Joe’s Averages

As cricket gingerly limbers up and takes its first steps into its brave new bio-secure world, one might wonder that Joe Denly is still in it.

Another Test, another underwhelming return of 18 from 58. He is now averaging under 30 from his 16 Tests. Compton, Malan, and Vince were all returning similar figures (Vince actually a smidgeon over 30) when they were dropped, terminally in the case of Compton.

It is the manner of his dismissals that invites particular scrutiny: this time, bowled through the gate. He has been bowled or LBW five times in his last seven innings, suggesting a technical weakness is surfacing fast. Similar charges have been levelled against Bairstow – now out of favour – and unlike Johnny, Joe does not have the excuse of an excess of ODI cricket.

Why, then, does Ed Smith persist with ? Is it merely a case of loyalty or a soft spot for his old Kent mucker?

The following table should cast some light on why Denly may be valued as he is.

PlayerInnsRunsHSAveBFSRAv BPI
AN Cook361343244*38.37279748.0178
JE Root69281022641.32533252.777
RJ Burns30100913333.63225244.875
JL Denly277989429.55201639.5875
BA Stokes572123135*40.05388554.6468
DJ Malan2672414027.84176241.0868
MD Stoneman205266027.68118844.2759
KK Jennings26573146*22.92136741.9153
JC Buttler44135610632.28227959.4952
JM Bairstow56153411927.89279254.9450
CR Woakes27586137*24.41105855.3839
MM Ali407618419.51148151.3837
SM Curran307117827.34107466.236
MJ Leach182209218.3355439.7131
SCJ Broad564635610.2877259.9714
JM Anderson4280125.3331525.398
England batsmen, 9 July 2017 – 9 July 2020 (minimum 10 Tests). Source: ESPNcricinfo Statsguru

The key metric here is average balls faced per innings (BPI). Over the last three years, no non-opener has faced more balls per innings bar Root. Denly, despite his low batting average, is adept at soaking up deliveries, and his position in the top order means that he can lay a foundation for the stroke-playing middle order – not in scoring runs, but in blunting the attack and aging the ball. With potentially free-flowing players such as Stokes, Pope, and Buttler down the order, the value of this shouldn’t be underestimated.

For comparison, Compton’s BPI was 72, Malan’s 68, and Vince’s 63, meaning Denly compares favourably to all the discards. Bairstow languishes at 50 over the 3-year timeframe; Buttler, hanging on, is little better at 52.

Denly’s USP – to use a trendy acronym – is also his vulnerability. The problem for him is that his strength should, in theory, be pretty easy to replicate: it should not be so unique. As soon as England have a batsman who can simply stay there, regardless of scoring, his “unique selling point” evaporates.

The problem for England is that this apparently simple task has been beyond their batsmen of late. The new men may buck that trend; Crawley has a BPI of 56 from 4.5 Tests, but Pope a BPI of 72 from 7.5 – with that important “1” in the centuries column. As soon as either or both of them manage to both survive and score consistently, Denly’s place will be close to unjustifiable, unless by then he’s started scoring serious runs as well.

To mangle an old expression: it’s not about how many, it’s about how many.

Cricket World Cup 2019: week 3, update #4—Don’t shoot the DLS

The fourth of an informal weekly (p)review of the 2019 Cricket World Cup – or, as I like to call it, the #Champ10nsTrophy.

It wouldn’t be a World Cup without some rain-rule controversy. South Africa still haven’t haven’t forgotten their 22-from-0.1 semi-final fiasco in 1992 (although, in truth, they didn’t deserve to win that game, after their excessively slow over rate; they’d had the better of the regulations up to that point).

Some may feel that Pakistan had the rub of the green against them (which will naturally happen, of course, if your ODI kit is that colour) in today’s game, whose Duckworth-Lewis-Stern adjustment left them needing 136 runs in 5 overs rather than 170 in 15. This simply isn’t the case. DLS yielded a sensible target, despite first glances.

It’s crucial to understand that Duckworth/Lewis does not calculate how many further runs the chasing team should have to score; it calculates the target. This may seem like a coat-of-varnish distinction but the difference becomes more understandable when one realises that the target is not affected by the batting team’s current score, only their wickets and overs remaining.

In other words, Pakistan would have had to chase 302 from 40 overs, regardless of whether they were 16-6, 66-6, 266-6, or, as it transpired, 166-6.

The par score—the score at which the two teams could be said to be neck-and-neck—for six wickets down at 35 overs was 252-6. Being 166-6 meant they were 86 runs behind the par score, and naturally enough, on resumption they therefore weren’t in any sort of position to chase 136 in 5. If the game had been abandoned without those 5 overs, they’d have lost by 86 runs.

After playing those 5 overs, Pakistan actually lost by 89 runs. Remember that they were 86 behind the par score. In other words, the target nigh-on perfectly preserved the teams’ relative positions. If they’d been up with the par score, and scored the same runs in those 5 overs (46, for the record) that they ended up scoring, they’d have lost by 3 runs —again demonstrating how well-balanced the DLS target was.

Don’t blame DLS for the faintly absurd conclusion. If you must blame something (and does one really need to do so?) blame:

  • Pakistan’s batsmen for being 86 runs behind the par score at the interruption.
  • The regulations that forced the teams to continue playing five futile overs.
  • Limited-overs cricket, that forces teams to go on playing when the result is a forgone conclusion. Talking of conclusions, this’ll do.

Cricket World Cup 2019: week 2, update #3—The Cup runneth over

The third of an informal weekly (p)review of the 2019 Cricket World Cup – or, as I like to call it, the #Champ10nsTrophy.

More precisely, the UK runneth over with rainfall. To almost everyone’s (no-one’s) surprise, the World Cup has coincided with unseasonal, protracted deluges. Already we’re into record-breaking territory as regards numbers of abandoned games.

It’s a bitter blow to Gloucestershire, in particular, who are reportedly down around £10,000-20,000, thanks to the two games they were scheduled to host being scuppered. For the first time ever in recorded history, we may be counting on better weather Up North, as the centre of the tournament gyrates towards the northern counties, with Headingley, Old Trafford, and Chester-le-Street all yet to record their first game.

It’s not all bad news, however, as the rain has at least revealed that what we all believed to be a truly awful format, the #Champ10nsTrophy 10-team round robin, to actually be a stroke of genius on the part of the ICC. Why? Because with 9 games per team, losing one or two to weather isn’t necessarily terminal to that team’s chances. In fact, it’s probably done Sri Lanka something of a favour, and allowed South Africa to finally record a point. Pakistan and West Indies may see things somewhat differently, of course.

Never mind that it would have been amusing to see a couple of teams eliminated having only completed one match, as Australia were in the 2017 Champions Trophy. Furthermore, there may be a few naysayers quibbling over the minor inconveniences of the format: the total lack of Associates, the crushing alienation of any developing cricket nation, the bloated 46-day schedule. However, I, for one, now welcome our new ICC overlords.

Some would observe that the World Cup isn’t meant to be a league to determine the best over time: it should primarily be a tournamant to determine the best under pressure. Such ones would doubtless claim that though a balance needs to be struck so that single results (especially at the beginning of the tournament) do not have devastating consequences in and of themselves, the current 10-team league is weighted far too heavily towards the other end of the spectrum.

Presumably they’d also recommend Russell Degnan’s 20-team, 36-day format. (One notes in passing that (coincidentally, presumably) his post ID for that piece is 2007, the year of the 16-team World Cup that put paid to more equitable formats down the line.)

What do they know, however? Fourteen days in, the composition of the top four is just as might have been predicted two weeks (years?) ago: NZ, AUS, ENG, IND. So far, so good for the Indian broadcaster; ergo, so good for the ICC; ergo, so good for cricket.

It’s all going swimmingly, in fact. Which seems appropriate, considering that that sport might have a better chance of play.