T20 Analysis: England's Disaster and Low-Profile Strike Rate Superstars

24th February, 2018.


Recently, I read a fascinating article from the rugby player turned darts pro, Gerwyn Price, where he discussed his transition from the pitch to the oche.

The comment from him that I took particular interest in was the following:-

"A lot of other players when I played in the Welsh Premiership were good enough to play at professional level but were never really given the opportunity. Sometimes if your face doesn't fit in a sport like that then you never make it which is disappointing really.

"There's more politics in rugby than in darts, because if you're good enough in darts you'll make it but in rugby you're relying on someone to pick you. It's difficult. I've known a lot of boys who just didn't get that chance and I was one of them as well."

This quote is particularly in line with my own writing in the article 'Is there a less meritocratic sport than cricket?' where I discuss the rags to riches story of the new Darts world champion, Rob Cross, asserting that such a journey would be very difficult indeed in professional cricket.

From a selection mentality standpoint, nothing appears to be changing in the England T20 set-up.  Coach Trevor Bayliss followed up a dismal T20 tri-series performance by suggesting that T20 internationals should be abolished, suggesting that "If we continue putting so many games, there will be a certain amount of blow-out not just with players, but with coaches as well."  It's an interesting perspective considering he was reportedly hired for his white-ball coaching ability.

In fact, he does have a valid point regarding player and coach burn-out, but he's approached it from the wrong direction.  A much better solution would be to have specialist T20 coaches running international T20 teams, and not only this, picking specialist T20 players as well (currently, England focus more on white-ball specialists, while Australia are more minded to T20 specialists, such as D'Arcy Short, Chris Lynn and Andrew Tye). Picking T20 specialists would immediately solve the problem of player and coach fatigue, while keeping a valuable financial event running, which will understandably please the people in charge of national team's finances.  Regardless of whether the purists will be happy, there is no doubt that T20 is here to stay.

One excuse given for the poor performances in the T20 matches against Australia and New Zealand was that England rested players, while Australia were coming off the back of their domestic T20 tournament, the Big Bash.  However, England also had plenty of players at that event, so I'm not entirely sure that excuse holds much water.

The following table looks at the appearance data for England in T20s in the 11 matches played from the start of 2017.  In these, England have struggled with the bat, averaging 21.59 runs per wicket, and striking at 130.65 runs per 100 balls - both below the mean figures for main Test playing nations of 23.24 and 132.30, respectively:-

Jason Roy, Jos Buttler, Chris Jordan: 11
Sam Billings: 10
Eoin Morgan, David Willey, Adil Rashid: 8
Alex Hales: 7
Liam Plunkett, Tom Curran: 6
Dawid Malan, Liam Dawson: 5
Joe Root: 4
Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Mark Wood, Moeen Ali, Tymal Mills: 3
James Vince, Liam Livingstone, Mason Crane: 2

If we assume that both Root (rested), Stokes (off-field issues) and Plunkett (injury) will have played more if available, it seems reasonable to generate something - whether you agree with it or not - similar to the following first XI based on the above list (based on historical selection):-

Jason Roy
Alex Hales
Joe Root
Eoin Morgan
Ben Stokes
Jos Buttler
Sam Billings
David Willey
Liam Plunkett
Adil Rashid
Chris Jordan

Of the batsmen in this first XI, all of Roy, Buttler and Billings have averaged below 20 - aggregate contribution of 457 runs from 368 balls in 29 completed innings in aggregate.  

Jos Buttler has underwhelmed in recent T20 internationals...

If we were to run my expected T20 international performance algorithm on the England 'best' top seven versus the Australian top seven in the ti-series, the difference is stark:-

England



Australia









Player

T20i Expected Average

T20i Expected Strike Rate

Player

T20i Expected Average

T20i Expected Strike Rate







Jason Roy

24.20

143.02

David Warner

40.28

146.29

Alex Hales

21.72

141.49

D’Arcy Short

41.46

149.22

Joe Root

43.15

131.24

Chris Lynn

37.58

149.76

Eoin Morgan

23.38

114.97

Glenn Maxwell

28.25

152.61

Ben Stokes

23.60

144.07

Aaron Finch

29.93

141.84

Jos Buttler

29.33

138.92

Marcus Stoinis

21.60

114.88

Sam Billings

19.37

127.47

Alex Carey *

45.90

137.51

* Small data sample size for Carey

Quite simply, Australia have much better expected averages and strike rates than England can muster, and realistically, if we were to combine the two line-ups, England could only argue to include Stokes (for Stoinis) and possibly Buttler (for Carey).  On this basis, England have run out of excuses - quite simply, their 'best' team, when chosen by coach/selectors, is not nearly as good as their Australian rivals'.

Regular readers may remember that in September, I wrote a dossier about preparing for the 2020 T20 English franchise draft and made the point that numbers suggest that both Morgan and Billings should be nowhere near the England T20 team.  After mediocre winters, it's also probably fair to suggest that Roy, Hales and Buttler's stock has not risen, but it would be fairly harsh to jettison them long-term - particularly Buttler, who doesn't really have any main rivals for the wicket-keeper/batsman position.

However, players with strong T20 expected numbers who could quite easily do an adequate job as replacements - meriting a chance based on numbers - include Adam Lyth, Dawid Malan, Sam Northeast, Riki Wessels, Joe Denly (arguably one of the most improved T20 players in the world in the last year, and whose expected numbers would be vastly improved from that September article), Samit Patel, Joe Clarke, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Benny Howell, Steven Finn, squad member Liam Dawson, IPL-bound Chris Woakes, Richard Gleeson and Azeem Rafiq.  

If we tried to create a team from these players, perhaps picking Adam Wheater or Adam Rossington as an under-rated keeper/batsman, it's difficult to think they'd be able to do much worse than the current England T20 team.

One problem that the current T20 Blast faces, compared to other T20 leagues, is that the structure offers players a lack of exposure.  With a huge number of matches not televised, many players are frequently shown on TV just several times across the whole season, and as anyone involved with statistics will tell you, that puts players at the mercy of variance.  It's easy to envisage a scenario where a world-class player fails several times in a row when on TV, and therefore viewers around the world - including decision-makers at franchises, and their own national team selectors - are less aware of their talents than they should be.  

However, it's worth noting that there is T20 talent around the world, not considered by national team selectors or even by franchise teams.  I ran my algorithm to find batsmen who fitted the following criteria:-

Minimum 150 balls faced from the 2014-15 Big Bash onwards
<= 5 T20 international caps
Expected T20 international average >= 12.00
Expected T20 international strike rate >= 140.00
Active within the last 12 months

The results were pretty surprising.  20 players fitted this 'strike-rate/hitter' profile, including players who have never been picked by their national team, and indeed in several cases, rarely feature in the main domestic T20 competition in their relevant country:-

Player

Country

T20i Expected Average

T20i Expected Strike Rate





CM Dickinson

England

13.23

184.58

R Tewatia

India

29.73

161.13

H Klaasen

South Africa

49.94

159.15

SR Dickson

England

31.32

157.75

RR Pant

India

28.42

157.62

K Gowtham

India

16.93

153.32

JM Clarke

England

19.54

153.26

Sohail Akhtar

Pakistan

29.15

150.00

DJM Short

Australia

41.11

149.22

WG Jacks

England

23.22

149.08

EJ Pollock

England

19.11

148.38

C Jonker

South Africa

32.14

147.85

KH Pandya

India

28.03

147.66

AM Lilley

England

12.14

146.96

Tajinder Singh

India

20.31

145.06

T Kohler-Cadmore

England

22.84

142.69

T Banton

England

28.98

141.89

RA Whiteley

England

22.45

140.89

SJ Mullaney

England

14.76

140.55

R Frylinck

South Africa

16.03

140.04


If you were ever looking for a list of under-rated strike orientated batsmen, or those with potential upside for the future, this might be it.  A number of players were really close to inclusion as well, failing to meet one of the criteria, and these included Patrick Kruger, Paul Coughlin, Adam Hose, Sam Northeast, Urvil Patel, Vishnu Vinod and Zak Crawley.

On the subject of Crawley, it's worth discussing the case of both him, and Sean Dickson.  Both have superb Second XI numbers which, quite incredibly, not only translate to being strong T20 Blast players but also having the potential to perform well on the international stage, yet neither of them even played one match for a struggling Kent team in the T20 Blast last season.  

It wouldn't be a surprise to see this situation change - both had strong performances in the Super 50 Cup in the West Indies (tough batting conditions) in the last month - and it will be interesting to assess their performances in the T20 Blast competition this summer.  

I'm also very excited to see how Calvin Dickinson and Ed Pollock perform in the 2018 Blast - one big campaign and their name should be in lights.  They don't have the best expected averages, but their strike rates in last year's competition were stunning, and their data sample was backed-up by excellent second XI performances as well.

Tom Banton was another English player with superb second XI data, and only batted once for Somerset last season, while Sohail Akhtar - who has already shown how powerful he can be this year in the PSL - is somehow playing his first ever PSL campaign.

The deep talent pool of India is reflected in five players listed - Rahul Tewatia, Risabh Pant, Krishnappa Gowtham (who rarely even gets a game in the IPL), Krunal Pandya and the unheralded Tajinder Singh, while South Africa are now starting to see the value of Heinrich Klaasen and one of the best boundary hitters in T20, Christiaan Jonker, who played a stunning innings on debut in defeat for South Africa, against India, this evening.

The hugely talented Krunal Pandya is still yet to play for India...

The point is this - T20 specialists are out there, you just have to be willing to look for them.  Whether you are national team selectors or franchise owners, the value in using analytics to find these players is evidently there.

If this article has given you insight into the data that Sports Analytics Advantage can offer cricket franchises around the world in formulating draft or auction plans, please feel free to enquire for bespoke draft and auction strategies via sportsanalyticsadvantage@gmail.com.
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