Pakistan’s spin bowling all-rounders exploit a weakness and the Twenty20 format

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Australia faced two overs of pace bowling during their defeat today. Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez saw that it was not broke and therefore declined the opportunity to attempt repairs.

It’s interesting how a very specific batting weakness can be exploited in Twenty20. If spin causes some damage, the incoming batsmen are reluctant to strike out against that type of bowling. They feel there’s a damn good reason for doing more prolonged reconnaisance. This means it’s easy to squeeze in four overs from a part-time bowler, which is of course a full complement.

This wouldn’t happen in 50-over cricket. A part-time bowler would bowl those four overs and the batsmen would then have a pretty good idea that what was confronting them was actually pretty femmer. A few lusty blows would end the spells – both magic and bowling

In Twenty20, there isn’t really much of a window between having sized up a bowler and his having bowled all his overs. This is bad for batting but great for tactics and can lead to the situation we saw today where 90 per cent of the overs were spin.

Of course, you can only do this if you happen to have five fairly decent spin bowlers knocking around your side. Team selection like that limits most teams to one basket for their eggs, but not Pakistan because they don’t always distinguish between batsmen and spin bowlers.

The upshot is that they can tailor their bowling attack even once the match is in progress and an added bonus is that they can set their batting order to ‘shuffle’ with no ill-effects.


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  1. A tournament which shares a couple of pitches will naturally allow those with lots of spinners do well at the end, where those with fast bowlers would have done better at the start. Question is what does it mean for the result of the tournament. Is it the best team or not?

    1. In theory, you’ve got to succeed throughout, so it’s a decent test.

      In practice, the format undermines that a little (but not completely).

    2. In theory yes, but the format of the tournament is more forgiving of errors at the start than at the end. I guess the fact that the tournament is moved around the world every four years is an effort to limit the influence of conditions.

    3. The influence of weather and pitch conditions is a large part of what makes cricket what it is.

    4. That goes without saying. I was referring to the context of the article, of world t20 championship tournaments.

    5. What we meant was that we are happy that such things have an influence, no matter what the match, no matter what the format and no matter what the tournament.

      The fact that conditions change as time wears on provides part of the narrative that makes the tournament a cohesive whole.

  2. Good on Pakistan, but I have to confess that bowlers like Ajmal and Ashwin really irritate me. That whole stopping a whole minute in your run-up to throw off the batsmen just ain’t kosher.

  3. That’s the least thing about Ajmal’s bowling that’s a bother, but it is fun to watch him bamboozle the Aussies. Or anyone come to that.

  4. The headline in the group stage was “Not over dependant on Watson – Bailey”. This has been shown to be correct. We are completely dependant on him.

  5. Another league stage of a limited overs tournament is over where Net Run Rate was used for tie resolution. Allow me the indulgence of promoting Ball Difference, my far simpler and very sensible alternative, by clicking the link.

    1. Interesting.

      Let’s say Team A bats first and posts 200 in 20 overs. Of these, 160 were scored in the first 17 overs, and the last 3 yielded 40. Now, Team B posts 160 all out in 17 overs, and loses.

      There will be a large NRR difference between the two (rightly so), and zero Ball Difference, which seems grossly unfair to the winning team.

      Am I missing something?

    2. This isn’t our thing, but we think the ball difference would be 18 there. Basically, all the deliveries that weren’t needed (in hindsight). Those deliveries are taken from the winning team’s innings.

      We might well be wrong here. Hopefully pandimi will return to this page and put us straight.

    3. Thanks everyone.

      The ball difference will be will be 18 if first ball of 18th over is a wide or a no-ball. Otherwise it will be 17 or less depending on scoring pattern of winning time.

      I am leaving a few excerpts from below to explain the idea:

      1. Ball Difference(BD) stands for the number of balls saved by the winning team.
      2. .. determine BD for a team winning after batting first by calculating the number of balls between the precise delivery when the winning run was scored until the end of that innings.
      3. NRR and BD return similar not identical results. BD integers are simpler to understand compared to fluctuating 3 decimal points in NRR. NRR is derived from the final score while BD uses actual match data. This means that NRR will be high for a team scoring slowly in the beginning but rapidly at the end for a big win but BD will be relatively lower rewarding decent bowling effort by the losing team in the initial overs. NZ scored 114 runs in the last 6 overs to post 302 against Pak and beat them by 110 runs. Since NZ was 195/5 after 44.4 overs, the BD for this match is only 32 despite a big win. It should be noted that NRR, based on final scores only, is similarly low when a team batting second wins after a slow start suitable rewarding the losing side. covers how to compute BD for various scenarios including rain interruptions. There is a discussion in its comments section about BD fares against another alternative to NRR proposed by Duckworth & Lewis in their book.

  6. I thought all this “throdkin” and “femmer” stuff was on hold, now that Lancashire are no longer champions and indeed doomed to second division cricket for the time being?

    1. ‘Femmer’ isn’t specifically Lancastrian and may not even be known in parts. Maybe someone from Wigan can let us know whether the word is used there.

    2. Never heard of it – it’s part of the Geordie dialect. According to the Northumbrian Language Society, it’s probably an Anglian word (and now, from Norwich, it’s the Quiz of the Week). It might also exist in the Jutish language (they came from the same place, after all), which might mean it’s part of Sarah’s vernacular.

      Meanwhile, Wigan remained Celtish, indominatably so, ruled over by a fat chief, a druid and a very bad singer.

  7. Isn’t Kevin Pietersen just such a batsman – i.e. one who can bowl a few overs of spin when conditions suit, as well as bat.

    Ok, I’ll move on, OK…

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