The Use of Specialised Statistics in T20
In the Second T20I between Pakistan and England in 2020, Iftikhar Ahmed walked in at 162/3; the stats shown included his average of 55.33, but this was due to 4 not outs in 7 Innings, and his Runs per Innings was just 23.71. His true batting ability was probably in the middle, his T20 average is 27, but the important thing was that this readout gave me very little to go on about what he would be capable of during this match. His batting average didn’t matter as there were just 21 balls left; was he a boundary threat, or was he a strike rotator? In the end he would score 8* of 9 balls as Pakistan made 195/4, which was chased down by England.
T20 is a rapidly evolving format, teams are beginning to realise that match ups, and singular overs can have big impacts; with just 120 balls in your Innings, the usual statistics of average and strike-rate matter less and less In my opinion, there are other stats that need to become more commonplace; such as boundary percentage, non-boundary Strike Rate and Six Percentage; which I will explain in more detail below, as not only do they show in more detail how dangerous a player is, it’s also good at showing where they should bat.
Figure 1 shows every batsman with 600+ T20I runs since the 2016 World Cup, with an Axis of B% (Boundary%) and Non-Boundary Strike Rate, as B% is a stat that is increasing in importance. From 2017-2019, 85% of all IPL (Indian Premier League) matches were won by the team that hit more boundaries; with the best way to win the boundary race is by picking the batsman who hit more boundaries.
B% is the percentage of balls faced hit for a boundary. Non Boundary SR is the SR of the batsman of the balls not hit by a boundary.
As you can see from Figure 1 (above), Kohli is up there as an elite strike rotator, similar to his performance in One Day Internationals. Furthermore, it easily shows why Maxwell is one of the best players currently in T20I’s, he rotates strike easily and hits a lot of boundaries. However, it also shows the weak spots of players like Kane Williamson who is stuck in no man's land, as he can’t rotate the strike or hit balls to the boundary often enough, which explains his pedestrian SR since the World cup of 126. Only 6 other batsmen here have a worse SR: Max O Dowd, Calum Macleod, Asghar Afghan, D’Arcy Short, Reeza Hendricks, and Tamim Iqbal; but none are as highly rated as Williamson.
Another important thing is six hitting; hitting fours is good, but sixes are always worth more, and this is also beginning to sink in. In 2015, the average top 7 batsman had a 4% of 10.73, and a 6% of 3.9%; while in 2020 the stats are now 10.98%, while the 6% is now 4.8%.
Figure 2 shows how the boundaries are split via fours and sixes. Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson, who on Figure 2 (below) respectively have a 6% of 4.48 and 4.36, which is worryingly low. While their 6% is around the current average, these two play in New Zealand, where due to smaller grounds, hitting sixes is much easier. During this period, the 6% in New Zealand is 7.2, one of the highest for any country, so you would expect Williamson and Taylor to be hitting a higher 6% than their current values.
You can also see on Figure 2 that hitting sixes helps at the death, as Morgan, Pollard, Nabi, and Maxwell have a 6% above 8; furthermore Azam’s 6% is extremely behind the times, easily being his biggest flaw; and without that he can’t increase his SR from 130 to 140, which should really be the minimum for a player who averages over 40, as otherwise they are using up too many balls.
We can use these two graphs to work out what we are looking for from each period of batsman. Openers generally hit more fours as on Figure 2, Roy, Finch, and Dhawan are on the lower right. This type of batting makes sense as the powerplay sees less fielders in the outfield, however they are generally more shy of trying to hit the ball over the boundary, as this increases their chance of getting out. We generally see a drop of B% for the batsman batting at 3 and 4, as they bat during the middle overs, and focus more on strike rotation; Kohli is the best example of this. Finally, in the death overs 6% is by far the most important; Morgan is a prime example, with a 6% above 8. Of course, the ultimate example however is Andre Russell; during his IPL career he has a 6% of 15.5%, which is a massive driver towards his insane SR of 182.33, easily the best in the IPL. The next best after Russell with at least 500 runs scored being Nicolas Pooran, who has a SR of 165.40.
So now we have these stats, how can we use them in analysing a team that is a favourite to win the 2021 World Cup. But is making a number of mistakes in terms of how the batting order is being put together.
In the recent T20I series against India, England’s preferred batting line up was Roy, Buttler, Malan, Bairstow, Morgan, Stokes, and S. Curran; the 2 big questions are Stokes and Malan. These two are questionable as there is a serious question about whether either belong in England’s best XI.
Stokes at 6 is a classic example of crossing different formats, he is infamous for being a six hitter with only 12 players having hit more in tests; however, he is often allowed 100+ balls to get himself in. One of his most famous test Innings was his 258 of 198 balls, where he broke the record for the fastest test 250, and hit 11 sixes. But in this innings he was at one point 40 of 68; and while he hit a six early on, his second six didn’t come until ball 130. In his entire T20I career he has a 6% of 6.2, which is ok, but certainly not the level you are looking for from a finisher in a top level team.
Malan averages 50.15 and strikes at 144.31., which are exceptional stats for a player in T20I’s, which making him hard to drop. The problem comes in his slow starts, for example 18 of 17 in the fourth T20I, which pushed the target of 9.3 an over to 10.02 for the other batsman, thus his slow start gave the other batsman too much to do.
Some people have argued that what England need is someone who can start quicker and not have so many slow starts, even if they can’t score as many runs as Malan; Stokes has been one of the names put forward.
Figure 3 (below) shows the average and SR of a number of a few top order options for England. Morgan’s average is boosted by a not out percentage of 22.22%, so in general scoring less runs as Bairstow or Buttler. However, Malan and Stokes still look similar; If you want stability and consistent runs, Malan looks very good. Stokes obviously scores quicker but has scored significantly less runs.
Figure 4 (below) shows the B% and Non-Boundary SR of these players. This shows that Stokes is a far better rotator of the strike, and also hits more boundaries, 3.05% and 0.28% higher in each stat. We also see that despite being rated by quite a few people, Livingstone doesn’t quite have the best stats; his average is close to Roy, who has been in poor form recently, and he hit the least boundaries out of all the options, and his Non-Boundary is too low to compensate for this. Also we can appreciate Morgan being both a boundary hitter and strike rotator, hence his fantastic Strike Rate recently. Overall, Stokes is the best rotator of strike, while England have five batsmen all capable of a B% over 20, a great testament to their batting potential.
Looking at Figure 5 (below) we can see how they hit their boundaries, we see once again Ali and Morgan are the major six hitters. Whilst Livingstone is great as well, his lack of fours and his poor strike rotation limit him, he needs to increase his 4% or his Non-Boundary SR; the first would see him become a serious opening option, the other could see him slot in the lower order.
Here we see that Malan is a massive four hitter, similar to a lot of openers; however, being dependent on fours as 40% of his runs come from them, this can lead to slow starts. What this means is that if he has a few mis timed shots, and for some of the well timed shots to be stopped before running for four by good fielding, to end up 20 of 20.
The problem is that Malan has a fantastic record, but he is very boundary oriented, consequently leading to England slowing down. Stokes offers better rotation and the ability to hit sixes later on when set. Which In my opinion is better for England than what Malan currently produces.
I believe England’s best top seven are: Buttler, Hales/Roy, Stokes, Bairstow, Morgan, Ali and S. Curran. S. Curran has a 6% of 7.5 since the 1 Jan 2019. In a perfect world Hales would play, but due to personal reasons that is very unlikely, as a result of this England will hope Roy will remain in form. This top seven would expect to face 155 balls, and so would expect to bat out all 20 overs most of the time; furthermore they would also score at 8.86 an over on average.
So this explains how the stats have shown where each batsman is at their strongest. I also believe this can be used for another very strong team, such as India, who just like England is making numerous mistakes about which batsman it chooses.
The Indian T20I team should be the best in the world, they have the best league, and by far the largest talent pool to pick from. Yet they at times have been backwards in selection, choosing five or six anchors in their XI. Yet they have players in the IPL who are superb strikers of the ball, such as Pant and H. Pandya.
Looking at Figure 6 (below), we can see that Kohli is still a master strike rotator in the IPL; though it is conceivable that the pressure of being with a weak Royal Challengers Bangalore team has led to a B% 1.5 points lower than his T20I stats, mainly due to the drop in sixes. However, we see that Iyer is similar to Kohli only being slightly more boundary friendly; although his Strike Rate has been four points lower during this period. I am of the opinion that one anchor is needed at most in T20’s; and when you have Kohli in your team, Iyer is not good enough as a lower order option.
Then when we examine Figure 7 (below), we also see the five main opening options for India; Sharma, Dhawan, Kishan, Rahul and Yadav. Sharma’s stats are puzzling, his T20I stats are far better, so analysis could be difficult, as against the top level teams he has performed well, this might just be that he plays better for India. Dhawan has always been a four hitter and consequently suffers from a similar problem to Malan; unlike Malan though, his T20I stats have not been good enough and unless he has an incredible IPL it might be over for him for India. KL Rahul is one of the most talented batsman they have, I was disappointed by the way he chose to bat in the 2020 IPL as he is too talented to focus on pure average; he has shown this in previous editions, including the fastest 50, of just 15 balls in 2018. Yadav has had a great start, but I do wonder how well he can do as he is even more four dominated than Dhawan or Kishan (who is an exciting prospect) as he can hit a lot of sixes. This is good as hitting sixes will always put the opposing bowlers on the backfoot and it is the most efficient way to score runs.
Finally we have Samson, Pant, and H. Pandya. Pant is a pure genius, and he was easily India’s best batsman during the winter; as we can see he is a perfect lower order batsman, only Pandya hits more boundaries than him. Pandya of course sticks out like a sore thumb, his 6% is 11.7, which is very similar to Andre Russel. Samson is one who I don’t think Is talked about enough, his only weakness is lack of fours, although he is also a good rotator of strike.
So in all of this, I believe India’s best top seven is: Sharma, Rahul, Kishan, Kohli, Samson, Pant, and H. Pandya. Such a top seven would expect to face 178 balls, and score at 8.56 an over; This is the sort of batting depth that could propel them to T20I domination.
In Conclusion, these stats are far more useful for T20 analysis than pure average and Strike rate, as it allows teams to build a squad with a number of six hitters. I believe all T20 batsman should be looking for a B% above 15, and a 6% above four. Players who bat in the death should really have a 6% above seven, and anyone above 10% is a fantastic player for the death overs. I hope that in the future that teams will focus on these more, and the TV analysts use these in constructing arguments for different players. One man already using these stats is Dan Weston, whose articles on these statistics gave me the inspiration to write this article. During which changed my opinion completely on Stokes batting at three.