The First Over in T20


11th September, 2016.

Something that I wanted to look at was the first over in T20 innings, with there being such a range of styles between different batsmen.  Essentially, the main question is whether to attack from the off, or to try and bed in, and it is clear from the varying approaches around the world that this question has not been answered in the slightest.  

Some players start slow, and struggle to improve, whilst some have the ability to accelerate quickly.  Others look to hit boundaries from the first ball, and this article by Ian Dorward at his excellent blog 'DW on Sport' is a superb read for those looking to gain further knowledge on the subject.

However, for the purpose of this article, I want to focus on the opening over of an innings in isolation, given that it is obvious that knowledge of this information would be an extreme asset in the cricket betting and trading markets.  It is truly staggering to see the different first over levels of many players, and it is far from a given that a world class opening batsman in T20 performs well batting in the first over of an innings (for example, Chris Gayle).

Despite being one of the best T20 batsmen in the world, Chris Gayle underperformed in the first over of an innings...

I researched the results of all 2016 T20 matches in T20 internationals, the Big Bash, the T20 Blast, the IPL, the CPL and the PSL - effectively all the tournaments around the world with decent betting exchange liquidity, and found the following results...

Best first over of innings strike rates (both batsmen at the crease contribute), minimum 10 opening innings:-

Player

SR

KS Williamson

165.00

P Mustard

139.39

A Lyth

131.94

MJ Guptill

128.99

DJ Willey

125.00

DJ Malan

123.33

MD Stoneman

123.33

AN Petersen

122.22

HM Amla

116.67

J Allenby

116.67


This list is littered with T20 Blast players, which isn't a huge surprise given that it is one of the easiest domestic T20 tournaments to bat in.  It's interesting to see that Phil Mustard is 2nd in the list, given that he was jettisoned for financial reasons by Durham towards the end of the T20 Blast season.  

The effect of this was that Keaton Jennings was promoted to open, and Michael Richardson to keep wicket - Jennings' first over strike rate was much worse than Mustard's, which had a negative effect on consistent fellow opening batsman Mark Stoneman.  Furthermore, Richardson's mediocre level with the bat also had a negative impact on the side.  Perhaps if Richardson had scored 10 (8) instead of 4 (8) in the Blast final against Northamptonshire, the final result would have been very different, and Mustard's salary for the rest of the season would easily have been covered by the higher prize money...

New Zealander's Kane Williamson and Martin Guptill performed well, and it would take a very brave man to oppose these two batsmen in the opening over of the Blackcaps matches.  

Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson were strong performers in the opening over of T20s...

It's also worth noting that Yorkshire's record improved after promoting David Willey to open with Adam Lyth - both of these players made the top 10 players worldwide for strike rate in the opening over, and it's easy to see Yorkshire getting plenty of flying starts with these players at the crease.

Conversely, many players decided to take their time at the start of the innings - the table below illustrates the worst first over of innings strike rates (both batsmen at the crease contribute), minimum 10 opening innings:-

Player

SR

H Masadakza

66.67

Soumya Sarkar

67.86

CAK Walton

77.78

LMP Simmons

78.26

M Vijay

78.57

PA Patel

80.00

MP Stoinis

80.56

E Lewis

81.94

SR Hain

81.94

AM Rahane

83.33


These players had the lowest strike rates in the opening over - it's worth noting that a decent bulk of these players are Indian or West Indian, and this would potentially indicate a different mentality to other nations.

I want to highlight Lendl Simmons - the West Indian opener's record was atrocious, particularly given that wickets also featured regularly in the first over when he opened, and he definitely looks a player to oppose early when opening the innings.  

Lendl Simmons' first over data was awful...

Evin Lewis is another fascinating case.  His overall data is pretty strong, so it would look like he is a player who likes to take a few balls to get used to conditions, and then has the ability to increase his strike rate very quickly.

Another angle we can also look at is performance compared to the first over mean data, for both runs per over and runs per wicket.  The table below indicates the best performing players in the first over of innings sorted by overall deviation (combined average and strike rate, minimum 10 innings in 2016):-

Player

Overall Deviation

KS Williamson

2.40

A Lyth

2.17

V Kohli

2.00

UT Khawaja

1.99

Tamim Iqbal

1.95

J Allenby

1.92

CD Nash

1.72

JJ Roy

1.68

MJ Guptill

1.59

IR Bell

1.52


Basically speaking, these players gave their teams a very solid base in T20s, with wickets rarely falling in the opening over when they batted.  Also, David Willey, Alviro Petersen and Riki Wessels deserve to feature on this list given that no wickets fell in the opening over of matches that they batted in.  However, because of this, they could not be graded, but Willey and Petersen both made the top strike rate data as well, so clearly are an asset in the opening over for their teams. 

The following players gave their teams a much less stable base in first overs that they batted in:-

Player

Overall Deviation

CAK Walton

0.56

LMP Simmons

0.60

Soumya Sarkar

0.64

PA Patel

0.65

JD Ryder

0.66

MP Stoinis

0.71

H Masadakza

0.71

E Lewis

0.72

AM Rahane

0.75

T Kohler-Cadmore

0.76


There are many players here who featured in the poor strike rate list, and it looks like when they open the batting, you have a virtual free-roll to get a wicket in the opening over.

The dynamic of Tom Kohler-Canmore to the rest of these players was somewhat different - first overs that he opened in scored at a decent 107.69 strike rate, a strike rate of over 20 higher than the other nine players.  However, six wickets fell in 13 opening overs that he batted in, so Worcestershire look to have a stability issue at the top of the order.  Captain Daryl Mitchell certainly doesn't look the answer however - only a sample size issue saved him from being graded worse than Chadwick Walton here.

Finally, it's worth looking at those players who didn't quite complete 10 opening overs in 2016.  Alex Hales, Joe Leach and Alex Lees were also players whose teams scored well in the first over when they were opening the batting, whilst Mahela Jayawardene (first innings strike rate of 66.7 for his team when he opened - with a home ground a favourable batting wicket at Taunton)  didn't impress.  Jacques Rudolph looked to be a similar liability, as well as James Vince.  These players clearly liked to take their time at the start of the innings.

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