Cricket’s a fine art. It’s a sport where strategy, skill and some rather suspect rules all interact to create a game of unparalleled intrigue. Consequently, it becomes trickier to predict the match result than its football and rugby competitors. One poorly called lbw decision, given that the ball was flying over the top of middle stump by centimetres, can see a batting side slump quickly from the seeming comfort of 100-2, to the dispiriting position of 120-5.
However, mathematicians continue to research formulas that they profess will bring a greater understanding to cricket. Whether Duckworth Lewis is the fair predictor of a par score is still hotly debated, but despite the doubters, has proved of more assistance to the game than the latest statistic ever will.
These damning words are obviously referring to the newest fad, that is, the WASP. The model has been devised by a group of professors at The University of Canterbury, New Zealand. They can be applauded for their market research; you have to admit that the word WASP is snappy and hence memorable. That said I would like to propose that its methodologies are as irritating much as its loathsome insect namesakes.
In short, WASP’S purpose is to indicate how likely each team is to win the game. This will understandably change over the course of either side’s innings according to the match situation at the time. So let’s say that England were 64-4 in reply to a whopping 333 set by India – dare I say it, an all too frequent occurrence – WASP would suggest that the English barely stand a chance of turning the probable defeat on its head. While I would also safely predict a win for MS Dhoni’s side, I’ve noted a flaw in the model, and what’s more, I can explain the weakness.
The WASP relies upon a SKY commentator’s expert opinion when it comes to setting the par score. The pundit will suggest what constitutes an average total based upon how the pitch is expected to play in combination with previous first innings totals on the ground. It only begins to reflect badly on the WASP when we realise that the statistical model considers that the two sides going head to head are of equal ability. Let’s return for a moment to our example of England playing an ODI against India, where Michael Atherton feels that 270 is a par score batting first. England win the toss and elect to bat. After their allocation of 50 overs, they’ve amassed 285-7. The WASP would say that England are ahead of the game at this point, having eclipsed Athers’ prediction by 15 runs. My question to you, dear reader, is quite simply: are they?
Since the turn of the century, cricket’s been in a state of evolution. Back in the early 21st century, line and length was the order of the day in both Test matches and the One Day format. If a bowler continued to hit a consistent area, they would certainly get their reward. The inception of T20 has radically changed that ideology: bowl a good length at your peril, and opt instead for the slow ball bouncer to stem the flow of runs. In essence cricket is a batsman’s game now more than ever before. Extraordinary run chases have become common place to the point that the magical target of 300 runs no longer guarantees victory in a 50 over match. On more occasions than not, India will pass England’s 285 at a canter with extra-reinforced bats and huge back-swings, despite the par score suggesting otherwise.
And this is WASP’s sting in the tail. It assumes that a batsman’s mentality has remained stable, that forward defensives are preferred to aggressive hacks over mid-wicket. It is completely ignorant to the idea that a team batting second could have a number of lower order “finishers”; players who can literally club their side to victory. Since teams are being forced to pursue more runs than ever, the WASP is always disparaging toward the team batting second, skeptical as to whether they can successfully complete the chase. It has no answer to the idea that when the team batting first notch 60-1 after 10, they are only registering the equivalent of what in recent years was 40-1. Run totals are relative to the period of time in which they are scored.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, concludes my assessment of the Woefully Average Score Predictor (WASP).
Amended in light of information received from Dr Seamus Hogan, WASP supervisor (27/08/2014)
Saturday 21st June was filled with glorious sunshine, a welcome relief from the heavy downpours that have blighted the cricket season to date. Fielders were able to hare around in the outfield in pursuit of balls that batsmen clubbed away. Bowlers meanwhile pushed their bodies to the limit, and even the umpires were capable of raising an index finger to signal that the batsman was out.
Sadly, this is not a reality that can be shared by everybody in the world. This is because yesterday was Global Awareness day for Motor Neurone Disease (MND), a physically debilitating illness that currently has no cure. As its name would suggest, MND affects the nervous system. As time progresses, the electrical signals that continue to be sent from the brain and spinal cord, cease to reach the body’s muscles. The terrifying consequence for sufferers is initially physical weakness, followed by inevitable wasting with the hands and feet often affected first. It is an emotionally draining experience for both those given x months to live, and for their supportive families who understand that that their loved one’s cognitive processes remain largely unchanged. In other words, the active mind is locked inside a failing body.
FACTS ABOUT MND
- Motor Neurone Disease affects up to 5000 people in the UK at any one time.
- There is no specific way of testing for MND. Doctors first have to rule out other diagnoses, before the condition can be identified.
- Similarly there is no specific cause; rather the disease has been linked to an amalgamation of genetic and environmental factors.
- Adults of any age can develop the disease. Most will be over the age of 40, but many sufferers have young families when they learn of their diagnosis.
- Twice as many men as women are affected.
Over the last couple of years, there has been increased support for MND from the cricketing community. The Broad Appeal (who can be found on Twitter @TheBroadAppeal) has been instrumental in this movement. For those of you who don’t follow the game, the Broads are renowned in the sport and have international pedigree. The father, Chris, was a successful opening batsman for Gloucestershire, Nottinghamshire and England. Son, Stuart, plies his trade as a bowler for Notts and England, while daughter Gemma is also involved with the England men’s team as a video performance analyst. Chris lost his beloved second wife to MND, and with his children’s help has used the family’s high profile to raise awareness about the terminal illness for a non-profit organisation.
As part of MND global awareness day, people were invited to take photos holding the “Thumbs Up To Cure MND” sign and making the appropriate gesture. As well as the likes of international star, Ian Bell, supporting the campaign at the 2nd Investec Test Match against Sri Lanka, it is important that recreational cricket shows a similar interest. Nottinghamshire Premier League teams Mansfield Hosiery Mills and Caythorpe were only too willing to support the initiative when the sides met at The Fieldings. The home team have a personal interest in wanting to find a remedy for Motor Neurone Disease, with a key figure of their backroom staff having observed its crushing effects in years gone by. Despite the match being played in a fierce spirit, as competitive sport should be, there was a clear sense of communion when the two captains posed for a shared goal.
On the pitch, Caythorpe bossed the game from the second ball of the innings when Gareth Curtis was sent on his not so merry way by seamer Ben Powell for a duck. Matt New couldn’t post a meaningful score for the Millers and was bowled by the accurate Mat Dowman for 20. Over the last few matches there has been evidence to suggest that Hosiery Mills have a fragile middle order. This was exemplified again as regular wickets fell to leave the hosts reeling on 80-5. However, two senior members of the squad rallied against the Caythorpe bowlers. Tom New was trying not to be handicapped by a thumb broken in three places as he defiantly scored 85 (124). It wasn’t a lone hand either as Keshara Jayasinghe took the game to his opponents by smashing a quick-fire 68*. After Kunal Manek’s maximum off the final ball of the innings, Hosiery Mills had made a good recovery to finish 213-7, and suspected that they had a route back into the contest.
This proved to be wishful thinking though as Caythorpe negotiated the opening overs unscathed, and Martin Dobson even unleashed the occasional thumping boundary shot. With the score on 66, Hosiery Mills finally made the breakthrough as Dobson slashed the blade one time too many, caught at slip for 34. This was of minimal significance though as Steve Allcoat picked up where Dobson left off, smearing the ball through the covers time and again. Rob Townsend eventually accounted for Allcoat when he was awarded an lbw decision, but not before the batsman had notched 43 from just 40 balls. Captain marvel, James Hawley, was the mainstay of the innings, and although he found early conditions testing, closed the innings undefeated on 84.
The Millers secured a solitary bowling point when Dowman fell to Jayasinghe for 22, but James Oldham eased his side to victory alongside Hawley with 16 balls to spare. Defeat for the Millers has cut them well adrift at the bottom of the league table, while Caythorpe can be contented with 116 points from 10 games, as they moved into 5th spot.
Despite the two clubs’ varying fortunes, there was only one real winner for the day, that of raising awareness for MND.