County Cricket Scheduling 2018


, ,

Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like there’s hardly been any cricket on for ages – right through the long hot summer, whenever I’ve tuned in to Radio 5 live sports extra at 11am, it has remained stubbornly silent. It feels like the ECB’s scheduling has been particularly bad this year. So I thought I’d go through the (men’s county and international) schedule and see how much cricket there actually has been that I, or rather a series of fictional cricket fans with different requirements, could have been listening to and watching this year.

I am a first class cricket fan who likes to listen to county championship cricket at 11am on weekdays. How many days of cricket can I listen to?

48, out of 117 weekdays in the season (41%).
April – 6/12 (50%)
May – 4/21 (19%)
June – 9/21 (43%)
July – 7/22 (32%)
August – 6/22 (27%)
September – 16/19 (84%)

I like to take my kids to watch county cricket on weekends. I will travel anywhere, but I can’t afford international tickets and they have to be home for tea but they’ll get upset if they have to leave before the end. How many days of cricket can we watch?

31, out of 51 weekend and bank holiday days (61%).
April – 6/6 (100%)
May – 8/10 (80%)
June – 6/9 (67%)
July – 6/9 (67%)
August – 3/9 (33%)
September – 2/8 (25%)

I love all first class cricket, but I can only listen to one game at a time. How many days of cricket will I miss that I would have listened to?

449. Of the 90 days on which first class cricket is played, more than one game is played on 60 of them (67%).
April – 80 days of first class cricket are spread over 12 days, while no first class cricket is played on 18 days (60%)
May – 59 days of first class cricket are spread over 14 days, while no first class cricket is played on 17 days (55%)
June – 84 days of first class cricket are spread over 17 days, while no first class cricket is played on 13 days (43%)
July – 28 days of first class cricket are spread over 8 days, while no first class cricket is played on 23 days (74%)
August – 62 days of first class cricket are spread over 18 days, while no first class cricket is played on 13 days (42%)
September – 136 days of first class cricket are spread over 21 days, while no first class cricket is played on 9 days (30%)

I like going to T20s after work on Fridays. If I will travel anywhere, how many days can I go to a game?

8, out of 24 Fridays in the season (33%).
July – 4/4 (100%)
August – 4/5 (80%)

I feel bereft if there is no cricket on anywhere at 11am. How many days will I feel like that this season?

62, out of 168 days in the season (37%). Plus most of the winter.
April – 6/18 (33%)
May – 9/31 (29%)
June – 7/30 (23%)
July – 22/31 (71%)
August – 13/21 (42%)
September – 5/27 (19%)

I like to listen to cricket after work. I work until 5pm on weekdays. How many days can I do that?

46, out of 117 weekdays (39%).
April – 0/12 (0%)
May – 7/21 (33%)
June – 12/21 (57%)
July – 14/22 (64%)
August – 13/22 (59%)
September – 0/19 (0%)


My dad described the ECB’s 2018 schedule as “perfect in the way it really annoys fans of all kinds of cricket equally, allowing them [the ECB] to concentrate on the people they’re really interested in, the non cricket fans.” I think these numbers back this up.

If you’re a county championship fan you’ll have a lovely time in April and early May, and then be completely abandoned for most of the summer. In September the county championship comes back, but only on weekdays so no watching live cricket for you workers! And all the games are simultaneous so you either have nine to choose between or none, so don’t you dare be interested in more than one team.

If you like to follow cricket during the day, you’re limited almost exclusively to the Tests during the height of summer – no long hot summer days running around behind the stands at a county game or playing in the back garden with commentary drifting out of the kitchen window for kids during their summer holidays this year.

This doesn’t include the women’s games, which I didn’t have on the same calendar but which are being broadcast on radio this year – a welcome addition.

And all these comments are without taking into account how the ECB failed to take account of the football World Cup and Wimbledon, instead clashing with important games in other sports but failing to take advantage of the general interest in sports in general which an exciting World Cup generates. Imagine if the gap days between quarter and semi finals in the football had been filled with ODIs – how many people who had got used to their football fix in the evening would have turned to the cricket instead? And what if their sadness at the end of the World Cup had been relieved by the start of a Test match? If the ECB really wanted to draw more people into cricket, that – especially if the games were on free-to-air TV – would be the perfect way to do it.


