Saturday, 6 December 2008

Ben new cricket blog

Uh oh! Mike's back to reclaim his blog. I'd better get out here.

I've now set up my own cricket blog:


You'll find it at

It's time I had my own place and my own identity. No more "Ben on...", no more being mistaken for Mike.

I'm also setting up my blog as a sandpit for me to try out some web design. You won't actually find any design there yet – I'm just using a fairly standard theme at the moment – but I'll get to some design soon.

I hope you will all join me over there. And continue to hang out here as well. Maybe without me muscling in and taking over, Mike will be inclined to post more often.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Ben on...testing like an ODI

It must have crossed the mind of every Black Caps' fan at some stage that if we are so much better at one-day cricket then we are at tests, why don't we just play our tests like we play our ODIs?

There are of course fundamental differences between tests and ODIs beyond the limitations on overs and clothing colour:
  • No fielding restrictions in tests
  • More mileage for bowlers in tests to get wickets than to restrict runs
  • The red ball – somehow it is more dangerous than the white
A different strategy is required in test batting than for ODIs, a strategy based around accumulation – taking the shine of the red ball, grinding down the bowlers and taking the field out of the equation by waiting for the bad balls.

It is all obvious stuff and I shouldn't be insulting your intelligence by writing it down.

However, if it is so obvious, then why do the Black Caps batsmen repeatedly fail to stick to this strategy? I think they may simply be incapable of playing anything other than in an ODI style.

When you bat in ODIs, you generally give up about 10 runs in your average in exchange for about 30 points in your strike rate. (E.g. Martin Crowe: test average 45.36, SR 44.65; ODI average 38.55, SR 72.63.) However, for many of our batsmen, this isn't the case and their ODI average is much closer to their test average, or even higher. How, Ryder, Fulton, Taylor – 4/5 of our top 5 – have better ODI averages than test averages though their SRs look about right.

So how can we deal with this, or even possibly use it to our advantage?

We can't use the traditional test strategy as it is clear that simply throttling back on the SR isn't helping the averages of our players.

So should we structure our batting line up like an ODI team? There is a movement in this direction in certain teams where the openers are often the most aggressive batsman. Hayden for example, or Sehwag. In fact, I got thinking along these lines reading a post by Suhas about Ryder playing as an opener. I don't think this is the answer in our case. Using Ryder as an opener would almost certainly go the way of all the other transplanted middle order batsmen. It might work if we had Glenn Turner to partner him, Fleming to come in at 3, Crowe at 4 and Astle at 5, i.e. if we had a batting line up so strong we could sacrifice Ryder.

I have a far more radical suggestion, based on the fact that our batsmen seem to do so well when partnered with a tail-ender; take the 50-run partnership between O'Brien and McCullum in the Adelaide test for example. Perhaps we should simply bat our rabbits amongst our top order. Suddenly scoring in boundaries, something we're good at, become premium, and rotating the strike, something we're poor at, becomes undesirable.

In that vein, here is my suggested line up:


The state of the game

Ben tells me that I haven't posted since August. And I suspect it was a long-time between posts before that one. Well, you can hardly blame me. Posting bad news gets pretty tiring pretty damn quickly. And over the past season all we New Zealand cricket fans have had is bad news. Have we reached the bottom of the barrel yet? Does the end of John Bracewell's reign give us a glimmer of hope? I am not convinced on either point. The state of the game here is too fragile, and it is hard to see why any sports-minded young New Zealander would want to become a cricketer. Unless the performances of our national team start to improve, the next few decades could well see the end of the game's status as the nation's favourite summer sport.

Peter Roebuck has already penned an obituary for New Zealand cricket. But he pins the cause of death on a funny thing. He blames "splinter groups" and points to former players who carp from the sidelines without contributing. But it is hard to blame former players when a) so many of them have been forced from the game against their will and b) former New Zealand players have always carped from the sidelines. I mean, what on earth would our commentators talk about if they weren't allow to complain? For goodness sake, we can't all be brown-nosed sycophants like Mark Nicholas. And thank heavens for that.

I largely agree with Roebuck that the New Zealand game is in trouble, but the splinter groups and the complainers are just symptoms of the problem - not the causes. The real blame lies with those who govern and with the elements. It lies with the people who stabbed Shane Bond in the back, who pushed Stephen Fleming, Hamish Marshall, Lou Vincent and all the others away, the people who took money from India in exchange for a summer without cricket and who cowered when they demanded we break our word with our best bowler. And it lies with the ICC for enabling the BCCI's abuses of power. But also with the tsunami and the primal forces of violence which have cost us whole tours, and with the local weather which keeps the grass long enough for sheep and cattle to enjoy, and too long for local batsmen to develop a decent back-foot game.

It is true that green wickets have always been a problem, but good technique seems to have evaporated with good governance. Martin Crowe blames poor technique on new coaching methods and perhaps he has a point. He may be a carper, but he also knows batting.

Anyway. As with any team going through a bad spell, bad luck seems to follow us around. But luck always changes. We are due some good fortune, and I just hope that it arrives in time. Perhaps it will come in the form of a promising youngster? If we want to look for that glimmer of hope, then perhaps the best place to find it is in the promise of Corey Anderson, or Trent Boult, or Kane Williamson. And perhaps we should also look with an optimistic eye to the promise global warming holds for our wickets and for our youngsters' back-foot defense.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Ben on...overtaken!

So the West Indies has leapfrogged us and gone to 7th on the table. Last time we played them, in 2006, we were 5th and leading them by well over 20 points. In fact, it was that series in 2006 that sent the Windies to their all-time low of 72 points. What has happened in the last 2 1/2 years that has led to this reversal of fortune?


Since early 2006, our rating has been knocked by two losses each to South Africa and England and one to Australia. (I also suspect we took a hit from some good older results expiring from the rating system.) A draw against Sri Lanka and two wins against Bangladesh weren't enough to bolster our ratings appreciably. (In fact, this years 1-0 win against Bangladesh actually hurt us.)

This has equated to a fall in our rating from 101 to 81.


Demonstrating just what a load of crock the whole rating system is, the West Indies have improved their rating from 72 to 81 without winning a single series. Since 2006 they have been beaten by India, Pakistan, England, South Africa and Australia and have drawn 1-1 with Sri Lanka. But inconceivably they are a better team by 9 points. I assume that the expiry of some terrible earlier series must be contributing to this shift.


However inadequate the ratings system is, I think it is fair that NZ and WI are now fighting it out for bottom place. At the conclusion of the upcoming series, the ranking table should give a fair reflection of the relative strengths of all the teams.

Ben on...wrapped up

So the series in Australia has wrapped up with the Black Caps being thoroughly wrapped up.

The results were

Brisbane: Loss by 149 runs
Adelaide: Loss by innings and 62 runs.

An embarrassing series, but actually a mild improvement on 2004 as we scored over 100 in every innings and ensured that no Aussie tail-ender scored a 50. (How's that for cold comfort?)

Looking at the tour stats, no one really excelled. Both McCullum and Taylor batted at 40 or above. Everyone else averaged less than 30. The most penetrating bowlers were the part-timers Redmond and Ryder. The pick of the full-timers was O'Brien with 7 wickets at about 30. The best innings performance was Southee's 4/63.

It was a tough series and was always going to be. Just something to be endured. It would have been nice though if there could have been a few bright moments to make it worth following.

One day we will challenge Australia, and it may even be when the current young guns grow up, but right now we just aren't at the same table.

Just to give us hope, I'll point out that in the first few years of the Trans-Tasman Trophy, it was dominated by New Zealand:

Season Venue Aus
NZ Draw Holder
1985/86 Australia 1 2 0 New Zealand
1985/86 New Zealand 0 1 2 New Zealand
1987/88 Australia 1 0 2 Australia
1989/90 Australia 0 0 1 Australia
1989/90 New Zealand 0 1 0 New Zealand
1992/93 New Zealand 1 1 1 New Zealand
1993/94 Australia 2 0 1 Australia
1997/98 Australia 2 0 1 Australia
1999/2000 New Zealand 3 0 0 Australia
2001/02 Australia 0 0 3 Australia
2004/05 Australia 2 0 0 Australia
2004/05 New Zealand 2 0 1 Australia

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Ben itchy rash

Yesterday's wickets:
Johnson to How, OUT, bad ball, bad shot and How's got to go, Johnson dishes it out very wide outside off and invites an ugly slash past the covers, the ball gets the toe edge of his bat and Haddin takes one of his easier catches

