England T20 World Cup Squad Analysis
Eoin Morgan (C), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Tom Curran, Chris Jordan, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, Tymal Mills, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, David Willey Chris Woakes, Mark Wood
Reece Topley, Liam Dawson, James Vince
With us nearing the T20 World Cup, now is a good time to look at the recent record of T20 batters, especially the ones chosen for the squad and analyse just how good this team actually is. Are they really all that? Have the years of incessant white ball cricket been worth it? Who should England really pick? To attempt to answer these questions I’ll be using stats from 1 Jan 2019 to the 30th October 2021 (unless I specify otherwise) examining all of Englands options. .
Creating a top seven is difficult, you have to balance stability and hitting ability, as well as making sure a couple of them can bowl as well. A good way of seeing how well you have balanced stability and hitting ability is to look and Strike Rate and Balls per dismissal. Figure 1 (below) shows this.
The line going down is at a value of 17.14, which is 120 divided by seven. So if your top seven averages over this value then you would expect the top seven to bat all 20 overs of a match. Players in Blue are in the squad, players in red are not and players in black are not available due to injury.
As we can see the majority of the batters are consistent enough to face 17.14 balls per dismissal, a number of them by some distance and therefore England shouldn’t feel forced to choose a player just because they face a lot of balls. Root hasn’t been chosen for an England T20I squad for two years now and this shows why, he is the slowest scorer and he uses up a lot of balls. Stokes is missing but you would have to say that benefits England, he would likely be in the squad if he was fit but his batting is probably the third worst in the list of batters. Brook and Crawley are two obvious options for the future, but I would rather wait for at least the 2022 World cup. Hales obviously lo
oks to be a much better opening option than Roy, they face the same amount of balls but Hales scores much quicker, 15.44 more runs per 100 balls. But while Morgan is captain and probably even afterwards Hales won’t be in the squad.
But this isn’t the only way to check up on batter stats, as I talked about in my previous article for @TheRunOutBlog1, how they score those runs is also important.
Figure 2 (below) has the SR of batters when they don’t hit boundaries on the y-axis and boundary% on the x-axis.
The first players to stick out are Billings and Root, two players who have built their games around rotating the strike. However it has come to the detriment of hitting boundaries, as they are both miles behind the next England player, Malan. While Brook, Duckett and Crawley do have far better stats than the others here, It’s worth pointing out that they have played in the Blast and the Hundred only, while the rest have International and overseas comps in their stats.
Another interesting point is the case of Malan vs Vince, these two will likely be up against each other for who bats at three, and Vince is both a better rotator of the ball and a better boundary hitter.
The final way of analysing batters is to look at how they score those boundaries and the English batters are a mixed bunch in this regard- as shown below in Figure 3. Fours are very useful but Sixes are the best form of scoring for a number of reasons. The main one being that you get 50% more runs per ball. But also its important in the middle overs when good fielding can stop fours. As we shall see in a bit, Hales who is the second most prolific four hitter here has a big problem in the middle overs.
While none of these batters manage to get to the elite 10% six rate, four players have a 6% above eight: Livingstone, Morgan, Moeen and S. Curran. Curran being out injured is a big loss for England with his bowling being particuarly versatile and his hitting arch is one of the most consistent in the side but the emerence of Moeen and Livingstone as premier power hitters once again is a big win for England. While the previous figure showed that Vince was better at hitting boundaries and rotating strike, figure 3 shows that Malan is a more accomplished six hitter, by some distance, hitting a six 30% more often. In essence it is a game of balance between Vince and Malan. Malan is more capable of scoring very quickly, though Vince is better at getting set up and not getting stuck.
Overall I am pleased by what this shows, five of the top nine six hitters are in the squad, with another one injured, while only four of the top nine four hitters are. Showing England are preferring six hitters and preferring six hitters is, in my opinion, the way to go.
So far in the IPL (Indian Premier League) a lot of the pitches have been slow, which means runs scored in the Powerplay are even more vital. Often you will see a side 50/60 after 6 and then consolidate in the last 14 to a meagre 150-160 scoreline as spin boggs down the scoring rate.
As we can see in Figure 4 (below), Malan is the worst top three batter when it comes to Strike Rate in the powerplay and as already stated the powerplay is vital. However as we can see middle order batters tend to do worse in the powerplay than openers for the obvious reasons that they often have less balls to get set as they often are coing in with only 1-2 overs left to go.
Hales is easily the best here and is therefore a big miss for England. More worrying is Buttler and Roy who while not slow are not massively quick either. Going at 8 an over is okay but if the powerplay does end up the easiest time to bat I hope we see more aggression from those two batters and if not then England should consider moving Johnny Bairstow up the order and dropping Jason Roy given both scoring rate and conditions.
Next is the middle overs, and as we can see from Figure 5 (below) this is where Moeen shines, in fact he is the quickest scorer in the middle overs for any batter. Vince still outperforms Malan here though not by a massive amount. The big worry here is Roy who fails to increase his Strike Rate. The reason is quite simple, with more fielders out batters see a massive drop in fours hit. Now while all batters then rotate the strike a lot more, those who increase their Strike Rate also tend to increase their six percentage, especially openers. Roy as well as Hales don’t do this and therefore slow down and this highlights the importance of Buttler who often performs the role of a quasi anchor whilst still scoring at a Sr of 140. The numbers do also outline how poor Root and Billings are, both players are seen as anchors and they certainly weigh down their sides batting ability by limiting runs scored. Both are exceptional players of spin but even in the UAE the benefit of this is outweighed by their scoring rates. Despite both being known for rotating the strike the best strike rotator in the middle overs is Vince who scores at 82.49 when not hitting a boundary.
Finally the death overs, I didn’t include openers in this data as generally they all do well having been set for 40+ balls meaning that their numbers are often exceptional.
As Figure 6 (below) illustrates Brook is elite in this phase of the game. The Yorkshiremans strike rate of 213 is the 4th best of anyone since 2019 with a minimum of 300 runs scored, behind AB de Villiers, Virat Kohli and Andre Russell; Kohli is a top order batsman and is therefore always set while de Villiers and Russell are viewed by many of some of the finest lower order batters of all time. Sadly he isn’t in the squad but all these stats suggest he is a superb number five or six batter (naturally they are dominated by his numbers in the blast but even in the hundred he was outstanding). While Morgan also does well here it’s worth pointing out that this year his SR has been 125.39. Ben Stokes Is very poor here and anyone who has seen him bat in this role for England coming in late in the game will testify that the numbers do not lie. Again, Stokes’ absence may not be as bad as first feared.
In Conclusion England’s batter selection is pretty good. Buttler and Bairstow are two of the worlds best T20 batters and the former is the best T20 opener in world cricket and on track to be the greatest of all time. Now there is a bit of worry about Malan and Morgan with both having horrific runs of form but there are replacements in the squad for them and both are still class players who have had similar esq slumps before and hit their way out of them then and will most likely do the same again. Sam Curran missing does however impact how England can balance the side and England will most likely favour Moeen Ali at 7 rather than his preferred position of 3 specialising in taking down spin.
While England’s batting is well selected and has generally been a strength, their bowling is much more uncertain. Their best bowler Jofra is out injured and a few of their main choices have struggled in recent years. Not even talking about the lack of specialist spinners in the squad.
As we can see in Figure 7 (below) there are three main groups. Group one is of the good bowlers, out of the ten bowlers here, seven of them are in the squad and one is injured. The two missing though stick out a lot, Parkinson has the best average and while his Economy Rate isn’t incredible it just means his Strike Rate of 14.02 is 15% better than the next best bowler. While Benny Howell is another big loss, the third best average and the fourth best economy rate.
Next is group two who are in the top right, who are the worst bowlers, both poor in average and Economy rate. What’s very worrying is that two of them are in the main squad. While Sam Curran is poor, a lot of this is from a poor 2019 when he was just 21, since the start of 2020 he averages 23.58 and goes at 8.39 an over effectively placing him in group one, so him being missing has some impact. However Jordan and T. Curran both have been getting worse compared to 2019. Both players in my opinion are lucky to be in this squad but as we all know Morgan relies on experience and nous. Controversially I would have played Howell and Parkinson over those two.
Finally we have Briggs and Dawson, who are in the final group of spinners there to stifle runs. While Dawson does have the best ER, he also has by far the worst average. Briggs conceded on average just 1.6 runs more every four overs and is far bigger threat. Once again I would play Briggs over Dawson.
Another interesting thing to look out is how they concede their runs, as Figure 8 (below) shows. Howell sticks out for basically conceding his runs the same way as a spinner does, very few boundaries but less dots. While Woakes has a small sample size, his dot percentage is nothing short of incredible every other ball he bowls is a dot. Wood’s pace does hinder him a bit as he goes for the most boundaries. Jordan and T. Curran both go for a lot of boundaries and also fail to restrict strike rotation.
Figure 9 (below) outlines Englands bowlers in the powerplay and it shows that Woakes and Archer are the stand out stars. Though Woakes stats are tad biased as they come from a small sample size and a lot of helpful conditions. Archer missing is a big impact here, a great Economy Rate and Average. Willey is then the next best, and is known for his power play bowling, with S. Curran injured, I would play Willey for both his left arm angle and superior power hitting to Woakes.
One worrying thing is that without Archer England lack penetration with the new ball, only two of the squad average below 28 in the Powerplay and they are unlikely to both play in the same squad. Topley is the next best in this period and so could prove useful.
Looking at the Middle overs though we have much better bowling options- Figure 10 (below) outlines this fact. Four players in the squad average below 23 and go at less than eight an over. Moeen especially is an underrated bowler and Mills is a good swap for Archer. Once again Howell shows that he is better than T. Curran while Jordan is easily our worst bowler in this period in the squad.
In the middle overs run prevention can be helped with dot percentage, Archer performed the best, 40.56% of his balls were dots. However Wood and Mills aren’t far behind, with Mills also being the only bowler with less than a 10% boundary percentage. Overall it looks great for England with good Pace and Spin options.
Finally we have the death bowling options (Figure 11 below). Mills dominates the graph here for good reasons, he is statistically the hardest seamer to hit at the death. He is followed quickly by Topley which might explain why he was brought in when S. Curran was injured. Parkinson makes a surprise appearance here. His Strike Rate of seven is 23% better than the next best. After this we see some of the poorer death bowlers, Willey looks average here but that is nothing compared to T. Curran and Jordan, what’s worse is since 2020 they have become less effective. Jordan averages 28 and goes at 9.9 an over while T. Curran goes at 11.4 an over while averaging 28. Overall this is once again where missing Archer hits England badly, hopefully Topley and Mills will be the specialists here.
Overall the squad is decent, though the batting is a lot better than the bowling. The only batsman I would have in is Hales and he is not in due to mistrust between the squad and him. The bowling is where it’s messier, Tom Curran and Jordan are in the main squad despite their poor results and I would rather have Howell/Parkinson and Topley in the main squad over them. My XI for the first match would be:
This is a bowling friendly team, with 6 bowling options but England overall are good with their batting and with the lack of a second spinner they need all the bowling they can get. Playing an extra batsman would mean dropping either Wood or Topley and either would damage our middle or death bowling.