It seems uncontroversial to state that batsmen are more likely to be dismissed immediately after an interval, than when they have settled back into the new session. But similarly well-worn aphorisms – the nervous nineties and batsmen tending to fall quickly after sharing a sizeable partnership – have shown not to stand up to statistical scrutiny. This post, therefore, attempts to apply numerical analysis to the received wisdom that in Test matches batsmen are more vulnerable immediately after resuming play.
Before introducing the numbers, it’s worth reflecting why this common understanding is so readily accepted by cricket followers. I think there are two mutually reinforcing factors at play, each of which could be supported by associated statistical evidence.
The first factor is that batsmen are at their most vulnerable early in an innings. Owen Benton, in his post ‘When is a batsman ‘in’?‘ demonstrated that the likelihood of a Test opening or middle order batsman falling before scoring another five runs is at its highest when on a score below five. It can be argued that this early-innings fallibility revisits the batsman in the analogical position of re-starting an innings after a break in play.
The second factor is that it is accepted good tactical practice for the fielding side to start the session with its most potent bowlers. While there are no statistics to hand to demonstrate that this tactic is actually applied regularly, nor that those bowlers are more threatening immediately after a break, it would be straightforward to compare the career strike rates of the bowlers opening after the resumption against other bowlers used in that innings.
To test the proposition that wickets fall more frequently after a break in play, I selected a random sample of Test matches played since May 2006 (the date from which cricinfo.com scorecards recorded the score at every break in play). Details on the sampling method are provided at the foot of this post.
From the sample of 20 Tests, I noted the incidence of wickets falling in the three overs following (and prior to) 436 breaks in innings, including lunch, tea, drinks breaks, close of play and weather interruptions. Excluded from this figure are any breaks which coincided with the start of a team’s innings.
All results are strike rates expressed as wickets per over. In the period 2006-2015, wickets fell on average in Test cricket at 0.08 per over. As the chart below depicts, there was a 50% increase in the strike rate in the first over after a break in play (0.125). This effect wore off rapidly, so that the second over after the resumption saw a strike rate (0.090) that was barely above the period average and equivalent to the sample average (0.091).
The result for the 1st over after a break in play is statistically significant. The sample size doesn’t enable the analysis by type of break in play to be anything other than indicative, but is presented below for interest – based upon the first three overs of the restart.
Weather breaks appear to be the most damaging to a batsman’s prospects, but the 20 Test sample only featured 11 weather breaks. There does not appear to be any relationship to the duration of the break. For example, the overnight break was associated with a lower strike rate than the brief evening drinks break.
The sample results do seem to bear out the received wisdom that batsmen are vulnerable immediately following a break in play. However, the brevity of the impact – a single over – doesn’t strongly support the two explanations offered above.
If batsmen find a new session is like starting a new innings, then the effect would be visible in the second over, as six deliveries is unlikely to be sufficient for both batsmen to pass this phase.
If the phenomenon is caused by the more potent (and refreshed) bowlers, it too would be discernible in the second over (bowled by the other fresh strike bowler) and third overs of the new session.
There remains an explanation and it’s a prosaic one, which will often be used by commentators seeing a batsman fall soon after a break. It may simply be that the batsman’s concentration has been interrupted and not sufficiently refocused for that first over of the restart. There’s a message here for players – prepare psychologically for the new session – and spectators – don’t dither, get back to your seat for the restart.
383 Test matches were played in the period from May 2006. Based on an estimated 9,000 breaks in play with an expected strike rate per 18 deliveries of 0.3, 478 breaks in play were needed to give a result with confidence interval of 0.04 at a 95% confidence level. Excel’s random integer function was used to pick numbers between the Test match references of the first (1802) and last (2181) in the sample period. It is worth noting that the random sample was based on Test matches, not breaks in play.
Using the number of relevant breaks in play from the 20 Test sample, a lower total number of breaks of play in the population was calculated for the population of Tests: 8,600. The adjusted sample size was 417, which is lower than the sample on which data was collected.
18 rounds; 108 points. How many did you score? Declaration Game made a deserved half-century (just).
To see the full quiz, without answers, click here.
Round 1 – Who’s who in tattoos?
Round 2 – West Indies Test cricketers
Round 3 – 1981 remembered – who are they?
Round 4 – Training regimes – whose?
Round 5 – Zimbabwe Test cricketers
Round 6 – The Ians
Ian Peebles was the first Ian to play Test cricket for England in 1930. Not including Ian Botham, since then a further 6 Ian’s have played for England in Tests. Who are they?
Thomson, Greig, Ward, Salisbury, Bell, Blackwell
Round 7 – Five fors
Of England Test bowlers who have taken 5 wickets in an innings (5WI) more than 10 times, the best six in terms of ratio per match played are shown below. Who are they?
24 5WI in 27 matches. Ratio 1 per 1.13 matches. BB 9-103
11 5WI in 14 matches. Ratio 1 per 1.27 matches. BB 8-94
15 5WI in 51 matches. Ratio 1 per 3.40 matches. BB 7-44
17 5WI in 60 matches. Ratio 1 per 3.53 matches. BB 6-65
13 5WI in 46 matches. Ratio 1 per 3.54 matches. BB 8-53
27 5WI in 102 matches. Ratio 1 per 3.78 matches. BB 8-34
Round 8 – #SPoY
6 cricketers have finished in the top three for BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Who are they?
1st 2005, 2nd 2004 – Flintoff
3rd 1990 – Gooch
1st 1981, 2nd 1985 and 1979, 3rd 1978 – Botham
2nd 1977 – Boycott
1st 1975 – Steele
1st 1956 – Laker
Round 9 – A mixed bag
What reason did Phil Edmonds give for why he made a habit of walking back to his mark in reverse, still facing the batsman?
To stop Brearley changing the field behind his back
For which team would you be playing if your skipper told you “you are in the Rogers this week”, and why is it so-called?
Second XI – Roger Twose
Two England off-spinners have scored the most Test 50s (10) without ever scoring a Test 100. Who are they?
Emburey & Titmus
The record for most Test 50s without a Test 100 is 16 (HS 97) held by an Indian opening batsman of the 1970s. Who is he?
Who is the England 20/20 team’s most frequent captain (30 matches)?
Round 10 – T20I
The batting and bowling profiles of English players with the most T20I caps are shown below (as at early Sept 2015). Who are they?
56 matches 118 runs @ 7.37
65 wickets econ 7.6 21 catches – Broad
52 matches 1225 runs @ 29.87
No bowling 22 catches – Morgan
51 matches 759 runs @ 18.97
18 wickets econ 8.5 14 catches – Luke Wright
39 matches 104 runs @ 20.80
51 wickets econ 6.4 5 catches – Swann
38 matches 711 runs @ 28.44
16 wickets econ 7.2 7 catches – Bopara
38 matches 527 runs @ 21.08
No bowling 10 catches/1 stumping – Buttler
Round 11 – “Make it a Daddy”
Name the three English Test players who scored only one Test century, but it was a double. These centuries were scored in 1903 (on debut), 1974 and 2002.
RE Foster, David Lloyd, Rob Key
Imtiaz Ahmed was the first Test No 8 to score a double century in 1955. Another Pakistani did so in 1996, scoring 257* v Zim. Who was he?
Apart from the debutant in 1903 above, the next highest score on Test debut is 222* for SA v Ban in 2003. By whom?
Bradman has most Test scores of 200+ with 12. Who follows him with 11, most recently in January 2015?
Round 12 – Another mixed bag
The two English players in an ODI who combined as catcher and bowler to dismiss Aaron Finch in 2015 matched the dismissal in an ODI of Rod Marsh in 1979. How were both Finch and Marsh dismissed ?
c Bairstow b Willey
Only one English player has scored more than one Test century batting at No 8 or lower. Who is it?
Which Essex all rounder, with 1 50s (HS 68) and 70 first class wickets (BB 5-73), had try-outs for 6 major league baseball teams as a pitcher and is now an international fast bowling coach?
One Englishman has more ducks (2) than runs (1) in Tests. 3 Tests, 3 innings, 1 run, average 0.33. His run was scored at Chittagong in 2003. Who is he?
He played 8 Tests & 4 ODIs for England in 1978, scored 2 Test & 1 ODI century, averaged 48.10 in Tests and 83.33 in ODIs, but never played for England again. Who is he?
Which 2015 Ashes hero has the International number of the beast (666)?
Round 13 – Century conversions
Of batsmen who have scored more than 10 Test centuries, which six have scored more 100s than 50s?
30x100s, 29x50s for Aus. HS 380 – Hayden
28x100s, 27x50s for Aus. HS 329* – Clarke
29x100s, 13x50s for Aus. HS 334 – Bradman
22x100s, 21x50s for Ind. HS 199 – Azharuddin
15x100s, 14x50s for WI. HS 220 – Walcott
10x100s, 5x50s for WI. HS 270* – G Headley
Round 14 – The KP round
About whom was Kevin Pietersen speaking when he
(or his ghost-writer) used these descriptions?
“The Ned Flanders of the England set up … tactically inept” – Cook
“A sad sad bastard” – Swann
“A Dairylea triangle who thinks he is a Brie” – Matt Prior
“A triple espresso of a coach … unbelievably intense” – Peter Moores
“A lower order batsman with a Test average of less than 20” – Paul Downton
Someone who “thinks big and achieves big” and who just “wanted to be valued and respected” – KP
Round 15 – Yet another mixed bag
Which Australian opener had both a tattoo and personalised number plate of what he supposed to be his International number (326), before realising that fellow debutant Brendon Julian’s surname came alphabetically before his and therefore his true number was 327? – Slater
He played 250 matches for Notts between 1973 and 1988 and last year received a 2 year suspended sentence for possession of 37 cannabis plants. Who is he? – John Birch
Which current player has the most English Test wickets with only one 5-for. 72 wickets @ 32.73 BB 5-48 – Bresnan
Mascarenhas, Hales and Bresnan have 3 20/20 ducks for England. One man has 9. Who is it? – Luke Wright
Steve Borthwick and Gareth Batty are the only English International 20/20 bowlers to … what? – Have an economy rate below 6rpo
Of English batsmen who have scored over 1000 ODI runs, only one averages more than 50 (51.25). Who is it? – Trott
Round 16 – Agonisingly close
These English batsman ended their innings a boundary short of a maiden Test 100 and never came close again. Who are they?
95 Sydney 1983 – Eddie Hemmings
97 Adelaide 1979 – Bob Taylor
98 Karachi 1987 – David Capel
98* Old Trafford 1982 – Geoff Miller
99 Auckland 1988 – Martyn Moxon
99* Edgbaston 1999 – Alex Tudor
Round 17 – Pakistani connections
Identify these 6 Pakistani Test cricketers from the teams they played for and their role. The second name of each answer is the first name of the next.
Off spinner : Ireland, Islamabad Cricket Assn,Lahore Badshahs, Pakistan International Airways, Surrey, Sussex – Saqlain Mushtaq
Middle order batsman & leg breaks : Karachi, Northants, PIA, Shropshire – Mushtaq Mohammed
Fast bowler : Asian XI, Delhi Daredevils, Khan Research Labs, Lahore Division, Leicestershire, National Bank, Sheikhupura Cricket Assn., Sialkot Cricket Assn. – Mohammed Asif
All rounder : Hyderabad, Karachi, Kent, National Bank, PIA – Asif Iqbal
Slow left arm : Karachi, National Bank, Sind – Iqbal Qasim
Opening bat : Cumberland, Karachi, Muslim Commercial Bank, Sind – Qasim Umar
Round 18 – Name the prodders