Maybe that’s harsh on Moeen Ali, but I think the “most wickets for England in the last 12 months” statistic flatters Ali – taking the longer view, his Test bowling average of 37 is nothing much to shout about.
If Woakes or Stokes were unavailable: Gregory or Higgins are the
best batting bowlers on the list, capable of slotting in at number eight.
If Broad or Archer were injured (and Anderson still out), Coad would be the logical replacement.
I don’t see Sam Curran as being ready for Test Cricket. His bowling average of 30 flatters him when his first class average is 29: expect it to go up if he plays more Tests. He’s only 21 – for now there are better bowlers out there.
To calculate expected Test averages, I took performances over the
last three-and-a-half years in Second XI, County Championship, and Test Cricket
adjusted for the relative difficulty of playing at each level.
I’m aware of two extra elements to add: weighting towards more recent performances and adjusting for age (young players should be getting better). These will take time to calculate, so will have to wait for the Autumn.
There’s a third factor I’d like to look at – the link between ODI and Test performance. Since not all players will perform equally well in red and white ball Cricket, I’m at present unsure how I’d quantify such a measure (eg. X averages 26 in ODIs, therefore is expected to average 32 bowling in Test Cricket).
Hot on the heels of the 10 team World Cup, Ireland get a chance to prove they deserve a place at the table by giving England a scare in a Test Match.
I’ll admit, apart from the bigger names, I’m not all that familiar with the Ireland team. What does the Cricinfo preview say?
Nothing yet. I imagine that feed is automated and thrown by the lack of data.
How to appraise the Irish players who don’t have a Test track record yet? Will try two methods, and clumsily fuse them together to give a sense of how this Test might go. Firstly, there have been plenty of ODIs between Ireland and the World Cup teams. Secondly, most of the Irish players have some County experience. Many players have only played a handful of ODIs against the best teams, or county matches, so will take a weighted average of the two formats.
Now this is not a serious piece of work – it’s a one hour attempt to have some sense of what will happen in a one-off four day Test match. Hopefully it’s good enough for those purposes.
If these two squads competed in Division 1 of the County Championship in 2019, this is how I think they would fare:
Ireland have very little batting. This team would surely be the one to go down if they were playing in Division One. Note how Balbirnie and Stirling come out as the strongest batsmen – which wasn’t what I expected. I’d thought Porterfield / O’Brien / Wilson were the best they had. Good to know.
The middle overs should be a good time to bat for England. Beyond Murtagh and Rankin, Ireland will need to find 50 overs from the other bowlers. Might be some tough and wicketless spells, and a tough call for Porterfield about whether he can afford to let England pile the runs on before using his best bowlers when the second new ball is due at 80 overs.
If Ireland would average 220 odd playing in Division One, while conceding 360 when bowling, how would England get on?
Pretty much double the runs. Woakes is a better batsman than any of Ireland’s players. England can also call on seven competitive bowlers.
Roy vs Murtagh / Rankin would be a useful indicator of whether Roy can play Red Ball Test Cricket. It’s only one match, but it’s marginally better than a sample of no matches before the Ashes.
Here’s my conclusions:
Ireland are 55-1 on Betfair to win the Test. I’ve not run the above through the model, but a <2% chance sounds about right.
Before considering Ireland’s Test fixtures, this kind of analysis should be completed so we know what to expect. My personal view is that every effort should be made to give teams like Ireland more ODI matches against the best teams (they average four games per year against the best nine countries). Ireland might be better served playing the weaker Test nations until they have closed the gap with the top eight teams.
I don’t mean to belittle Ireland or come across as someone that’s against the development of Test Cricket – it’s just hard to expect a good contest based on the data.
Using a ball-by-ball database of 2019 ODIs, I’ve looked at boundary hitting through the innings. This was to refresh my ODI model, which was based on how people batted in 2011.
First 10 over powerplay: 10% of balls hit for four, c.2% sixes. Just two fielders outside the ring.
Middle overs 10 – 40: c. 8% balls hit for four, c. 2% sixes. Four fielders outside the ring limits boundary options. Keeping wickets in hand mean batsmen don’t risk hitting over the top, though if wickets in hand the six hitting rate starts to pick up from the 30th over.
Overs 40-45: Six hitting reaches 5%. No increase in the number of fours: five boundary riders give bowlers plenty of cover.
Overs 46-50: Boundary rate c.18% with boundaries of both types picking up.
These probabilities have been added to the model, which now makes some sense and isn’t claiming a 6% chance England score 500!
An early view of what the model thinks for Thursday’s Cricket World Cup opener – if England bat first 342 is par. 69% chance England get to 300, 20% chance of England getting to 400. I can believe that, it is The Oval after all.
Looking at 2016-2018 Test, County Championship and Second XI bowling data, and adjusting for the relative quality of that Cricket, we can rank the England qualified players.
I’ll use this for a 2019 preview a bit closer to the start of the season.
In the meantime, here’s a look at England selection. Given that County Cricket mainly takes place in April, May, August and September, it doesn’t necessarily replicate the conditions for home Tests in mid-summer (let alone away games).
It’s surprising just how far down the list Wood, Curran, Rashid and Ali are. While it’s hard to find good English spinners, the case for picking Wood and Curran (77 D1 Wickets at 33) is weaker.
There’s also support for Stokes taking on a greater share of the bowling, just as he did in the West Indies (sending down 29 overs per game).
I’ve always been critical of selectors. Even as a little boy who couldn’t pronounce Sri Lanka (Scarry Lanka), I couldn’t get my head round Graham Gooch not being picked for England ‘A’ when he was dropped by England. My father said that the ‘A’ team was only for young players. That didn’t make sense to me.
I was reminded of that as England Lions got trousered by India ‘A’ this week. Having said nice things about England picking their best batsmen in the Test team, that praise won’t be repeated for Lions batting choices.
This piece showed expected Test averages based on the last three years of First Class and Second XI cricket. Using the same data, we can see where the Lions top seven rank among England’s batting options, and what they would expect to score at Test level.
The data shows Duckett and Pope are solid choices, who could easily find themselves playing in the 2019 Ashes. Billings and Mullaney are slightly left field based on 2016-18, but with stronger career records. Fair enough.
Holden and Gregory? Max Holden was England U19 captain, and is only 21 years old. Gregory has solid white ball numbers, and it could be that the one dayers were the main focus of this tour. I’d suggest that Holden and Gregory wouldn’t be in this squad based on domestic red ball performances.
Sam Hain is 248th on the redballdata.com ranking of England’s batting options, eight places below Toby Roland-Jones. Since 2016 his First Division runs have been at an average of 20 and Second Division runs at 33. Yes, he has a List A average of a stonking 58. Is he Joe Denly’s understudy for the number three role? No. Let’s just say he won’t be in my Fantasy Cricket team next year.
How did this top order perform? Between them they contributed 229-7 and 187-5 in the first “Test” and 99-7 & 145-7 in the second. A collective average of 19, which is just slightly worse than their expected average of 24 – this wasn’t an aberration, the England Lions are light on batting.
Why don’t teams pick their strongest ‘A’ team? Especially in the off season when it’s not like counties are being deprived of their best players. Are these two red ball games just an afterthought? The current selection should be so much better.