Arguing the toss

Josh Pinn on Twitter asked last night:

This is a good question, and one that is easy to answer with my dataset. In this post I’ll look at how the fashion in men’s T20 cricket has shifted towards teams preferring to bowl first, and also whether there is evidence that this works.

Firstly, let’s take a look at how often teams choose to bowl when they win the toss in the Big Bash League.


It’s a dramatic shift. Up until 2011/12, it was rare for teams to choose to bowl. Around 20% took the option in 2007/8 and 2008/9, but in 2009/10 a team chose to bowl first in only one out of 16 matches. We came closer to parity in 2012/13, but only a quarter chose to do so in 2013/14. In 2014/15 the team who won the toss chose to bowl in exactly half of the matches. Last season a small majority of matches saw teams choosing to bowl.

In the first five matches of this season, every team has chosen to bowl. Continue reading “Arguing the toss”


Two BBL games and a world record score

We’ve now had the first two matches of the 2016/17 Big Bash League. The first match saw the Sydney Thunder suffer a minor batting collapse in their mid-innings before setting a respectable target which was easily beaten by the Sydney Sixers. The second match last night saw the Brisbane Heat set a very high target. The Adelaide Strikers scored very fast and looked set to meet that target, but a string of late wickets saw them fall short, with the result unclear until the final few balls.

In this post I’m going to run through some random stats about these matches (no deep analysis here) and also touch on a remarkable match played yesterday in New Zealand.

Continue reading “Two BBL games and a world record score”

Usman Khawaja’s unique BBL season

I’m a Sydney Thunder fan, and I was pleased to see how well they did in 2015/16. They managed to scrape into the finals, before winning both the semi-final and the final away from home to take home the trophy. This came after the team took the wooden spoon for the first three seasons before managing second-last in 2014/15.

But something bugged me about their performance, and that was the unique role of Usman Khawaja. During the last BBL season, Khawaja popped in and out of the Sydney Thunder side depending on injury and his test duties, and when he was present the team did consistently well – winning three matches and losing a fourth narrowly.

I thought there was something unique about Khawaja’s performance, and wanted to check it out by delving into the data. Namely, that Khawaja’s total run-scoring in his innings was much higher than any other BBL player, and that the way he scored his runs was different to most other high run-scorers in the tournament.

In later posts I’m going to delve into some theories about what matters in T20 cricket when you’re a batsman. In short, while scoring at a fast pace is important, I’m going to argue that wickets are still valuable in T20 and we should also judge batsmen on their ability to stay in without losing their wicket, at least in some circumstances.

I’m judging batting performance here as the number of runs the batsman scored as a proportion of the total runs scored by his team in matches which he batted in. This metric gives you a sense of how much a player pulled their weight in the team: they may get there by consistently scoring and staying in for most of the innings, or by scoring at a breakneck speed. In either case, staying in without scoring or scoring fast and getting out within the first over won’t serve you well in this metric.


Khawaja is way ahead of the pack on this measure. Usman Khawaja scored 345 runs in his four innings, out of a total of 692 runs scored by the Thunder in those innings, a score of 49.86%. The next highest score on this metric is 29.6% by Aaron Finch of the Renegades, followed by 29.1% for Shaun Marsh of the Scorchers. Continue reading “Usman Khawaja’s unique BBL season”