What is a good score batting first in T20 cricket?
Jack Hope looks at what a good score batting first is in T20 cricket
In the last couple of days I’ve been along to see some more games in this year’s iteration of The Hundred. The two games gave me some interesting ideas for future pieces. In particular I want to have a more detailed look into the quality, or otherwise, of some of the high profile coaches on the circuit.
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In the meantime I’ve been distracted looking at first innings scores in T20 cricket. I’ve thought for a while, and I know I’m not the only one, that a lot of teams have a sub optimal approach to batting first. I’ve tried to visualise this below:
Obviously, there’s a lot going on in this one, but it breaks down fairly simply. Each tower shows a 5 run grouping of scores for a team batting first in the IPL. Every tower is broken down as follows: red = a loss, grey = a win, yellow = scores level. The higher the combined tower the more matches which fall into that category overall. The blue dotted line, with the garish green labels, shows the win % for each grouping.
What this tells us is that the vast majority of totals posted give a team less than a 50% chance of winning the game. In fact, it isn’t until teams hit 181-185 run grouping that their chance of winning reaches and stays above 50%. Of the 881 games in the sample, only 225 first innings totals fall into that category.
Now things are a little bit more complex than all teams batting first just doing it wrong. If it were as simple as going out and bashing 180 then team’s would, wouldn’t they? Pitch conditions, bowler quality, having to take the time to adjust to the tempo of the game, all play a role in suppressing first innings scores.
With that in mind, and accepting that there is a bias towards chasing in the IPL, we should perhaps be a bit more generous to teams batting first. The overall win percentage of teams batting first is a shade under 45%. 161-165 is the grouping that first exceeds that cut-off, along with all higher groupings. Making this potentially the minimum viable score for a competent team.
This leads nicely on to a more general point about batting first, and the relevance of a concept such as the par score. Instead of fixing an arbitrary number as the point at which a first innings becomes “good”, we would be better off talking about first innings scores in terms of ranges. This is especially so when looking at how a team performs through the course of a season. Basically, to be a good team batting first, you consistently want to give yourself good equity in the match at the halfway stage.
A few final points worth bearing in mind:
First of all, the run rate in the IPL is slowly inching upwards. The graphic above includes scores from over a decade ago, and this needs to be considered when assessing what a good first innings score is in 2022.
Second, this includes matches taking place in many different conditions, venue data should also be taken into consideration for specific games or future tournaments.
Third, a team’s bowling attack clearly has a bearing on what score they need to achieve with the bat. Consistently getting adequate scores, and making your bowlers earn their money, is a viable strategy for teams stacked with bowling talent.