Hauritz to Ryder, OUT, Hauritz gets his man, he pitches it short of a length and Ryder shapes to pull across the line, he gets plenty of wood on it but slams it to Michael Clarke's right at short midwicket, he flings himself sideways and pulls off a stunning catch, superb reflexes there as he cups it with both hands

Hauritz to Redmond, OUT, Redmond falls right in to the trap and Hauritz has two after lunch! He flights it on middle and leg, he gets on his knee and attempts the slog sweep which fetched him two sixes before lunch, however this time Symonds is there at deep midwicket and he cups it easily over his head after sprinting a few yards to his left

Symonds to Fulton, OUT, great reflexes from Katich! Symonds bowls it back of a length, Fulton reads the length early and shapes to pull but fails to clear short midwicket, Katich flings himself to his right and catches it with both hands, the Australians are really delighted for Symonds

Clark to Taylor, OUT, Taylor gets the slow death from Koertzen, Clark gets the ball to bend back in off the pitch, Taylor tries to flick across the line but the ball hits him just above the knee roll and in line with middle and leg stump at least, Koertzen thinks about it before giving him out, Hawkeye indicates that it hit him too high

Lee to Flynn, OUT, that's a ripper! Lee fires that from round the wicket, lands it on a good length and gets it to swing in sharply through the air, Flynn fails to get right behind the line and the ball clips his pad and cannons on to the top of the off stump, the bowling change has worked
Even accepting that Taylor was unlucky, that's five wickets to rash shots. Only one wicket, Flynn's, was genuinely deserved by the bowler. What was going through their heads when they heard it was a batsman's wicket?

Redmon still reckons 500 is on the cards. I'm picking 330, the lowest 1st innings total at Adelaide since 2002.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Ben on...some good news written about O'Brien

Nothing like a little scandal to get you noticed by the media. It's been picked up that O'Brien has actually had a really good year. (Perhaps the article is accompanied by the list of the world's leading test wicket-takers in 2008 cited in the article. It's not on-line, so here is a link to such a table.) We know this of course, and anticipated it.

Ben on...race to the bottom

Even though the Trans-Tasman Trophy isn't up for grabs in today's test at Adelaide, there is still something worth fighting for – the position as the world's second worst major test team.

Let's put some numbers to this.

Currently (from ICC Cricket Rankings):

NZ 1967 points/24 matches = 81.96
WI 1791/22 = 81.41

If we lose this test: NZ = 80.85 (falling below the West Indies)

If we draw this test: NZ = 82.7

If we win, heaven forbid: NZ = 86.4

I calculated this by the following relevant formula (which applies if the difference in the rating of competing teams is 40 or more):

Calculate the series results by taking one point for each match or series win and half a point for a draw, then calculate a new points total by summing the product of the series result and 90 points more than our old rating and the product of Australia's series result and 10 points less than our old rating, then find our new rating by taking the ratio of our new points total and the new number of tests and series played in the last three years.

It is, as you can tell, a maddeningly opaque system with far more precision than it needs considering there is no real championship associated with it. It also really bugs me that we have a situation where the Windies could overtake us in this way (due in large part because of the rained-off test in Bangladesh). If they want to be second-worst, they should bloody well come here and take it from us!

(I could now calculate the possible results for the WI tour, but I've had enough of fiddly calculations for the time being. I used to have a spreadsheet that could calculate it. Imagine that! A championship that requires a spreadsheet to work it out!)

One day I'll take a closer look at alternative ranking systems, but I'll put forward one suggested system now: ditch the points, retain the ranking list; if you beat a team higher than you on the list you go up one ranking, otherwise the rankings don't change.

Ben on...[censored]

I wonder if the journalist who wrote this piece

Black Cap faces censorship after 'faggot' furore

is the same one who wrote this beat up a couple of days back

Black Cap alleges Gabba 'faggot' taunts

And if so, do they feel stick now?

Apparently OB wants to keep blogging, which is great, but you can be sure that it won't be the same. If the blog had been vetted earlier, would the censor have had a problem with the fagot comment? The comment wasn't controversial until some dim journalist decided to beat it up.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Ben on...domestic cricket round up, round 3

The third round of the State Championship is just finishing, so it would be good time for me to wrap up round 2, and round 1 for that matter.

