Is Alastair Cook really that reliable?

Michael Frawley Roar Pro

By , Michael Frawley is a Roar Pro

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    We are blessed to be able to watch two opening batsmen who average close to 50 in Test cricket; Alastair Cook (46.0) and David Warner (47.4).

    What is perhaps unusual is that both do it in entirely different ways. Cook knows his limitations and has perfected the art of playing within them. Warner plays like he has not heard of limitations. Most cricket fans have strong views as to who they would prefer in their team.

    The perception is that Cook’s style leads to more protection for the middle order, a crucial part of opening the batting, while Warner has more upside when things go well. I was curious to see if this was actually the case.

    I’ve defined protecting the middle order as getting to 30 runs. Anything less than that is considered a failure. A century is considered a success.

    Looking at Cook’s career, he has failed (scored less than 30 in an innings) 53 per cent of the time compared to Warner’s 51 per cent. Therefore Cook and Warner have failed approximately half of the time over their careers.

    Warner scores a hundred 15 per cent of the time; Cook 11 per cent.

    Every cricket fan knows that Warner has not been successful playing away from home, though. Warner averages only 37 away, whereas Cook has a marginally higher average away than at home.

    The statistics reveal the reason Warner struggles away from home is not his rate of failure but the fact he has not capitalised on starts.

    Away from home Warner fails 57 per cent of the time, which is not too different to Cook’s 54 per cent. Cook scores a hundred or more 14 per cent of the time away from home; double Warner’s seven per cent.

    At home Warner fails 46 per cent of the time and scores a hundred nearly once every four innings. Cook fails 52 per cent of the time and scores a hundred once in every 11 innings.

    Summarising the above, both Cook and Warner get to 30 runs about half the time, regardless of whether it is home or away. In the sense of getting their teams off to a good start, both are about as reliable as each other.

    The differences come from how much they capitalise on their starts. If Warner gets a start in Australia he is very likely to score a hundred, but it is rare for him to tonne up away. Cook is more likely to convert a start into a century away from home than in England.

    Of course one factor to consider is Warner scores runs about one and a half times faster than Cook. Cook, therefore, soaks up more balls for the same amount of runs scored.

    You could mount the argument that a 30 from Cook offers more protection to the middle order because it is likely to have taken longer and therefore taken more shine off the ball.

    Likewise, a couple of thumping boundaries from Warner could take more shine off the ball than 30 carefully placed glides through point from Cook.

    The psychological impact of an aggressive opening batsman flaying the opposition’s strike bowlers is another factor to consider. Similarly, a relentlessly disciplined opening batsman can wear down an opposition team.

    I have tried to steer clear of these unquantifiable issues. Take the numbers as they are. Perhaps they do not change your original view as to you would prefer in your team – maybe they reveal the two are not so different.

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