Heat’s Horror Day

A look at today#s BBL game, and how Brisbane Heat got absolutely blown apart by the team who came into today bottom of the table.

Today in the Big Bash League Brisbane Heat took on Sydney Thunder, with both sides desperate for a win.

THE HEAT INNINGS

Jimmy Peirson won the toss for Brisbane Heat and decided that they would bat first. This was the first and only thing that went right for them all match.

After six overs they were limping at 26-3. Peirson joined Munro for a rebuilding act at that point, and the pair were still together at the end of the 14th over, and the scoring rate was still below six an over. Time for the Power Surge you would think, but Peirson bottled taking it. A few balls into the 15th over Peirson was out and the chance of taking the Surge with two well set batters together had gone. In the end Peirson’s cowardice resulted in Heat’s Power Surge being the last two overs of their innings, with six wickets down. Unsurprisingly in those circumstances they did little with it, and ended with a final total of 121-6. In a T20, even on a pitch that is not particularly batter friendly that kind of score should never be enough…

THE THUNDER INNINGS

…Sydney Thunder’s openers, Gilkes and Hales, immediately put Heat’s pathetic effort in to proper context. By the halfway stage of the innings they were 87-0, needing just 35 more to win. A brutal onslaught against Swepson in the 11th over reduced that target to 10 off nine overs, and three fours in four balls by Hales off Steketee in the next over completed a ten wicket win for Thunder with 50 balls to spare. Gilkes, Sydney Thunder’s keeper as well as one of their opening batters, was named Player of the Match, having scored 56* (34) to Hales’ 59* (36). Sydney Thunder won so comprehensively that Peirson bungling the timing of Brisbane Heat’s Power Surge probably did no more than increase the severity of the beating that Heat took, but nevertheless it was terrible captaincy by him. I personally thought he should have called it at the end of the 12th by when he and Munro had been together six overs, and not calling it at the end of the 13th or the end of the 14th, when the pair were still together was beyond stupid. It is hard to see how Heat pick themselves up from this blasting at the hands of the team who came into today bottom of the table, and it is hard to see how Peirson can be allowed to remain captain. Scorecard here.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Strikers and Renegades lose unbeaten records in successive days

A look at developments in the Big Bash League, including yet another example of a Power Surge blunder.

Today Hobart Hurricanes beat Melbourne Renegades by eight runs, a result that means every team in the Big Bash League has won at least one match and suffered at least one defeat. However as I was only able to follow that game by way of cricinfo and therefore have only a fragmentary picture of it I shall say nothing further about it. Yesterday’s match, between Adelaide Strikers and Brisbane Heat, in which the former lost their own unbeaten record is a different matter, as there was radio commentary on that one.

THE BRISBANE HEAT INNINGS

Having won the toss and decided to bat Heat did not start well, but Sam Billings played a superb knock. They also took their two over Power Surge (see here for my thoughts on this) at a sensible time. They reached 166-7 in the end, with Billings scoring 79.

ANOTHER POWER SURGE MESS UP

Strikers were behind the rate right through the chase, but would probably have won had they taken any of three opportunities to claim the Power Surge with Colin de Grandhomme and Thomas Kelly at the crease. These opportunities would have been claiming the Surge for overs 13-14, 14-15 or 15-16. Failure to take it for the first was semi-defensible, the second failure was crazy and the third downright criminal. Strikers’ exceedingly experienced skipper Peter Siddle should have got a message out to the two batters instructing them to take the Power Surge once they had twice failed to do so. In the event Kelly fell in the 15th over, De Grandhomme in the 16th, with the Surge still unused, which left only lower order batters for the Strikers. Strikers never did get on terms with the required run rate, and it was only Siddle hitting the last ball of the match for six, with the result already settled, that kept the margin to six runs. Michael Neser bowled an excellent 19th over for the Heat, basically closing out the match for them, and finishing with 2-23 from his four overs. Mark Steketee took four wickets but was also expensive. However, batters usually get favoured when there is competition for the Player of the Match award, and so unsurprisingly it went to Billings for his knock. This was the third time in as many days that a team being over cautious about going for the Power Surge were punished by losing the match. In the situation the Strikers were in it was essential to take the Surge when De Grandhomme and Kelly were together. I would have preferred an out and out throw down of the gauntlet, taking it for overs 11 and 12 to the actual over-caution shown by the players. Only Peter Siddle, as experienced as he is, will know why when they weren’t claiming it for themselves he did not attempt to get a message out to the two batters telling them that they needed to do so.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Power Surges

A look at the Big Bash League’s great innovation, the Power Surge and how best to use it, with a couple of classic examples of it being misused on successive days.

With the Big Bash League now in full swing this post is dedicated to that competition’s great innovation, the Power Surge (they had two others but have binned both the ‘supersub’ and the ‘Bash Boost Point’). I am writing it because yesterday and today I saw two classic examples of mistiming the Power Surge, whereas in the WBBL earlier this year the sides were nearly all excellent at judging when to go for it.

WHAT IS A POWER SURGE?

Most T20 innings around the world begin with six overs of ‘Power Play’, when only two fielders are allowed to be posted more than 30 yards from the bat and then have 14 overs of regular play when up to five fielders can be outside that 30 yard radius. The Power Surge variation, which I am a huge supporter of, has the innings start with four overs of Power Play, with the remaining two to be taken at the batting side’s discretion at any point after the end of the 10th over.

WHEN SHOULD THE POWER SURGE BE TAKEN?

There are a range of good answers depending on exact circumstances but the key thing to remember is that a successful Power Surge is not just about how many runs you score from those overs, it is about how many more runs you score from those overs than you would have done in regular play. Therefore using it in the ‘death overs’, when you would be scoring very fast anyway is not making full use of it. Ideally you would want both batters to have faced at least a few balls by calling for the Power Surge but if by the end of the 15th over you have not found a really suitable time to take it then take it for overs 16-17 irrespective of anything else, as a launchpad into the death overs.

