Indulge me for a bit, for this article looks at a rarely-discussed aspect of cricket statistics: average balls faced, and how crease occupation contributes to team’s success—or, in one case, failure.
At the World Cup in particular, crease occupation and saving wickets for the end overs is proving a winning strategy. Hence, it is vital for key batsmen for any team to get a start and see off the shine.
But first, here’s the criteria for this study.
- All stats are from March 1, 2015 to October 30, 2012, the day the new ODI rules for fielding restrictions, two new balls and batting Powerplay kicked in.
- This list rates batsman by how long they last at the crease, which is a function of number of balls faced. Average Balls Faced (AB) = (Total Balls Faced) / (Innings Played).
- Average Runs Scored (AR) = (AB) X (Strike Rate). So, if a batsman averages 50 balls per innings at a strike rate of 80, his AR is 40. This completely negates the value provided by not outs.
- We look at batsmen who’ve played at least 20 innings since the cut-off date.
And leading this list is...
Insight: In 74% of New Zealand’s wins, Williamson bats 40 balls or more.
New Zealand have played 52 ODIs since October 30, 2012. Williamson features in 40 of those, winning 23 times. In those 40 games, his AB is 56.05 balls per innings, and AR 48.78. This is a testament of his staying power as well as his quick-scoring ability. In 17 of those 23 wins, Williamson plays a minimum of 40 balls. In those 23 wins, Williamson’s AB is 68 balls and AR 62—numbers that make him the cornerstone of New Zealand’s batting.
Insight: In 71% of South Africa’s wins, Amla bats 40 balls or more.
South Africa have played 56 ODIs since October 30, 2012. Amla features in 48 of those, winning 28 times. In those 48 games, his AB is 55.66, and AR 47.67. This is a testament of his class since he scores quickly against, and sees off, the new ball. In 20 of those 28 wins, Amla plays a minimum of 40 balls. His AB in those 28 innings is 68.9, and AR 59.21 runs—which, not surprisingly, reveal him to be a major contributor to South Africa’s wins.
Insight: In 72% of Sri Lanka’s wins, Dilshan bats 40 balls or more.
Tillakaratne Dilshan has played 63 of Sri Lanka’s 77 games since the cut-off date. Sri Lanka have won just 32 of those 63 games, but Dilshan weighs in heavily in them. In those 63 games, Dilshan’s AB is 55.58, almost as much as Hashim Amla and Kane Williamson, and his AR is 47.02. But in those 32 wins, he has batted 40 balls or more 23 times, and his AB rises to 68.15 for 58 runs. Oddly, despite Dilshan’s reputation as a go-getter, his strike rate of 84.59 in those 63 games is fractionally less than Amla and Williamson, who are cast in the sedate, innings builder mould. Regardless, with a 72% success rate, Dilshan is revealed to be a more consistent contributor to Sri Lanka’s wins than his more celebrated team-mate whom we’ll talk about soon.
Insight: Pakistan lose 67% of their games in which Misbah bats 40 balls or more.
The Pakistan captain is often criticised for his slow scoring, often unfairly so since he’s left to eschew risk in order to absorb the pressure of falling wickets at the other end. Pakistan have a poor record in the cut-off period: they’ve won only 24 of their 56 games. Of those, Misbah features in 52 games and 23 wins. But his impact on Pakistan’s wins is minimal. In those 52 games, his overall AB is 53.32 and AR 38.67. But in those 23 wins, his AB is 42 balls and AR 30 runs—implying that his stats are heavily boosted by performances in losses, and that a good performance from Misbah invariably means a bad performance by Pakistan. He reaches the 40-ball mark in 30 of his 52 games, but Pakistan have won in only 10 of those 30 instances—a 67% failure rate. This is a damning statistic on two counts. One: it means that wickets are falling at the other end and Misbah goes on the defensive. Two: despite the defensive approach, he’s unable to win games for Pakistan.
Insight: India win 61% of their games in which Rohit plays 40 balls or more.
This bit might surprise a few people. Rohit, that frustratingly inconsistent youth with a penchant for rash strokes, is the top Indian batsman when it comes to crease occupation. He averages nearly 53 balls to the innings, that number no doubt inflated by his two double-hundreds, one of which lasted an epochal 173 balls. India have played 66 ODIs in the cut-off period, winning 39 and losing 22. Of this, Rohit figures in 45 ODIs (44 innings) and 26 wins. His AB is 52.88 balls in these games and his AR 45.18 runs. But here’s the thing about him: he fails to reach the 40-ball mark in 22 of those 44 innings, which reveals his inconsistency. Conversely, his impact on those 26 wins is high: his AB rises to 61.73 and his AR to 55.84 runs, and he reaches the 40-ball mark 16 times out of 26.
Insight: Sri Lanka win 63% of their games in which Sangakkara bats 40 balls or more.
This one should not surprise anybody: Sangakkara’s incredible consistency in high-scoring makes him one of the most prized wickets at the World Cup. In the cut-off period, Sri Lanka have played 77, won 42 and lost 30 ODIs. Sangakkara features 68 ODIs (65 innings), reaching the 40-ball mark 38 times. He has faced 3424 balls in this period—more than anybody in the world—with an AB of 53 and an AR of 48. Sri Lanka have won 24 of those 38 games. In those 38 wins, Sangakkara’s AB rises to 58 and AR to 55. Long story short, get this guy out quickly if you want to beat Sri Lanka.
Other Major Broad-Blades
MARLON SAMUELS, WEST INDIES – 52.50 BALLS PER INNINGS
Overall AB: 52.50 | AR: 38.46
In wins: AB: 65.83 | AR: 51.58
Insight: Likely to bat twice as long as his celebrated team-mate Chris Gayle, whose overall AB is a mere 26.52 balls (and 22.75 without his 215).
AHMED SHEHZAD, PAKISTAN – 51.05 BALLS PER INNINGS
Overall AB: 51.05 | AR: 37.05
In wins AB: 62.66 | AR: 47.66
Insight: 58 of the time he bats 40 balls or more, Pakistan win.
ANAMUL HAQUE, BANGLADESH – 50.26 BALLS PER INNINGS
Overall AB: 50.26 | AR: 35.18
In wins: 56.63 | AR: 40.26
Insight: Bangladesh’s top player against higher-ranked teams, with his best scores coming against West Indies, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India.
SHIKHAR DHAWAN, INDIA – 49.1 BALLS PER INNINGS
Overall AB: 49.1 | AR: 45.0
In wins AB: 61.56 | 60.2
Insight: Dhawan gets off to a start of 30 balls or more in 29 of his 50 innings in this period. India won 22 of those 29 instances—a success rate of 76%. And since he strikes at nearly 100%, his starts take pressure off the middle order.
ROSS TAYLOR, NEW ZEALAND – 47.49 BALLS PER INNINGS
Overall AB: 47.49 | AR: 39.49
In wins AB: 49.04 | AR: 43.17
Insight: With Taylor, it’s all or nothing. He gets a start of 30 balls in 22 of his 42 innings in this period. Thirteen of them bring NZ a win. But in six of those 22, he gets out in single figures.
AB DE VILLIERS, SOUTH AFRICA -- 47.27 BALLS PER INNINGS
Overall AB: 47.27 | AR: 52.25
In wins AB: 54.07 | AR: 64.68
Insight: 25 times in his 50 games since the cut-off date, AB gets at least 40 balls to bat. South Africa win 18 of those games—that’s a success rate of 72%. Not that AB actually needs 40 balls to turn around a game. Thirty-one would suffice on most days.
VIRAT KOHLI, INDIA – 45.55 BALLS PER INNINGS
Overall AB: 45.55 | AR: 43.65
In wins AB: 54.61 | AR: 54.58
Insight: When he’s not abusing journalists, Virat is winning India games—big games, small games, must-win games, even dead rubbers. In 29 of his last 58 innings, Kohli gets off to a start of 40 balls or more. India have won 22 of those 29—a success rate of 76%. In those 58 innings, he’s been out 26 times before facing 30 balls—and India lost 15 of those 26 games.
Broad-Blades From Associate Nations (Minimum 10 Innings)
SAMIULLAH SHENWARI, AFGHANISTAN – 53.24 BALLS PER INNINGS
Overall AB: 53.24 | AR: 38.95
In wins AB: 70.7 | AR: 53.69
Niall O’Brien, Ireland – 52.36 balls per innings
Overall AB: 52.36 | AR: 37.05
In wins AB: 62.28 | AR: 49.0