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ESPNcricinfo's stats editor S Rajesh looks at the stories behind the stats

Who to pick at No. 7?

How many balls does he bat per match in Twenty20 internationals? In which team is the No. 7 batsman least needed?

S Rajesh

September 28, 2012

Comments: 17 | Text size: A | A

Michael Hussey flicks one through leg on his way to a half-century, Pakistan v Australia, 2nd ODI, Abu Dhabi, August 31, 2012
Michael Hussey is the one batsman who has repeatedly turned in match-winning performances at No.7 © AFP
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All stats updated till September 26, 2012

The No. 7 slot has been one of the more intensely debated topics in the World Twenty20 so far, especially for those following the Indian team. The teams blessed with quality allrounders have usually slotted one of those at that position - Albie Morkel for South Africa, for example - followed by four specialist bowlers (or players who are more bowlers than batsmen). MS Dhoni, though, has steadfastly maintained that he feels more comfortable going in with seven batsmen (including himself).

This can be argued either way. Those advocating five bowlers - including Sourav Ganguly and several other experts - reckon, with some reason, that six batsmen are plenty to tackle 120 deliveries, and that a seventh is usually wasted. Those in favour of four bowlers reckon part-timers can fill in with four overs, since even the specialists get hammered anyway; plus, the cushion of seven batsmen allows the top order to bat with more freedom, knowing that there's an extra batsman in case things go wrong. Dhoni has the explanation for his seven-batsman policy no matter what the conditions: on overseas pitches, he feels India need the seventh batsman to feel comfortable; in slower conditions, he's confident that India's slew of part-time spinners will collectively perform the fifth bowler's job.

It's difficult to estimate how much a seventh batsman contributes to the line-up by his mere presence and the cushion he offers to the top order, but it's certainly possible to check how much he actually contributes in T20 matches and how much opportunity he gets to make a mark.

In the 274 T20 international matches played so far (before the start of the Super Eights in the ongoing World Twenty20), No. 7 batsmen came out to bat 415 times, and faced 3915 deliveries, which works out to an average of 9.43 balls per innings. However, this doesn't take into account the instances when the No. 7 wasn't required to bat at all. Given that 274 matches have been played so far, that's an average of 14.29 balls per match, for the No. 7 batsmen of both teams (or 7.15 balls per team, assuming both teams batted in every match).

The table below compares these numbers to other batting positions. It's obvious that the top order will have much higher numbers for balls faced, but it's interesting that positions five, six and seven each face around six fewer deliveries than the previous slot. (The numbers for openers are much higher because there are two of them per team.)

Stats by batting position in 274 T20 internationals
Position Innings Runs Balls Average Strike rate Balls/match Balls/inngs
Openers 1086 25,043 20,428 24.52 122.59 74.55 18.81
No.3 532 11,016 9571 22.62 115.09 34.93 17.99
No.4 519 10,398 8937 23.36 116.34 32.62 17.22
No.5 498 8115 7198 19.93 112.73 26.27 14.45
No.6 461 6317 5505 17.89 114.75 20.09 11.94
No.7 415 4595 3915 16.29 117.36 14.29 9.43
No.8 338 2652 2505 11.73 105.86 9.14 7.41

The team-wise stats for No. 7 batsmen in T20 internationals show that the balls faced per match for these players is lowest for the Indians - this stat will please experts like Ganguly, who have forever been saying that a specialist batsman in that position is a waste, since he hardly gets any deliveries to play. The Indian No. 7 batsmen have faced all of 181 deliveries in the 38 matches played by the team, which works out to an average of less than five balls per innings. (One of those matches, against Scotland in the 2007 World Twenty20, was washed out, but the average doesn't change much if that game is left out.) In those 38 games, India's No. 7s only got to bat 23 times, which means in the innings in which they did bat, they faced an average of eight deliveries every time they came out to bat.

India's No. 7 average is significantly below that of other sides, which suggests their top order has been doing pretty well - at least in terms facing the bulk of the overs. Australia's average, on the other hand, is almost eight per match, and more than 11 per innings. Their average and strike rate are much better than those of the other teams, though, thanks largely to the contributions of Michael Hussey at that position.