POWER SURGE FAIL 1: JIMMY PEIRSON (BRISBANE HEAT)

Brisbane Heat made an awful start to yesterday’s match against Melbourne Renegades, losing three early wickets. However at the end of the 10th over, the fourth wicket partnership was still going, and this represented the golden opportunity to take the Power Surge with two set batters there to make use of it. Both batters fell in the 11th over, meaning a spot of retrenchment was needed. At the end of the 14th over the sixth wicket stand was still going, both batters had faced a reasonable number of balls, and this represented what will call the silver opportunity to take the Power Surge – both batters in to an extent, and enough overs left for the Surge to act as a good launch pad. Peirson neglected to call for it, and the partnership was broken in the 15th over. Peirson dithered and delayed over the Power Surge, and only took it when obliged to for the last two overs of the innings. Those two overs did yield a respectable number of runs, but not in my opinion any more than overs 19 and 20 would with regular field placements. Heat finished with 137-8. This looked a good total when Renegades were 9-4 in response, but Andre Russell and Akeal Hosein played excellent innings, while Finch anchored the innings at the other end. Renegades timed their Power Surge better than Heat, and Finch after playing second fiddle to Russell and Hosein stepped up at the death to see his side to a deserved victory.

POWER SURGE FAIL 2: MATT WADE (HURRICANES)

Today’s match (Sydney Sixers v Hobart Hurricanes) was complicated by a long rain delay, which reduced it to a 14 overs per side contest, and reduced the Power Play and Power Surge allocations to three and one overs respectively. Sixers won the toss, batted first, and although they missed a golden opportunity, when both openers were still there at the end of the seventh over, they did take a silver opportunity, taking it for the 11th over of their innings. They finished with 137-6 from their 14 overs. Hurricanes dropped behind the rate from the start of their innings, but were incredibly reluctant to use their Surge over. Eventually, they claimed it for the 13th over, but by then they needed 45 off two overs, and although Asif Ali made good use of that Surge Over, 21 were still needed off the final over. When an excellent boundary catch by Jordan Silk put a stop to Ali’s antics early in the final over the writing was on the wall, and only a six off the last ball of the match with it already lost restricted the final margin to six runs. Again the criticism of the Hurricanes approach is that Ali could easily have gone crazy in the penultimate over of the match against regular field placings, and had they taken the Power Surge earlier they may have been in a position when a big penultimate over would actually have put them in charge.

AN ALL TIME FRANCHISE XI

Since I am writing about franchise cricket, which I don’t do all that often I end with a challenge and an example answer: Using your own country as the home country and IPL overseas player rules (i.e. up to four in an XI) name your franchise XI made up exclusively of players from before the franchise era.

Thomas’ sample answer:

Home Country: England

XI in batting order:

  1. G St A Sobers (West Indies, left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket, gun fielder)
  2. G L Jessop (Right handed batter, right arm fast bowler, gun fielder)
  3. F E Woolley (Left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, excellent close fielder).
  4. D C S Compton (Right handed batter, left arm wrist spinner)
  5. *K R Miller (Australia, right handed batter, right arm fast bowler, gun fielder, captain)
  6. +L E G Ames (right handed batter, keeper)
  7. G H Hirst (right handed batter, left arm fast medium bowler, gun fielder)
  8. J B King (United States, right arm fast bowler, right handed batter)
  9. J C Laker (off spinner, right handed batter)
  10. A Shaw (right arm slow/medium bowler, right handed batter)
  11. C V Grimmett (Australia, leg spinner, right handed batter)

Feel free to comment with your own XIs.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Time for my usual sign off…

‘Sambulance Rescue’ Act

An account of today’s BBL10 ‘Knockout’ between Thunder and Heat and a few comments about issues relating the tournament that were in the spotlight today.

This post is devoted to today’s #BBL10 ‘Knockout’ game between Thunder who finished third in the group and Heat, who finished fourth and then beat Strikers in the ‘Eliminator’.

THUNDER’S POOR TACTICS

Thunder got away to a slow start, only managing 22-1 in their four overs of Power Play. The seventh and eighth overs of their innings were both big ones, yielding 13 and 14 respectively. Khawaja fell in the ninth to make it 62-2. At the end of the tenth Thunder were 68-2, and in need of a big second half to their innings. The second half started slow, and the dismissal of Ferguson made it 74-3 at the start of the 12th. It was 78-3 at the end of 12th, and then 11 came off the 13th over to make it 89-3. At this point the Power Surge should certainly have been claimed in a bid to maintain the momentum, but Thunder did not do so, and a wicket fell in the 15th, with the Power Surge still unclaimed. At the three-quarter way stage Thunder were 107-4, and overs 11-15 had yield 39-2, respectable, but not enough after the slow beginning. Thunder still refused to claim the Power Surge, and by the 18th they were 134-6, and now had to use the Surge for their last two overs. They had a nightmare start to this final phase, losing wickets off the first two balls. The rest of it went OK and they finished with 158-8, nine runs less than the Scorchers had spectacularly failed to defend at the same ground yesterday. The Power Surge overs had yielded 24-2, but they would probably have managed that many from overs 19 and 20 even without them being the Surge overs, so basically because they were scared to take the Power Surge early they did not benefit from it at all.

A SLOW START FOR HEAT

Heat lost two wickets, including the man with the best twitter ‘meme team’ in the business backing him, Joe Denly. 10 off the fourth over saw them end the Power Play at 25-2, three runs ahead but one wicket behind Thunder. Overs 5-10 were slow going as well for the Heat, and that the half way stage they were 56-2, needing 103 off their last 10 overs for the win. They were building towards a good moment to take the Power Surge when Labuschagne was run out for 30 to make it 70-3 after 12 overs, 89 needed off eight overs to win. Sam Heazlett who had come in at the fall of the second wicket and was already going well was joined by Jimmy Peirson, setting the stage for…

THE ‘SAMBULANCE RESCUE’

After 14 overs Heazlett reached 50, having taken 37 balls to get there, with Peirson going nicely as well, and the score was 96-3, 63 needed off six. The 15th over went for 15, taking the score to 111-3, four runs and 1 wicket ahead of Thunder at the same stage, and now Heat managed something that had proved beyond Thunder: taking the Power Surge at a sensible time (I would have gone an over earlier, if not two, but at least they did take it with Heazlett and Peirson both still there). Heat took 26 off their two Power Surge overs without losing a wicket (only two runs more than Thunder, but two fewer wickets lost, and crucially a net gain of approximately ten runs compared to two non-surge overs at the same stage of the innings), and with three overs to go they were 137-3, needing 22 off 18 and now heavy favourites. Ten more runs of the 18th reduced the ask to 12 off 12 balls, and the match was practically unloseable. The 19th over nearly finished it, but the final ball of it, with scores level, was a dot, leaving Heazlett on strike for the start of the 20th, to complete the ‘Sambulance rescue’. The first ball of the 20th was put away for four by Heazlett – no deliberate wides this time! Heazlett had scored 74 not out of 49 balls, and his supporting act Peirson had 43 not out off 24 balls. Their match turning and ultimately match winning stand had produced 92 runs in 7.1 overs. Heat face Scorchers on Thursday, with the winners to take on Sixers in Saturday’s final, and given yesterday’s events I will be rooting for the Heat, who if only for their better handling of the Power Surge thoroughly deserved their win.

ISSUES OF BBL10

This game showcased several issues relating to the tournament as a whole:

  • X-factor subs: Heat were able to effectively get in an allocation of five overs – Bartlett bowled one over, a maiden that should have been a wicket maiden, in the first ten and was then replaced by ‘x-factor sub’ Morkel, who bowled his full four overs. The fact that the decision can only be made precisely at 10 overs into the first innings heavily favours the side who field first – they can replace a bowler either as Heat did with another bowler, or with a batter if they feel the need for extra batting depth, while the batting side can only justifiable opt to strengthen their batting, for example if they lose early wickets. I personally think this innovation needs to be abandoned completely, and certainly it cannot continue in its current form.
  • Umpiring: for some unknown reason DRS has not been used in this tournament, and some of the umpiring has been very poor. There were at least three, and possibly four poor decisions today: In the Thunder innings three LBWs were turned down, and all looked absolutely stone dead (I commented about the first of them that had it happened in a match with DRS and been given out not even Shane Watson would have bothered to review it), while the run out of Labuschagne may have been harsh, as the keeper may have dislodged the bails with his gloves before the ball was in his hands. DRS and the usage of all camera angles is a must for #BBL11, and some of the umpires need to smarten up their act or find a new job.
  • Catching: the standard of catching in this tournament has been woeful, and another cartload of chances went begging today. Guys, when a ball is hit in the air towards you, you are supposed to catch the damn thing.
  • Power Surge: I dealt with this in the main body of the piece, and also covered it yesterday, but today was a perfect case study. Simon Mann, who was part of today’s commentary team, labours under the bizarre delusion that the final two overs of the innings are the best in which to take it. Today blew that one sky high – Thunder did precisely that and effectively gained nothing from having the Power Surge, while Heat timed the taking of the Power Surge well, if not quite perfectly, and used it to move from being in a close fight to being in cruise control, a position they never subsequently relinquished.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Scorchers Shamed

An account of today’s BBL ‘Qualifier’ between Sixers and Scorchers, including a disgraceful incident involving AJ Tye, and thoughts about the Power Surge.

The title of this post, devoted to today’s #BBL10 qualifier is dual purpose, relating both the Scorcher’s overall performance today and to the incident that ended the match.

SIXERS SLAM SCORCHERS

Scorchers batted first and started slowly, Roy falling in the third over for a nine ball three. They finished their Power Play overs strongly, taking 25 off the last 11 balls to be 30-1 after four overs. The second phase of their innings was solid, overs 5-10 inclusive yielding 44-1, to give a halfway score of 74-2, with two well set batters, one the very dangerous Colin Munro, together at the crease. It was a situation that demanded an early use of the Power Surge to launch the second half of the innings, but Scorchers did not take the opportunity, and they paid for their voluntary surrender of the initiative lest the Surge cause a fall of wickets, as the third quarter of their innings was an unqualified disaster, yielding them 24-2 to reach the three-quarter way stage at 98-4. At that point they did take the Power Surge (leaving it any later would have been truly appalling). They made superb use of those two overs, scoring 34 off them, a gain of at least 20 on what they would have scored from those overs in ordinary play. They then kept the momentum going to finish their 20 overs with 167-6, a defensible looking total. Their top scorer was Josh Inglis, a wicketkeeper, who as Yorkshire-born Aussie may potentially follow in the footsteps of Hanson Carter, the best Aussie keeper between Jim Kelly and Bertie Oldfield, who was also born in Yorkshire.

Sixers started brightly, taking 13 off the first over of the reply, and being 43-0 at the end of the Power Play, 13 runs and one wicket to the good. They lost Philippe late in the first half of their innings, but still had a superb overs 5-10, scoring 61-1 in that period, 17 more than Scorchers had managed, in what had been a good period for them. I would have thought an early Power Surge was called for, but Sixers did not go for it. By the the end of the 15th Scorchers were 151-1 and the only question was whether James Vince, by then on 89, would reach a ton before the end. Although Daniel Hughes hit a boundary to level the scores with Vince on 98, he then avoided scoring off any of the last three balls of that over. The 18th over began with the scores level, setting the stage for…

