The Friday Column September 14, 2007

The cream of the Twenty20 crop

The Numbers Game looks at some of the trends of Twenty20 cricket, and the batsmen and bowlers who have flourished in this format

Chris Gayle has been an absolute hit with both bat and ball in Twenty20 games © Getty Images

It's a form of the game which is still in its infancy, which is why it's interesting to see how Twenty20 games have been shaping up. In the World Twenty20 so far, four out of six matches have been won by the team chasing, which makes it 11 wins and 13 losses for the side taking first strike in this ultra-shortened version. The difference isn't a lot, which explains the differences in the readings of it: Mickey Arthur, the South Africa coach, reckoned batting second was always the right thing to do, while Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the Indian captain, went the other way, stating he would bat first and put the pressure of chasing on the opposition.

The one obvious characteristic of the 20-over game which differentiates it from the one-day international is that the game is played at almost the same tempo throughout the 40 overs, with no time to play oneself in. The table below lists how teams have scored in five-over periods: the last five have been a little more productive than the ones before it, but the scoring curve has mostly been the same, which could, a few seasons down the line, be one of the complaints against this version of the game.

Average scores in Twenty20s broken up by five-over periods
Period Runs Wickets Runs per wicket Runs per over
0-5 overs 1575 52 30.28 7.05
5.1-10 overs 1531 61 25.09 7.12
10.1-15 overs 1454 71 20.47 7.07
15.1-20 overs 1510 77 19.61 8.49

Have the best batsmen in Twenty20s been those who have also flourished in ODIs? The list below suggests that is largely the case (though any exercise in analysing Twenty20 stats is hampered by the fact that very few such games have been played). Mohammad Ashraful has the best strike-rate in this version and is the only one to break the 200 barrier; his ODI strike-rate, comparatively low at 72, is largely because of the number of times he has come in to bat with the team down a few early wickets. The rest of the list has most of the usual suspects, though Damien Martyn - a batsman known more for his touch and grace than his ability to score quickly - is a bit of a surprise at No. 8.

Best strike-rates in Twenty20 internationals (min: 75 runs)
Player Twenty20 runs Twenty20 strike-rate ODI runs ODI strike-rate
Mohammad Ashraful 104 203.92 1918 72.26
Marlon Samuels 126 196.87 2207 74.30
Andrew Symonds 158 179.54 4226 92.31
Sanath Jayasuriya 92 173.58 12116 90.50
Shahid Afridi 89 171.15 5072 109.38
Kevin Pietersen 176 169.23 2277 89.32
Chris Gayle 193 164.95 6148 80.39
Damien Martyn 120 162.16 5346 77.73
Herschelle Gibbs 162 154.28 6889 82.64
Younis Khan 90 152.54 3988 73.78

One commonly held notion when Twenty20 started was that spinners would have no role to play - batsmen would simply hit them out of the ground whenever presented with half an opportunity, and the few wickets they'd take in the process wouldn't be worth the runs given away. The truth, though, has been quite different. Pace on the ball has been easy to put away, while spinners have been able to buy their wickets cheaper.

Pace and spin in Twenty20 games
Wickets Runs conceded Average Econ. rate
Pace 192 4671 24.32 7.42
Spin 50 1092 21.84 7.46

The list of bowlers who have been most economical in Twenty20 is further confirmation of the vital role that spinners play in this format - four of the top ten spots are taken by slow bowlers. Abdur Razzak's stats are especially impressive, just as they are in ODIs. Two of his games were admittedly against lesser opposition, but even against the stronger teams he has done well, conceding just 18 against Pakistan and 25 against West Indies from his four overs. The other spinners in the top ten are also those who prefer to fire it in flat rather than toss it up, while Chris Gayle's inclusion in both the batting and bowling top tens indicates just how valuable a Twenty20 player he is.

Best economy-rate in Twenty20 internationals (min: 5 overs)
Player Twenty20 overs Twenty20 economy ODI overs ODI economy
Mark Gillespie 6 3.33 135.3 5.60
Syed Rasel 12 4.41 274.3 4.14
Umar Gul 7 4.57 229 4.60
Tillakaratne Dilshan 5.3 4.72 384.3 4.71
Abdur Razzak 16 5.12 458.1 3.98
Shane Bond 14.3 5.24 574.2 4.20
Peter Ongondo 10 5.40 333.5 4.48
Charl Langeveldt 6 5.66 375.1 5.02
Jeetan Patel 9.2 5.89 201 5.01
Chris Gayle 8.3 6.11 984.5 4.65

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo