West of Scotland 196-9. Glasgow Accies 118. West win by 78 runs.
Against weak opposition, West put in a strong all-round performance to win easily. As always, there were strong areas and areas of improvement.
However as we are halfway through the season I thought it would make sense to look at the state of things on a broader scale too.
First, the game.
The pitch and outfield were slow after a week of rain. It was hard to hit boundaries. West won the toss and batted and made it look tough going from the sidelines for a long time. 24 from 10 overs, the same rate for the next 16 overs until a boundary showed the way and the rate climbed between 26-37 to 4.3.
At 109-4 by this point there was work to do, but we had wickets in hand and a top four batsman at the crease. This platform, although a little behind where I hoped (perhaps another 20-30), was solid enough to allow some attacking cricket. West scored 82 in the last 12 overs with number four not out on 80. Yet again, the lower order were at the crease for 46 runs. This time their company was a top order batsman.
The anchor role was played perfectly, coming in at 43-2 in 18 over, he accelerated through (first 30 in 50 balls, last 30 in 20 balls): An overall SR of 96 and SB% of 48% with five boundaries tells you how much running was needed. It also tells you how well-judged the innings was, with the next best SR of 66 and SB% of 37% (team overall was 31%).
10 boundaries was the lowest number we have scored this season in 50 overs (although we did hit six in 30 overs in a reduced match in similar conditions). Surprisingly, we only hit 48 singles - about average - but this was because we hit 36 doubles. That is much more than usual. Control was the highest of the year at 81%.
In the field it was clear early that Accies did not have the resources against a consistent bowling attack. West have five genuine top quality club bowlers. When on form on a helpful pitch they can bowl out any side in the division. The difference showed in the second half.
Accies were similarly placed on 22-1 from 10 and 51-2 in 22 (West were 52-3). However, when they tried to push forward, the ball went up in the air (mistimed shots on a slow pitch). West caught 8 of the 13 chances that went to hand. Not perfect but plenty good enough to close out this match.
Speaking of fielding, with just 4 misfields in the innings, this was West's best performance. The fielding difference was +11.
Now onto the mid-season review!
Season so far
The batting this year has been improved greatly from 2015. One batsman retired but two have come back (one from finishing University and one finding more time to play). We have a replacement overseas amateur. A new player arrived fully formed and a talented youngster has embedded himself in the order after problems last year.
While no one has shone consistently, the batting unit has scored more runs than any other team in total (over 100 more than the next team so far in the league). The balance has been interesting:
- Three players have scored over 240 runs and five have scored over 100.
- The SB% of the top six is 34% striking at 65.
- Attacking batsmen are averaging 35 runs at a strike rate of 76 and SB% of 38%.
- Anchor players are averaging 18/53/31%.
This is excellent overall and what I would have hoped for at the start of the season.
The top six score most of the runs but the bottom five are massive contributors, managing to score almost a quarter of the runs. To know that, on average, 150-5 mean 200 all out is a huge boost. Naturally, the ideal is for a top order batter to score more than fifty and be still in at over 40. However, as this has not happened so far, it's also not crazy to leave the last 15 overs to numbers seven down, meaning we could go a little harder up top. The lower order have scored at an impressive 43% and SR of 85.
You can't ask for much more than that without a superstar.
That said, I would like to see the anchor batsmen, who score fewer boundaries, to have a better SB% to show they are rotating the strike more effectively, especially in the first 10 overs. This would also give me the extra 1-2 runs an over I feel we can try and take early on.
I have been tracking both singles and quick singles this year as a rough measure of how well we rotate. We average 50 singles a match (57 batting first), 20 of which are "stolen" through quick work or opposition fielding errors. I would like to see this number rise, but has remained fairly constant so far. The best game has been 79 (26 stolen) in a total of 200. I think we can push the average up to 70+ when batting first.
To compare, average boundary count has gone up from 14 early on to 18 in the last five weeks. I don't think there is much point in targeting boundary hitting though, unless we are looking to develop the power game of players.
I have also introduced a new stat this year: Control.
Control is the percentage of balls that are played the way the batsman wants. A ball hit in the middle is controlled. A ball played and missed is not controlled. There are some grey areas, but generally most cricket watchers can tell you if the shot was in control or not. However, as we have never kept this stat, I was interested to see what we could find from it.
- West average 79% controlled shots (best 81%, worst 77%)
- The opposition average 74% (best 81%, worst 64%)
There is no correlation - so far - between better control and winning games. West have had better control in seven games. We have won four and lost three of those seven. We also had worse control in two games, winning one and losing one. There is also, as you would expect, not a huge relationship between control and number of runs because you don't take into account conditions.