AJ TYE’S ABJECT ASSAULT ON THE SPIRIT OF CRICKET

Tye, an experienced and successful bowler, bowled to Vince with the scores level and Vince 98 not out. He produced what was blatantly obviously a deliberate wide, a mean and petty ‘dog in the manger’ type gesture that denied Vince any chance to complete a century that would have been thoroughly merited. I have umpired a few games at a low level, and temporarily donning my umpire’s hat, I would have been tempted to tell Tye loudly that I was not going to oblige him by calling a wide and that he better bowl the next one straight. I certainly think the Scorchers should drop Tye for their next game, which will be against the winners of the match between Thunder and Heat, and the winners of that will take on Sixers in the final. I will certainly be rooting against the Scorchers when the time comes. Is my dim view of this just because the offender is an Aussie? No, and I offer as evidence to back up my own criticisms the fact that one Richard Thomas Ponting, not normally known for Aussie bashing, is on my side as well. Very little in cricket is new, given the game’s long history, and there was an incident in a long ago ODI when David Gower, called up to bowl by way of a concession of defeat, again with a batter, this time Greg Chappell, on 98, bowled a deliberate no-ball. Gower’s behaviour then was marginally less inexcusable than Tye’s today because he was a non-bowler and one can understand him not being impressed by being made to act as a sacrificial offering.

THE POWER SURGE

I have stated my thoughts on the taking of the Power Surge before, but I am going to extend on them here. Firstly, I am more and more convinced that one should have a good reason for not going early, rather than allowing caution to dictate. Scorchers paid for their failure to go when in a perfect position to do so, and it was only Sixers utter dominance that enabled them to get away with delaying their own surge. The extra point about the runs from the surge overs is that is not just a question of how many do you get from them, it also a question of how many would you have scored anyway from those overs even without the surge, and that is where leaving it late is a definite loser – you will be throwing the bat at pretty much everything in the closing stages of a T20 innings anyway, so would be scoring faster than at other stages of the innings. Scorcher’s surge was worth about +20 to them compared to two ordinary overs at that stage, because they did make it count when they finally took it. Had those two overs been, to take the extreme, the last two of the innings, then they would have been maybe +10 had they scored the same 34. However, had Scorchers gone in overs 11-12, when they had two top batters together, including the potentially devastating Munro, those same 34 runs would have had them 108-2 with eight overs to go and a total of 180 a definite goal, with more a distinct possibility. As it was, timing it when they did, even that huge surge only brought a total of 170 on to the horizon, and in the end they were just short of that. Here as a reminder is a Power Surge inforgraphic I created earlier:

PHOTOGRAPHS

My parents are in King’s Lynn because my aunt is undergoing a medical procedure and needs to be kept company for 24 hours. They arrived yesterday, and we had a chat over my back garden fence, and I took delivery of a glass vessel which bears my name, and is now the only one of what was a pair, due to a recent accident, and it dominates today’s photo gallery…

A Game That Neither Side Deserved to Win

An account of today’s BBL10 ‘Eliminator Round’ between Strikers and Heat, some suggested changes to the format of the tournament, and an acknowledgement of Pakistan’s victory over South Africa.

Before getting into the meat of today’s post, which deals with the ‘Eliminator’ round of BBL10, between Strikers and Heat, a word of congratulation to Pakistan, who completed a convincing win over South Africa by seven wickets. South Africa lost three wickets just before the close yesterday, as 175-1 became 185-4, and today they continued in that vein, being all out for 245, a lead of 87. Although Nortje bagged a couple of early wickets Pakistan were never in serious trouble, and fell appropriately to Fawad Alam to make the winning hit. His form since his recall to the colours makes one wonder how his team overlooked him for 11 whole years (not a record – George Gunn was called up by England after a lapse of 17 years between games, while in first class cricket there is the bizarre case of William Caesar who played two games in 1920 and four more in 1946, with nothing in between).

OVERKIND QUALIFICATION
SYSTEM EXPOSED

It is rare the a pom gets an opportunity to call Aussies soft with any hint of justification, but BBL10 has provided it. A qualification system that allowed five teams out of a total of eight to make it to the knock out phase (in the Vitality Blast eight teams out of 18 do so, while in the 50 over contest it has been six teams out of 18) look questionable from the get go, and today’s match was powerful evidence for the prosecution, as Strikers took on Heat in the ‘Eliminator’.

Heat have been at their most vulnerable this season when faced with a run chase, so the Strikers were correct to choose to bat first. However, even if you make the correct call, you do then have to play decent cricket, and this was where Strikers slipped up. All seemed good when they were 18-0 after two overs, but overs three and four went for only six runs between them, giving a Power Play score of 24-0. In Overs 5-10 Strikers failed to gain any momentum, as first Carey and then Head pottered about, barely managing to achieve a scoring rate of one run per two balls (Carey 13 off 22, Head 12 off 21). At the half way stage Strikers were 53-1, way below par, and they immediately claimed the Power Surge, also using the ‘x-factor sub’ rule to bring Wells in for Worrall in an effort to jazz up their batting. One wicket fell in the Surge, but Strikers also scored 16 off those two overs, and they seemed to be maintaining the momentum, although bizarrely Renshaw came in ahead of ‘x-factor’ man Wells, when they were 94-3 after 15, having scored 41 in the third quarter of their innings. A big finish was needed, and did not materialize. In the end Strikers finished with 130-7 from their 20 overs, with only Weatherald, Salt, and at the death Wes Agar having shown anything like sufficient intent.

Heat made an even worse start than Strikers had, not scoring especially quickly and losing the big wickets of Lynn and Labuschagne early. A third wicket went down in the fourth over, and Heat’s Power Play had yielded 24-3. In overs 5-10 Heat scored 44 without losing a wicket, being 68-3 at halfway, 15 runs ahead but two wickets behind Strikers at the same point. They declined to take the Power Surge, holding back, and in the 14th over Denly was out for 41 to make it 92-4. At the end of the 15th Heat were 98-4, needing 33 of five overs, and the 16th was economical as well. Then however Travis Head blundered, giving himself a second over when he could have had Siddle and Agar bowl through. It revived the Heat, as they were 110-4 at the end of it, and that point they finally did claim the Power Surge. They got eight off the first over with it, reducing the ask to 13 runs off two overs, and then Agar, who had had a fine tournament with the ball, cracked under pressure, the winning runs being accrued off five balls of his over. Jimmy Peirson finished unbeaten on 47, a fine knock, which earned him the Player of the Match award.

Strikers made a huge mess of their own innings, with as I have said, Carey and Head especially culpable. Heat were barely any more impressive, getting their tactics badly wrong and being saved by Head’s inexplicable decision to give himself a second over. Heat should have claimed the surge when Denly and Peirson were together and they could have had two set batters use it. Also, their selection of Heazlett backfired – the left hander was picked to counter Strikers’ spinners Briggs and O’Connor both of whom turn the ball away from the right hander’s bat and was out before he got to face either.

Tomorrow sees Scorchers and Sixers do battle, with the winner going straight into the final, while the loser whill face the winner of Sunday’s game between Heat (their reward for winning this one) and Thunder. I would guess that if they followed today’s action Thunder will be licking their lips at the prospect of Sunday’s game.

This was a game that neither side deserved to win, and that had the qualification system been sensible would not have been taking place – 4th and 5th out of eight have no business making it to the knock out stages of a tournament, and it looked every inch a contest between two moderate sides neither of whom really know how to win.

ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGES

I have already indicated what I think the qualification system should be: three teams qualify, group winners into the final, second vs third for the right to join them, with 2nd having home advantage.

I also feel the tournament would benefit from being more compact. A lot of the time there is only one game per day, with a few days featuring two games. With 14 rounds of group games I would play four fixtures per day, thereby having all eight sides in action, with a day off between rounds, meaning that the group phase would last 27 days in total, and then the two knockout matches would take place on successive days after two days off, making the whole length of the tournament 31 days – and it being an Aussie tournament I would make game day 1 Boxing Day, and the final to take place on Australia Day.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

The Group Stage of #BBL10: A Retrospective

A look at the 56th and last group game of #BBL10, an analysis of the qualification system, a look at the innovations in this year’s BBL and some photographs.

The graphic which heads this post is the final group table of BBL10, screenshotted from cricinfo.com. In this post I look back at the 56th and final group game, analyse the qualifying system in place for this tournament and offer final views on the three innovations. I would like to say at this point, in case the rest of this post gives a wrong impression, that I have enjoyed the tournament, and my criticisms are offered in a constructive spirit.

STARS STUFF UP SEES THEM CRASH OUT OF BBL10

With Heat beating Scorchers to secure a qualifying place and Renegades final act of the tournament being to eliminate the Hurricanes the 56th and last group game, commentary of which was broadcast on five live sports extra presented a stark situation to the two combatants: Stars needed the full four points (three for the win and one for the Bash Boost) to qualify (with a sensible qualifying system they would already have been gone – more on this later). Sixers meanwhile needed the Bash Boost point at minimum to win the group, and a victory of any sort to do so outright rather than on net run rate.

With Stars needing all the points they had to get big runs in the first ten overs of their innings, but they failed to pick up this message. Nick Larkin, a known slow starter, was sent in at number three, and in this case provided the expected slow start and then failed to go on (11 off 16 balls). Then, at the end of the tenth, setting the Bash Boost target, Nic Maddinson came back for a second on the penultimate ball rather than leaving the big hitting Maxwell on strike. Two more accrued of the last ball of the tenth, leaving Stars on 72-3, and a modest target for the Sixers to claim the all-important first point of the game, which would ensure no Melbourne participation in the final stages (Renegades’ win had not altered their final position – last).

Overs 11-15, which included the Power Surge being taken for overs 14 and 15 were the best part of Stars’ day, as they scored 52-1 in that period to reach 125-4 at the three-quarter mark. They lost a little momentum in the closing stages, but three sixes in the final over boosted them to 177-6, a respectable total, though not very relevant as their poor handling of the first ten had likely cost them any chance of qualifying.

Faced with the situation they were in Stars should have front loaded their batting with all their biggest hitters, realising that their 20 over score would only be truly relevant if they went big in the first ten. Nick Larkin as a known slow starter should probably not have been picked for this match at all.

Sixers lost a couple of early wickets, but by the end of their four over power play were 43-2, 11 runs ahead of Stars at the same stage. They also outscored Stars in the second phase of the innings, albeit only by two runs, being 85-3 at the halfway point, and having already won the war, securing their own status as group winners and the elimination of the Stars, although a Pyrrhic victory in the final battle remained on for the Stars.

Overs 10-15 did not go especially well for the Sixers, who reached the three-quarter way stage at 126-5, 1 run ahead, but one wicket behind the Stars. They picked things up in the final quarter however, and in the end a boundary struck by Dan Christian of the penultimate ball of the match ensured that Stars would not even have a Pyrrhic victory to finish. Sixers deservedly topped the group, and I for one have no sympathy for the Stars, who made a complete mull of their approach to this game, and who in the words of Anne Robinson “Leave with NOTHING.”

A FLAWED
QUALIFICATION SYSTEM

Although it lent a few of the final group games an interest they might not otherwise have had, a qualification system that allows five teams out of eight to progress to the knockout stages has to be considered flawed. Firstly, in order to reward each qualifying team according to their placement the knockout phase is byzantine in the extreme. Secondly, it means that average teams are being rewarded – the teams in the 4th and 5th qualifying spots each recorded seven wins and seven losses, which does not deserve to be enough to progress. Tournaments that are organized on part league part cup lines should reward only teams who are exceptionally successful in the league phase – and losing as many games as you win is not exceptionally successful on any definition. My own preferred method for an eight team tournament would be as follows: three teams qualify for the final stages, the group winners going straight through to the final, while the second and third place teams play off for the right to join them, with the second placed team having home advantage by way of reward for doing better than the third placed team. This would make the tournament more compact by reducing the number of knockout matches, although they also need to have more days on which multiple matches are played in the group stages, and would ensure that only teams who are clearly better than the rest get to play in the knockout matches.