Round 1

Just to throw the points table completely out for the whole season, round 1 of the State Championship consisted of just one match, Auckland v. Canterbury:

Auckland 398 & 175
Canterbury 169 & 331
Auckland win by 73 runs

Top batsman: Tim McIntosh scores the first century of the tournament, 140 (&9), inevitably prompting the suggestion that he be picked to open for the Black Caps.
Top bowler: Brandon Hiini gets a 7/148 match. He's compiling a very good record, now just in his third season.

Round 2

Now the business starts. All teams involved in this round.

Northern Districts 275 & 181/7
Otago 277
Match drawn

Central Districts 213 & 335
Auckland 207 & 203
Central win by 138 runs

Wellington 428/8 dec.
Canterbury 162 & 224
Wellington win by inn. and 42 runs

Top bat: Matthew Bell is back with 146, his 18th century for Wellington, a record number for a province. 18 doesn't sound like much of a record and I was intrigued at how many the century machine Glenn Turner had managed, so I looked him up. The point about the record is of course that the centuries were scored for one province. Turner scored 13 for Otago and 1 for Northern Districts, so he isn't even all that high for total NZ provincial centuries. Of course, he has 7 for NZ, 9 for the 'New Zealanders', 1 for South Island and a staggering 72 from his 284 matches with Worcestershire, for a total of 103.
Top bowl: Ewen Thompson had a 7/79 match in destroying Auckland. Of special mention however is the return of James Franklin, who picked up 4/56 over two innings. I think he was taking it fairly easy. I went down to watch a session of the Wgtn/Cant. match, but Franklin didn't get a spell.

Round 3

Again three matches, though the round was largely doomed from its early stages where rain at a couple of venues delayed play, then not helped by certain batsmen's utter reluctance to get out. An aggressive declaration by Canterbury, conceding a 178 first innings lead to Otago ensured that game went to four innings.

Wgtn 533/5 dec.
Auck. 441/7
Match drawn

ND 325 & 249
CD 479/9 & 99/2
CD win by 8 wickets

Otago 352 & 113/5 dec.
Cant. 174/5 dec. & 285/7
Match drawn

Top bat: Where to begin? Eight centuries in total this round. Starting from the smallest: Sinclair 101, Woodcock 102, Watling 111, Bell 122 (increasing his record and pushing for another place in the BCs?), Boom 140, McIntosh 191 (another huge century, but I maintain that he is not consistent enough for the BCs), Franklin 219 (he's back as a batsman as well as a bowler), Ingram 247 (a CD record)
Top bowl: It really was a batsmen's round and I'm tempted to not even mention any bowling. Under the circumstances though, decent bowling performances must be worthy efforts. We actually had a five-fer: Burtt 5/119, which he followed up with 0 in the next innings, meaning that his team mate's 5/54 match was actually the much better haul. [Edit: The team mate was Ellis.]

Points table

Phew, that was a lot of work. I'm not sure I can keep this up all season.

Ben on...I'll teach you to squander our superb bowling performance!

You can read it different ways, but this article suggests that the NZ bowlers are mightily pissed at the underperforming batsmen and are taking it out on them in the nets.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Ben on...whinging Kiwis beaten up

The news over in Aus is that the crowds have gone feral and the Black Caps don't like it. "Crowd turns on Kiwi 'faggots'" is the headline in the Daily Telegraph. "New Zealanders say they were called faggots" is the Herald Sun's headline for the same article.

The story seems to be based on a sliver of a comment in Iain O'Brien's blog (which has become a sensation since it was discovered a couple of days ago):
The crowds here are pretty good, ruined by a few, actually quite a few, idiots who think a day out at the cricket is just to abuse the guys playing any way how. You get called anything and everything. Embarrassing for these guys really, as a lot of the others around them are cringing. I don't know how many times I've was called a 'fagot' this afternoon!
(Note that the Aussie papers felt it necessary to alter his spelling of 'fagot'.)

Doesn't sound to me like 'the crowd' is turning on our fagots – just a few, well quite a few, idiots in the crowd. And it doesn't sound like the 'New Zealanders' are saying all that much about it. Just one guy dropping a quick comment amongst a much larger story.

Cricket crowds are nasty, as everyone who has been to a match knows. But there's no issue here. Just a beat up.

Ben on...Bracewell's legacy for new coach

From The Herald: