Two-faced Australia
Russell Degnan

Following on from my comments on Australia's propensity to collapse in the last ratings, TonyT notes that it has become so obvious that even the selectors have pointed it out. Following Tony's lead, I'll also restate what I said a year ago:

"Ponting is proud, so surrendering the number three slot is against his nature, but the number of collapses in the past year has been alarming."

Why are others so slow on the uptake? Why is it only now that people are noticing that no less that with the exception of the openers, the top six are unreliable, with Haddin, Clarke and North, in particular prone to making runs only off the sturdiest of platforms. Partly, it is because averages hide those fallibilities. All of the batsmen average around 40 to 50 over the past two years, which is reasonable enough. The sides average total is solid enough and no worse than most others. The problem lies in the distribution.

The graph above shows the score distribution for each of the nine test teams [1]. A comparison with England is most pertinent. England have what you'd expect a side to have: a roughly normal distribution of scores, centred around 330, with most of their scores roughly 150 runs on either side of this. Australia however, while at or near the top in scoring between 400 and 700, are near the bottom for scores between 250 and 350, and in the midst of the cellar dwellers for scores below 200.

The pronounced double peak indicates a batting lineup incapable of playing sensible innings in poor conditions - a problem shared by New Zealand and Pakistan. The top peak produces batting averages that hide a soft middle order. One that will turn a poor session into a disastrous one, and is subsequently incapable of winning series against good sides who don't have those bad sessions, and who can merely wait for the opportunity they'll invariably be presented with.

Australia's batting, in other words, is in serious trouble.

Update: Much of the above is wrong, or partly wrong, because of the distribution of very large scores. The graph below shows things a little better, and it isn't any prettier for Australia. [2]

Note that Australia have the worst record of any major (top 5) side for making between 170 and 290 (the collapse problem), but are getting to 400 at roughly the same rate as everyone (and well in front of England who don't make a lot of scores over 300). What is more noticeable in this graph is that Australia is failing to make very large scores (500-600) at the same rate as the other sides in the top-4. This is a consequence of having a lineup seemingly incapable of very large centuries, but it makes it doubly hard to rescue a game from a sub-300 first innings total.

[1] Each score has been converted to a normal distribution centred on that score, summed, then expressed as a percentage. Uncompleted innings have been projected forward.

[2] This shows a cumulative distribution, essentially the percentage (x8) of times a side is bowled out for less than that score.

Cricket - Analysis 11th January, 2010 23:12:39   [#] 


Two-faced Australia
This is excellent. I think most fans have watched with alarm the last 2 years of poor batting.

Talking about the inability to score big tons, Michael Clarke's biggest score remains his debut test match, which says a great deal about the development in his powers of concentration.
Lou  13th January, 2010 08:49:04  

Two-faced Australia
Lou, yes. I've tried to run some statistics on how well players do in different situations, but it is very difficult to see anything in such noisy data. Probably worth having another shot at it given the recent problem with collapses.
Russ  14th January, 2010 20:41:30