By: Chinmay Vaidya
Death, taxes and Australian middle-order batsmen. Just when it seems like one is fading, another steps up to take his place. From Mark Waugh, Steve Waugh and Michael Hussey to Michael Clarke, George Bailey and Steven Smith, Australia's middle order is always a force to be reckoned with. At the 2019 World Cup, however, Australia failed to capture its middle order magic in key situations en route to a semifinal exit.
Enter Marnus Labuschagne, Australia's next great middle-order batsman.
At least for the time being. After Labuschagne dispatched Pakistan and New Zealand in a home Test summer which saw him rack up a double hundred, four centuries and three half-centuries, it's hard not to see him as a future stars in limited overs cricket. Add to the fact his desire to master all formats of the game and you've got the makings of a true superstar. But how does Labuschagne's start in Tests compare to recent Aussie greats?
Here's how Labuschagne and four other Australian batsmen fared in their first 14 Test matches, respectively. The batsmen selected have not only demonstrated strong production across multiple formats of the game, but also fit closest to the era of cricket Labuschagne will be entering.
Marnus Labuschagne: 23 innings, 1,459 runs, 4 100s, 8 50s, 63.43 true average, 215 highest score
Ricky Ponting: 22 innings, 889 runs, 2 100s, 5 50s, 40.41 true average, 127 highest score
Michael Clarke: 21 innings, 841 runs, 2 100s, 3 50s, 40.04 true average, 151 highest score
Michael Hussey: 24 innings, 1,554 runs, 5 100s, 8 50s, 64. 75 true average, 182 highest score
Steven Smith: 28 innings, 825 runs, 1 100, 5 50s, 29.46 true average, 138 highest score
Labuschagne and Hussey got off to flying stars in their Test careers while Smith was still slogging as an all-rounder before blossoming as a batting superstar. Ponting and Clarke were strong, but not spectacular. To get a better idea of how reflective these early numbers were of each player's career, let's dive into conversion rates for centuries and half-centuries. Here are the same 5 batsmen's century and half-century combined conversion rates in their first 14 Test matches.
Labuschagne: 52 percent
Ponting: 32 percent
Clarke: 33 percent
Hussey: 54 percent
Smith: 21 percent
Now compare those numbers with their overall Test combined conversion rates.
Ponting: 36 percent
Clarke: 28 percent
Hussey: 35 percent
Smith: 42 percent
Smith has absolutely taken off since his early career while Hussey and Clarke slowed down significantly in making big scores. Ponting stayed relatively consistent over the course of his career. Now let's look at these players' ODI combined conversion rates. Labuschagne hasn't played in an ODI yet, but his Test start can still help us get an idea of how he'll look as a one-day player.
Ponting: 31 percent
Clarke: 30 percent
Hussey: 27 percent
Smith: 30 percent
The average change in combined conversion rate from Tests to ODIs for the four players is 6.75. If we eliminate Smith, who is a somewhat rare case in this scenario, the average change drops to 5. Take out Hussey, a mercurial middle-order player in the limited overs format, and the average change sinks to 3.5. If Smith had played in his current role for his whole career, it's likely his conversion rate would fall somewhere in line with Clarke's and Ponting's in terms of average change.
Labuschagne obviously isn't going to keep up his ridiculous home summer over the long run. The question is whether his game will ultimately translate to the limited overs format and his combined conversion rate will be a good indicator of that. He might be a streaky player like Hussey or a consistent rock like Smith, Clarke and Ponting. Either way, Australia's next middle-order star looks to be here.
By: Chinmay Vaidya, Aneesh Tyle, Aashay Chavan and Paarth Joshi
Big Bash 2019-20 is here with two big twists: an extra team will make the playoffs and the playoff format will reward teams with the best record during the regular season.
In all its previous editions, the Big Bash selected the top four teams for the playoffs. This is no different from the rest of the world's domestic T20 leagues, but there was a catch. In the Big Bash, there were previously no qualifiers or eliminators. It was two semifinals and a final. The top teams in the regular season didn't get multiple shots at the trophy. One bad game and you were gone.
This time, the Big Bash playoff format has been tweaked significantly. For starters, a fifth team will be added to the playoff pool. This has already caused some skepticism, especially since there are only 8 teams in the Bash to begin with. It's very possible a team with a losing record will get a chance to win the whole thing.
With a fifth team in the fold, this means there's an extra elimination game. The first and second place teams from the regular season will play a qualifier with the winner going directly to the final. The fifth place team plays the fourth place team in the first eliminator, which the Bash is calling "The Eliminator". The winner of that game plays the third place team in "The Knock-Out". The winner of "The Knock-Out" plays the loser of the first qualifier in the second qualifier, which the Bash is calling "The Challenger". This is more in line with the world T20 league formats, but with an Australian twist. Here's The Follow On crews' predictions for the 2019-20 Big Bash season.
WHO ARE THE FIVE PLAYOFF TEAMS?
Chinmay Vaidya: Brisbane Heat, Hobart Hurricanes, Melbourne Stars, Perth Scorchers, Melbourne Renegades
Aneesh Tyle: Brisbane Heat, Melbourne Renegades, Melbourne Stars, Perth Scorchers, Sydney Sixers
Aashay Chavan: Sydney Sixers, Melbourne Stars, Melbourne Renegades, Hobart Hurricanes, Brisbane Heat
Paarth Joshi: Adelaide Strikers, Brisbane Heat, Hobart Hurricanes, Melbourne Renegades, Melbourne Stars
WHO IS THE PLAYER OF THE SERIES?
CV: AB de Villiers, Brisbane Heat
AT: AB de Villiers, Brisbane Heat
AC: Alex Carey, Adelaide Strikers
PJ: Alex Carey, Adelaide Strikers
WHO SCORES THE MOST RUNS IN BIG BASH 2019-20?
CV: Ben Dunk, Melbourne Stars
AT: Callum Ferguson, Sydney Thunder
AC: Marnus Labuschagne, Brisbane Heat
PJ: Marnus Labuschagne, Brisbane Heat
WHO TAKES THE MOST WICKETS IN BIG BASH 2019-20?
CV: Jhye Richardson, Perth Scorchers
AT: Rashid Khan, Adelaide Strikers
AC: Sandeep Lamchhane, Melbourne Renegades
PJ: Chris Jordan, Melbourne Stars
WHO WINS BIG BASH 2019-20?
CV: Brisbane Heat
AT: Brisbane Heat
AC: Melbourne Renegades
PJ: Adelaide Strikers
By: Chinmay Vaidya
David Warner was unstoppable.
No matter what Pakistan tried to do, Warner had an answer. He led the Australian run-scoring machine with 335 runs and stayed not out, securing the highest score at Adelaide in a Test match and the second-highest Test score by an Australian batsman in the process. With that triple hundred, Warner inches closer towards the ultimate legacy: a superstar in all three formats of cricket.
Warner has just over 6,900 Test runs, just under 5,000 one-day runs and just over 9,000 T20 runs. He's had to wait his turn in the one-day ranks due to Australia's dominant top orders, but Warner picked up the pace when he got his shot. He's tied for fourth in fastest to 4,000 ODI runs with Virat Kohli, taking 93 innings to reach the milestone. He has 41 international centuries across all formats, tied for 13th of all time. And now, his individual Test milestone allows him to check one more box.
It has been an interesting 24 months for Warner. He was dominating the game as usual before the infamous ball-tampering scandal kept him out of cricket for 12 months. Warner returned for the 2019 IPL and picked up right where he left off, accumulating 692 runs in 12 matches. That was 99 more runs in two less games than KL Rahul, who finished in second place. Warner continued his brilliance at the 2019 World Cup, but Australia failed to defend its title. Then, he had a horrendous Ashes series before returning to home soil and dominating.
