England’s two key match-ups for any T20 match: Jos Buttler v Anyone and Adil Rashid v Anyone

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You’re no longer allowed to write about T20 without referencing “match-ups” so that is what we’re going to do. Brace yourselves for some IN DEPTH ANALYSIS.

In the unlikely event you’re not au fait with the concept of the match-up, it’s a tactical thing where you try and pit a given batter or bowler against a specific type of opponent in each phase of a game.

At a very basic level, if a batter is shite against leg-spin then you try and bowl a leg-spinner to them. Or it can be more specific. Maybe they struggle to score against wide yorkers delivered by a left-armer from round the wicket during the powerplay. So ideally you have someone who can do that.

It becomes strategic too. If you’re up against a team with loads of right-handers, maybe you’ll want to pick more spinners who turn the ball away from the bat. But then maybe the opposition see this coming and pick a left-hander or two to disrupt the rhythm.

It can all get a bit game theory-y, but it’s an easy way to analyse what is after all a fundamentally formulaic format. The concept of match-ups therefore underpins the selection of most sides.

Identifying beneficial match-ups is a way to maximise your side’s potential and you can sometimes eke out a crucial advantage by unearthing one in some unexpected corner of the game. But then you can also win a lot of matches by having players like Jos Buttler and Adil Rashid.

There are definitely ways of using these players that are more productive, but debate about these finer points often overlooks the fact that these differences pale next to the sheer overwhelming usefulness of having these players available in the first place.

Take, for example, Jos Buttler. In the lead-up to the T20 World Cup there was much debate about whether Buttler was best used as an opener where he could potentially face more deliveries, or further down the order where he long ago proved himself a genius.

The answer is that it doesn’t matter. Well, it does matter – you would obviously get different outcomes – but there is no properly wrong answer. Buttler is a brilliant T20 opener and a brilliant T20 finisher and a brilliant T20 middle-overser. He is a brilliant T20 batter. He is a good option whatever you do with him.

Rashid too might have a better record against some types of batter than others and is used in a way to maximise his effectiveness, but the broader truth is that whenever you see fit to bowl him, he’s fantastic.

We’re not trying to rubbish or diminish the timely deployment of playing resources here. We’re just pointing out that the timeliness of deployment is sometimes of less significance than the playing resource itself.

15 comments

  1. Cricket does become a lot simpler when you’ve got lots of very good cricketers in your team, it has to be said.

  2. It does appear as though Yorkshire aren’t going to get away with their shameful attempt to brush things under the carpet.

    At least, they’re going to have to go explain themselves in Westminster.

    https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/378/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/news/158502/announcement-dcms-committee-to-call-in-yorkshire-county-cricket-club-chair-on-azeem-rafiq-report/

    Gah, this stuff is so depressing. Didn’t much enjoy trying to figure out who the “senior Yorkshire player” was, nor the conclusion I came to.

    1. Everybody seems to have worked out who ‘senior Yorkshite player’ is but me. Give us a hint?

      (Yes that is how I will spell the name of the team until things change.)

      1. Maybe speculating isn’t great, but the potential list seems pretty short – Patterson, Lyth, Rashid (presumably not), Bairstow, Ballance and Root.

        And then the article talks about:
        “[the other player] directing equally offensive or derogatory comments back at him in the same spirit of friendly banter.”

        before going on about Rafiq
        “using “offensive, racially derogatory comments” when referring to a player of Zimbabwean heritage as “Zimbo from Zimbabwe””

        I guess maaaybe those two examples aren’t related, and the article seems intentionally convoluted but that would seem to point at one person.

      2. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d assume the ‘Zimbo’ in question, coming from a country with 99.4% Black African population, would be a little less inclined to racism? Or does that just mean he’s more inclined to racism against non-black people? I don’t really want to think about it either way.

        Anyway, nice to see sponsorship being pulled.

      3. In my experience with ex pats in New Zealand, white South Africans and Zimbabweans can have… ‘complicated’ relationships with race. Lots of people have lived through a reclamation of power from black communities. It’s challenging to engage with.

      4. It’s also challenging to discuss. I literally dont know how to engage with it. Quinton de Kock demonstrated last week how ill equipped a kiwi or pom is to understand race relations in Africa.

      5. It’s hard to imagine how Yorkshire CCC might have handled this sorry, sordid affair any worse.

        The mismanagement of the investigation/report reeks of institutional racism far more than the inappropriate/race-infused language quoted in the media.

        It’s so upsetting to see a matter of this importance so carelessly managed in this day and age. Yorkshire’s loss of sponsorships and credibility hurts all cricket, not just Yorkshire.

      6. Yeah, as Kanos says, not sure we’d be looking on Zimbabwe as a bastion of racial integration and understanding. The power structures and political history carry a bit more influence than the demographics.

        Agree with Ged too that it’s Yorkshire’s response that’s most damning though. We’d draw a parallel with doping in cycling in the 90s, where it was less about individuals and more about a culture where such things were consistently overlooked. Imagine operating in an environment where multiple people were saying things like that and no-one was batting an eyelid.

        In an even worse way than Australia, it sounds like Yorkshire have had their own unique ideas about the exact whereabouts of ‘the line’.

  3. I get the match up thing, especially in the shortest forms of the game, where a significant proportion of the balls/runs might be used up/scored in a single effective match up.

    But as you say, the very best players are a cut above all the rest.

    England and Pakistan are front running this tournament on the back of a few exceptional players at the peak of their powers.

    It’s wonderful to see…for supporters of the teams thus blessed. Tough viewing for supporters of the opposition.

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