WBBL: How Many Points Do You Need To Qualify?

There’s been a bit of talk over on Facebook (or should I say “Meta”?) about how many points you need to qualify for the knockout stages in WBBL.

15 seems to be the consensus, and it is a pretty good rule of thumb – historically no one with 15 points has yet failed to qualify; and 14 isn’t usually enough, though two teams (or rather, one team twice – Scorchers in 2015/16 and 2020/21) have qualified with 14 points.

That said, at the time of writing, it is still mathematically possible for the Hurricanes (currently 7th, on 7 points) to qualify outright on 13 points, without rained-off games or Net Run Rate, if they win their 3 remaining games and other results go their way.

The following sequence of results – WWWwwWWWWwWWwW – where “W” is a home win, and “w” is an away win (fixtures in date order) gives this final table:

Team Points
1. Heat 21
2. Scorchers 20
3. Renegades 18
4. Hurricanes 13
5. Strikers 11
6. Sixers 11
7. Stars 10
8. Thunder 8

Furthermore, 15 points isn’t a “hard” qualify either – it is mathematically possible to get as many as 20 points and still not qualify! How? Well… I’m glad you asked!

Here’s an example end-of-season table, with 5 teams level on 20 points – so one will fail to qualify on Net Run Rate.

Team Played Won Points
1. Heat 14 10 20
2. Hurricanes 14 10 20
3. Renegades 14 10 20
4. Scorchers 14 10 20
5. Sixers 14 10 20
6. Stars 14 4 8
7. Strikers 14 1 2
8. Thunder 14 1 2

(This is just an example – no shade on anyone – the teams are in alphabetical order!)

What’s happened?

The bottom two teams – Strikers and Thunder – have won the home matches between them, and lost every other game, so have one win each.

Stars have beaten Strikers and Thunder twice each, but lost every other game, so have four wins.

Everyone else has beaten Strikers, Thunder and Stars twice (so a “base” of six wins) and then has won all their home games versus each other, giving them an additional four wins, to take them all to 20 points.

Of course, this is unlikely – the odds on the exact scenario described above are 523,347,633,027,360,537,213,511,521 (523 septillion) to 1 against, though there are other scenarios which effectively produce the same outcome – e.g. everyone in the top 5 winning their away matches against each other – that alone halves the odds to… er… 261 septillion to 1 against!

But what you need to remember is that every situation is unlikely. The situation we end this season on will also have been 523 septillion to 1 against.

So to return to the Hurricanes for a moment, the chances of them qualifying on 13 points are currently in the range of about 250 thousand to 1 against… but whatever way the table ends, the chances of that were massively against that too… and yet it still happened.

It may be mind-blowing but that’s mathematics, and as Tom Lehrer once said… try as you may, you just can’t get away from mathematics!

OPINION: A Vision For Women’s County Cricket

By A Roving Reporter

In men’s cricket, success at U19 level is no guarantee of subsequent success at county, franchise or national level, yet under the current structure any female player who hasn’t secured a place in a regional squad by their early twenties (or even their late teens) will have little realistic prospect of subsequently playing at the highest level.

This is not to detract from the tremendous progress of recent years, whereby a cohort of professional players, fringe squad players and Regional Development Centre (RDC) Academy players enjoy unprecedented support, great coaching and plenty of high quality match practice. Nor is this to suggest that those players don’t deserve their success.

However, what’s also been created is a self-fulfilling cycle whereby future stars will be drawn from a pool whose membership is decided at a incredibly early stage in most player’s development; ruling out the late developers, the players whose skills weren’t spotted, those who prioritised their academic studies during their teens, individuals whose parents couldn’t afford the time or money to get their child to training, the players who took longer to understand their game or didn’t seize their early opportunities, the players who responded to their coach’s plea to play ‘bold cricket’ and failed, only to see their more cautious colleagues rewarded. (Every cricketer understands that numerous failures underpin the experience to know how and when to play risky shots. Would a new Tammy Beaumont or Danni Wyatt be supported through several seasons of modest results over less exciting, but dependable players?) 

What, too, are the prospects for what will become a rapidly-expanding group of talented RDC Academy players who find themselves unable to secure professional contracts in competition with the incumbent beneficiaries of early contracts (who may aspire to 5, or perhaps 10, year careers)? What of franchise players who enjoy brief success but then find themselves released?

For all these players their future is club cricket with little coaching, no backroom support and mixed ability training and matches. And even if they perform well, who in the professional set-up will pay attention to their stats or watch these games? How many of these players, who were willing to make 4 to 5 hour return trips for junior county or RDC Academy matches, will be prepared to do so for premier club cricket? How soon before these players lose their ambition or drift away from cricket totally?

This early abandonment of talent, the squandering of investment and the consequent narrowing of the population from which the top echelons will be drawn can only be bad for the women’s game.

However, it’s not difficult to imagine an alternative universe where players at a level beneath the regions receive the coaching and support to ensure that late-developing and latent talent has the maximum chance to be discovered and flourish; where being released from a franchise wouldn’t effectively constitute a career-ending moment; and which additionally would provide early-career coaching and leadership opportunities in line with the ECB’s goal to increase the representation of women in the cricket workforce, and to support more women to take on leadership roles. All this would be built on existing structures and wouldn’t require a large budget.

The answer is the ignored and unloved county game. Surviving in name only, what is gained by the same professional players and local RDC players (all of whose talents are already recognised) playing against each other for a few games in May under a different badge? Instead, imagine a vibrant county scene fought between squads comprising players who hadn’t ‘made it’ by their early twenties, players who’ve experienced but not pressed their case at regional level, the fringe RDC players and good players who perhaps can’t commit to full-time cricket for family or work reasons. At a stroke there’d be hundreds of extra players playing quality cricket. How many overlooked or late-developing stars could be unearthed; the female Matt Milnes or Jake Lintott? How many more comeback stories like Tash Farrant’s would this facilitate? And good cricketers who won’t ever be in the ‘top 150’ could once again aspire to play for their county. All these players would be ambassadors for the game and role models for young players at their local clubs (who are unlikely to know or play with a franchise player).

Regarding coaching, contracted players could pass on their skills whilst developing skills and gaining qualifications for careers beyond their professional playing days. New administrators could gain their first experience, budding umpires could hone their skills, and supporters in sections of the country where there’s no franchise women’s cricket could see high-quality local matches.

The format should be T20 with games held every other week throughout the season; played on Saturdays (so as not to harm the nascent Sunday club scene which is already suffering from the removal of many of the best players). And it needn’t be expensive – players and officials wouldn’t need paying (although travel expenses would be nice), a commitment to delivering coaching could be made a requirement of professional contracts, and many fine school grounds are available. Only players who haven’t played regional-level cricket in the current or previous seasons should be eligible, and extensive efforts should be made to embrace older players before they give up or resign themselves to easy stats in local leagues. Conference leagues would minimise travel, but it could culminate in a round of matches to determine a national champion.

Let’s make 2022 the year when women’s county cricket is resurrected and restructured, to provide the vital missing step between club and region.

NEWS: Alice Capsey & Grace Scrivens Among New Regional Contracts for 2022

Talented teenagers Alice Capsey and Grace Scrivens have been handed new regional contracts for 2022, with the ECB funding an additional contract at each of the 8 regions, plus Northern Diamonds and Thunder funding 3 further contracts themselves, to bring the total number of professional domestic players to 51.

This may go up to 52 once Fran Wilson’s exact situation is finalised, though we may equally see Charlie Dean leave her newly acquired regional contract almost immediately for an England gig.

There have also been a couple of high-profile moves, with Abbey Freeborn moving across the Midlands from Lightning to Sparks, and Marie Kelly going the other way to join Lightning. Up north, Phoebe Graham has also moved from Diamonds to Thunder.

Not entirely unexpectedly, nobody has lost their contract this year, with the additional fully funded contracts allowing regional coaches and directors to bring in new blood without having to have a difficult conversation with someone else.

The full list for 2022 is as below.

Sparks

  • Emily Arlott
  • Ami Campbell
  • Gwenan Davies
  • Abbey Freeborn
  • Eve Jones
  • Issy Wong

Stars

  • Alice Capsey
  • Aylish Cranstone
  • Alice Davidson Richards
  • Danielle Gregory
  • Tash Farrant
  • Bryony Smith

Diamonds

  • Hollie Armitage
  • Jenny Gunn
  • Bess Heath
  • Beth Langston
  • Katie Levick
  • Linsey Smith
  • Sterre Kalis
  • Rachel Slater

Lightning

  • Kathryn Bryce
  • Sarah Bryce
  • Bethan Ellis
  • Kirstie Gordon
  • Lucy Higham
  • Marie Kelly

Vipers

  • Georgia Adams
  • Lauren Bell
  • Maia Bouchier
  • Charlie Dean
  • Tara Norris
  • Paige Scholfield

Sunrisers

  • Amara Carr
  • Kelly Castle
  • Naomi Dattani
  • Jo Gardner
  • Cordelia Griffith
  • Grace Scrivens

Thunder

  • Georgie Boyce
  • Alex Hartley
  • Laura Jackson
  • Hannah Jones
  • Emma Lamb
  • Ellie Threlkeld
  • Phoebe Graham

Storm

  • Dani Gibson
  • Alex Griffiths
  • Georgia Hennessey
  • Sophie Luff
  • Fi Morris
  • Nat Wraith

NEWS: Fran Wilson Retires From International Cricket

England middle order batter Fran Wilson has announced her retirement from international cricket.

Wilson, who turns 30 in November, earned 64 caps for England in an 11 year career, scoring 837 runs and taking 21 catches, including arguably the catch of the century to dismiss Hayley Matthews at Chelmsford back in June 2019.

Wilson began her career at Somerset, making her debut in 2006. She scored her first List A century in 2010, against a Berkshire team that included Heather Knight, Claire Taylor and Isa Guha, and went on to make her England debut in November of that year versus Sri Lanka. She made 6 further appearances that winter, but looked to have been frozen out of the England setup, before a move to Middlesex in 2015 led to Mark Robinson handing her a second chance, with an England “re-debut” in the summer of 2016 culminating in her being part of the team that won the World Cup at Lords in 2017.

Typically coming in at 6 or lower, she generally found herself playing the role of “insurance policy” in both T20s and ODIs, and never really had a chance to build a big innings, making just two 50s in her career, with a highest score of 85* against Pakistan in Kuala Lumpur in December 2019.

Her last England appearances were in New Zealand in winter 2021; and although she remained part of the England squad through the summer of 2021, her role was reduced to that of specialist sub fielder. She had to remain in what was essentially a “bubble” in all but name for the duration, with all the mental hardship that entails, but without the reward of actually playing.

Domestically, Wilson enjoyed success with Western Storm, winning the Kia Super League twice, in 2017 and 2019; before becoming part of the Sunrisers setup in the 2020 reorg, and she will continue to play domestic cricket in the RHF Trophy, Charlotte Edwards Cup, and The Hundred.

NEWS: Lightning Seek Replacement Coach As Rob Taylor Departs

Lightning are seeking a replacement for Head Coach Rob Taylor, after the former Scotland and Leicestershire batter agreed to part ways with the region at the end of the 2021 season.

A job advert, placed on 13 October, confirms that Lightning are currently recruiting for the position, with interviews to take place on 22 November and the successful candidate to start in January.

Taylor was appointed Coach of Lightning in August 2020, having previously held the position of Head Coach of Loughborough Lightning in the Kia Super League. Under his leadership, Lightning twice reached Finals Day in the KSL.

However, since the new regional structure was put in place last year, he has struggled to replicate that success. Lightning finished in joint 4th place in the 2021 Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, winning just 3 of their 7 matches, while in the Charlotte Edwards Cup they were bottom of the pile, losing all 6 of their games.

It seems the region are now looking in a new direction in the hope of improving on that performance next season.

ANALYSIS: Death Batting in T20 – How Many Runs Can You Chase?

How many runs can you successfully chase batting at the death (the last 4 overs) in T20 cricket? In theory, even without no balls and wides, 6x6x4 = 144; but in reality no one has ever achieved anything like that. So what have they achieved?

We looked at over 250 matches from WBBL between 2015 and 2020 – all the games for which ball-by-ball data is available from Cricsheet – of which 119 went down to the death.

The highest successful death chase in the data we analysed was 41, but even this was a slight outlier. In reality as the batting side, you need to be chasing 38 or less from the last 4 overs to have a realistic chance of winning the match – any more than that, and the bowling side almost always wins.

On the other side of the equation, if the batting team are chasing 30 or fewer they will almost always win. This creates a Corridor of Uncertainty between 30 and 38 where the match is “in-play”, and the result could go either way.

That Corridor of Uncertainty isn’t constant however – it narrows sharply going into the final over, giving rise to the theory mentioned by Lisa Sthalekar on commentary during recent the Australia v India series that it is actually the penultimate 19th over which is the most important for the batting side.

In practice what this means is that you can go into the second-to-last over needing as many as 19, and the result will still be in-play. If you can then get this down to 8 required off the final over, you will likely win the game; but if not, 9 is almost always a losing ask. In short: if you are the batting side, don’t leave yourself with too much to do in the final over – you might be able to score 11 off the penultimate over, but you probably won’t score 11 (or even 9) off the last!

Interestingly, wickets don’t appear to have a whole lot to do with it. In matches where teams need 9-11 off the final over, they overwhelming fail; while at asks of 6-8 they almost always succeed; yet in both cases the average wickets down is the same – 5.2 – so we are seeing similar late-middle-order batters at the crease. Is it then psychological? Every batter will tell you they “back themselves” to score 9 off the final over; but do they really believe it? Studies of penalty shoot-outs in football certainly suggest a mental element to a similar situation; but the real reasons remain a matter for speculation.