As Australia gears up for a huge Test series with New Zealand as part of the World Test Championship, Warner's chase for ultimate greatness comes into focus. He's 33 but looks good to play at least through the 2023 World Cup, a tournament he excels in. Warner put up 345 runs in Australia's 2015 triumph at a ridiculous 120.20 strike rate. He poured in 647 runs in 10 2019 World Cup matches, albeit at a strike rate of 89.36. His three centuries and three half-centuries were big improvements from the 2015 campaign.
Warner is one of 10 players currently holding more than 8,000 T20 runs. Factor in 8,000 one-day runs and that list gets trimmed to four. Add in 8,000 Test runs and AB de Villiers stands alone but Kohli and Warner are close. To be one of only three players to cross the 8k plateau in all formats would be the capper for a player who has already won a World Cup and will likely get two more chances at the T20 World Cup, one more World Cup and a World Test Championship. Ironically, Warner and Kohli's race for these accolades comes at the same time.
To realistically have a shot at crossing 8k runs in the Test and one-day arenas, Warner will have to play through the 2023 World Cup. That'll give him three more seasons and a tournament he historically does well to cross both thresholds.
Warner has 149 Test innings to date with an true average of 46.6 runs per inning. To reach 8,000 Test runs assuming he keeps the same pace, Warner will need just 23 more innings. Throw in some chunk scores and he could cross the milestone even quicker.
In the one-day game, the equation is a bit tougher. Warner arrived late to the party, but still crossed 4,000 runs in 93 innings. He'll likely cross 5,000 the next time he appears in a one-day game in inning No. 115. So how many innings will he need to hit the magic 8k, assuming he hits 5,000 in the next ODI match he plays?
Here's what Warner did to reach 4,000 and 5,000 runs, respectively. Using those scoring rates and factoring in potential decline with age, we can predict if Warner is likely to hit 8,000 one-day runs.
Warner crossing 4,000 runs: 93 innings, 43.01 runs per inning
Warner from 4,000 to 5,000 runs: 115 innings, 45.45 runs per inning
Because Warner arrived late to the one-day party, his production curve isn't exactly typical of someone with these volume milestones. Warner is still scoring at a similar rate despite entering his mid-30s, a good sign for his chase. Still, we should factor in some decline. Let's assume Warner takes roughly 10% more time to reach each of the next milestones. Here's what his inning count would look like and how many runs he would score per inning in each thousand run band.
Warner to reach 6,000 runs: 139 innings, 41.67 runs per inning
Warner to reach 7,000 runs: 165 innings, 38.46 runs per inning
Warner to reach 8,000 runs: 194 innings, 34.48 runs per inning
To hit 194 innings, Warner would have to add 80 attempts to his current tally. A World Cup would take between nine and 11 away from that number in a short span, but that still puts Warner in his late 30s attempting to cross 8k. If he scores at 45.45 runs per inning with zero decline, he'll project to hit 8,000 ODI runs in by inning No. 180.
The 2023 World Cup will be key in Warner's chase. If he can repeat his 2019 performance, that would shave off significant runs from his ultimate chase. He'll hit the Test milestone and his T20 record is already set, but will Warner cement himself as one of the all-time greats across formats with his ODI performance?
By: Chinmay Vaidya
The Hundred has finally arrived.
ECB's long-awaited domestic cricket competition is finally getting up and running. The Hundred will likely replace the Vitality Blast as England's top domestic league and it is taking conventional cricket for a spin.
As you can probably guess, each inning will consist of 100 deliveries instead of the 120 in a typical T20 match. Here's where it gets odd. Each bowler can bowl up to 20 balls in the innings in increments of five or 10 balls at a time. Players will change ends after 10 balls are bowled. This will lead to different strategies and bowler management from your typical T20 match. It'll also likely create some awkward situations initially with players used to an over being six deliveries instead of five or 10.
There were significant conversations on both sides regarding The Hundred, but the player lineup looks outstanding. Aside from the Indian powerhouse names, the rest of the world's stars are set to compete. On a surface level, The Hundred is a cheap innovation of T20 domestic cricket. But this competition was never designed to be just another league.
Differentiation is the key to success when attempting to draw viewers and England has surprisingly struggled to create excitement around cricket, despite the national team's thundering success over the last two years. That could change with the new format. Although the county associations won't stick in this league, people will tune in. The format has intentionally been modified to attract a new audience, not just bring in the old cricket fans.
The Hundred will also allow England's young players to showcase themselves against top international talent, an opportunity they wouldn't have gotten in the IPL, BBL or CPL. This will further help the sport grow in the country with locals coming to cheer on hometown heroes making a name for themselves. There will be at least one player every year fans don't see coming. These domestic leagues can springboard a cricketer to international fame. The Hundred gives England's youngsters that opportunity.
The first Hundred player draft took place Oct. 20 and the eight teams have filled out their roster. There will be changes as players find out their availability, but there is already some shakeup. Chris Gayle and Lasith Malinga, two all-time greats in the shortest format of the game, weren't selected in the initial process. They'll likely find a way to get in as the tournament nears.
The competition will be heavily scrutinized in its initial season and that's good for the sport. People will want to see whether this format is actually fun or just cheap innovation. The Hundred is not conventional cricket by design, but it should attract large viewership and create brilliant moments just the same. Time will tell if the format is here to stay, but the competition has already done its job without a single ball being bowled.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
For 11 matches, Guyana Amazon Warriors were perfect. They had marched through the Caribbean Premier League group stage with an undefeated record and put away the Barbados Tridents in Qualifier 1. The Warriors would face the Tridents in the final in what would be the fourth matchup between the teams this year.
In the previous three matches, Guyana won by an average of 29.6 runs. This included a 12-run D/L win. The Warriors never had to chase down a score against the Tridents until the final match. In fact, Guyana only had to chase down a target four times during the entire season. Of those four chases, only two targets were above 150. Only one was above 160. The Warriors were a good batting unit, but it wasn't their strength. Barbados leveraged this minor advantage in the final.
Imran Tahir, Chris Green and Romario Shepherd were the reason for Guyana's undefeated run. The trio combined for 42 wickets, making them three of the top seven wicket takers in the league. The average economy rate for those three bowlers: 6.69. It was incredibly difficult to score off these bowlers for Guyana's opposition, translating to wickets for the Warriors on a regular basis.
Barbados flipped the script in the final. The Tridents maneuvered their way around Tahir, Green and Shepherd. Barbados averaged 7.72 runs per over for these bowlers across 11 overs, which is slightly better than the rest of the league throughout the competition. It was the rest of Guyana's attack that paid the price for this; Barbados averaged 8.77 runs per over for the other nine overs. Jonathan Carter and Ashley Nurse finished the innings with a bang, setting a tough target of 172 for Guyana. Keep in mind the Warriors hadn't hunted down a target this high during the entire league season. The highest successful chase in CPL final history was 148. The pressure was truly on.
Guyana's undefeated season would be the first across the four established T20 leagues in the world (IPL, BBL PSL and CPL). The Melbourne Stars went 8-0 in the league stage of the 2013-14 Big Bash League, but promptly flamed out in the semifinal against Hobart. This would truly be a historic moment for Guyana.
Barbados beat Guyana at its own game with a superb bowling performance from Matt Gurney, Ashley Nurse and Raymon Reifer. The trio combined for eight wickets in 12 overs, yielding only 65 runs. Tahir, Green and Shepherd were outdone by Barbados' attack. Brandon King put on a valiant fight with 43 from 33 but once he got out, things looked bleak for Guyana.
The CPL 2019 final showed how truly difficult perfection is in T20 leagues. When the sport gets condensed to 20 overs instead of 50, it puts teams on a more level playing field. A player can impact the match so heavily once you shorten the game. For some teams, it gives them less of a window to mess up. For others, it gives them less time to assert their dominance. The fact that Guyana was one win away from perfection shouldn't be overlooked.
The Warriors were the best team in CPL 2019; they just weren't the best team in the game that mattered most. This is what draws fans to domestic T20 leagues and sports in general. At the end of the day, you have to win the match that matters. Barbados did, and prevented history for at least one more season.