THE THREE INNOVATIONS

BBL10 featured three innovations this year: the Power Surge, reducing the opening Power Play from six overs to four, with a two over Power Surge to be claimed by the batting team at any point after 10 overs, the Bash Boost point, awarded to the team with the better score at the halfway stage, and the ‘x-factor’ sub where specifically at the halfway stage of the first innings each team may swap out one player for one of their designated ‘x-factor’ subs. I am a huge fan of the Power Surge, though a number of teams have misused it, being wary of going early and ending up without front line batters to cash in on it, and would like to see it adopted in other T20 competitions. The Bash Boost point has overall been a success, although a combination of the importance it assumed today, and Stars’ flawed approach caused it to spoil this particular game somewhat, and again albeit under a different name, it might well be worth other T20 competitions adopting it. The ‘x-factor’ sub rule belongs in the circular file, and has in my view contributed nothing to the tournament. If you need to alter the balance of your side after the start of the game, the one valid reason for using such a sub, you should have got it right first time.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off:

BBL10 Logjam

Looking at the Big Bash League in the light of today’s game and providing some thoughts about the Power Surge.

The group stage of this tenth edition of the Big Bash League is entering its closing stages, with Sixers clear at the top, Renegades adrift at the bottom (certain not to qualify for the knockouts – 10 points adrift of the last qualifying spot with only eight left to play for) and six teams battling for four spots. From Scorchers in second down to Strikers in seventh the teams are separated by just four points,although third placed Stars have played a game more than the others in this sextet.

The Thunder, who had looked comfortable were dragged into the maelstrom when the Hurricanes beat them in a rain affected game, successfully chasing a DLS adjusted target. Yesterday Scorchers absolutely thrashed Heat to claim second spot in the group. This sets the stage for…

THE MELBOURNE DERBY

Stars had a chance of going second as they took on rock bottom Renegades today. The Stars batted first, and bizarrely the first over of the match was a maiden. Andre Fletcher failed to get going properly, taking eight balls to get off the mark, and getting out after hitting two fours, which gave him 11 off 14 balls. Nick Larkin came in at three, and he too struggled for a large part of his innings. The Power Play overs ended with Stars 27-1. In the ninth over Stoinis, who had been doing most of the scoring, fell for 37 to make it 58-2, Coulter-Nile, a fast bowler who has had some success with his big hitting batting was promoted with a view to increasing the Bash Boost target. Unfortunately the gamble back fired as he was out first ball to make it 58-3. That brought Maxwell in, and at the end of the tenth it was 63-3, a modest halfway score. Maxwell fell early in the second half of the innings, and by the end of the 15th, with a Power Surge to come, Stars had put up the 100, Larkin still there, but as yet having done little to impress.

Finally, with the score 111-4 after 16, Stars took the Power Surge. They fared reasonably well, scoring 21 runs and losing two wickets in those two overs, which left them on 132-6 after 18. They then did produce a big finish, 26 off the last two overs to total 158-6 from their 20. Larkin after taking 28 balls to reach 20 finished 61 not out off 47, 41 off his last 19 balls, but his dilatoriness in those first 28 would come back to haunt his team.

Renegades began dreadully in reply, limping to 17-2 in their Power Play overs. They improved in overs 5-10 but were still 10 runs adrift at the half way point, 53-3 as opposed to 63-3. They too were slow in claiming their Power Surge, waiting to the end of the 15th, at which point they were 96-4. They made decent use of the two over Surge, but still required 41 off three overs to win. Over number 18 was a big one for them, reducing the ask to 25 off 12 balls, and then the 19th settled it, 19 runs in total coming from it, leaving Renegades six to get in the final over. A boundary for Webster, taking him to 22 off nine balls, finished things, but the real key was Harvey, 47 not out off 22 balls, an innings that deservedly earned him the Player of the Match award. It was perhaps fitting that an attack minded left hander named Harvey should play the key role in settling a match between two Melbourne based sides.

POWER SURGE THOUGHTS

Of the three innovations in this years Big Bash League the Power Surge is the one that intrigues me the most. The ‘x-factor sub’ belongs in the circular file, the Bash Boost point is proving to be a huge success, and I also like the concept of the Power Surge, but feel that its application has been lacking, with sides too inclined to leave it late and therefore ending up not really benefitting from it (nb Brian Charles Lara who knows a bit about batting is on my side on this one).

The infographic I created for this post, which you will have seen at the head of it, and which reappears to end this section, outlines my thoughts on this issue, and I will add to it just this: sides going into the second half of their innings should be inclined to go early rather than late with the Power Surge and should delay it only if there are strong reasons, such as a wicket falling in the tenth over, for doing so. I can see no merit at all in using it any later than overs 15 and 16, as you should be getting big runs off the closing overs anyway even without the extra fielding restrictions.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I have two galleries to share with you today, the first featuring my newest acquisitions, and the second my regular fare:

The Long and Short of Cricket

A look back at the recent Australia v India test match, and at today’s amazing BBL game between Hobart Hurricanes and Brisbane Heat, plus some thoughts on the BBL’s innovations for this year.

No, on this occasion my title does not refer to Mohammad Irfan and Poonam Yadav, though in another context it could! Instead I refer to the longest and shortest formats of top level cricket – 5-day test cricket and T20.

INDIA MAKE IT 1-1 WITH VICTORY AT MELBOURNE

India had lost the first match of the series at Adelaide after being bowled out for 36 in their second innings (see this post for more on that game), and Kohli had departed from the squad to be present at the birth of his child. Australia batted first, and with Bumrah and Ashwin featuring prominently, were dismissed for 195, no one managing to reach 50. India responded with a determined batting effort led by stand-in skipper Rahane who redeemed himself for running out Kohli in Adelaide by reaching a gritty century, while Ravindra Jadeja, one of the finest of contemporary all-rounders and a brilliant fielder to boot, contributed 62 to the cause, and India built a first innings lead of 131. At one point it looked like they might not have to bat again, but young Cameron Green and Pat Cummins resisted stoutly to take Australia into credit and the game into a fourth day. Green and Cummins continued their partnership on the fourth morning, but once they were separated resistance was limited. For the second time in the match no Aussie managed a fifty, but they did just reach 200 before Hazlewood shouldered arms to a straight one and was bowled to end the innings. Low totals have sometimes been defended, but very rarely as low as 70, and India lost only two wickets in reaching their goal.