There is a relationship between total control and victories: When West have more than 77.5% control, the number of wins is three from five. When it is below 77.5% there have been no wins. This is a small sample, but would make sense that the more balls you control the better you do.
As you can see, the range is very small (just 4% between best and worst), which surprised me. Opposition control is a much wider range (17%). I suspect that shows good consistency of batting in different conditions and against different standards of opposition, which is a key sign of success.
I'm still not sure what these data tells us about how we train and play, but I will continue the experiment. Perhaps it can become another KPI alongside the usual averages.
The bowling has also changed this year from last year. The seam attack is lead by the same three bowlers and we have added two reliable spinners. There is an extra seam bowling all-rounder who provides a sixth option.
The five main bowlers have all taken more than 10 wickets so far, with the top sitting at 25. I consider an average of 15 or lower to be excellent in this league, and under 20 acceptable. One bowler is under 15 while three sit at just over (15.5-16.4). The other main bowler is averaging 19. He makes up for fewer wickets with the lowest RpO (3.2).
As a team West average nine wickets a match and always take at least seven. When we bowl a team out, we always win (six in six). One wicket makes a huge difference; we have only won one game in three when taking nine wickets, and none from two taking seven.
It's good to see players have done well in different phases of the game too.
One bowler excels at opening up (taking more than half his wickets in the first 10 overs) then coming back at the death: Going at just 4.6 an over when the next best is 5.7.
A new spinner who bowls with a lot of pace does a great job in the middle overs (17 wickets at 3.5 an over) and death (getting a wicket every 10 balls, if slightly expensive at 6.1 per over). His foil is a more orthodox spinner who gets traditional flight, dip and turn and can bowl long spells in the middle overs (17 wickets, 3.3 per over). When these two are on together they turn the screw, take wickets through errors and offer no respite for up to 30 overs.
That said they are both young - still teenagers - and learning the art of spin. Some days it doesn't work for one or both. This is best illustrated by wides. Between them, the pair have bowled half of all the wides. But I am not too concerned, they bowl better more often than they bowl poorly and they are both still learning.
This takes me nicely onto fielding stats, where I have been keeping a much closer eye than last year.
I have used three measures of fielding effectiveness:
- Catches to drops (53%)
- Direct hits from throws (32%)
- Misfields (6 per game)
Of course, we have no numbers to compare against, but within season we can look for trends.
Catching has stayed at around 50% all year. Direct hits fluctuate greatly as there are so few chances. I suspect there is not much more we can do to increase these in the short term. We already do as much practice as possible. However, I continue to search for innovative ways to test guys in training and make game catching easier.
Misfields are any unforced errors that are not dropped and leads to a run. They hovered around the 6 mark for a while until we had two poor games in a row (11 and 10) then dropped back. I think of them like wides: You ideally want zero but you can tolerate a few. Once you get more than five, you get people complaining about how poor we were in the field.
I think we could practice ground fielding more often as we tend to focus on catching way more. If we do this, my secret aim is to get the misfield average for the season below five. It's currently at six.
I also keep track of any good stop that save at least one run. We average seven per game. Strangely, the good stops always seem to track against the poor ones. For example, the week West had the worst number of misfields (11) was the week we also had the highest number of good stops (12). It has happened very time! The good stop average is rising over the season from six early on to eight in the last few games.
If the good stops continue to outperform the misfields, we have had a decent year in the field.
What about the rest of the squad?
We have been able to pick a consistent team all year, 19 players have worn the Baggy Roon, 16 on Saturday (the rest in the Sunday cup matches). I would count squad players as those who are not an automatic pick but can contribute if required. We have a dozen of those guys.
There are five batsmen, two spin all-rounder, a spinner and four seamers. They are mostly second team regulars and it's why the seconds are so strong in their league. A couple of them also play Sunday League cricket too. As a group, they train as hard as the first teamers.
The main issue is how to handle them when they come into the first team. Chances are they will go from being a key member of the twos to doing nothing in the ones. The average balls faced from these guys per game is 11, and the average overs bowled is 2.6. This is a common problem in club cricket, and the only way I have found to handle it is to rotate the "TFC" players between the group, trying to pick someone who might be useful on that particular day.
This is a minor issue. Overall, the team is strong, the squad is deep and things are progressing well.
While I can - and do - pour over stats to find little ways to improve, the really important one is the result. Here we have played 11, won seven and lost four.
I argue that this ratio will improve further if we focus on improving those basic details: strike rotation, control, catching, stopping, and bowling good areas. These can all now be measured and assessed as we go to allow us to reflect game to game and laser in on the details so the broad stroke look after themselves.
It will be fun to see where we go in the second half.