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If you love stats you can get stuck into this week with an article on "Control Percentages".

If you hate stats, you can enjoy the rest of the newsletter too. There are articles on improving spinners, planning your training and strength and conditioning.

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

Case Study: Can You Use Control Statistics to Improve Club Cricket Performance?

This season, I have been conducting an experiment with a new way to measure cricket performance: "Batting Control". I have spent a whole club cricket season tracking and reviewing.

So, is control worth adding to your club and school reviews or is it one piece of data too many? Read on to find out.

 What is batting control?

When is a dot not a dot?

When it's a play and miss. When it's driven hard at cover who pulls off a great stop.

What about when you edge the ball just past the keeper through the vacant slips for a boundary?

In these cases, and many others, the score itself doesn't tell you who is on top, batsman or bowler. Batting Control (BC) fills this gap with a simple stat.

Developed by the clever guys at Cricinfo, BC is measured by watching the game and deciding after every ball if the batsman was in control of the shot. A play and miss or edge behind means no control. Smashed to the fielder (or for a boundary) means control.

For this experiment, the control was kept simply to teams, rather than individuals. It was tracked by a coach watching the game and noting the outcome on an iPad after every ball.

Why use control stats?

I decided to use BC with my club this season to see if it would reveal more about our performances than the scores alone provided.

Initially I thought this would be helpful in understanding how good we were at strike rotation. If control was high but scores were low, perhaps there is a sign that we are not making the most of every delivery and defending too many balls.

But this was guesswork. Mainly, I wanted to see what happened in club games with more granular detail.

Based on what I found, I figured could build more useful and specific training plans for the team by seeing where we are strong and weak. When you only have a limited time with players, as is the case in non-professional cricket, every moment needs to be used to its highest potential. This stat was aimed to help with the mission.

What were the results?

The club played 18 matches (50 over format) in the 2016 season.

The average BC when batting was 78.40% (range 74-81%). The opposition control was 73.20% (60-81%). Click to enlarge the graphs.

  • When batting first, BC was about the same: 78.12%.
  • It rose to 79.14% when batting second.
  • At home BC was 78.51%
  • Away it was 78.26%.

That's remarkably consistent across the different types of game situations.

Next, let's compare BC to other elements.

The obvious comparison is results. Does better BC mean wins? According to this set of data, yes it does make a difference. When control is above 77.7% - the green line on the graph above - the team won eight from 10. Below 77.7% and there were three wins from six. You can see the losses on the graph as blue bars. Wins are maroon bars. So, while this stat is not a certainty, there is clearly a difference on show.

Next, does control track to scores?

Here there is also link:

  • Batting first (because there is no target) the average score was 159.
  • When BC was above average, the average score rose to 170.
  • When BC was below average the score fell to 151.
  • However, the highest recorded score was 239 with a below average control (77.36%).
  • Additionally, the lowest score with an above average BC was 132 (80.60%).

This shows the trend is not a guarantee in individual games.

When we look at wickets taken by the bowlers, we can see a huge drop in opposition control. When the team take 10 wickets, opposing BC is 71%. The opposite way round (team bowled out by opposition) sees control at 77%; not as bad but still a noticeable drop.

For other comparisons, there could be no relationship found between BC and any of boundaries scored, singles scored or Scoring Ball Percentage (SB%):

What do the results tell us?

First, it's good to see a benchmark for BC. Before this year, we just didn't know what a "good" BC was. Now we can see it's a very small range: 74-81% is a variation of only 7% across over 4000 balls received by the batsmen.

We have also seen there are no glaring facts that control reveals. However, the key point is the better your control when batting, the more runs you get and the more games you win.

This is perhaps obvious, but it's good to be able to get more detail on exactly what that means:

  • If you control over 78% of balls, regardless of the runs that come off each ball, you are much more likely to win.
  • Every 1% of BC you can improve will get you, on average, five more runs per innings, but every 1% below average costs you 10 runs.

BC as a stat also reduces the cost of wickets to the psychology of a team. That's because wickets can only ever make up 10 deliveries from a possible 300. Even if you are all out, the most your control can drop from wickets is 3.33%.

Of course, wickets are still crucially important, but knowing they are a small part of the overall BC picture makes it easier to realise it's fine to use batsmen as 11 resources who will get out 96% of the time. Your job as batsman is to look to be in control for as many balls as possible while you are at the crease. In other words, thrive rather than just survive.

Finally, BC works best when combined with other stats to get a feel for the game.

  • High BC combined with high singles scored and high SB% (above 33%) shows a team who can rotate the strike well, even if overall score is low.
  • Low BC combined with high boundaries scored and lower SB% suggests a team that likes to attack the boundary more than defend.

Using this information, you can put together a profile for the way your team bat, the work on developing your tactics.

In this team's case, overall control was both consistent and higher than the opposition through the season. However, there were larger fluctuations in SB% (23-41%) and singles (9-28%). Meanwhile, boundaries were consistently around the 5% mark. This tells me that the strike rotation was patchy, but there were no issues with players defensive or boundary hitting capabilities.

So in this case with this team, The conclusion is that they need to adjust net practice to work more on scoring from more balls consistently. The aim at training should be to push the boundary and control percentage further, while also developing consistency in scoring singles.

Looking back on this experiment, I would recommend using the control statistic with your club or school so you have data to back up your hunches. It's not as vital as runs and wickets of course, but it has helped me build a better picture of the side in games than scores alone.

Judging by this year, I think it can help you too.

Discuss this article with other subscribers

Help Spinners by Using Associated Thinking

I basked in the sun at the Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton to watch Somerset take on Hampshire in the County Championship on Tuesday. It was Day one of four. The cricket was enthralling.

 Taunton is known for being a batsman's paradise, but the playing surface now has a different composition and the challenge to both batter and bowler is far more spin orientated. 55 overs of the 96 overs bowled on day one were from spinners.

How times have changed!

There is more international cricket, especially Test Cricket, being played on "sub-continental' type pitches than ever before.

India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan (in the UAE) and Bangladesh play their cricket in weather conditions and on soil structures that are conducive to spin but we are now seeing Test matches in the West Indies asking very sub continental questions of selectors, captains, batters and bowlers.

The ICC are holding more and more World events in the sub-continent which means that spin is playing more of a role in T20 and ODI World Cups.

In reaction to this, England have placed a huge focus in recent years on developing batters who can deal with the challenge of a spinning ball.

They have had a significant number of Lions tours to the sub-continent and built specialist batting camps in India and Sri Lanka.

They have also assigned a group of analysts and coaches to really get to grips with the nuances that make the likes of Younis Khan, Rahul Dravid, Kumar Sangrakarra and others so adept and comfortable against the spinning ball.

So it excited me to see the ball jumping and spinning on day one. But it also posed some questions to me as well.

One was: How do coaches in club and school cricket support players to thrive with spinning ball conditions?

We don't have the budgets to send players overseas or to develop playing surfaces like Somerset.

Yet we can create imagery, visualisation and mental stimulus that puts the player in that space and gets them thinking.

Great coaches are good at doing this: Many of the best players go to this place without being prompted. Ricky Ponting was exceptional.KP was too.

The approach that I have been taught is:

  1. Set the scene or scenario
  2. Make that mental picture as clear as you can: turn the sharpness, the colour and the contrast up. Make it real.
  3. Then ask the player to "associate" into that situation.
  4. At this point the coach can probe with questions around their method, technique, tempo, thought processes, the way they move fielders (both batters and bowlers can facilitate a field change, remember that), how they look to attack and how they look to defend.

This type of practice is what the truly brilliant players do.

The simply 'good' players (of which there are many) rely on physical practice solely to build their skills to face new or challenging circumstances and conditions. The great ones don't.

As coaches, we can help the process of shifting a player from "good to great" without them having to hit a ball.

Then when they eventually get to physically practice or play in spinning conditions their adaptations are sharper, quicker and they are more likely to thrive.

So back to yesterday...

I saw lots of examples of 'good' cricket yesterday which disappointed me a bit. I wanted to see more 'great stuff'. Here is an example of that.

Jack Leach bowled "good". He picked up 3-77 off his 30 overs. Decent stuff on Day 1 from a good young left arm spinner.

However, I think he could have put the Hampshire batters under even more pressure in early spin-friendly conditions.

The pitch started slightly damp, enough to make the ball grip into the top surface and bite. He bowled 3 or four slightly quicker paced stock balls in the first spell that were beauties. One of them dismissed James Vince.

But I never got the feeling that Jack totally read or adapted his pace to suit the surface he was bowling on.

In the first session of the day, it was a surface that reacted most extravagantly to pace on stock balls. Jack was largely too slow in the air to make the ball bite into, and off, the surface.

An extra one or two mph on his stock balls would have made his strike rate plummet.

To be able to develop this subtle you requires significant levels of mental and physical practice.

Shane Warne was a master in testing the pace of the pitch out early with balls of faster and slower pace.

He was effectively trying to find the biting point for the surface he was bowling on. Then he would adjust his stock pace to suit the pitch.

The Taunton pitch dried out over the day and there was less extravagant spin and bounce in the last 2 sessions. Batting got easier.

There was an opportunity in the first part of the day to test the pace of the wicket, find its biting point and make the most of it. Jack didn't do that. He missed the window of opportunity and then had to toil away manfully for the rest of the day.

I hope that he reflects and that his excellent coaches chat with him about this.

By doing so we could find that his 'good' goes to 'great' very quickly.

The role of the coach, at all levels involves drills, practices, throw downs, video analysis and lots of 'stuff' that people can look at and say "look at that coach, isn't he working hard".

This is a given to me.

Can you support your players even by adding in associated discussions that help them adapt, read situations effectively and make more informed decisions when it counts?

It's an additional coaching skill that the very best coaches have in buckets (Fletcher, Woolmer, Farbrace, Flower, Bayliss).

This in turn, helps good players to become great.

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Cricket Show S7 Episode 31: Three Men and a Dog

Sam Lavery, Mark Garaway and David Hinchliffe discuss playing and coaching cricket. The main topic is about the classic saying "we should have got 40 more". How can we review batting scores and work out how many you could have got that will actually help?

Then, there are questions about the shiny side of the ball for spinners, and a discussion on ways to practice picking up singles. Listen to the show for some classic drills!


How to Send in Your Questions

If you want to win a cricket coaching prize, you need to send in your burning questions to the show. If your question is the best one we give you a free online cricket coaching course!

Send in your questions via: - email - twitter - Facebook - Google+

Or you can call and leave your question on the Academy voice mail:

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How to Listen to the Show

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Or subscribe manually with the RSS feed. Right click here, copy the link and paste it into the appropriate place for adding new feeds in your podcast subscription software or RSS reader.

You can also download this show onto your computer by clicking the play button at the top of the article, or clicking on the mp3 to download.


Discuss this article with other subscribers

Use Planning Perfection to Quickly Boost Your Cricket

Imagine what your perfect cricketing day would be like.

The Easy Guide to Strength and Conditioning for Cricket


It’s a natural reaction to the unknown and a way of protecting yourself. But your job isn’t to live in fear of negative results, it’s to improve.

And that means learning some of the basics of general fitness alongside cricket skills.


About PitchVision Academy

Welcome to this week's guide to playing and coaching better cricket.

I'm David Hinchliffe and I'm Director of the PitchVision Academy team. With this newsletter you are benefitting directly from over 25 Academy coaches. Our skills include international runs and wickets, first-class coaching, cutting-edge research and real-life playing experience.


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Issue: 426
Date: 2016-08-26