Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Final Match-up

Since waking in the morning I wanted to carry out a stats study of the three best bowlers and four best batsmen from each of the finalists to guess what to expect from the World Cup final. The match is going to start in a few minutes from now (7 pm IST) and I finally get the time to do it. The cricinfo folks have done some job on Australia-Sri Lanka encounters from the past. Their study firmly reiterates that Sri Lankans have a dismal record against Australians, particularly so in the World Cup.

But then so much has changed in the last year or two. We have a Sri Lanka that has played exceedingly well outside Sri Lanka for one year now, one that has the best depth and width in bowling resources. Equally we have an Australian side that has shown over the last 11 matches that their batsmen can go the extra yards and even dwarf their already lofty standards to cover up for any perceived weakness in bowling.

I have a simple plan for comparative measurement of bowling and batting strengths of the two sides. We sample them from their last 15 matches. Since 70% of those have been played in the World Cup, the current form of these players gets adequately reflected in this sample. At the same time the temporary troughs and exceptional circumstances facing a few players (e.g. Mike Hussey never got a decent opportunity to express himself this Cup) get slightly evened out by extending the sample a few games prior to the World Cup.

The prime criteria of judgement for bowlers is, as always, wickets. Runs, for batsmen. However to get a fairer picture of the player performances we would modify the wicket tallies of bowlers with a factor inversely proportional to their economy rates. For the batsmen we will modify the run aggregates with the factor of their batting strike rates. So here are the basic rules:

Bowling: We take the top three bowlers of one side. We divide the wickets taken by each in the last 15 matches with his economy rate (expressed in ratio of six – i.e. an economy rate of five will be 0.833 and so on) for the period and add the resulting modified figures for the three. We do the same for the other side and compare them.

Batting: We take the top three batsmen of one side. We multiply the runs made by each in the last 15 matches with his CAREER strike rate on date (expressed in ratio of hundred – i.e. a strike rate of 80 will be 0.8 and so on) and add the resulting modified figures for the four. We do the same for the other side and compare them.

[Filtered strike rates of players for recent matches are not readily available. We are therefore forced to make do with career strike rates]

We are not taking up a fielding comparison. In pre world cup previews I rated these two as comparable fielding sides and their performances from the world Cup indicate as much.

SL – bowling

Lasith Malinga: 28wkts @ 5.17 ~ 32.5
Chaminda Vaas: 23 wkts @ 3.35 ~ 41.2
M Muralitharan: 31 wkts @ 3.80 ~ 48.9
Total: 122.6

Aus – bowling

Glenn McGrath: 29 wkts @ 4.57 ~ 38.1
Nathan Bracken: 22 wkts @ 4.11 ~ 32.1
Shaun Tait*: 28 wkts @ 5.47 ~ 30.7
Total: 100.9

[*played only 14 matches so far]

Bowling Strength Analysis: The Sri Lankans are holding a slight edge there, 21.5% precisely. The Aussies do have an in-form left arm slow bowler (Brad Hogg) as their 4th bowler but Sri Lanka are equal to it. Their crisis man is Sanath Jayasuriya of the left arm slow-medium-fast variety.


SL – batting

Sanath Jayasuriya: 500 runs @ 90.73 ~ 454
Mahela Jayawardene: 570 runs @ 76.07 ~ 434
Chamara Silva: 501 @ 72.70 ~ 364
Kumara Sangakkara: 419 @ 74.3 ~ 311
Total: 1563

Aus – batting

Matthew Hayden: 927 runs @ 78.6 ~ 729
Ricky Ponting: 850 runs @ 80.24 ~ 682
Andrew Symonds: 340 runs @ 92.23 ~ 314
Adam Gilchrist: 371 runs @ 96.12 ~ 357
Total: 2082

Batting Strength Analysis: Aussies hold a 33.2% edge there. This value is significantly more than the 21.5% deficit in the boeling analysis. Also these figures do not take into account the increased batting strike rates exhibited by Hayden and Ponting in the present tournament in comparison to their overall strike rates, or else the batting would have looked even more of a mismatch.


If the number crunching is beginning to put you off then just dwell on this: Mike Hussey is no more amongst the top four Australian batsmen for being reduced to an unknown quantity in WC’07. However Sangakkara, also going thru a dip of form (and having no excuses of exceptional circumstances like Hussey) since the Super Eights, still qualifies amongst the top four SL players.

Sri Lanka will need one last World Cup ton from the blade of Sanath Jayasuriya to bridge that gap. For all the wizardry of Murali, he has only ten overs to bowl and Australian batsmen are quite unlike Indians and New Zealanders in that they know it.

1) Huzaifa, for correcting me merely two days back that the final happens to be on the 28th of April and NOT 29th
2) The rain in Barbados, for letting me complete the post without missing the match!

[cross posted on Desicritics]

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