When I first travelled to New Delhi to watch Australia play cricket in 2013, just leaving my hotel to confront the onslaught of this relentless, illogical city felt like a small victory.
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Watching Big Bash League games over the last week or so, it occurred to me that teams seem to be losing a lot of wickets this year with the follow-up hunch being that average scores must be down on recent years.
Just since New Year’s Day, for example, there have been eight teams lose six wickets or more in their innings from the seven games played. Seven of them were teams batting first, for whatever that’s worth.
Average scores are down in recent years, as it turns out.
Of the 21 games now played in this year’s competition, the average scores stand at 7/149 for the side batting first and 6/138 for the side chasing.
The last three seasons have seen the side batting first average 6/162, 7/165, and 6/163 respectively. Batting second, it’s been 6/151, 6/154, and 6/152.
That this year’s averages are roughly 15 runs fewer than the last three seasons begs further investigation, and I’d like to have a bit of a close look at what’s happening – or not happening, probably – during the first six over powerplays in each innings. That’s for later in the week.
So this summer’s scores are lower, and a familiar if disturbing trend emerges when looking a bit closer at the scorecards.
Through all the debate this year about the state of first-class cricket, and its impact on the national team, a common lament has been the number of batsmen getting starts and going no further. Thirties and forties everywhere, but not too many instances of blokes going on with it.
Twenty20 cricket is the easy go-to when blame needs to be apportioned.
Twenty20 cricket, therefore, must ruining the BBL, too.
Of the 21 games completed so far, there were twelve instances of a score in the 20s and 30s top the scorecard, with only two of them not out. A score in the 20s and 30s was next best another 29 times, with eight of them not out at the end.
So roughly half the time, a guy making a start and not going on with it has top scored. And that obviously means a lot of batsmen are doing worse than that.
There’s been just 25 scores above fifty in BBL08 to date, and no centuries scored as yet. That’s obviously only just better than one half-century from either side per game.
Last season alone, there were 65 scores of 50 or better, with three of them centuries and another three of them nineties. That’s roughly three scores above fifty every two games.
This season, Thunder ‘keeper Jos Buttler’s 89 and Hurricane Matthew Wade’s 85 are the highest scores of the season, both coming in the same game down in Hobart on December 28. Chris Lynn made 84 for Brisbane on New Year’s Day, but those three are the only scores to break eighty.
And in the grand scheme of the BBL, Buttler’s 89 and Wade’s 85 rank 31st and 40 respectively on the list of highest scores ever made since the competition kicked off eight summer ago.
At this point, it would be really easy to say that batsmen just aren’t as good or that this season’s form line across the board just isn’t that good. And there would be some truth in that, though nine of the top ten run scorers to date have topped 150 and in only five or six innings, Marcus Stoinis rounding out the top ten with 146.
But there’s also been two other fairly major factors that have prevented the batsmen going on with their starts.
First of all, there’s been some really ordinary pitches used this season, with the drop-in wickets at the Sydney Showground and the Docklands Stadium in Melbourne producing some particularly low scores. The Sydney Sixers battled to 7/132 at the Docklands last weekend, the highest innings total at the ground in BBL08, but the Melbourne Renegades could only manage 9/99 in reply.
Secondly, and probably most significantly, is that the bowlers are going along pretty well at the moment.
In last season’s 43 matches, there were 34 instances of a bowler taking three wickets or more, with seven four-fa’s and three five-wicket hauls.
This summer, there’s already been 24 instances of a bowler taking three wickets in the 21 games played. Guys are getting it right in the BBL this season, just not as many of them are holding bats.
Twenty20 cricket is copping a lot of flak at the moment, and there’s no doubt that the shortest form of the game is having an impact of sorts on the general state of batting in Australia.
But we probably can’t blame it for the lack of BBL runs, too. In this instance, we might just have to credit the bowlers for getting the ball in the right areas more often than not.