England in Dead Rubbers



It struck me last night, watching England Actually Playing Well In A Dead Rubber, what a rare occurrance that was. Several examples sprang to mind of England, having won the series, just not really turning up for the last game (Centurion 2016, The Oval for the Ashes 2015) and, more painfully, England playing abysmally having already lost the series embarrasingly (Chennai 2016, MCG and SCG 2014).

Is this just my negative bias, or do England really play significantly worse in dead rubbers, when the outcome of the series isn’t on the line?

I used Cricinfo’s Statsguru to get the results of all England’s Tests in the last decade (2008 onwards), and in that time there have been 11 dead rubbers. Of these, England won two (18%), drew three (27%) and lost six (55%). This compares to their overall record in that period of 44% wins, 23% draws and 33% losses. This is a small sample, so the difference between the observed and the expected is not significant (Chi-squared=3.2, p=0.20, d.f.=2), but there seems at least to be a trend.

England haven’t won a dead rubber since the game at The Oval against India in 2011, and they haven’t won a dead rubber away from home since the Sydney game in 2003, which is before my sample started.

Did it matter whether the dead rubber was at the end of a series that England had won or lost?

Not really when it came to the likelihood of winning – 17% for series already won, and 20% for series already lost, which is about the same. But England lost all the other games at the end of lost series (80%), whereas at the end of won series they drew 50% and lost just 33%.

How about whether England were at home or away?

This seemed to make a big difference – of the five dead rubbers away from home in the last ten years, England lost all of them. Their wins and draws, and also one of their losses, came at home.

What about over the longer term?

I used Statsguru again to get all of England’s Test matches since the invention of the format. Of the 998 games listed, 104 were dead rubbers, and of these England won 38 (37%), drew 28 (27%) and lost 37 (36%). Once again, this is not significantly different from the results of all games in this period (Chi-squared=3.0, p=0.22, d.f.=2) but since the sample size is so much bigger I am more inclined to believe that, over their history, England have not been significantly worse in dead rubbers than in live games.

There have been some noticeable ups and downs in England’s performance in dead rubbers. They did not lose a single one between February 1959 and January 1975 (11 games), but they didn’t win one between February 1979 and August 1993 (16 games). The current streak of nine losses was preceded by 12 wins out of 18 dead rubbers between August 1993 and August 2011.

So, in conclusion, in the last decade England have tended to do less well in dead rubbers than in live games, but this trend varies over time and over the long term England have been pretty much the same whether the game is live or dead.

Sri Lanka v South Africa, Champion’s Trophy

South Africa 299-6, Sri Lanka 203 all out (41.3 overs)

South Africa win by 96 runs

I went to the Oval yesterday for the Champions Trophy game between South Africa and Sri Lanka. The tickets were a late birthday/Christmas present from my boyfriend Jon, and it was the first time we’d been to a whole international game together.

The atmosphere was great, lots of fans cheering for both sides and quite a few friends in the crowd to bump into. It was an exciting game, too, and until the last ten overs could have gone either way.

My top five moments in the game:

  • AB de Villiers’ catch of Kusal Mendis – he’s just so nonchalant and cool!
  • Amla’s near-run out, when he slid elegantly over the line like a dancer.
  • Chandimal’s “Superman” catch of Faf.
  • Dickwella hitting Rabada, one of the scariest bowlers in the world, for a six to bring up Sri Lanka’s fifty in less than 7 overs.
  • Tharanga’s run-out of Morris, throwing perfectly and fast with only one stump to aim at.

Two things that slightly marred the day, although in very different ways:

  • A group of drunk white South Africa fans in front of us throwing bananas onto the pitch. I’m fairly sure it was na├»ve high spirits rather than racism, and Faf, the only fielder nearby, cleared the skins away without fuss, but it left a bad taste in the mouth.
  • Listening to the national anthems at the start of the day reminded me that the last time I saw South Africa play was with Joanne (@lil_green_tpot), who died a fortnight ago. She would have loved to be there with me yesterday, or more likely listening to it on Guerilla Cricket from her home in Pretoria. It made me really miss her.

The Impact of ISM


, ,

I’m getting a bit annoyed at how the sports management company Michael Vaughan is involved with, ISM, seems to be good at getting their players talked about and then selected for England. For example, in 2013 Vaughan bigged up Joe Root on his various media platforms and he was selected to open ahead of Nick Compton, whose county championship form was much better. And this week, after much promotion by Vaughan again, James Vince was picked to join the England Test squad. His LVCC average last year was 32.70. OK, so the selectors see something in both of these players that makes them think they will be better than their stats suggest (and Root has turned out to be pretty amazing), but it does feel as though the media pressure is playing a part. I suppose it is ISM’s job to promote their clients, and well done to them for being good at it, but it suggests the England selectors are too easily swayed.

But is this just my perception? I decided to look up the LVCC batting averages of the most recent England recruits in the season before they got their first Test caps, and compare those who are represented by ISM to those with other or no agents.

If we include James Vince, 22 players have received their England Test cap since 2010. I have divided them into batsmen, all-rounders, keepers and bowlers as follows:
Batsmen: Morgan, Taylor, Compton, Root, Ballance, Robson, Lyth, Hales, Vince.
All-rounders: Shahzad, Patel, Woakes, Stokes, Borthwick, Ali.
Keepers: Bairstow, Buttler.
Bowlers: Kerrigan, Rankin, Jordan, Wood, Rashid.
Some of these are up for debate (was Woakes picked as an all-rounder and Rashid a bowler?) but I’ve played with the uncertain ones and it doesn’t affect the analysis.

Six of these are represented by ISM: Shahzad, Root, Stokes, Borthwick, Buttler and Vince (

Let’s exclude the bowlers – batting averages aren’t a good way of measuring their success, and none of them are represented by ISM anyway. For the others, you would expect their batting average in the previous season to represent roughly how they were playing when they were selected to play for England. The figures are summarised in this table, which is sorted by role and then by batting average in the season before they were picked:

Name Season capped Batting average year
before first cap
Nick Compton 2012/13 99.60 No
Adam Lyth 2015 70.39 No
Gary Ballance 2013/14 64.90 No
James Taylor 2012 55.24 No
Alex Hales 2015/16 51.05 No
Eoin Morgan 2010 50.81 No
Sam Robson 2014 47.20 No
Joe Root 2012/13 41.91 Yes
James Vince 2016 32.70 Yes
Chris Woakes 2013 73.50 No
Moeen Ali 2014 59.16 No
Samit Patel 2011/12 47.56 No
Scott Borthwick 2013/14 41.51 Yes
Ben Stokes 2013/14 31.56 Yes
Ajmal Shahzad 2010 22.73 Yes
Jonny Bairstow 2012 48.52 No
Jos Buttler 2014 36.28 Yes
Adil Rashid 2015/16 34.70 No
Chris Jordan 2014 24.84 No
Mark Wood 2015 14.11 No
Boyd Rankin 2013/14 10.66 No
Simon Kerrigan 2013 8.08 No

As you can see, ISM clients always have a lower batting average in the previous season than non-ISM clients filling the same role. Not only that, but all the ISM clients have a lower batting average than all the non-ISM clients – even when comparing ISM batsmen with non-ISM all-rounders (see fig. 1).ISM graph 2Figure 1: Batting averages in the county championship the year before they were capped for England of Test batsmen, wicketkeepers and all-rounders since 2010. Box-and-whiskers plots mark the median (bold line), inter-quartile range (box) and total range (whiskers), with outliers (beyond 1.5 times the interquartile range) marked as points (Nick Compton, I’m looking at you).

Batting average is normally distributed, so I could model this as a general linear model with previous year’s average as the dependant factor and type of player (batsman, keeper or all-rounder – remember bowlers were excluded from this analysis, although the results were the same when they were included) and ISM or not as explanatory variables. This is a very small sample size, and therefore the power of this test is very low, but I nevertheless got a positive result: ISM clients have a significantly lower batting average in the season before they are picked for England than non-ISM clients (GLM, F=10.7, d.f.=1,13, p=0.006). The model estimate for the size of this difference is that an ISM player will have a batting average 24.7 runs lower than a non-ISM player the year before they are picked for England.

