Updated: Apr 9
Dan Weston is a data analyst, who works with Birmingham Phoenix and Leicestershire CCC for player recruitment and strategy. In the second part of my interview with him, read some fascinating insight into t20 cricket, and why so much of conventional wisdom is wrong...
Make sure to follow Dan on Twitter @SAAdvantage
Having looked ahead to the IPL in part one, I wanted to find out more about data and t20 cricket. I started by asking Dan about why boundary percentage was a better metric than the more traditional average for t20 cricket?
"Roughly 85% of teams with higher boundary percentage in a t20 win the match"
This stat is remarkable to me, and it's astonishing that I've not heard it before. Forget par scores, dew, and other factors that are often mentioned. T20 cricket is actually as simple as hitting more boundaries than the opponent!
More from Dan:
"The media don’t give cricket fans access to information such such as boundary percentage, and cricket fans should have access to metrics like that, along with non-boundary SR, balls per dismissal, and even split record in different leagues."
"For example, first class cricket here in the UK, sites don't show players records in divisions one and two, and you can't compare the standards. It's apples and oranges!"
"It's almost impossible for a batter to strike at 140 if they're a below average boundary hitter, but batters can strike a lot higher than 140 with poor rotation if they are good boundary hitters."
"Guys like Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Evin Lewis and even Chris Gayle are of a quite similar dynamic with a high boundary percentage but poor non-boundary SR. But this low non-boundary SR doesn't worry them as they're hitting higher than 20% of balls to the boundary, trading off their dots with boundaries."
Fascinating stuff right? Then Dan told me about singles, and why they're bad in t20.
"If a match-up is good for batter, or bad for non-striker, then a single is usually a negative outcome for the batter."
"There are very few examples in t20 where single is positive outcome for a batter. Players with a good matchup deliberately playing the ball to a gap for a single is a poor outcome. And that could be worth half a run per ball, so it happening 10 times in a match costs five runs, which is often difference between winning and losing a match."
"Boundaries are much more useful than singles, which is why boundary percentage is such a key metric in t20, and people haven’t woken up to that: you don’t need to rotate strike nearly as much as people think in t20!"
"Steve Smith or Andre Russell.
Who has the t20 fear factor? Who does a bowler not want to bowl to?
So why aren't more players trying to replicate his method of focusing mainly on boundary hitting?"
Dan then told me how he doesn't really value average as a metric, so I moved onto anchors, and their usage in t20.
"I'm not a fan of more than one anchor, and there are very few circumstances where two plus is a good strategy, but it depends on the bowling line-up. This sounds strange for a batting decision, but if bowling group, like the Sunrisers, can restrict batting groups to 150/160, they can then structure with two anchors, as they'll be able to chase it, as Perth Scorchers did well in the past in the Big Bash, and Sussex to some extent in the Blast."
"So it depends, but teams' overriding consideration should be winning the boundary percentage count [given that 85% of the time they'll win if they do], and anchors don’t contribute to his in a positive way. However, it also depends on what a teams boundary percentage is against. If you can restrict the opposition to 14% on a regular basis, you can play anchors."
"But, a terrible bowling line-up requires no anchors."
So if this is the case, should England be playing no anchors, and having six hitters, I ask?
"Yep-well they have two options, pick above-average boundary hitters, or pick better bowlers, and far better bowlers are available to them."
"Currently, England have a poor bowling line-up, but they don’t pick above-average boundary hitters. Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler and Eoin Morgan are hitters, no argument. But Dawid Malan is not a hitter, Jason Roy's SR and 6 hitting percentage in recent years in world cricket would surprise many, and Stokes, despite his reputation, is not a particularly above-average t20 hitter."
"Assuming the bowling attack is the same, I'd open with Stokes and Buttler, lose Roy and Malan, and bring in guys like Livingstone and Moeen, who would up the boundary and 6 percentage, being more aggressive and upping the fear factor."
Given his expertise, it's no surprise that Dan does work with Birmingham Phoenix, the Edgbaston-based Hundred franchise. I asked Dan about key man Moeen Ali.
"He's one of our local icon players, and we picked him as captain early. He's a massive player, and I'm looking forward to seeing him in a Phoenix shirt, to have a great year, and remind people how good he is."
Also at Birmingham is Pakistani quick Shaheen Shah Afridi.
"Shaheen is the best left arm pacer in the world in t20, in my opinion, and he has lots of future upside, so he could get better and better and better, which is something to be super excited about."
"We picked Livingstone at 125k, which may have surprised some [this was the highest price bracket], but he's another excellent six hitter, and is a bowling option in the top six. I'm delighted with him, and hopefully he has a good year to come."
"For our women's side, Ellyse Perry doesn't need much of an introduction! We have a very strong group with lots of fear factor in the batting [Perry will be joined by England's Amy Jones, and captained by New Zealander Sophie Devine]."
Given the new nature of the format, I wondered if Dan had any thoughts on strategy.
"It's difficult really, nobody has ever bowled back to back overs [Shaheen doing so would be good, I think!], so there's no track record, which makes it quite difficult to plan. There's no ultra confident strategy based on historical data [as there isn't any] on how it’ll play out, but it's exciting!"
Dan also works with Leicestershire, and has helped with recruitment for them.
"Josh Inglis had a great Big Bash [413 runs at 140 SR], and I can't say too much, but my numbers like him!".
"Naveen-ul-Haq is a young player with lots of upside, has a very strong current level, and I'm surprised nobody had a closer look at him in the IPL auction."
"There a few Afghans in the IPL, but teams don’t think outside box enough to pick more names from less established cricketing nations, they go for established names, which is by-product of playing for bigger countries, and teams not doing enough research".
The Foxes suffered a painful defeat in the Blast quarter-finals last year, as they tied with Notts, but going out having scored less in the powerplay!
"I hope we can go further this year and get to Finals Day and see what happens there. It was a painful way to lose a match last year, but our two overseas really improve the group, and I'd like to think we can make further progress".
"Our goal is continuing to make progress year after year, which is difficult with a low budget, as that does determine a lot, and different approach to make money work is needed, but the data driven approach really helps that. I love the project there and it'll be difficult long-term, but I'm really excited."
Well, that was Dan! Make sure to follow him on Twitter @SAAdvantage, and check out his website as well. My massive thanks to him for his time, and his really fascinating analysis, in both this piece, and yesterday's, which you can find here, for info on youngsters and auction strategy.