|With the BPL and PSL T20 leagues both having drafts in the near future, and the UAE T20x also taking place over the English winter, now seems a good time to discuss the viability of franchises recruiting English batsmen for their squads.
I’ve mentioned previously – on numerous occasions – that the T20 Blast is an extremely high-scoring league, with there being a number of factors as to why this is likely to be the case. The table below illustrates the scoring data throughout recent years in the major T20 leagues around the world:-
Here we can see that the T20 Blast, with the exception of 2016 (when it was second) has had the highest batting strike rate of any major T20 league in the world. As the two metrics go hand in hand, it follows that it also has similar high bowling economy figures.
Conversely, the BPL and PSL have the two lowest scoring rates, although we can see that in 2017, the BPL figure rose markedly – possibly due to the tournament having higher quality overseas batsmen than in previous years. The PSL, on the other hand, does not have increasing batting strike rates and stands as the lowest scoring major T20 league in the world.
Given the discrepancies in the tournaments – at least in some part due to differing conditions – it would be a huge mistake for subcontinent franchises to expect English batsmen to be able to replicate their T20 Blast numbers.
This difficulty has, for the most part, been the case in recent years. I assessed the player data for the 19 English-qualified batsmen and batting all-rounders from both the 2016/17 and 2017/18 BPL & PSL events, and then compared this to the T20 Blast data for these players from 2016-2018:-
Here we can see that the two most used metrics – batting average and batting strike rate have wildly different levels of success. The 19 batsmen accumulated strong averages and strike rates in the Blast, but considerably worse numbers in the BPL and PSL. In fact, these combined average/strike rate figures are worse than the average overseas batting numbers (which also include overseas bowlers!) in both the 2018 PSL (24.76 average, 124.68 strike rate) and the 2017 BPL (25.91 average, 131.97 strike rate). So, when combined as a group, these English batsmen went from being above-average T20 Blast batsmen, to below-average BPL/PSL overseas batsmen – aptly indicating the danger of assuming T20 Blast players can replicate their numbers in spin-heavy subcontinent T20 franchise leagues.
A major contributory factor to this lower strike rate in the BPL/PSL was a lower boundary percentage, but what is also worth noting is that these English players had a much lower non-boundary strike rate as well, indicating a higher dot-ball percentage – not only are these English batsmen scoring less boundaries, they are also scoring from less deliveries as well. This factor, in conjunction with a low boundary percentage, is going to have that dramatic negative impact on that batting strike rate for the 19 players.
Indeed, of these 19 players, only Dawid Malan, Jason Roy, Joe Denly, Kevin Pietersen and, from small samples, Alex Hales and Sam Billings, were able to come at least close to replicating their Blast figures in the BPL and PSL. There were a number of players who failed to particularly thrive, across various areas, including the following:-
Eoin Morgan – 8 innings, 164 runs, 160 balls faced, 13.13% boundaries.
Jos Buttler – 12 innings, 225 runs, 204 balls faced, 11.27% boundaries.
Luke Wright – 7 innings, 147 runs, 127 balls faced, 14.17% boundaries.
Riki Wessels – 12 innings, 265 runs, 239 balls faced, 14.23% boundaries.
Ravi Bopara – 26 innings, 642 runs, 594 balls faced, 10.10% boundaries.
Of these five batsmen, only Buttler (although not in these innings) has a particularly decent T20 strike-rate against spin bowling in recent years, and this may give us a huge clue into a major skill-set required for success in these subcontinent T20 franchise leagues. This logical assumption holds even more weight when we look at the English-qualified players mentioned above who did reasonably well in these subcontinent T20 leagues, with all six having at least around an average strike rate against spin bowling in recent years, across the major T20 leagues around the world.
Given this, and the fact that these two leagues traditionally boast spin overs slightly in excess of 40%, making them the most spin-heavy in the world (along with the CPL), I think it’s extremely reasonable to assume that at least an average strike rate against spin bowling is a pre-requisite for overseas batsman success in the BPL and PSL. Any failure of BPL & PSL franchises to take this into account looks like being a gross strategic error – particularly as it is almost mandatory for franchises to have strong performing overseas batsmen, given that many domestic batsmen record below-average numbers.
Despite such evidence, many franchises in spin-heavy leagues (again, including the CPL) have failed to take this into account, and regularly recruit batsmen – and in some cases, the same high-profile batsmen who have failed on numerous previous occasions in similar conditions – who have issues scoring at an above-average pace against spin bowling.
In my upcoming T20 strategy book, I devote an entire chapter to discussing the reasons why this is likely to be the case, but one of the most prevalent reasons is surely a lack of research and understanding into the skill-sets of potential signings. Certainly, any agents who have players with a high strike rate against spin as clients should be shouting this from the rooftops – circulating this information to franchises, as part of a dossier that we can provide, would be likely to give them a huge competitive advantage over their rivals.
Having discussed the statistical evidence which shows that – in general – English batsmen fail to thrive in the spin-heavy BPL & PSL, it seems worth trying to ascertain the English batsmen who do look more likely to be able to succeed in these leagues. I decided to use the following filters on my databases in an attempt to establish a list of the players most likely to succeed:-
1) Minimum 125 Strike Rate against spin in major T20 leagues, 2015-16 Big Bash onwards.
2) Minimum 24.76 Expected Batting Average for the PSL (this figure was the overseas batsman average in PSL 2018), based on the Sports Analytics Advantage algorithm.
3) Minimum 124.68 Expected Batting Strike Rate for the PSL (this figure was the overseas batsman SR in PSL 2018), based on the Sports Analytics Advantage algorithm.
4) Not likely to be in both of the English Test/ODI squads, as England’s Test Tour clashes with the BPL, and England’s T20/ODI Tour clashes with the PSL.
In order to get a comprehensive list of players, I gave a little leeway to the batting average/strike rate requirements. If one was slightly below the other, but the other was considerably higher than the mean figures, then I didn’t disregard the player – assuming their spin strike rate was also above the required 125 runs per 100 balls. The ten English batsmen who fitted these requirements are listed below, sorted by expected PSL batting average:-
Ian Bell (Age 36).
Expected PSL Batting Average: 30.45
Expected PSL Batting Strike Rate: 119.15
Major T20 League Boundary % (2016+): 16.34
Major T20 League % Runs as Boundaries (2016+): 55.19
Major T20 League Non-Boundary Strike Rate (2016+): 69.99
Major T20 League Strike Rate vs Spin: 126.2
Major T20 League Strike Rate vs Pace: 134.3
The 36 year old former England batsman Ian Bell has enjoyed an extremely productive season with Warwickshire/Birmingham, and after a mediocre 2017, he bounced back this year to dispel any current doubts about age-related decline.
Looking at Bell’s scoring data, his percentage of boundary runs is quite low, and I’d expect his boundary figures to fall slightly in either the BPL or PSL. However, he looks pretty decent at rotating the strike, with a strong non-boundary strike rate at around 70.
In summary, Bell’s performances are probably likely to fall more into the solid rather than spectacular bracket, but that’s fine for a franchise in a low-scoring league who need a quality top-order overseas batsman who can bat 30 (25) type innings around more attacking players.
Joe Denly (Age 32).
Expected PSL Batting Average: 30.23
Expected PSL Batting Strike Rate: 126.30
Major T20 League Boundary % (2016+): 18.54
Major T20 League % Runs as Boundaries (2016+): 62.49
Major T20 League Non-Boundary Strike Rate (2016+): 61.96
Major T20 League Strike Rate vs Spin: 131.4
Major T20 League Strike Rate vs Pace: 136.0
The potential of Denly to be a viable PSL signing will largely depend on England’s requirements, with the Kent batsman being called up to the national Test squad for their upcoming tour, and also being a late replacement for Liam Dawson into the ODI squad. He’s also been retained by the Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash, which clashes with the BPL.
However, if he does have availability, PSL teams will have a top-order batsman who has a proven track record in subcontinent T20 franchise leagues, and in addition, is a useful spin-bowling option – as evidenced by his superb record for Kent this year, also arguably in conditions which will assist him less than in the subcontinent.
Denly’s boundary hitting is solid, as is his non-boundary strike rate, in addition to decent numbers against both pace and spin bowling. Statistically, he looks to be able to do everything well, and with his bowling adding further value, should be a highly desired potential PSL signing.
Dawid Malan (Age 31).