Team-wise stats for No. 7 batsmen in T20Is
Team Matches Innings Runs/ balls Average Strike rate Balls/match Balls/ inngs
India 38 23 223/ 181 15.92 123.20 4.76 7.87
Sri Lanka 43 32 322/ 278 16.10 115.82 6.47 8.69
South Africa 49 33 383/ 323 20.15 118.57 6.59 9.79
England 50 38 410/ 332 17.08 123.49 6.64 8.74
Ireland 30 22 204/ 204 15.69 100.00 6.80 9.27
New Zealand 55 41 504/ 397 17.37 126.95 7.22 9.68
West Indies 40 32 372/ 290 19.57 128.27 7.25 9.06
Pakistan 60 46 522/ 452 15.81 115.48 7.53 9.83
Australia 54 37 602/ 422 26.17 142.65 7.81 11.41
Bangladesh 26 24 223/ 228 12.38 97.80 8.77 9.50
Zimbabwe 22 19 250/ 195 17.85 128.2 8.86 10.26

A break-up of the number of balls faced by No. 7 batsmen shows that in a huge majority of innings, they face less than 12 deliveries - and that's when they come out to bat in the first place. In 292 out of 415 innings (70%), they play fewer than two overs; in 147 innings (35%), they face fewer than six balls.

Only 58 times in T20 internationals have the No. 7 batsmen faced at least three overs, with nine of those facing 30 or more balls. The highest for a No. 7 batsman is 41 balls, by Scotland's Gordon Drummond against Ireland in 2010. Drummond got to play as many deliveries as he did because Scotland slipped to 12 for 5 in the fourth over, and ended up losing by 37 runs despite some late resistance.

In fact, the top six No. 7 innings in terms of balls faced have all been in defeats. They've been games in which the top orders have flopped and left the No. 7 with too much to do. (scored 39 runs and helped Pakistan beat England by eight runs earlier this year.

Spread of balls faced by No. 7 batsmen in T20Is
  30 and above 24-29 18-23 12-17 6-11 0-5
No. of innings 9 17 32 65 145 147
No. of not outs 3 6 6 26 45 47

In terms of runs, the two highest scores by No. 7 batsmen - 66 not out and 61, by Jacob Oram - have both been in defeats, against Australia and England. The highest in a win is Michael Hussey's outstanding unbeaten 60 against Pakistan in the semi-final of the 2010 World Twenty20. Hussey is also in second place, for his unbeaten 47 against Bangladesh in the same tournament, and features three times in the top eight.

Hussey is clearly the standout batsman at this slot in T20 internationals, for his ability to score quickly and yet not get dismissed. Four of his eight innings have yielded more than 30 runs, at strike rates of 150 or more, and all of them have been unbeaten efforts.

Abdul Razzaq had that stunning knock of 46 not out off 16 balls against England, and 34 not out off 11 against New Zealand, but his overall strike rate at this position is less than 120. Oram and Hussey are the only batsmen to score fifties from No. 7 in T20 internationals.

For India, the highest aggregate belongs to Yusuf Pathan, who has scored 86 in 48 balls, a strike rate of almost 180. The rest, though, haven't done much in their limited opportunities, which is also an indicator that India's top six have done pretty well. Going into the Super Eights, Dhoni will want this trend to continue.

Batsmen with highest aggregates at No. 7 in T20Is
Batsman Matches/ Inngs Runs Balls Average Strike rate 50s
Abdul Razzaq 19/ 18 284 239 21.84 118.82 0
Jacob Oram 15/ 12 265 150 29.44 176.66 2
Michael Hussey 9/ 8 248 138 124.00 179.71 1
Albie Morkel 14/ 9 181 135 25.85 134.07 0
Jehan Mubarak 5/ 4 105 62 52.50 169.35 0
Yusuf Pathan 8/ 6 86 48 21.50 179.16 0

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter

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Posted by correctcall on (September 29, 2012, 10:01 GMT)

What about an analysis of Duncan Fletcher's career win /loss ratio against Australia? Not pretty reading one suspects - his biggest coup being the Pratt ( pot calling the kettle black?) of Ponting.

Posted by BoonBoom on (September 29, 2012, 9:19 GMT)

Waste of time and efforts!! I don't understand what is the point that the write is trying to prove and what benefit it will bring. Any position is equally important in all forms of cricket so why to pickup just number 7 slot?

Posted by robelgordo on (September 28, 2012, 22:37 GMT)

What about analysis of Indian part-timers as the 5th bowler versus the 5th bowlers from other teams? You can't really say a batsmen is wasted without looking at the bowling side.

Posted by Nabilk86 on (September 28, 2012, 20:48 GMT)

India need to make 250 runs in order to win the matches by the bowling they have ... simple...

Posted by   on (September 28, 2012, 13:28 GMT)

The purpose of the article seems to be only showing defect in India's 7 batsmen plan. But there is a certain bit of caution on the part of the captain cos Indian batting with all its strength is most likely to fail on a big day.

Posted by Team_India_Rocx on (September 28, 2012, 10:51 GMT)

A well written article by S RAJESH. bringing stats interesting forward.But I duobt for how long will dhoni adopt 5 bowlers policy ?Dont think he will adopt this policy throughout the tournament.

Posted by Samar_Singh on (September 28, 2012, 8:43 GMT)

Why not Dhoni play with 11 specialist batsman given that their specialist(??) bowler have no better economy and strike rate than their part-timers ... Hope this like give more freedom to their batter , batting up the order ... Zaheer its best strike bowler , never takes any wicket !!! Shocking Funny ...

Posted by   on (September 28, 2012, 8:05 GMT)

Its not always about the analysis my friends. I know cricket has become a technical game but still its on the day you choose the team. I would prefer you nedd a finisher at no. 7 a special kind of all rounder who can hit boundaries at will and also play under pressure just like mike hussey and shahid afridi though the latter has not been playing good these days but you need big names in this spot.

Posted by MakersName on (September 28, 2012, 7:54 GMT)

I'd like to see a stat on how many balls/overs were left when the 7th batsman came in. This gives a clearer idea of how much opportunity the batsman has to influence the game. That stat, along with the balls faced and their batting average gives a better idea of how a 7th batsman 'farmed' the strike and made his inclusion valid.

Posted by Romanticstud on (September 28, 2012, 7:42 GMT)

@Hafeez_Malik - Pakistan have 7 bowlers ... what about South Africa ... They have wasted JP Duminy as No 7 bowler ...

Posted by Sunman81 on (September 28, 2012, 7:31 GMT)

wow... I like this article... good analysis... If teams can do this kind of analysis, then we may see team forming a different composition for T20...

Posted by Romanticstud on (September 28, 2012, 7:16 GMT)

The above article shows that no. 7 is not a common position in T20s ... but it also shows that Pakistan and New Zealand are most likely to use a No. 7 ... It shows not how much the team has relied on them for bowling ... Shahid Afridi has taken 60 wickets when picked at no 7 ... in 53 innings that he has been selected at no 7 ... but only batted in 6 ... 161 of the 488 people selected at no 7 have batted ... NN Odhiambo of Kenya has the best bowling figures of a no.7 batsman that has batted of 5/20 ... unusually Jacques Kallis has batted twice at 7 but has yet to be dismissed ... 12 people havn't scored at no 7 ... including Michael Clarke and S Jayasuriya ... The best bowling overall by a no 7 in a side is 6/8 by BAW Mendis ... Stuart Broad has claimed 18 catches ...

Posted by Hafeez_Malik on (September 28, 2012, 7:06 GMT)

Don't know wether India is wasting their 7th Batsman or not but Pakistan is certainly wasting their 7th bowler, Shoaib Malik is not doing bowling.

Posted by smileysil on (September 28, 2012, 6:22 GMT)

Indian number seven plays an average 4.76 balls in a game. Wow this proves India dont need a specialist bat in that position. Pathan is more than good enuf with ashwin at 8 and bhajji at 9.

Posted by guptahitesh4u on (September 28, 2012, 6:20 GMT)

Interesting stats...Probably Dhoni has read this and that's why he wants to go with 5 bowlers against Aus

Posted by SundeepIndia on (September 28, 2012, 6:02 GMT)

Six batsmen could score run because there was a seventh batsman!

Posted by kamran.afzal on (September 28, 2012, 6:01 GMT)

Loved the piece Rajesh... Hailing from business analytics myself, this is the kind of analysis that teams can use to make the right decisions.

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S Rajesh Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.

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