Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Australia batting first in ODI's

There's an interesting comment by Nesta on my rambly post about batting-first strategies. Essentially, Nesta reckons that Australia have come close to perfecting the art of batting first in 50-over cricket.

Since there's much more scope for variation in batting-first strategies than batting-second strategies (in the latter, everyone know how many runs they need), you might conjecture that this will show up in the results. And it looks like it does.

I considered ODI's between the top eight sides in the 2000's. I split them into day games and day-night games, because the two are markedly different (day games strongly favour the team batting second; day-night games favour the team batting first).

In day games, Australia has won 73% of matches when batting first (ignoring no-results). Second is Sri Lanka at 49% — a whopping 24 percentage points! Australia has won 78% of matches batting second, with South Africa second at 71% — only seven percentage points behind.

In day-night games, batting first: Aus 76%, South Africa 63%; batting second: Aus 62%, South Africa and Pakistan 55%. Once again, a bigger difference in batting first results.

So it does look like Australia have an advantage over their rivals when it comes to batting first, above and beyond their general cricket superiority.

Now for some tables. For each team, I give the number of matches (actually this column includes no-results because I was lazy when doing the copy-paste), the win fraction batting first, the win fraction batting second, and the ratio. First up, day games:

team mats 1st 2nd ratio
Pakistan 41 0,40 0,37 0,92
Australia 42 0,73 0,78 1,07
Sri Lanka 53 0,49 0,61 1,25
India 47 0,39 0,58 1,49
West Indies 47 0,29 0,50 1,73
South Africa 39 0,38 0,71 1,85
New Zealand 39 0,29 0,62 2,14
England 38 0,19 0,56 2,94

Only Pakistan does better batting first in day games, but that is probably noise, given where Pakistan is on the next table. Australia is second, with only a small improvement when chasing.


team mats 1st 2nd ratio
Sri Lanka 59 0,58 0,34 0,59
Australia 70 0,76 0,62 0,82
England 42 0,37 0,31 0,85
South Africa 43 0,63 0,55 0,88
India 50 0,42 0,39 0,92
Pakistan 55 0,58 0,55 0,93
West Indies 22 0,25 0,25 1,00
New Zealand 41 0,43 0,43 1,01

Australia once again second — it's interesting to see Sri Lanka in the top three in both tables as well. Only New Zealand have a better record chasing in day-nighters.

It's worth pointing out that this could do with a more detailed analysis — Australian grounds may be more bat-first-friendly in day-nighters than others, which would explain Australia's high position in the second table.

Intriguing where Pakistan is. Its a common belief that Paksitan can never win chasing, esp under lights. And theyve won 55% of those games. Eye opening!
Great posts, David. I really liked Nesta's account of the Australian batting strategy and your statistical evidence suggests that they are indeed doing something different from other teams.

Have you had a look at this article using dynamic programming on county cricket?

I often wonder what all those (sponsored) laptops on the teams' balconies are actually being used for...
Thanks dcsiva. I've also wondered what sort of things teams do with their laptops. I did see an article recently that talked about the Windies against Ajantha Mendis - apparently after an over or two the whole Windies dressing room was crowded round the laptop. So presumably they're capturing video.

You'd also guess that they record the line, length, shot, edge/beat-bat, runs, etc. for each ball. What they do with that is anyone's guess. It took Stephen Fleming to stack the point region for Damien Martyn.

I remember seeing an interview with an Australian player around the time of the last World Cup, and he said that they were aiming for 55% dot balls when in the field (I think that was the number). So they do at least some ball-by-ball analysis.

I would be reasonably confident that they're not reading dynamic programming articles. Understanding that paper would require some background reading for me. It looks like they're well ahead of me and my random thoughts from the other day, but I was happy to see that they touched on some of the things I said.
And there I was hoping you'd "translate" it for me!

I'm not so convinced about the variables the authors think are relevant, but the general idea that two different strategies are needed for batting first and batting second seems entirely reasonable and simulating such strategies to find the ones that maximize the probability of winning has got to be right.

A 55% dot-ball target is very interesting. I'd guess the Aussies think there must be some (context-dependent) proportion that tips over into "putting pressure on the batsmen", "something must give", etc.
The guys with the laptops are called performance analysts in Australian cricket and although it would be considered traitorous for me to publicly announce exactly what they do I can give a general overview.

Their role within the coaching and management team is to capture vision of every ball bowled by their team and the opposition, and in concert with other coaches and senior players, decide how best to expose any weakness and minimise the strengths in both sets of individuals, teams and strategy.

In all professional cricket in Australia the performance analyst also has assistants to package this information concisely and quickly to every player and coach before, during and after matches usually in DVD format but also verbally and in written reports. No two reports are identical as each is personally tailored for the individual concerned.

Although it is thought that the data is used primarily to study the opposition, a large proportion of time and resources goes into the dissecting and identification of the Australian players games so deficiencies can be identified and corrected.

I only played at grade level yet my net sessions have been recorded from 1983 (when I was in high school) to my retirement last year. Halfway through each session I would watch the tape with coach, he'd give a few hints and then I'd practice what was indicated against bowling machine. The pros in Oz take this approach to extremes when sizing up the opposition and why wouldn't they? It's loads of fun!

I know I haven't said much but what I can say is that the analysis is extremely detailed and always evolving to the point where the man who wields the laptop has now become an important and indispensable part of the coaching structure.
Thanks for that Nesta. Your inside knowledge is useful and enlightening.

I must say I'm amazed that they use tapes at grade level. My last season of cricket was in Brisbane's C2 Warehouse league, which I think is eight levels below fifth grade. We didn't have videos.
David, did you know you're in The Guardian today!!

Yay, well done!

Thanks Suave, just saw that a few minutes ago in fact.
Congrats David. Thats quite a significant mention. Well done.
Congrats for being on Guardian. I am happy for you.
One thing i have noticed is Ponting wins the toss more often and bats first.Then matches take a familiar course: Australia amass runs and bowl the opposition out. I guess you can dedicate a seperate post to Ponting's successes with the coin and compare it with the success rate of contemporary captains.
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