Expected PSL Batting Average: 28.49
Expected PSL Batting Strike Rate: 130.67
Major T20 League Boundary % (2016+): 18.23
Major T20 League % Runs as Boundaries (2016+): 63.35
Major T20 League Non-Boundary Strike Rate (2016+): 58.91
Major T20 League Strike Rate vs Spin: 126.4
Major T20 League Strike Rate vs Pace: 135.7
Currently jettisoned from the England set-up, Malan has similar T20 batting data to Denly, and also offers an occasional spin option with the ball. Similarly to Denly, Malan has performed well in the subcontinent also before in T20 leagues, and would offer BPL and PSL franchises a viable option in the top order, barring a change of fortune for England selection.
Wayne Madsen (Age 34).
Expected PSL Batting Average: 28.35
Expected PSL Batting Strike Rate: 127.70
Major T20 League Boundary % (2016+): 18.39
Major T20 League % Runs as Boundaries (2016+): 56.17
Major T20 League Non-Boundary Strike Rate (2016+): 76.21
Major T20 League Strike Rate vs Spin: 149.5
Major T20 League Strike Rate vs Pace: 136.9
Although there are several names on this recommended list that may not be anticipated by some readers, Madsen is probably the ‘Moneyball’ pick of these ten players. The 34 year old has been a consistently strong player for Derbyshire across all formats for a number of years, and is arguably unlucky not to have a higher profile in the sport.
We can see that Madsen’s expected PSL average and strike rate is similar to both Denly and Malan’s, and when looking at his scoring data, we can see that he boasts a strong, although non-elite boundary percentage, in conjunction with a very high non-boundary strike-rate – Madsen wastes a low percentage of deliveries faced, indicating that he’s highly adept at keeping the scoreboard ticking.
When looking at Madsen’s strike rates, he has shown a slight bias towards scoring quicker against spin bowling, although his pace strike rate is decent enough too – a talent which should see him perform well in franchise T20 tournaments in the subcontinent.
Daniel Bell-Drummond (Age 25).
Expected PSL Batting Average: 28.05
Expected PSL Batting Strike Rate: 123.84
Major T20 League Boundary % (2016+): 17.99
Major T20 League % Runs as Boundaries (2016+): 54.41
Major T20 League Non-Boundary Strike Rate (2016+): 78.77
Major T20 League Strike Rate vs Spin: 126.6
Major T20 League Strike Rate vs Pace: 147.7
Despite a poor red-ball season for Kent, Daniel Bell-Drummond performed well against the white ball again this year. It’s probably wise not to place too much weight on a solitary innings last season in the BPL for the misfiring Rajshahi Kings – bowled by Junaid Khan for a two-ball duck – and a bigger sample size should see him be a decent performer in subcontinental conditions.
Rather like Ian Bell, Daniel Bell-Drummond’s data puts him more in the solid bracket, with a decent but non-elite boundary percentage, but a very high non-boundary strike-rate, which shows he is very adept at rotating the strike. HIs expected PSL strike rate is similar to the mean figure for overseas batsmen, but his batting average is pretty strong.
Bell-Drummond’s strike rate figures show bias towards pace bowling, so it makes sense to use him as an opener, although he should be relatively competent as the overs progress and spinners become more likely to be bowling.
Alex Hales (Age 29).
Expected PSL Batting Average: 26.52
Expected PSL Batting Strike Rate: 143.42
Major T20 League Boundary % (2016+): 27.19
Major T20 League % Runs as Boundaries (2016+): 74.21
Major T20 League Non-Boundary Strike Rate (2016+): 57.11
Major T20 League Strike Rate vs Spin: 143.4
Major T20 League Strike Rate vs Pace: 170.8
Alex Hales will be likely to be required by England for their ODI squad, but is very unlikely to be considered for their Test squad, and has a decent track record in spin-heavy T20 franchise leagues, albeit from a fairly small sample.
A look at Hales’ data shows that he has above-average expected PSL numbers for both batting average and strike rate, and a world-class boundary percentage. He scores a huge percentage of his runs via boundaries (almost 75%) and his non-boundary strike rate is unspectacular, at a touch above 57. In short, he’s an elite boundary hitter but not the best rotator of strike.
However, this works fine in reality, contributing to a strong expected strike rate, and a magnificent strike rate against pace bowling in particular, although his spin strike rate is certainly decent enough. Another player who – as might be expected – should be used as an opener.
Jason Roy (Age 28)
Expected PSL Batting Average: 26.17
Expected PSL Batting Strike Rate: 141.5
Major T20 League Boundary % (2016+): 23.80
Major T20 League % Runs as Boundaries (2016+): 70.07
Major T20 League Non-Boundary Strike Rate (2016+): 60.05
Major T20 League Strike Rate vs Spin: 128.6
Major T20 League Strike Rate vs Pace: 162.6
As with his sometime opening partner for England, Hales, Jason Roy will be likely to be required by England for their ODI squad for upcoming tours – but again is unlikely to be under Test squad consideration.
From a small sample, he looks very capable in spin-heavy subcontinent T20 leagues, able to maintain a decent strike rate and boundary percentage, and his overall data shows him to be similar to Hales, with a slightly lower boundary percentage, but marginally higher non-spin strike rate.
Roy also looks to have a bigger bias towards pace bowling, so again – as is expected – should be used as an opening batsman.
Liam Livingstone (Age 25)
Expected PSL Batting Average: 23.66
Expected PSL Batting Strike Rate: 134.39
Major T20 League Boundary % (2016+): 20.74
Major T20 League % Runs as Boundaries (2016+): 64.62
Major T20 League Non-Boundary Strike Rate (2016+): 68.51
Major T20 League Strike Rate vs Spin: 145.7
Major T20 League Strike Rate vs Pace: 160.3
Over a year on from his two England T20 international caps, Livingstone has improved his T20 data to be in contention for overseas franchise consideration. At the time of his international call-up, I didn’t think Livingstone was ready, but following a productive 2018 Blast campaign, as well as leadership experience, captaining Lancashire to a semi-final finish, I have more confidence that he can be a real asset for T20 teams.
A look at Livingstone’s batting data shows he’s very competent indeed against both pace and spin bowling, in conjunction with an excellent boundary percentage and strong non-boundary strike rate – he looks an excellent all-rounder.
Livingstone also adds a useful occasional spin option and could be an excellent, but relatively lower-profile, acquisition by a BPL or PSL franchise.
Adam Lyth (Age 31)
Expected PSL Batting Average: 23.29
Expected PSL Batting Strike Rate: 136.43
Major T20 League Boundary % (2016+): 23.29
Major T20 League % Runs as Boundaries (2016+): 68.21
Major T20 League Non-Boundary Strike Rate (2016+): 64.77
Major T20 League Strike Rate vs Spin: 131.4
Major T20 League Strike Rate vs Pace: 169.5
Adam Lyth had a tough time in last year’s BPL, being dismissed cheaply three times in three matches, but I’m not convinced that this small data sample is representative of his talents.
Indeed, Lyth has impressed regularly for Yorkshire as an opener in recent years in the T20 Blast, and fared reasonably well in the Abu Dhabi T20 event as well, scoring 32(20) and 21(13) – it’s definitely important not to judge a player on small samples of data, which can be hugely prone to extreme variance.
Looking at Lyth’s scoring data, it does show a huge bias towards pace bowling, although his spin strike rate is reasonable enough, so again, is another player on the list who should be used as an opener. His boundary percentage is elite, at just over 23%, and this contributes to a high expected PSL strike rate, although his expected PSL average is a little below the mean figure for an overseas PSL batsman. I’d anticipate Lyth to be a little less solid – a 30(25) type innings is not particularly likely – than some on the list, but if he gets in, has the potential to be a real match-winner.
Joe Clarke (Age 22)
Expected PSL Batting Average: 20.34
Expected PSL Batting Strike Rate: 153.29
Major T20 League Boundary % (2016+): 23.10
Major T20 League % Runs as Boundaries (2016+): 67.93
Major T20 League Non-Boundary Strike Rate (2016+): 63.64
Major T20 League Strike Rate vs Spin: 143.8
Major T20 League Strike Rate vs Pace: 156.4
A title-winner in the recent T20 Blast in England, Joe Clarke looks like a player of extremely high potential – not to mention very decent current ability.
While his expected PSL batting average isn’t great, at a shade over 20, he looks likely to accumulate his runs extremely quickly – an expected PSL strike rate of over 150 is very rare indeed. Unsurprisingly, Clarke’s boundary percentage is very high, at around 23%, and he has excellent strike rates against both pace and spin bowling. Rather like Lyth, may not be the most solid, but when he comes off, has the potential to play a rapid innings which can win, or change, matches.
In addition, Clarke can also keep wicket, which provides a team who recruits him further options in their team composition – having a top-order batsman who can keep wicket enables teams to pick an extra all-rounder, batsman or bowler, as opposed to having a wicket-keeper hidden down the batting order.