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: