Our captain, the canny character, has a saying. "Just bowl dots". Does this tactic really work?
It's based on the theory of building pressure in one day cricket: The longer you can go squeezing a team, the more likely they are to try something unusual and get out. I've heard it for years and seen it work at every level of the game from villiage to professional cricket.
But I wanted to test it out more scientifically.
So, this season I have come up with a new metric for the team I coach: I call it Pressure Rate (PR)
The PR is based on the general idea I first heard from Micheal Vaughan's TV commentary: You bowl two maidens and something always happens.
It's a great sound bite. Is it true?
So, I asked myself, how many dots do we need to bowl before "something" happens?
We analyse every game, so we can be very clear about the "something". In this case, it means a wicket falling, a catch dropped or a stumping missed. In other words, a chance taken or missed.
(NB: If you don't keep a note of missed chances, you can still do this, just use the scorebook to count the dots and count the "something" as a wicket falling. It's not quite as accurate but it gives you a good enough figure to show the team.)
Instead of Strike Rate - worked out by number of balls it takes to get a wicket - we end up with Pressure Rate (PR). That is to say, the number of dot balls it takes to create a chance for a wicket.
For example, in 50 over limited over cricket in 2017 so far my team has played eight games, bowled 1417 balls (71% of them dots) and taken 59 wickets (excluding run outs).
The average number of dots it takes to create a chance is 12.39.
Pretty much bang on Vaughany.
I knew he was brilliant.
Of course, numbers and spreadsheets are not much use unless you can put them into practical action.
So what does it mean to players in the heat of battle?
First, it means that our team now know we are, on average, only 12 dots from a chance. And as we bowl about 4 dots an over, that's two or three overs just by "sitting in" and doing the basics well.
Second, it also gives players a reason to try and bowl dots.
You always get the cricketer who is against dot ball bowling because he wants to strike. They don't mind buying some wickets because they get so many. But if your team's limited over plan is to bowl dots and let the wickets look after themselves, you can show any dissenter a clear link: The best bowlers bowl dots and create chances.
From my primative research, bowlers who keep it tight will give a PR around 10.00-15.00. Below 10.00 and you are buying wickets. Above 15.00 and you are not creating chances. It's a balance based on your best method.
You can combine Pressure Rate with Dot Ball%, Strike Rate, Average and Runs per Over to get a complete picture of the way each bowler (and the whole team) gets wickets.
In my team's case, the bowlers are trying to bowl dots to build pressure. We know it's working because we can point to a PR between 10-15 and a DB% above 70%. It proves the point.
And if it didn't work?
Time to try another plan!