Thursday, 6 September 2007

Ben on...the Black Caps T20 prospects

With the Rugby World Cup having started this morning, the NRL finals series already tense and England and India fighting out an exciting ODI series, I need to build up my interest in the twenty20 championship.

Shaoib Akhtar has managed to generate a bit of heat before the series has even begun by hitting a team mate with a bat. Unfortunately, his absence will make the tournament rather less interesting. The most exciting news coming out of the New Zealand camp – generating considerably less heat than in the Pakistan camp – is that McCullum won't be keeping, to keep him focussed on opening the batting.

But anyway. Who is going to win? Or more importantly, will New Zealand win?

New Zealand has gone to South Africa with a very good squad. It is not too different from the team that came 3rd in the World Cup (though the absence of Fleming is very significant). We have what must be the most potent weapon in Shane Bond and some batsmen with real push in McCullum, Oram and Styris. Ian Chappell rates us highly, second only to Australia in this tournament.

However, our strengths possibly camouflage our weaknesses. In T20, a team's overall bowling strength is determined more by the weaker bowlers, and a single outstanding batsmen contributes more than any number of decent sloggers. Bond knocking batsmen over with a strike rate of 12 at an economy rate of 6 is largely neutralised if Martin is going for 9 an over from the other end, and we don't have a Ponting, Smith or even a Fleming in our batting line up.

So how well will we do?

I'm not prepared to stick my head out over T20. It's all just too unpredictable. Instead I am going to rely on statistics. (Get ready for one of the most outlandish, most audacious use of numbers that has ever tried to pass itself off as statistics.)

Unfortunately, there isn't enough data on T20. However, there is plenty of data on tests and ODIs. Based on the test and ODI rankings, Australia should waltz home; they are 30 points ahead on the test table and 5 points ahead on the ODI table. But, I am going use the assumption that T20 is to ODIs as ODIs are to tests. We can see that since Australia is so much a better test team (rating of 141) than a ODI team (rating of 129), they should be correspondingly less good at T20 – I calculate a rating of 117. New Zealand on the other hand is spectacularly better at ODIs than in tests. Our test and ODI ratings of 99 and 114 give a T20 rating of 129, giving us a huge advantage over Australia.

But is it enough to win the tournament? Well, unfortunately, the Windies' shockingly bad test rating of 72 gives them the edge. Even combined with a mediocre ODI ranking of 102, their T20 rating of 132 just might be enough for them to squeak home in the final.

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