This could be read as suggesting that the bar is lower for ISM clients – that you don’t need to do as well in the county championship to be picked for England if you are represented by ISM. Of course, this isn’t proof that that is the case – it may be that ISM are really good at picking out players with international potential, which is also what the England selectors are looking for, and they can both see it despite poor county cricket averages. But it does make you wonder.

I should emphasise that this isn’t in any way an attack on ISM or their clients. (They represent Paul Collingwood, my greatest hero!) I’m just interested in how the world of player management works, and whether it is affecting the international cricket we all love to watch.

Draws in the County Championship



We have all been wondering what the ECB’s new diktats about the toss and competitive pitches will mean for the county championship this year. The most noticeable difference in the first month of the tournament has been that there seem to be more draws than usual, and most of these haven’t been badly rain-affected. So far there have been 21 draws out of 27 games. I dug out the records from the first month of county championship cricket over the last ten years (2006-2015) to see if this is indeed as unusual as it seems.

Yes, there have been significantly more draws so far this year than in the corresponding period of previous years (one-sample t-test, t(9)=8.04, p<0.001). This year, 78% of games have ended in a draw; in the previous decade, an average of 43% of games in the first month end in draws. The next most draw-full first month, of the years I looked at, was in 2008, with 20 draws out of 32 games (63%). The fewest draws came in 2010, with just 8 draws in 37 games (22%).

Is this lack of results in the 2016 season due to the new toss regulations? Who knows. If only the ECB had brought in the new system for just half the games, maybe we could compare scientifically, but sadly sporting bodies don’t do randomised control trials. So for now all we can say is that 2016 is different, but we can’t prove why.

End-of-tour thanks

I’m at Johannesburg airport waiting for my flight back to London, and reflecting on my five-week tour of South Africa. Travelling on my own to a country I don’t know with a fairly minimal amount of pre-planning, so many things could have gone wrong. In fact, I was lucky enough to meet so many lovely and friendly people who made my whole tour a joy. Here are just a few I’d like to thank particularly:

  • My parents, who not only put up with me running off across the globe at Christmas, but who enabled me to do so;
  • Liz (@CricketVixen) who kindly and unexpectedly volunteered to help me plan my trip when I didn’t have time, and who helped me make my plans a reality;
  • Kate Holden, my old university colleague, who welcomed me to Durban and showed me that South Africa isn’t all scary and dangerous;
  • Hazel (@HackneyHaz) who introduced me to the Barmy Army crew and made me feel so welcome (she also has the best flag!);
  • Itchy, who came all the way out to South Africa to go on a cricket tour with me, despite having no interest in cricket, and who was a brilliant road-trip companion;
  • George (@GeorgeDobell1) who was great fun as always and made sure I spent New Year’s Eve and my birthday in excellent company;
  • Antoinette (@Mspr1nt) and Max (@_MaxBenson) who put up with me repeatedly crashing their parties, and were great hosts;
  • Diane (@DewGirl99), Matt (@Matt_Burleigh), Ian (@Marriotti67) and Jason (@JasonGHiscox) for great evenings at The Vineyard;
  • Dutch Bird Kate (@DutchBirdKate) who, amongst many other things, got me into the best after-party ever, for which I’ll always be grateful;
  • And especially Joanne (@lil_green_tpot), who has been a great guide in Pretoria and a fun Test match companion, and who didn’t even crow (much) when South Africa won.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and there are so many other people who have made my trip better – Sindy, Neil, Woy Woy Pom, Huw, Maria, Napalm, Ian L., Katy C., Lesley, Steph and Karen, Caleb, the list goes on – but my final thanks go to the England and South Africa cricket teams, without whom there would be no tour and no England series victory!

Centurion Day 5


, , ,

South Africa 475 and 248-5 dec., England 342 and 101

In the end it was a very short day’s play. It took South Africa’s bowlers – primarily the new national hero Kagiso Rabada – sixty-eight minutes to take England’s last seven wickets, and none of the batsmen showed any intention of sticking around. They had won the series, the were in an impossible position in the match, and they capitulated. I went round to join the Barmy Army once we were eight down, and so was able to see the players and presentations at close hand. Joanne met her favourite player, Temba Bavuma, and most of the players came in and out of the dressing rooms a few times, giving away their kit to pleading fans. At one point Bairstow had run out of shirts to give to a little boy in an England ’92 World Cup shirt, so he went back to the dressing room and got a pair of keeping gloves for him.

 After the close of play, the Barmy Army went along to the Castle Corner section of the ground for a few more drinks and to dissect the series. I finally got a chance to try out the swimming pool – which I’d bothered to go in there during the game, it has a great view of the pitch! – but only Caleb dared to join me. I bumped into Steph again, who I’d met in Kruger, and we put the world to rights until the bar was closed and we were all turfed out. A hard core of the Barmy Army were invited into the players’ dressing room to sing some of their songs, but I missed the boat on that one – I need Kate to get me in with the right crowd! This evening is the official end-of-tour party, so I’ve put my glad-rags on and I’m off to celebrate the series win. I’ll worry about the actual cricket tomorrow!

Update: the England batting stats  

Centurion Day 4 – close of play


, , ,

South Africa 475 and 248-5 dec., England 342 and 52-3
 Today was the penultimate day of cricket in this Test series, and the anti-penultimate day of my tour. It’s been an interesting day’s play, with South Africa in control despite early inroads by Jimmy Anderson and an inexplicable go-slow batting policy when South Africa surely should have been hitting out before the declaration. Now we’re into the final innings, I can draw together some of the series averages. Here are South Africa’s batting stats:

The match is almost won by South Africa now: they need seven more wickets in a day, with the pitch behaving dangerously and a bowling attack justifiably high in confidence. England, meanwhile, need to block out three sessions. I would say it was an impossible ask, except that it’s the kind of thing England have done before. The recent examples that spring to mind are Cardiff 2009, Centurion 2009, Cape Town 2010, Auckland 2013 and coming within two balls of it at Headingley in 2014. Few of the current players were involved in those games, though; will they have the mental strength to at least fight for a draw tomorrow?

Centurion Day 4 – tea


, , ,

South Africa 475 and 223-4, England 342

At tea Sunfoil (one of the sponsors, who make sunflower oil rather than sunscreen or foil or any of my other guesses) give away free cakes in the family zone, and since there are so few people in the ground Joanne and I decided to try our luck at getting free cakes. We succeeded – she had a doughnut and I got a macaron. I also got interviewed by the stadium TV and appeared on the big screen. I suppose they are running out of people to talk to.

  In the family zone I bumped into Steph, one of the people I met on safari in Kruger. She was involved in a game of grass-bank cricket, which I joined in. Rule are similar to beach cricket: everyone fields, preferably one-handed with a beer in the other hand; you bat till you’re out or everyone else gets bored; every LBW shout is always plumb but never given; and hitting a ball into the pitch or into the TV crew is six and out.

Now the rain clouds have started gathering, and I fear we’ll have another curtailed session.

Centurion Day 4 – lunch


, , ,

South Africa 475 and 121-4, England 342

It’s been an extended first session because we lost time to rain yesterday, and South Africa have lost three wickets for 79 runs. Anderson and Broad were getting a lot of movement earlier on, but the weather has cleared up, the sun has come out and I think they are getting less out of the ball now.

The ground is almost empty: apart from the English tour groups in the grandstand, there can’t be more than a few hundred people here. Most of the little corporate box pavilions are empty, and everyone on the grass bank could have a tennis court of space each. Joanne and I have nabbed a place under the umbrellas to keep out of he sun, which makes the temperature much more comfortable. I’m considering getting a ticket for the Castle Corner area tomorrow – they have weak beer, but also sunshades and a swimming pool on the boundary. I’d like to be able to say I’ve watched a Test from a swimming pool! So keep your fingers crossed this game goes all the way.