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A Very Last Minute Batting Analysis of the Chappell-Hadlee Test Series

By Oliver Fitzpatrick

Let’s have a look at how the batsmen for each team compare, using our LARA ratings. For details on how the ratings are formed see my previous posts — but essentially the numbers assigned to each batsman is a Z-score for each aspect of batting with the value showing the standard deviations from the ‘average’ score for that aspect (as found by looking at all players with at least 3000 test runs).

Openers

Both teams appear to have an obvious unproven opener, with Burns and Raval having below-par starting ratings. 


In particular, Burns’ -2.08 starting rating is the 4th worst of all players analysed to date (202 players, with only Warne, Shaun Marsh, Cummins and Starc having worse ratings) — this is not the ideal attribute for an opening batsman who wants to consistently get through the new ball. Burns’ low starting rating is highlighted by the fact that in a quarter of his innings he has scored 3 or fewer runs. 


Burns is not alone in starting poorly however, in fact, of these four openers, Warner is the only one with a positive starting rating and as such is the most reliable to get through the new ball (and this is despite his horrific Ashes series).

Raval is the odd one out in that even once getting a start he is poor at capitalising and unlike the other three, has negative ratings for eye-in and cash-in attributes. Latham, Burns and Warner are all quite evenly matched in their ability to make the most of a start and are all above average in this regard.

Top Order

The top order is the strongest area of both teams, with the №3s and №4s from both nations being above average in all aspects. 


The Australians have the advantage in starting well and are less vulnerable early in their innings compared to the Kiwis. Smith and Labuschagne both have excellent ratings in this regard. Smith is particularly impressive, 7.9% of his innings result in a score of less than 5, which is the lowest percentage of all players with at least 3000 Test runs. 

He does, however, remain more vulnerable for longer than the average Test batsmen. Although he has a higher base than almost all players, the first 13 runs of Smith’s innings are critical — while he is an elite starter, he is even better at making the most of his starts. 


In fact, all four of these players are very good at making the most of a start and regularly go on to post big scores once their eye is in. Taylor is the least reliable in this regard, although he has a few really massive scores to make up for this (notably a big hundred last time he played in Perth). Smith, again, is a class above and is second only to Bradman for eye-in ratings and fourth on the all-time list for cash-in ratings (behind Bradman, Amiss and Hammond).

As can be seen by each player’s average as their innings progresses, they have different methods but all do improve later on in their innings. Smith improves to a very high plateau after 13 runs, Williamson follows a similar pattern but from a lower base and with a lower peak, Taylor continues to improve as his innings goes (explaining his higher cash-in rating than eye-in rating) and Labuschagne starts from a high point but remains quite steady (his late peak should really be ignored due to so few innings contributing to it).


It should be very likely for all of these four players to make a sizeable score over the course of the series. It will probably just be a matter of how big the score is and how frequent they are made.

Middle-Lower Order

The middle order is a concern for both sides with a big drop off in ratings when compared to their respective top orders.


Head is the only one of the six who is a very solid, reliable starter. (He is in fact rated as the 8th best starter of all players analysed, albeit that he is still in the early stages of his career). 

The other rating that stands out from this pack is Tim Paine’s eye-in rating of -2.11, which is the 6th worst of all players analysed. Despite being an average starter, he is very unlikely to capitalise and post a big score.


The other four players are quite similar in their ratings, with only Wade falling below average in all four categories (although this includes his performances when he was keeping wickets). 

The players’ averages clearly highlight the different strengths in this area. Paine and Head do not improve their average as they score more runes, whereas Watling and Nicholls do. 


So the contest for who wins these positions will be based on whether the starting reliability of Head and Paine will be more important than the ability to go on with a start of Watling and Nicholls. 

Bowlers


Briefly, it is worth mentioning the players who bat 8 and 9 for each team, as lower-order runs could be vital.

As you would expect, the bowlers are generally well below the average batsmen and none could really be considered as allrounders. 


Santner however, does have an above-average starting rating and so could be a useful player to build a partnership around with a set batsman at the other end — because as we know, the middle order of NZ is capable of going on to make big scores. Australia doesn’t have a player in their bottom four who is as capable of hanging around as Santner is and this could be a factor as to why the Australian middle-order batsmen have struggled to go on and make the most of a start.

Summary


Hopefully, this series is a lot more competitive than the Pakistan series, and the two batting lineups appear to be quite evenly matched. New Zealand will know that if they can get through Warner, Labuschagne and Smith early (a big if I know), then the middle and lower order is a lot weaker. Conversely, New Zealand have a lot more depth in their batting but may not quite match the top end of the Australians. 


All in all, it should be an intriguing series.

Oliver Fitzpatrick is a cricket tragic and Carlton FC (even more) tragic and can usually be found in the Members Pavillion at the MCG. When he’s not at the ‘G he’s studying a Masters of Statistics and Operations Research at RMIT and tweeting his thoughts @ocfitz1.

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