Part 1 of 3 in a series reflecting on WBBL08 by guest writer Andy Frombolton
The average 1st innings score in this year’s WBBL (in complete games) was 145, up slightly on 2021 (137).
Teams posting 144 or more in the first innings won 22/29 times whilst teams scoring 160 or more won 14/16. But the distribution of above-par 1st innings scores was highly skewed – only 3 teams managed it more than twice: Heat (7 wins from 8); Sixers (6 wins from 7); and, Hurricane (3 wins from 5). In contrast champions Adelade Strikers never posted more than 147 but defended 4 scores in the range 140-147 (twice against the Sixers) and their highest score in 6 successful chases was only 156.
The most obvious conclusion is that it’s bowling units which win games, not batters. Nevertheless batters are the focus of this first article.
There were 24 first innings scores of 150 or more (compared to 17 last season) but more interesting is who’s scoring the bulk of these runs. Intuitively you might imagine it would be the players with international experience – and this certainly used to be the case.
|YEAR||NUMBER OF FORMER AND CURRENT* INTERNATIONAL PLAYERS IN TOP 25 RUN SCORERS (*as of the relevant season)|
Slowly, uncapped players are being given, and are seizing, their opportunities. Disappointingly however this cohort (extensively coached in power hitting and 360 degree shot making) isn’t having the impact on run rates which might have been expected.
Top 25 run scorers WBBL 2022
(Orange – Australian former and current Internationals. Blue – former and current Overseas Internationals)
With the exception of Laura Harris, the uncapped batters are scoring their runs at about the same rate as the international players they’re incrementally displacing.
|YEAR||TOP 20 RUN SCORERS||20 NEXT MOST RUNS||REST|
Most teams pack their top order with dependable batters who can be relied upon to get their team to the sort of total which will win most games (144 this year, as noted earlier).
But 144 only requires a collective SR of around 112 (assuming 10 extras per innings).
So, if you’re a former international or a fringe player seeking to secure a WBBL or Hundred contract why take risks trying to score more quickly – even against weaker bowling attacks – when a pedestrian 112 will be seen as a good innings? With this attitude team scores aren’t going to grow.
In their defence, the top order could cite some statistics which seemingly justify their cautious approach:
|Bat||Result||% runs (off the bat) scored by batters 1-4|
This seems to suggest that the team won’t win unless the top order scores the bulk of the runs. But a lot of these victories batting second were in pursuit of low scores and hence inflate the average contribution of the top order. Watching teams slowly overhaul below-par scores was a scenario seen far too often this tournament.
More relevant then is to see how the top batters cope when presented with a more challenging target. If you take the average of a team’s 3 highest first innings scores as an indicator of what they’re capable of when they play well (‘batting potential’, ‘BP’) there were only 11 occasions (in full length games) when teams exceeded their BP batting second and only 4 times did this result in a victory.
The conclusion is that most teams simply don’t know how to chase anything above an average score – primarily because their top order is full of established players playing ‘old fashioned’ cricket. Powerplays are squandered and acceleration is too slow; leaving the middle/lower order batters too much to do if the top order fail.
Comparisons to men’s cricket aren’t usually helpful, but sometimes they can serve to shine a light on issues. Looking at 2021 Blast data, the average SR for the top 4 run scorers in each team was 141, 128 for the next 4 and 113 for the rest. This raises two questions: Firstly, why aren’t the best women batters able to achieve SRs more akin to the best men batters (Mandhana and Wyatt dispel any argument that physical size is the primary explanation) and, secondly, why are the tails so long? If batters 6 onwards can barely strike at 100, then it’s little wonder than the top order batters in most teams play so cautiously (knowing that if they fail, their teams have little chance of success).
Let’s look at this year’s (4 over) Powerplays. The average PP (both innings) was 24; equivalent to a SR100 (with only 2 fielders out). That’s not good enough.
Consider 6 hitting. There were 235 6s hit in this year’s competition but just 13 batters accounted for half of them. 46 batters didn’t hit a single 6 (including 4 of the top 25 run scorers) whilst a further 16 hit just 1 (including another 3 of the top 25 runs scorers). This means that 7 of the top 25 most prolific run scorers can’t clear the ropes. Perhaps they don’t take the aerial route? Well, 8 of the 25 (including 5 internationals) score less than 50% of their runs in boundaries – which is the average for the top 85 batters!
Why is this important? Because boundaries win games. In comparison the number of singles has barely any impact. (The same hold true in the men’s game.) The one exception was the Sixer’s (record) 66 singles to beat Hurricanes despite scoring 5 fewer boundaries. Next best (65) helped propel Stars to an truly-underwhelming 114 against the same opposition!
In this year’s WBBL, 42 of the 52 full length games were won by the team which equalled or hit more boundaries than the opposition. (Regarding the other 10 games, in 4 of these the winning team only hit 1 less boundary.)
The players who can hit boundaries are coming in too late, with too much to do.
Kudos then to the handful of players in the top 25 run scorers with a SR>120 and a boundary % greater than 55%.
The stand out names? Harris, Gardner and Perry; because they bat down the order after the top order have chewed up lots of balls (scoring slowly).
Looking outside the top 25 runs scorers provides a vision of a different future. There were 6 other batters with more than 75 runs and a SR above 120:
|PLAYER||SR||Boundary %||Av BF per innings|
How then to hit bigger scores? The starting point has to be to differentiate between scoring rates which are capped by a player’s skill levels and those which derive from the position they bat (top 4 dependency).
The (few) international top order batters who can take advantage of the powerplay must open, but partnered by players with defined roles to take on the bowlers and the limit on out fielders. ‘Success’ has to be to be measured in terms of SR, not average. Imagine the team willing to open with batters like Laura Harris (batting for 4 overs with field restrictions instead of just 2 during the ‘Surge’), Flintoff or Ecclestone with complete freedom from ball 1. Some games it will come off and most it won’t. When it does the team score will surge above the 145 and the team will probably win. In those games a team’s experienced International players will come in later – but with a different role (akin to that which Kapp and Jonassen perform). And when your hard hitters fail, they won’t have wasted many balls and the more traditional players can rebuild and aim for a defendable 140.