Analysing England’s Change in Batting Fortunes in ODI Cricket

This analysis compares the 17 ODI games since the World Cup exit to the 17 ODI games that preceded it.

Flashback to the March 13th 2015 and England had just been knocked out of the Cricket World Cup by the hosts; Bangladesh. The team were in disarray, the English public were disappointed at another failure and the media pressure for change was ever increasing. After Andrew Strauss was made Director of Cricket, he immediately relieved Peter Moores of his position and made Paul Farbrace temporary coach whilst the search for head coach began.

Farbrace’s first challenge was in the visit of the exciting World Cup finalists New Zealand, led by global superstar, Brendon McCullum. In what can be seen as a key moment in English cricket over the last year on the 1st day of the first test at Lord’s May 21, 2015. England found themselves 30-4 when Ben Stokes joined Joe Root to the crease. He and Root counter-attacked and put on a partnership of 161 in 31.5 overs. England would go onto win that test with Stokes scoring the fastest century by an Englishman at Lord’s. The test series was drawn 1-1 but was played in such great spirit that it started to recapture the public’s imagination for the game.

Go forward to the 9th June 2015 and the ODI series began at Edgbaston, Birmingham, and the England line-up was drastically different from the side that started the World Cup.

The graphic below shows the England line-up vs Australia in the 1st game of the World Cup on the left and vs New Zealand in the 1st ODI on the right:


Out of the England team that started the World Cup, 8 of the 11 were in the test team, whereas the team that started the 1st ODI against NZ, only 4 had played in the test series beforehand. This shows the change of approach England had brought about even before a ball had been bowled; they had shown the bravery to pick specialist limited overs players, not trying to get their test players to adapt to the limited overs format. In fact in the subsequent T20 series, there were only 3 changes made to the ODI team which highlighted this new approach they were undertaking.

In the 1st ODI England smashed 408-9 setting all sorts of records. Significantly 408 was their highest ODI score ever and their first instance of going over 400. Their winning margin of 210 runs was their highest in ODI’s as well. In the following ODI England were set a huge 379 to win off 46 overs, they did fall agonisingly short at 365-9. England would lose the 3rd ODI even though they scored over 300. In the 4th ODI they would go smash their highest ever ODI chase of 350-3 and sneak the final ODI to win the series 3-2. This was a huge turnaround in fortunes to the World Cup and the collective media raved about the style and approach in which England played. After this series Strauss appointed Trevor Bayliss as new head coach.

After winning the Ashes 3-2 in which they were completely written off beforehand, confidence was high against the World Champions Australia. They lost the 1st and 2nd ODI after falling short of chasing over 300 in both matches. This led to thinking the worst, that perhaps the turnaround in form was short-lived. However they won the next 2 ODI’s, scoring 300 and chasing 300 to level the series going into the final ODI, showing a new resilience to the team that had been missing before. In the series decider however it was a step too far for this new inexperienced team and they were bowled out for 138 and thus beaten by 8 wickets.

Time for a new challenge, this time abroad in the UAE, England lost the test series 2-0 disappointingly. However England would win the ODI series 3-1 after losing the 1st game, even scoring 355 in the final ODI with Jos Buttler beating his own record of England’s fastest ever century off 46 balls.

After an incredible Test series win away against the number 1 ranked test team in the world; South Africa, it was no surprise to see England continue their ODI form and amass a huge 399-9 in the first ODI, winning with a little help from Duckworth-Lewis. The 2nd ODI saw them chase 263 comfortably before scoring 318-8 in the 3rd ODI which they lost after 2 brilliant hundreds from De Kock and Amla.

This change of approach and style with these new specialist batsmen brought a big change in results for the ODI team. In the 17 games before Peter Moores departure, including the disappointment of the World Cup, the ODI team won 6/17 matches whereas after the sacking; they have won 10/17, including a series wins against New Zealand and Pakistan while being 2-0 up at one stage against South Africa in the last major series they played before succumbing 3-2.

Comparing Team Changes

During Moores’ reign there was a big criticism too many test players were being used in the ODI team, trying to be converted to one day players whereas more specialist players should have been picked. Let’s look into the career averages of the players used under Moores before being dropped for the following players selected by Bayliss and Farbrace.

Test Players used under Moores & New players brought in


Although Cook and Bell had respectable ODI batting averages, all 3 players have relatively low strike rates, compared to the players brought in. Stokes has quite a low batting average but expect that to rise as he becomes more established as a key player in the team. Roy’s striking the ball at a rate of over 100 which shows he likes to get the team off to a fast start.

The Runs Start Flowing

In the 17 innings played in this new era; England’s average score batting first went from 246 to 302 which is a huge increase demonstrated by their average run-rate improving from 5.21 to 6.27. Remarkably, out of England’s top 10 ODI scores ever, 5 of them have been scored since Farbrace and Bayliss took over with a top score of 408-9. The average score when chasing a target has gone from 191 to 272 with a run-rate increase accelerating from 5.20 to 6.48. There was always a criticism that with the test players in the team such as Bell and Ballance, the side didn’t have enough power to hit and clear the boundary frequent enough. Let’s look at number of boundaries hit batting first and then chasing a score. Batting first before the World Cup exit; the average number of 4’s and 6’s was 19 and 4 respectively, however with the introduction of more dynamic power players, this rose to 27 and 7. Chasing a target the number of 4’s and 6’s hit went from 17 and 2, to 28 and 6.

A Change in Powerplay Hitting

Let’s look into how England have scored their runs over the 3 powerplays that are currently in the 50 over game. Powerplay 1 is from overs 1-10, where only 2 fielders are allowed outside the 30 yard circle, Powerplay 2 is from overs 11 to 40 where 4 fielders are allowed outside and Powerplay 3 is from overs 41-50 and 5 fielders are allowed outside. Below is a comparison of the average, best and worst scores during the batting powerplays; where they find some dramatic differences.


Before the World Cup the top of the batting order wasn’t completely settled at any time, highlighted by the change of captain at the time with Alastair Cook and being replaced by Ian Bell at the top of the order. Since the World Cup the same opening pair (Jason Roy and Alex Hales) have started all 17 matches, interestingly the same pair that open for the T20 team, highlighting the new change in approach in the limited overs format. These 2 have been fairly successful, often scoring at a fast rate at the top of the innings. However comparing the 1st 10 overs before and after the World Cup exit, there is only 2 runs difference batting first, where as there is a 10 run difference when chasing. This could indicate more of a no fear approach when chasing a target down, and trying not to get bogged down by the pressure of the run-rate. What stands out more is the number of wickets lost in the 1st 10 overs. Out of the 17 matches when the likes of Bell and Ali opened, there were 10 instances when more than 1 wicket fell which often led to a period of a consolidation. During the Roy and Hales partnership; there have only been 6 instances of more than one wicket falling inside the 1st overs, enabling the top order to be aggressive in the next period of the game.

The Productive Middle Overs

The most striking difference is between overs 11-40, where England have gone from scoring at a run-rate of 4.67 batting first and 4.3 when chasing to 5.97 and 5.9 since the Moores left. This is a huge difference and is a big reason England have scored 300+ runs in 9 out of 17 innings compared to only 3 out of 17 before. Their play against spin has particularly improved in those middle overs, this is none more evident than in the current series against South Africa where they have attacked Imran Tahir in all 3 games so far resulting in his figures of 2-71 (10), 0-66 (10) and 0-56 (8). The following bar chart compares the average runs scored between overs 11-40 for the top 6 ranked ODI teams since the World Cup finished.


Note: Anytime a team didn’t bat the full amount of overs between 11 and 40, data was not included.

The graph shows just how much England have improved compared to the rest of the world. They have the highest number of runs scored batting first and chasing on average, with the 2nd team being Australia batting first and New Zealand when chasing. This evidence shows just how much England have improved if you compare the chart of the England team in the last 17 games to the 17 England games before and during the World Cup. The data for the England team pre and during the World Cup looks like it fits the trend of the graph of the higher the team is ranked the more runs they score in the middle overs, so this current team is a big anomaly on the graph.

The current ODI team bats all the way to number 10 currently which is a good explanation to why England are scoring a much higher number of runs in the middle and back of the innings. Players such as Jordan, Rashid and Willey are all capable of clearing the ropes and mean England can afford to continue attacking the ball throughout the innings. Before and during the World Cup there was a dependency on Morgan and Buttler to close the innings meaning the team would bat tentatively until the 40th over before they could tee off, a strategy that didn’t work out. Evidence of this is demonstrated by the average score in the last 10 overs going from 56-3 to 70-3 when batting first.

A Positive Attitude Affecting Existing Players

Before a number of changes were made to this England team, existing players were somewhat out of form, particularly captain Eoin Morgan. The graphic below shows for each player that had represented England before; their career batting average and their batting average in the last 17 innings. This should give an idea to whether these players have also stepped up their game as a result of this new approach.


The green represents that the player’s batting average has improved in the last 17 innings whereas the red says their batting average in the last 17 innings has been below their career average. 5 of the 6 player’s averages have improved with only Moeen Ali’s batting suffering, which could be majorly impacted by his switch from opening the batting to batting at number 7 where he is more of a pinch hitter. 3 of the 6 players have batting averages of over 50 which is excellent in the ODI format. These players have taken to the change in approach and their game has excelled as a result.

Conclusion

When Andrew Strauss was appointed as director of Cricket by the ECB he immediately said they would be prioritising limited overs cricket and all the statistics shown in this piece vindicate this. England have become an exciting and dangerous team and although they may only be ranked 6th in the world they are definitely a team on the up, proved by the fact they have won 2 of their last 3 series. The change in personnel such as Coach Trevor Bayliss and captain Eoin Morgan is a major factor, but don’t take away the important job Paul Farbrace has done, the series against New Zealand transformed the team after an awful World Cup exit.

The batting has become a real strength, in the last year they have scored over 400 for the 1st time, chased over 300 3 times, scored 462 4’s and 111 6’s in the 17 innings since the WC. With a solid performance in the recent series against South Africa, England should start the tournament with a lot of confidence.

This in-depth batting analysis reveals just how and where this England team has improved and performed so well.