Shackles and Windows

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that long stands at the crease in Tests lead to victories, while similarily long stands in First Class, four day, cricket, lead to draws.

Like most of my stats, I was shooting from the hip, so I decided to test out my theory.

Now, of course, English County Championship stats are not entirely easy to come by. Plus, there is just so…much…data. It would be impossible to go through them all. (Wally Hammond had 36 double centuries for Gloucestershire all by himself, to give you an idea of the mountain of data I would be staring at.)

Furthermore, not all first class domestic matches were four days long. There are have been many tournaments, in Australia particularly, where domestic first class cricket matches were five day matches or even timeless. (Not so much anymore though.)

And, finally, Cricinfo counts Test matches as First Class matches, so the data is not just massive, but also, in a way, tainted.

And so I decided to take a smaller sample size: the 10 highest scores in the 2012 County Championship season compared to the 10 highest scores in Test cricket during the 2012 calendar year.

In the County Championship, there was KP’s 234* for Surrey; Nick Compton’s 204 for Somerset; Riki Wessels’ 199 for Nottinghamshire; and so on.

Of those 10 scores, eight of the matches they took place ended in draws, while only two ended in victory for the batsman’s side (there were no losses for the batsman’s team.)

The 10 highest scores took place in nine different matches: there was one duplicate: Michael Lumb’s 171 and James Taylor’s 163 both took place against Sussex in July at Trent Bridge.

But the fact remains: of the ten highest scores from last County Championship season, eight of them happened in matches that ended in draws.

*

In Test cricket, the opposite was true.

Of the 10 highest Test scores during the 2012 calendar year, only two of the matches they took place in ended in draws, while EIGHT ended in victories for the batsman’s side.

*

Again, it’s a small sample size, admittedly, but still it goes to show that Test cricket’s one extra day rewards batsmen for stretching their legs a bit, while four day cricket does not.

Of course, it has always been this way in England, so I do not think it can be used as an example of how County Cricket should change to better feed the International squad in the same way the 40 over game was moved to 50 overs for next season, for instance, but I do think it is an interesting tidbit on the four game day’s affect on its longer cousin.

Batting in tight spaces requires far more discipline than when batting unfettered. So in the end, it might be a good thing. Like when you ride with studded tires on your bicycle all winter and then when take them off in the spring you are stronger, faster, and fitter because of having to ride with a handicap for six months.

Also, again, small sample size, but I think the data proves me right too.

*

In my research, I came across a couple fun exceptions to the above rule.

Somerset vs Worcestershire in 1988. A four day match at Taunton. Worcestershire won the toss and decided to have a bat. And bat they did. 189.5 overs later, they had piled up a veritable shedload of runs. 628 to be exact. Their score included two ducks, a seven, and a massive quadruple century from Graeme Hick: 405 runs, 555 minutes, 469 balls.

They then bowled out Somerset for 222, enforced the follow-on, and bowled them out again for 192; winning the match just after tea on the fourth day by an innings and 214 runs.

Hick played County Cricket for 25 years; retiring just three years ago. He is the most prolific run scorer in all of cricket: over 64,000 in all formats and in all competitions.

*

Somerset vs Lancashire in 1895. A three day match also at Taunton. Lancashire chose to bat, and did so for 222 overs amassing an incredible 801 runs including a 424 from Archie MacLaren. They bowled out their hosts late on the second day, and then bowled them out again on day three a few overs before the close of play.

MacLaren’s Wisden obituary is worth every minute of your time. And I am glad to see his 424 runs were not in vain.

*

Ah, cricket. So many interesting characters, so many interesting matches. These posts are by far the most fun for me to write because they teach me so much about the game’s history. While I enjoy stats as much as the next cricket fan, it’s the tidbits such as the above two matches that keep me coming back. Stats are a door to a bigger world, not the world itself, in other words.

Or not a door, more of a window. Stats are a window to cricket’s past. And there ya go.

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