Steve Smith failed twice, Labuschagne managed some resistance in the first innings but not a substantial score, and Cameron Green’s promise aside there do not appear to many sources of runs for Australia at the moment, and bowlers, even such fine ones as Australia possess, cannot win matches if they don’t have anything to defend. David Warner returns for the next match at the SCG, with presumably the shockingly out of form and lacking in confidence Joe Burns dropping out. Also waiting in the wings, though currently not fully fit for action, is Will Pucovski who has produced some Ponsfordesque scores for Victoria. Travis Head in the Aussie middle order has what appears to be a respectable batting average, but what his average does not show is the fact that he has a severe case of ‘Watsonitis’ – he scores runs, but never seems able to turn a good start into a really major innings.

India meanwhile are strengthened by the return from injury of Rohit Sharma, who will presumably resume his opening berth alongside Agarwal.

BBL THOUGHTS

This section is provoked by today’s astonishing game between Hobart Hurricanes and Brisbane Heat (the Hurricanes were nominally the home team, even though the match was taking place at the Gabba!)

Hurricanes batted first, and after 10 overs were 65-3 with Malan going well and Ingram newly arrived at the other end. Malan fell not long after, bringing Colin Ingram and Tim David together. They shared a good partnership, but Hurricanes failed to take advantage of the opportunity to claim the Power Surge with two destructive hitters together at the crease. After 18 overs they were 140-6, and had to take the Power Surge. Mujeeb Ur Rahman, on of three Afghan spinners (Rashid Khan, leg spin, and Zahir Khan, left arm wrist spin, being the others) to have BBL contracts bowled the 19th, and it was a quite superb over, not only going for only one run, but also yielding three wickets, giving Mujeeb 5-15 from his four overs. The 20th over was better for the Hurricanes, although they only lasted four balls of it, that was enough to boost their total by nine. That gave them precisely 150 to defend, a fairly modest total by BBL standards.

However, the Hurricanes were as brilliant at the start of their bowling innings as they had been poor in the second half of their batting innings, and the Heat were 8-3 early on and looking in some trouble. Then Max Bryant and Lewis Gregory shared an excellent partnership and seemed to have at least secured their side the Bash Boost bonus point for being ahead after 10 overs. Bryant was out to the penultimate ball of the ninth, making it 60-4, six need for the Bash Boost point. However, a combination of good bowling and tentative batting saw them just miss out. Gregory’s dismissal in the 11th over made it 66-5, and brought Bazley into join Peirson. They were still together at the end of the 14th, at which point Heat took the Power Surge. Overall these two overs were good for the Heat, the loss of Peirson not withstanding, and Heat needed 31 from 24 balls for the win. With Bazley going well and Steketee connecting with a couple of decent blows that came down to 15 off 12 balls. The 19th started with two dots, but then Bazley hit a six to reduce the task to nine off nine balls. The over ended with Heat needing seven to win. That came down to four off two balls with Steketee on strike. Steketee got two off the penultimate ball, and that meant two needed off one ball, or one to take it to a Super Over. Steketee went for the tying run off that final ball, but it was judged that although his bat was over the line before the bails were dislodged it was also in the air, and he was given run out, to make it 149-8 and victory for the Hurricanes by one run.

It was a magnificent game, but I would have preferred the Heat to win so that the Hurricanes got properly punished for mishandling the second half of their batting innings.

ON #BBL10’S INNOVATIONS

There have been three innovations to this year’s BBL, two which had their own impact on today’s game. They are: the Bash Boost point for the team who are ahead at the ten over mark, the Power Surge (instead of six overs of power play restrictions at the start of the innings there are four, with two more to be claimed at any time after the tenth over by the batting side) and the ‘x-factor sub’, whereby after 10 overs of the first innings a player who has a) not batted and b) bowled no more than one over can be replaced by a designated ‘x-factor’ sub.

I am a huge fan of the Bash Boost point, it has created points of interest in games which would otherwise have been dead, and today it was very closely fought.

I like the concept of the Power Surge, but it requires flexibility of thought, and not many sides have thus far shown that. I would say that all things being equal the ideal time to take it would be at the end of the 15th, using it as a launch pad for the final quarter of the innings. One might go earlier in two situations: the openers are still together after 10 overs and you want to use the Power Surge to launch you towards a really huge total, and also if you have lost a few wickets, your innings needs a shot in the arm and/or you want to ensure that you have two decent batters to use the Power Surge. I can see no case for delaying it right to the end, and I think the Hurricanes stuffed up big time, for all that it did not end up costing them, in their own innings – they should have taken the Power Surge while Ingram, who could really have cashed in on it was still there.

As for the ‘x-factor sub’, that belongs in the circular file. I fully understand the need for ‘concussion protocol subs’, but basically I remain convinced that teams should finish the match containing the same players who started it.

A final recommendation for the BBL: for goodness sake use the DRS – unlike football with the disastrous VAR we actually have a method of using technology to help with decisions that usually works, and it should be automatic to use it.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Some BBL Thoughts and All Time XIs Revisited

A look at the innovations featured in the tenth edition of the Big Bash League and a visit to all-time XI territory, with place names the link on this occasion.

A two-parter today, first looking at the innovations featured in this year’s Big Bash League and then, inspired by something I noticed during commentary on today’s weather hit game a revisit to all-time XI territory.

BBL INNOVATIONS

The current version of the Big Bash League, the tenth running of said tournament, features three innovations, and I shall touch on each in turn:

  1. Power Surge: instead of a straight six overs of power play and then 14 of standard fielding restrictions there are now four overs of power play, and then a Power Surge of two overs, to be claimed at any time after 10 overs at the behest of the batting side. This has been a really successful innovation, with a lot of thought going into to when to take it. Ideally you would want two set batters at the crease to maximize the potential gain, and also to be quite close to the end of the innings to use it as a kind of springboard into a big finish. I can see the possibility of claiming it for overs 11 and 12 if the openers are still together, on the understanding that a big hitter will be promoted to cash in on it if one of the openers falls. If that is not an option then if two batters are going well at the end of the 15th over, claiming it for overs 16 and 17 with a view to really making the final quarter of the innings pay would appeal. I do not share TMS Commentator Simon Mann’s view about taking it for the last two overs of the innings being a good notion.
  2. Bash Bonus Point – a bonus point is awarded to the team who score more from their first 10 overs, while three are awarded for the outright win. This has led to some interesting situations where teams knowing that overall victory is effectively out of the question go all out for being ahead after 10 overs in an effort to salvage something, as opposed to concentrating on surviving the full 20 overs so that their net run rate does not take a hammering. I consider this to be a success, although I could see a situation where a team gets knocked out due to this innovation, and fans would not be happy with that.
  3. The ‘x-factor’ sub: players designated for this role before the game may be brought in (no more than one per side) after a maximum of ten overs of the first innings of the match. The substituted player must not have batted and may not have bowled more than one over (sensible caveats which prevent a specialist batter being used and then replaced by a specialist bowler, and vice versa). I have witnessed only two matches (via TMS commentaries) in which these players have been used, one of them today’s no-result. I have waited until I had actually seen the usage of such players before commenting on the innovation, but I have seen nothing to alter my initial thinking that if you actually pick your best XI at the start you should not need to make use of this option, and the fact that uptake of it has been very limited is itself a comment on the innovation. Thus I score these innovations at two out of three.

A PLACE NAMES XI

One of the players who featured in today’s match was Joel Paris, a left arm pace bowler, which started me thinking about players who have places in their names. I set myself rules that the place name must be the whole of on the player’s names, not part thereof, and that it must be spelt the same way (as you will see later this latter was germane). After I have been through the batting order I will explain some of those who missed out for one reason or another.

  1. Sir Leonard Hutton – right handed opening batter, occasional leg spinner. Hutton is a place in Essex, on the edge of Shenfield.
  2. Sidney George Barnes – right handed opening batter, occasional leg spinner. A combination of World War Two and the fact that he and the authorities did not always get on limited his test career to 13 matches, in which he recorded an average of 63. Barnes is near Putney, either southwest London or Surrey depending on who you consult.
  3. Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, excellent close fielder. Woolley is a small village, almost precisely equidistant between Barnsley and Wakefield in Yorkshire.
  4. Ken Barrington – right handed batter, occasional leg spinner. Upper and Lower Barrington are a matched pair of villages in Gloucestershire (Marcus Berkmann mentions them in one of his books about life in cricket’s lower reaches).
  5. Victor York Richardson – right handed batter, fine fielder, occasional wicket keeper. A fine test batter in the 1920s and 30s, and grandfather of two others, Ian and Greg Chappell, his middle name gets him into this team.
  6. *Warwick Armstrong – right handed batter, leg spinner, captain. I rated him the finer of the two regular test captains in this line up, and anyway I wanted Hutton free to concentrate on his batting. In the 1905 tour of England he scored over 2,000 runs and took over 100 wickets in first class matches.
  7. +Jack Blackham – right handed batter, wicket keeper. He played in each of the first 17 test matches ever contested and is regarded as one of the greatest of all keepers. Blackham is a small village almost exactly equidistant between East Grinstead in Sussex and Tunbridge Wells in Kent.
  8. Washington Sundar – off spinner, left handed lower order batter. The 21 year old Indian has been making a name for himself in T20, but he also has a more than adequate FC record, averaging 31.29 with the bat and 26.93 with the ball in that format.
  9. Joel Paris – left arm fast medium bowler, left handed lower order batter. His first class averages are just the right way around – 23.38 with the bat and 23.25 with the ball.
  10. Sydney Francis Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower order batter. In the case of Sidney Barnes the batter I had to use his surname as the place name, but this greatest of all bowlers qualifies twice over, since his first name Sydney is spelt the same way as Australia’s largest city.
  11. Ian Peebles – leg spinner, right handed lower order batter. Peebles is due south of Edinburgh.

This team has a deep batting order, a very varied and strong bowling attack, and would definitely give a good account of itself. Now for some honourable mentions:

William Maldon Woodfull, a fine opening bat and captain for Victoria and Australia would qualify by virtue of his middle name, which is a place in Essex and also the place in Victoria where he was born. Anthony William Greig, an attacking middle order bat good enough to average 40 in test cricket and a decent bowler of both medium pace and off spin missed out by a single letter – the Cornish seaside village of Antony not having an H in its name. Rahkeem Cornwall might have replaced Washington Sundar without unduly weakening the team (he is also an off spinner and more than useful lower order batter). Had I allowed myself to reach back a few hundred years to a long antiquated spelling of a place near York, which is now always spelt Bootham, as it is pronounced, I could have accommodated Ian Terrence Botham – the single o spelling was once a thing. Arran Brindle, a batter for England women who has at least one century in men’s club cricket to her name, could have got in via her first name. Ian Peebles’ place in the XI could have gone to either of two other leg spinners, Richie Benaud, whose name derives from a village in France, but who I would have heading the commentary team, and Amanda-Jade Wellington. Finally, I was tempted to find a place for Mike Gatting who shares a surname with a legendary former UK constituency. The old Gatting constituency, disenfranchised in 1831, contained one grand house, and it happened on one occasion that the butler had a quarrel with the master of the house and stood against the master’s son (the master by this time considering himself to old to be a candidate). The master voted for his son over the butler and that was that.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Now it is time for my usual sign off: