June 21, 2013

Are England's top three too slow for ODIs?

Alastair Cook, Ian Bell or Jonathan Trott are not out-and-out aggressive batsmen, but they haven't done too badly in ODIs in the last 18 months
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England have been one of the form teams of the Champions Trophy and are in the final, but much talk about the team has revolved around the somewhat anachronistic scoring rate of their top three. Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott tend to bat in a similar tempo, preferring a strike rate of around 75. They are also not given to flashy strokeplay, preferring to accumulate their runs steadily. In today's age of ODI cricket, when batsmen are expected to take advantage of the fielding restrictions, the scoring pattern and rate of England's top order has often come in for some flak. Here's a look at some of the numbers for England's top three, and a comparison with other teams over the last year and a half.

The table below shows the year-by-year stats for England's top three batsmen in ODIs over the last ten years, and it's clear that except for a couple of years in 2010 and 2011, the strike rates for their top three have always been in the mid-70s. In those two years, it wasn't Kevin Pietersen who made the difference, but Cook, Andrew Strauss and Craig Kieswetter, all of whom scored more than 750 runs at 90-plus strike rates. In all the years before that, and in the period since, the rate has hovered in the 70s.

What has changed, though, is the average of the top three. In the last 18 months, England's top order has averaged more than 47, which is much higher than they managed in the period before 2010, when the average was in the late 20s or early 30s.

A comparison with the other top teams makes for interesting reading as well. The period between 2007 and 2009 was when England's top order was scoring at a much slower rate than everyone else - the average strike rate for other sides was more than 80, while England plodded in the mid-70s. In the last 18 months, though, the strike rates of other top sides aren't much higher than England's, while their batting averages are a lot lower. This suggests England's top order has been giving the side far more solid starts, while scoring at roughly the same rate, over the last 18 months.

It needs to be clarified, though, that all these are overall numbers, and they don't suggest that there may not have been individual instances when the top three might have batted too slowly in the context of that match. Overall, though, England's top-order numbers look pretty good.

England's top three batsmen each year in ODIs, compared to the other top sides
  England Other top teams
Year Inngs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s Inngs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
2013 45 47.26 79.98 2/ 14 247 34.16 79.02 20/ 34
2012 44 50.71 76.52 6/ 10 402 34.88 79.20 26/ 75
2011 89 39.38 88.11 4/ 24 521 36.88 79.86 30/ 110
2010 51 41.02 88.86 4/ 14 434 36.56 83.39 27/ 89
2009 66 29.60 74.30 1/ 10 526 36.92 84.60 32/ 109
2008 58 33.00 77.66 2/ 9 436 37.57 84.25 32/ 92
2007 102 27.42 70.46 3/ 12 598 37.34 81.00 31/ 136
2006 60 31.87 75.56 2/ 12 558 36.18 78.34 40/ 113
2005 65 31.71 75.58 3/ 8 460 33.22 79.31 30/ 73
2004 60 34.98 74.13 3/ 16 530 34.89 75.78 25/ 100

The strategy that teams chalk up for the approach of their top order also depends on the firepower down the order. In the current set-up, England have Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler and Ravi Bopara, all of whom are capable of forcing the pace later in the innings. England are clearly comfortable with having a top order whose main brief is to provide a solid foundation for others to capitalise on later. It's a strategy that has served them reasonably well, given that they have a win-loss ratio of 2.22 (20 wins, nine losses), better than any other team during this period.

Among all teams, India's top three have had the best strike rate, which isn't a surprise given that they have enforcers at the top of the order, and that they also play their home games in conditions that are often very good for batting. South Africa, New Zealand and Sri Lanka are the others with strike rates higher than England's, but the difference isn't that much. England's average, on the other hand, is much higher than that of the others.

Top three from each team in ODIs from Jan 1, 2012
Team Innings Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
India 81 38.96 85.10 9/ 14
South Africa 75 37.31 82.56 5/ 15
New Zealand 78 33.80 81.51 4/ 15
Sri Lanka 127 40.18 81.51 11/ 24
England 89 48.92 78.22 8/ 24
West Indies 84 31.43 77.52 6/ 10
Australia 111 30.01 75.09 6/ 16
Pakistan 93 30.67 71.23 5/ 15
Bangladesh 42 27.70 70.51 2/ 7
Zimbabwe 27 23.76 69.05 1/ 3

The other point that's sometimes mentioned with respect to England's top order is their high dot-ball ratio in the early part of an innings. However, as the table below shows, there are other sides who have done worse than them in the first 15 overs of ODIs in the last 18 months. South Africa and India are on top again, with percentages of around 60, but England 64.47% isn't that much adrift of the top sides.

Where England are clearly superior to the other sides is in losing fewer wickets in the early overs. Most teams lose, on average, about two wickets in the first 15; England, on the other hand, have lost only 37 in 30 - 1.23 per game. Some might argue that England's slower run rate - which extends over more overs since these batsmen bat longer periods - puts more pressure on those following the top three than it might if they got out earlier, but the overall results show that this method has suited them quite well.

Dot-ball factor in the first 15 overs in ODIs since Jan 1, 2012
Team Innings Wickets Average Run rate Dot-ball %
South Africa 25 43 40.93 4.69 59.78
India 27 56 35.82 4.95 60.49
Sri Lanka 43 81 36.64 4.76 62.31
England 30 37 54.56 4.58 64.47
Australia 37 77 30.74 4.30 65.02
New Zealand 26 56 29.32 4.21 67.69
Pakistan 31 58 30.63 3.89 68.41
West Indies 28 62 29.24 4.31 68.41

In the last 18 months, Cook, Bell and Trott have done the bulk of the batting in the top three for England, and are the only ones to have scored more than 500 runs at those positions. All three have fine averages, and have innings-to-fifties ratios of less than three, which shows their consistency. The dot-ball percentages for Cook and Bell are around 57, and while that's on the higher side, it isn't unacceptable for openers, who bat when there are more fielders in the circle, and hence tend to play out more dots.

England's top four run-getters in the top three since Jan 2012
Batsman Innings Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s Dot-ball% 4s/ 6s
Alastair Cook 30 1221 42.10 78.01 3/ 8 57.51 142/ 6
Ian Bell 26 1181 49.20 79.42 2/ 8 57.63 126/ 11
Jonathan Trott 22 973 57.23 74.38 1/ 7 50.92 71/ 1
Kevin Pietersen 9 466 58.25 85.19 2/ 1 53.02 48/ 6

Even among those three England batsmen, the flak for slow scoring has been directed more at Trott than at the other two. Justified or unfair? The table below lists the batsmen with the slowest strike rates in ODIs since the beginning of 2011, the period around which Trott became a regular in England's ODI side. In this period, Trott's strike rate of 77.53 is better than four batsmen (with a cut-off of 1500 runs). Among them is Kumar Sangakkara (strike rate 77.15), Mohammad Hafeez (75.66), Upul Tharanga (75.40), and Misbah-ul-Haq (69.95). Trott's average of 54.47, though, is third among the 17 batsmen who have scored 1500-plus runs during this period - only MS Dhoni and AB de Villiers have higher averages. It's true that Trott's average in losses (53.77) is almost as high as his average in wins (54.82), a stat that is brought forth to illustrate that his runs are often detrimental to the team cause. That seems to be an unfair rap, though, given that no other England batsman has averaged 40 in the ODIs that England have lost with Trott in the line-up.

On Sunday the focus will again be on England's top three, including Trott, as they take on India in the Champions Trophy final. Chances are that if they all contribute their average scores at a strike rate of around 80, England will be well served.

Lowest strike rates among batsmen with at least 1500 ODI runs since Jan 2011
Batsman Innings Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Misbah-ul-Haq 57 2005 48.90 69.95 0/ 16
Upul Tharanga 50 1591 34.58 75.40 4/ 10
Mohammad Hafeez 63 1946 32.98 75.66 5/ 9
Kumar Sangakkara 60 2644 48.96 77.15 5/ 17
Jonathan Trott 50 2288 54.47 77.53 3/ 17
Ian Bell 50 1793 38.14 78.88 2/ 11
Michael Clarke 41 1653 47.22 79.50 2/ 11

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • JG2704 on June 23, 2013, 8:34 GMT

    Re the weather - on the BBC forecast - yesterday it gave rain all day and now it gives sunshine and showers.I'd say a rain interrupted day favours India even more as England's policy is to build an inns and gather momentum whereas India are a more fluent side. EG if Eng are 30/40-0 after 10 and then the rain shortens it to a 30 over game they'll be behind the game. India would likely be anything between 50 and 70 after 10 so I don't think it would affect them so much. Not sure they'll do it as they're not the best at thinking outside the box , but I hope they look at the weather forecast (on the day) and adjust their gameplan accordingly.

  • on June 21, 2013, 7:04 GMT

    Great article and good that this came up at this time when England top 3 are going through some unnecessary criticism. I read 3 contrasting articles from Gavaskar, Boycott and Manjerakar. While Boycott and Sanjay agreed to the approach of building a foundation and then going great guns at the end, Gavaskar did not like the idea and found the stability provided by these 3 a tad slow. I am surprised by Gavaskar, especially when these 3 are actually scoring at a pretty decent rate. England should rather focus on the consistency of the bottom half of their batting which lets them down, hopefully Pietersen will bring that stability at down the order. More ofen than not, these 3 will win a lot of matches for England except for maybe in some flat tracks in Asian conditions, where England should be ready to be a little flexible in their batting order. You need your Cooks, and Trotts and Kohli's and Williamson's and Baileys alonwith your Dhoni's, Pietersen's, Taylors,Watson's to be successful!!

  • ballsintherightareas on June 23, 2013, 11:25 GMT

    Noticed an interesting fact about Pietersen yesterday, which is that his average since the start of 2009 to present is just 31.47 (about ten points lower than his career average. His strike rate has been slightly higher than England's current top three at 84.90, but that's a big difference in average.

  • JG2704 on June 23, 2013, 8:33 GMT

    please publish this time. Nothing that can be deemed offensive to anyone

    One thing they mentioned on one of the CT games was that comparing Trott with Amla. I think it was said that when Amla scores big SA win but when Trott scores big it's not always the same result for England. I change my mind about Trott all the time but I think he is harshly pigeonholed as the slowcoach when Bell and Cook generall go at a similar pace and are not as consistent scoringwise. I still think they could do as well with 2 of the 3 with Root also playing a similar role if necessary. Also feel Jos should learn to settle down. The guy has so much ability but is so much better when he builds an innings. So I'd rather see him score heavier at a lesser SR. He could still score at a SR of 130-50 without taking huge risks

  • ballsintherightareas on June 22, 2013, 14:25 GMT

    Here are some other interesting stats:

    In the last two years, England and India have played each other in England on 5 occasions. England won 3, there was one tie and one 'no result'.

    India's 'runs per over' rate was an impressive 5.71

    However, England's rate was 6.19.

    A small sample, but certainly suggests that England have a pretty good chance of not just matching but indeed outscoring India in tomorrow's match.

  • H_Z_O on June 22, 2013, 11:33 GMT

    The problem, as a couple of people have pointed out, is less these three and more the team management's lack of flexibility in assessing the match situation. Against Australia England were 168-2 when Trott got out in the 33rd over. A nice platform had been set and the powerplay was due in the 35th over. A powerplay is a nice opportunity for guys like Morgan and Buttler to get a few boundaries away without going aerial and get themselves set for the last 10. Instead England sent in Root. Joe's certainly got the ability to score at a good lick (as seen against Sri Lanka) but he's not a power player. He should have been held back until Bell got out (or until all the power players had gone in and gotten out) to "finish" the innings. When KP comes back I'd have him at 4 in seam-friendly conditions but open (with Bell at 4) in conditions that either favour the batsman or the spinners. Dhoni's used flexibility to great effect (2011 World Cup final) and England would do well to follow suit.

  • burslemcc4 on June 22, 2013, 11:01 GMT

    Unfortunately these stats dont tell the real picture. The fact of the matter is England are a far better team when battind 2nd as they know at what tempo they have to chase, when batting first the urgency tends not to be there, the game v sri lanka being a prime example - Cook, Bell & Trott in that game scored 155 runs off 209 balls betwwen them leaving only 91 balls (or 15.1 overs) for the rest of the team, to get the 290 odd we did from that view was a good effort but not enough as it proved. Whilst this article proves englands success has been based on a solid top 3 which most of the time is a good thing, there has to be an element of flexibility within in certain games to up the tempo, especially batting first, but i suppose if Pietersen was playing we wouldnt have the issue because he would naturally increase the tempo anyway.!!

  • JG2704 on June 22, 2013, 10:55 GMT

    @ maddy20 on (June 22, 2013, 8:18 GMT) KP to open or come in at 3. To open IMO as that's where he left off and had success in UAE vs Pakistan. BTW surely there would be similar pressure on those who bat below KP whether he bats at 2,3 or 4. In fact I'd say if there is a pressure thing there will be more pressure on those below KP the lower he comes in at. Also guys like Morgan and Buttler are capable of upping the tempo of an inns although the latter needs to settle down a little more and not keep trying to repeat the 47 off 14.

  • Ragav999 on June 22, 2013, 8:39 GMT

    @landl: Which team has the batting resources whose career strike rate is more than 130 in ODI's? Because a strike rate of 130+ is required in every one of the games that England plays in to score 120 runs in the last 15 overs?

  • maddy20 on June 22, 2013, 8:18 GMT

    @landl47 Sanga is a good player but not great. Mahela is just too inconsistent and hence at best an average player. The best ODI players in the modern era are Amla, KP, Kohli, Dhoni, AB. All of them average 50 or there about and have fantastic strike rates. Cook and Trott are good players too. If KP does return to ODIs then they should continue to bat Trott at 3 and KP at 4. It means that he will be in at around the 20-25 over mark and will have enough time to get his eye in to tee off in the power play. Playing him at 3 would be huge risk as there will be tremendous pressure on the others if he gets out. Morgan, Bopara etc., will provide the fireworks towards the end. An explosive middle order batsman that can dictate the game is the only thing England's ODI team lacks.

  • JG2704 on June 23, 2013, 8:34 GMT

    Re the weather - on the BBC forecast - yesterday it gave rain all day and now it gives sunshine and showers.I'd say a rain interrupted day favours India even more as England's policy is to build an inns and gather momentum whereas India are a more fluent side. EG if Eng are 30/40-0 after 10 and then the rain shortens it to a 30 over game they'll be behind the game. India would likely be anything between 50 and 70 after 10 so I don't think it would affect them so much. Not sure they'll do it as they're not the best at thinking outside the box , but I hope they look at the weather forecast (on the day) and adjust their gameplan accordingly.

  • on June 21, 2013, 7:04 GMT

    Great article and good that this came up at this time when England top 3 are going through some unnecessary criticism. I read 3 contrasting articles from Gavaskar, Boycott and Manjerakar. While Boycott and Sanjay agreed to the approach of building a foundation and then going great guns at the end, Gavaskar did not like the idea and found the stability provided by these 3 a tad slow. I am surprised by Gavaskar, especially when these 3 are actually scoring at a pretty decent rate. England should rather focus on the consistency of the bottom half of their batting which lets them down, hopefully Pietersen will bring that stability at down the order. More ofen than not, these 3 will win a lot of matches for England except for maybe in some flat tracks in Asian conditions, where England should be ready to be a little flexible in their batting order. You need your Cooks, and Trotts and Kohli's and Williamson's and Baileys alonwith your Dhoni's, Pietersen's, Taylors,Watson's to be successful!!

  • ballsintherightareas on June 23, 2013, 11:25 GMT

    Noticed an interesting fact about Pietersen yesterday, which is that his average since the start of 2009 to present is just 31.47 (about ten points lower than his career average. His strike rate has been slightly higher than England's current top three at 84.90, but that's a big difference in average.

  • JG2704 on June 23, 2013, 8:33 GMT

    please publish this time. Nothing that can be deemed offensive to anyone

    One thing they mentioned on one of the CT games was that comparing Trott with Amla. I think it was said that when Amla scores big SA win but when Trott scores big it's not always the same result for England. I change my mind about Trott all the time but I think he is harshly pigeonholed as the slowcoach when Bell and Cook generall go at a similar pace and are not as consistent scoringwise. I still think they could do as well with 2 of the 3 with Root also playing a similar role if necessary. Also feel Jos should learn to settle down. The guy has so much ability but is so much better when he builds an innings. So I'd rather see him score heavier at a lesser SR. He could still score at a SR of 130-50 without taking huge risks

  • ballsintherightareas on June 22, 2013, 14:25 GMT

    Here are some other interesting stats:

    In the last two years, England and India have played each other in England on 5 occasions. England won 3, there was one tie and one 'no result'.

    India's 'runs per over' rate was an impressive 5.71

    However, England's rate was 6.19.

    A small sample, but certainly suggests that England have a pretty good chance of not just matching but indeed outscoring India in tomorrow's match.

  • H_Z_O on June 22, 2013, 11:33 GMT

    The problem, as a couple of people have pointed out, is less these three and more the team management's lack of flexibility in assessing the match situation. Against Australia England were 168-2 when Trott got out in the 33rd over. A nice platform had been set and the powerplay was due in the 35th over. A powerplay is a nice opportunity for guys like Morgan and Buttler to get a few boundaries away without going aerial and get themselves set for the last 10. Instead England sent in Root. Joe's certainly got the ability to score at a good lick (as seen against Sri Lanka) but he's not a power player. He should have been held back until Bell got out (or until all the power players had gone in and gotten out) to "finish" the innings. When KP comes back I'd have him at 4 in seam-friendly conditions but open (with Bell at 4) in conditions that either favour the batsman or the spinners. Dhoni's used flexibility to great effect (2011 World Cup final) and England would do well to follow suit.

  • burslemcc4 on June 22, 2013, 11:01 GMT

    Unfortunately these stats dont tell the real picture. The fact of the matter is England are a far better team when battind 2nd as they know at what tempo they have to chase, when batting first the urgency tends not to be there, the game v sri lanka being a prime example - Cook, Bell & Trott in that game scored 155 runs off 209 balls betwwen them leaving only 91 balls (or 15.1 overs) for the rest of the team, to get the 290 odd we did from that view was a good effort but not enough as it proved. Whilst this article proves englands success has been based on a solid top 3 which most of the time is a good thing, there has to be an element of flexibility within in certain games to up the tempo, especially batting first, but i suppose if Pietersen was playing we wouldnt have the issue because he would naturally increase the tempo anyway.!!

  • JG2704 on June 22, 2013, 10:55 GMT

    @ maddy20 on (June 22, 2013, 8:18 GMT) KP to open or come in at 3. To open IMO as that's where he left off and had success in UAE vs Pakistan. BTW surely there would be similar pressure on those who bat below KP whether he bats at 2,3 or 4. In fact I'd say if there is a pressure thing there will be more pressure on those below KP the lower he comes in at. Also guys like Morgan and Buttler are capable of upping the tempo of an inns although the latter needs to settle down a little more and not keep trying to repeat the 47 off 14.

  • Ragav999 on June 22, 2013, 8:39 GMT

    @landl: Which team has the batting resources whose career strike rate is more than 130 in ODI's? Because a strike rate of 130+ is required in every one of the games that England plays in to score 120 runs in the last 15 overs?

  • maddy20 on June 22, 2013, 8:18 GMT

    @landl47 Sanga is a good player but not great. Mahela is just too inconsistent and hence at best an average player. The best ODI players in the modern era are Amla, KP, Kohli, Dhoni, AB. All of them average 50 or there about and have fantastic strike rates. Cook and Trott are good players too. If KP does return to ODIs then they should continue to bat Trott at 3 and KP at 4. It means that he will be in at around the 20-25 over mark and will have enough time to get his eye in to tee off in the power play. Playing him at 3 would be huge risk as there will be tremendous pressure on the others if he gets out. Morgan, Bopara etc., will provide the fireworks towards the end. An explosive middle order batsman that can dictate the game is the only thing England's ODI team lacks.

  • JG2704 on June 22, 2013, 7:43 GMT

    @landl47 on (June 22, 2013, 3:47 GMT) For me 280 on a decent batting pitch is not enough against masters like India and SL. We saw this vs SL already in this tournament. Presuming KP comes back - who does he come in for in your opinion and as I've asked before (but recd no response) if there was a choice of KP coming in for Bell or having the side exactly as it is now (with Bell but without KP) what would your choice be?

  • sachin_vvsfan on June 22, 2013, 7:23 GMT

    Although this is a nice report on top 3 stats what fans/opposition fans would like to see is how the top 3 are faring when they are chasing 300+ I am not sure how many times Eng did that in 2012/2013 ( as it first depends on the opposition's score obviously). The final should be an interesting game

  • karma11 on June 22, 2013, 6:42 GMT

    The numbers are clearly showing that England has adopted the "moneyball" approach. Their chances of winning is higher when they have runs on the board. With a lower middle and lower order having the potential to push the pace towards the end...the approach will always ensure a fighting total..at least theoretically. With the conditions suiting England, their bowlers will be able to defend the "fighting total". I think its a good approach even when chasing a steep target.

  • on June 22, 2013, 5:08 GMT

    The featured comment compare Kohli with the three. How surprising. Kohli strikes at more than 86 per 100 balls with averages close to 50. There are not even a single batsman in the current Indian ODI lineup who strikes at below 80. That's why they consistently scored more than 300 or chased the target down with 10/15 overs to spare this Champions Trophy.

  • N.J.H. on June 22, 2013, 3:53 GMT

    That's why Sachin was a league apart from other players of his generation. He started playind international cricket in late 80s. Half of his odi matches were played between 1990 and 2000. At that time scoring at high rate was not important. Scores around 250 were winning totals. Giving solidity to the innings was more important. But at that time Sachin's average was 40 plus with strike rate 85 plus. He could score big scores at high speed. Very few players of that generation had the magical combo of 40 avg and 80 strike rate. Now we cant comare today's players to him. Today many players have that combo. Now scoring at high speed is easier. Conditions and rules are batting friendly, boundaries are shorter. Players mindset also have changed.

  • landl47 on June 22, 2013, 3:47 GMT

    @JeffG: Yes, according to your analysis, they would score more runs- 3 more, to be precise.

    Let me suggest to you that it should be looked at differently. If the top 4 put together a platform of 160-3 in 35 overs, the side has 15 overs and 7 wickets to score anther 120 runs or thereabouts, giving a total of 280. With a good bowling and fielding side, 280 is a good target and will win about 5 games for every one it loses. I'll happily take 280 runs batting first in every game.

    Batting second chasing a big target is a more tricky issue. I'm inclined to agree that the top 4 must increase the scoring rate so as not to leave too big a deficit for the middle order to make up or, if they can't do that batting within their comfort zone, take risks that may get them out. However, that assumes the target is more than 280. If the target is, say, 175 as it was in England's last game, probably the last person the opposition wants to see coming in is Jonathan Trott.

  • heathrf1974 on June 22, 2013, 0:55 GMT

    Although England's strike rate may be lower than India's, there batting average is superior. So there are rewards for a more patient innings. The keys to the match on Sunday is whether or not the English bowlers can expose the lower order of India who have not really been tested at all during the series and how the English batsman handle India's much improved bowling attack. Should be a great match.

  • Gigster on June 22, 2013, 0:23 GMT

    While this article really put to place my notion that the English openers played too slow. I also wonder whether it would be relevant to consider the strike rates of all teams against England since 2012 (since it would account for the two teams playing in similar conditions.)

  • on June 21, 2013, 23:44 GMT

    For the past 20 years I have laughed at the ineptitude of Eng's ODI game. They've always included to many can't bat, can't bowl bits & pieces player, hopeless sloggers and the like trying to find a good 'balance.' All the time looking absolutely clueless as to how to play winning ODI cricket. Strategy has always their problem and not knowing how to win, not talent (in much the same way NZ is in test cricket.)

    Finally they have a solid game plan, players executing it and in doing Eng are winning a lot more games than they are losing. Their perceived slow scoring rate is all smoke and mirrors due to the style of the top 3, accumulators not hitters. But look around the ODI game no one, excepting Ind, are even attempting to score 90 in the 1st 15 overs anymore. T20 has changed the ODI game and teams now know if they are 2 or 3 down and scoring at 4.5 - 5 an over after 30 they can easily put on another 140+ and be finishing up with 280+ which is still a winning score more often than not.

  • ballsintherightareas on June 21, 2013, 23:08 GMT

    Another frequent criticism of England's top 3 is that they fail to raise their SR to chase large totals. I would suggest large totals essentially fall into three categories: a) 'easy batting conditions' b) the opposition's batters had a good day c) the bowlers had a bad day

    In the case of (b) or (c), it is probably often just due to random chance. If you take five or six coins (to represent bowlers or batsmen) and keep flipping them, you will sometimes get a lot of heads or a lot of tails (good or bad performances). In these cases, there is no reason to suppose that the chasing batsmen can magically chase down a bigger than average total just because the opposition scored one. They can take more risks (bat in T20 style) to score faster, but chances are they will also get out quicker.

    Regarding (a), does anyone actually have stats to back up the assertion that England fail in this dept? And I'm actually quite skeptical that conditions actually vary much in ODIs anyway.

  • ballsintherightareas on June 21, 2013, 22:52 GMT

    Great article, Mr Rajesh, sir! :-)

    A significant factor worth adding (I've mentioned this before in other articles so apologies to those reading it again) is the effect of the initial 10 over powerplay. All teams tend to score more quickly during this powerplay than in the overs than follow. Since England's top three have high averages, it means that they bat a higher proportion of their innings (especially Trott) outside of that powerplay, so the strike rates that they achieve are even more impressive than they seem at first glance.

    Oh, and I fail to see any significance in the number of dot balls. Cricket is not won and lost on dot balls, it is won and lost on runs. It is completely insignificant whether you score them all in singles, all in sixes or something in between. The only thing that matters is how many the team score in the 50 overs.

  • Optic on June 21, 2013, 22:14 GMT

    @ ansram That's not what happens though is it. The longer Trott bats the faster he gets and catches up on his strike rate. Like the last match where he finished on 82 off 84 balls and plenty of others where he'll get a ton off 110/15 balls at worst. I also think anyone that's critical of Trott and way he plays and scores runs hasn't a clue what they're talking about. The guy just consistently scores runs at a decent lick, whether you think the team balance is not to you're liking that's different altogether.

    @ JeffG Don't agree with much of what you've put. On the top order taking up to many balls, the fact is there are 2 new balls to play against and more often than ot in England they do a bit and it's tricky to score fast off, We've also seen in the past that even when we lose wickets and give the lower order order time at the crease, the likes of Morgan & Buttler can't be relied on to consistently get runs. So for me until KP comes back they've got the right balance ATM.

  • Optic on June 21, 2013, 21:55 GMT

    I think what some people have failed to realise is that just looking at strike rate can be misleading. Like in 2 of the recent games we've played, we've bowled teams out for under 200, in that case the top 3's strike rate doesn't have to be high and doesn't really matter what it is. When chasing 180, 50 off 75 is all you need and that's what's been happening in quite a number of games. If you have a good attack like England have, you often see England chasing middling totals, very rarely is it a 300+ total chase.

    The fact is the players playing (except KP) are the best one day payers we've got and they've got us to the final by playing this way. Sure KP opening with Cook would be better but it isn't to be atm. As this CT as gone we've also seen that proper batsmen are needed at the top of the order, you only have to look at the abject performances at some of the other top 3 batsmen. Ateotd they've put a team together to win this trophy in these conditions, so far so good.

  • on June 21, 2013, 21:40 GMT

    Cricket is Probabaly the only sport which creates so much statistics, however on the match day it all becomes irrelevant leaving all those involved at the mercy of wheather, pitch conditions the the Lady Luck !

  • JG2704 on June 21, 2013, 21:36 GMT

    Many ways to look at things.

    Peronally I'm not in favour of the top 3 as it is even if it's what got us to the final and has often served us well.However we mustn't forget that the top 3 would be Cook,KP,Trott had KP not retired (since unretiring). One thing they mentioned on one of the CT games was that comparing Trott with Amla. I think it was said that when Amla scores big SA win but when Trott scores big it's not always the same result for England. I change my mind about Trott all the time but I think he is harshly pigeonholed as the slowcoach when Bell and Cook generall go at a similar pace and are not as consistent scoringwise. I still think they could do as well with 2 of the 3 with Root also playing a similar role if necessary. Also feel Jos should learn to settle down. The guy has so much ability but is so much better when he builds an innings. So I'd rather see him score heavier at a lesser SR. He could still score at a SR of 130-50 without taking huge risks

  • Nppinte on June 21, 2013, 21:33 GMT

    Id just like to say that its not Trotts strike rate or average that is a problem, but his inability to change gears. Yes Mahela and Sangakkara have 'subpar' strike rates, but noone would deny that they have the shots and the ability to to manage or post run rates of above 7/8 per over when needed. The same was very much true of even Dravid towards the end of his oneday career.

    I currently do not see Trott Cook or Bell doing that. The English top order does one thing and does it really well i.e provide a platform. While its a great method in some conditions, it can appear formulaic and very predictable, especially in alien conditions. Their best for flexibility is KP and he isnt playing at the moment. One option might be to groom someone like Bopara for this role by playing him higher, I dont know if this has been tried and failed.

  • Vkarthik on June 21, 2013, 20:19 GMT

    http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/566924.html

    http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/518966.html

    See the difference between the approach... of Kohli and Trott Sure he got his runs at 100 plus SR. It needed to be much higher in this case.

  • Vkarthik on June 21, 2013, 20:16 GMT

    Raw stats won't give you much information. You need to dig a bit into each match and situation. Jayawardane can move himself to 4th gear when needed and really get some big overs. Trott cannot. He only operates in 2 gears.

  • JohnnyRook on June 21, 2013, 18:24 GMT

    While all of Cook, Trott and Bell have good average and a good strike rate, it makes no sense to have 3 players in the same role. If you have 6 batsmen like them, all will have a great combo of 40 avg plus 80 SR. But the team's score by end of 50 overs will only be 240. However I don't think any of them deserves a chop. Opening pair can try to be a little faster. Amla as well as Kallis have become great ODI players. For now, I think England should send Morgan or Root before Trott. That will ensure a more balanced batting order.

  • SDHM on June 21, 2013, 18:19 GMT

    @ansram - doesn't tell the whole story. Whenever Trott makes a 100 it's usually at around a run a ball, which shows that if he stays in, he catches up. The problem is if he gets out without pushing on.

  • ansram on June 21, 2013, 18:02 GMT

    Averaging 53 with a strike rate of 77 isn't a great stat. Imagine, if this guy scores a 100, he may take up 140 balls and leave too much for the others to do.

    Average of 40 at 85, we have a clear match winner.

  • on June 21, 2013, 17:47 GMT

    The question isn't "are they fast or slow?". The question is "could they be faster?". To which the answer is "yes".

  • dpeerwani on June 21, 2013, 17:10 GMT

    @JeffG

    Well the reason England seldom find themselves in a 50-5 for situation is the solid foundation Trott and Co lay. They almost never fail to provide a solid foundation, so why can't at least one of Bopara / Morgan (and now Buttler) always strike to provide the balance?

    I am a Pakistan fan and the middle order is always confused about their role. Do they make up for the top order collapse or improvise? If I was an England middle order batsman I would love my role to be set in stone: The foundation is there, now improvise.

  • mikey76 on June 21, 2013, 16:23 GMT

    JeffG so you would also advocate Sri Lanka dumping sangakkara as his SR is less than Trott's?? Trott is a wonderful player, the best no.3 behind Hashim Amla in world cricket. A strike rate in the high 70's is perfectly acceptable, particularly in England where it is sheer folly to throw the bat at the ball. The Cook-Bell-Trott triumverate has got us to a final and more often than not sets up the likes of Morgan, Buttler and Bopara to throw the bat in the last 20 odd overs. Our bowling has been more of an issue in ODI cricket of late, not the batting.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on June 21, 2013, 14:19 GMT

    @landl47 (post on June 21, 2013, 13:55 GMT): LOL - Exactly what some people seem to think.

    @elsmallo (post on June 21, 2013, 13:46 GMT): absolutely 100% agree - that's what I was trying to get at in previous posts here and other threads. Very few people criticise Trott and individual players per say - it's more the tactics and overall mindset of the England team and management that gets on people's nerves. I haven't looked up the stats (which haven't been included here in this article) but I don't recall England successfully chasing big totals, and that's where I think they'll continue to struggle without some sort of flexibility with their batting orders etc. as opposed to simply trying to change individual styles.

  • JeffG on June 21, 2013, 14:15 GMT

    @landl47

    Trott isn't a terrible player, but (as i've explained below) the problem is that his average is too high given his mediocre strike rate. He is using up balls that other, quicker players (i.e. the England middle order) could be using more efficiently.

    If England were regularly finding themselves 50-5 in ODI cricket, then Trott might be a more valuable resource in terms of providing a solid spine to prop up one end. But given the records of the rest of the team, more often than not he is actually costing the team runs by hanging around.

    People really need to move away from the belief that higher average = better player in limited overs cricket.

  • landl47 on June 21, 2013, 13:55 GMT

    Sangakkara- Strike rate 75, average 39- great player.

    Jayawardene- Strike rate 78, average 33- great player

    Trott- Strike rate 77, average 53- terrible player, too slow, shouldn't be in the side.

  • elsmallo on June 21, 2013, 13:46 GMT

    England have become quite a static, 'Plan A' team in the last few years, across all formats. They play to their strengths and when it works, the results are very good. They have a clear batting plan which, in this tournament for example, has been a positive contrast to sides like New Zealand, Pakistan, West Indies, who have often seemed to have little idea of how to approach an innings, or reliant on a couple of players coming off. This has shown the benefit of England's approach. There is no doubt however that the best sides historically have had more flexibility than this England team and been able to produce results when plan A fails. England are not there yet, but in fairness, the approach has largely succeeded in this tournament, given the conditions and opposition so far. The final coming up is a chance for vindication or rethink. I think moving forward the balance will have to change if they are to challenge for a World Cup in the future - players allowing of course.

  • on June 21, 2013, 13:41 GMT

    The key element of a successful top 3 batsman is to make big hundreds and stay until late and accelerate as the inning progresses. This will not put the new batsman at pressure who does not have time to settle down. Look at The-past great top 3 players, you will find them accelerating towards the end and not loosing their wickets at crucial times. I haven't seen any of these three stayng until late and accelerating, moment they start doing it, invariably they loose their wicket and put the late order batsman under pressure .

  • on June 21, 2013, 13:11 GMT

    Where will Pietersen slot back in? The next ODIs will be after the Ashes, in September, so who knows if there will be any injuries to players that will decide who he comes back in for? But until the dispute with the ECB last year, he had formed a successful opening partnership with Cook. Resurrecting that partnership could be one option, though in NZ before his injury that option was not taken, presumably because Bell was seen as now secure in the opening slot.

  • m.ibrahim on June 21, 2013, 13:01 GMT

    I did not agree with the Author's articles that England top 3 scroring too slow as they are always making around 160 to 175 runs in the 35 overs and there is every chance to accelarte in the last 15 overs if yo have wickets in hand and England can make the good score around 280 to 300 consistently which is a winning total keeping in view thier good bowling attack.....Go England and win the Champions Trophy 2013

  • on June 21, 2013, 12:17 GMT

    @Joe Thompson - Bell has not played all his ODI's as an opener. He only started opening in the last couple of years.

  • A.Ak on June 21, 2013, 11:50 GMT

    Strike rate is not an issue for top order batsman, as they go through the New ball. In any in ODI, strike rate around 70 is good for a top order batsman. Only Sachin Sehwag, Santh J, Afridi and Gilli - are major known top order giving 100+ strike rate in the first 15 or so overs..

  • Ravindramk on June 21, 2013, 11:13 GMT

    This stats provide the Info which is critical but what I see the missing link is here are all the top 3 OR top 2 performing in the same match which is crucial. If each of them performing in different match with that strike rate which is bad. Also what needs to be seen is how many matches England as won with that strike rate and also at the end of innings saying that we were short of 20 to 30 runs.

  • on June 21, 2013, 11:04 GMT

    If the top three Cook, Bell and Trott in England side are got out India is won. India can manage well with the bowling of Broad etc of England since they are playable by Indians. I think India is the champion with the battalion of bowlers like Aswin, Umesh, B.Kumar, I.Kumar and Jaddu and batsman Rohit,Sikandar,Virat. Doni, Dinesh etc.

  • JeffG on June 21, 2013, 10:51 GMT

    @SamuelH - completely agree that adding KP to the top 3 would improve England. It would probably be at the expense of Bell, which would be harsh, but it would be right thing to do for the team.

    However, i disagree about Trott. I would rather he averaged 42 at a SR of 77 than 52 at the same rate. That way, Morgan, Buttler, Bopara etc would have an extra couple overs available to them, and more often than not, they'd score more than 10 runs.

    Of course, even better would be if Trott averaged 42 but at a SR of 85 - that would then give the middle order an extra 3 overs to play with.

  • TimMann on June 21, 2013, 10:46 GMT

    The point is should the repeated failures of Morgan and co. be put at the door of Cook, Bell and Trott? I should think the players would say not! I should like to see the times Bell makes a big score linked with strong successful performances by the team. Especially when England bat first, I think you'll find he is an absolute barometer. If Bell performs, they team does, and vice versa. But, hey, we're doing well without KP, remember! Wait till he returns!

  • on June 21, 2013, 10:31 GMT

    Our team isn't that slow but because Morgan and Joe have higher strike rates, I would be tempting to go with Root at 2 and Bell at 4. If you look at Bell ODI record, played over a 100 matches but only 3 100s and 27 50s and that says a lot. Usually openers with that many matches should be on at least 10 ODI 100s. Remember Marcus Trescothick? If you have i.e. Root at 2 and Morgan at 3, you are looking at an extra 30-50 runs on a lot of games especially on batting wickets.

  • SDHM on June 21, 2013, 9:57 GMT

    I just think it's the wrong mix of players personally. Separately, all three are good players, but they are all trying to play the same innings anchoring role. Half the reason Cook, and especially Bell, get out when seemingly well set is because one has to kick on and push the scoring rate up if both have got in, and neither are particularly comfortable doing it. Just think a more aggressive opening partner for Cook - KP, Prior, Wright, Hales, Carberry, whoever - would help the team more. There's a reason Cook's hundreds have dried up, and that's because there isn't someone at the other end taking the pressure off. Trott can keep doing what he does - I'd take an average of 52 at a strike rate of 77 any day.

  • anton_ego on June 21, 2013, 9:31 GMT

    Most people criticize England top order not for their slow start but for taking time to accelerate. So the best indicator would have been the average team score at the end of 35 overs when batting first in the last 2 years. Because other teams fret when they have a run rate of below 5 at this point but England seems to be fine to play with around 4.5 even till the end of 40. They should start playing shots after 30 to post a score of over 300, as India usually does.

  • Ria_meow on June 21, 2013, 9:08 GMT

    Totally agree with JeffG .. had the same thought.. high averages mean these slow players occupy crease for longer than needed.. which means more pressure from the lower order to produce the goods in less time... I think Eng can do without Bell and have an attacking opener to compliment Cook.. if the attacking bloke is out then get Root/KP in, if Cook gets out, get Trott in...

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on June 21, 2013, 8:13 GMT

    Very interesting article that should hopefully silence a few doubters. My only concern is when England are chasing a big total, and scoreboard pressure can really kick in. When Cook and Bell have already taken the shine off the new ball and posted a decent platform, I still feel Trott should move down to 4 and KP/Root should start 'upping the ante' at 3. I've always maintained that the likes of Trott, Cook and Bell are much more valuable players than the KP's and Morgan's that are much too hit-or-miss for my liking. But batting order is something that England really need to consider if they want to stay competitive in the shorter formats, regardless of batting first or chasing.

  • JeffG on June 21, 2013, 8:05 GMT

    Cont...

    If a team has a top 3 that averages 50 at a SR of 75 (similar to England's) those players will, on average, score 150 runs, but use up 200 balls in doing it.

    This would leave 100 balls left for the middle order.

    Now, the stats for the players in positions 4-7 are a batting average of about 32 and a SR of about 82. - meaning that in 100 balls, they would score 82 runs and when added to the runs from the top 3, the team would score 232 in 50 overs.

    Now, what if the top 3 still scored at a SR of 75, but instead averaged 40?

    They would score 120 runs and take 160 balls to do it.

    This would leave 140 balls for the middle order, and at a SR of 82, they would score 115 runs, and when added to the top 3, the team would score 235 in 50 overs.

    Or, in other words, if the top 3 scored less, the team would actually score more.

    So, the problem with England's top 3 is not that they score too slowly but that they don't get out quickly enough.

  • JeffG on June 21, 2013, 7:44 GMT

    I do agree that some of the criticism of England's top 3 has been a bit over the top but I also think that the way we measure batting performance in ODIs needs a bit of a rethink, namely we place too much importance on high averages. This is a carryover from test matches where every run that a batsman scores is positive for the team. That is not necessarily the case in ODI cricket where there is an additional variable of the number of balls available, meaning there is an opportunity cost of scoring too slowly, and the longer a batsman lasts while scoring slowly, the worse it is for his team (most ODI team innings end with wickets still intact.) Therefore, as bizarre as it may sound, if there is a problem with the England top 3 it is not that they score too slowly (as the data shows, they score at an average rate) it is that they use up too many balls (they use up about 40 balls more than the average top 3) I will try and illustrate this in a follow up post...

  • arunisnowhere on June 21, 2013, 7:35 GMT

    makes a decent case for the england top 3 and its a question mark if laying foundation is better than blazing start. i think it depends on the middle-order strength which england does not have! 3 slower but consistent players at the top works if the lower order can step up regularly, but its doubtful if thats possible. England have won more because of their bowling attack and the fact that they play more under helpful conditions for them, so high totals are not required. And the muddled nature of the opposition. this order is not the ideal scenario for them.

    and, unfortunately, the trott comparisons are with current No.3's and not the best No.3's...being better than misbah hafeez tharanga hardly counts! he is a valuable player, no doubt, but they do need one blazing opener...pity kieswetter experiment did not work.

  • arunisnowhere on June 21, 2013, 7:35 GMT

    makes a decent case for the england top 3 and its a question mark if laying foundation is better than blazing start. i think it depends on the middle-order strength which england does not have! 3 slower but consistent players at the top works if the lower order can step up regularly, but its doubtful if thats possible. England have won more because of their bowling attack and the fact that they play more under helpful conditions for them, so high totals are not required. And the muddled nature of the opposition. this order is not the ideal scenario for them.

    and, unfortunately, the trott comparisons are with current No.3's and not the best No.3's...being better than misbah hafeez tharanga hardly counts! he is a valuable player, no doubt, but they do need one blazing opener...pity kieswetter experiment did not work.

  • JeffG on June 21, 2013, 7:44 GMT

    I do agree that some of the criticism of England's top 3 has been a bit over the top but I also think that the way we measure batting performance in ODIs needs a bit of a rethink, namely we place too much importance on high averages. This is a carryover from test matches where every run that a batsman scores is positive for the team. That is not necessarily the case in ODI cricket where there is an additional variable of the number of balls available, meaning there is an opportunity cost of scoring too slowly, and the longer a batsman lasts while scoring slowly, the worse it is for his team (most ODI team innings end with wickets still intact.) Therefore, as bizarre as it may sound, if there is a problem with the England top 3 it is not that they score too slowly (as the data shows, they score at an average rate) it is that they use up too many balls (they use up about 40 balls more than the average top 3) I will try and illustrate this in a follow up post...

  • JeffG on June 21, 2013, 8:05 GMT

    Cont...

    If a team has a top 3 that averages 50 at a SR of 75 (similar to England's) those players will, on average, score 150 runs, but use up 200 balls in doing it.

    This would leave 100 balls left for the middle order.

    Now, the stats for the players in positions 4-7 are a batting average of about 32 and a SR of about 82. - meaning that in 100 balls, they would score 82 runs and when added to the runs from the top 3, the team would score 232 in 50 overs.

    Now, what if the top 3 still scored at a SR of 75, but instead averaged 40?

    They would score 120 runs and take 160 balls to do it.

    This would leave 140 balls for the middle order, and at a SR of 82, they would score 115 runs, and when added to the top 3, the team would score 235 in 50 overs.

    Or, in other words, if the top 3 scored less, the team would actually score more.

    So, the problem with England's top 3 is not that they score too slowly but that they don't get out quickly enough.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on June 21, 2013, 8:13 GMT

    Very interesting article that should hopefully silence a few doubters. My only concern is when England are chasing a big total, and scoreboard pressure can really kick in. When Cook and Bell have already taken the shine off the new ball and posted a decent platform, I still feel Trott should move down to 4 and KP/Root should start 'upping the ante' at 3. I've always maintained that the likes of Trott, Cook and Bell are much more valuable players than the KP's and Morgan's that are much too hit-or-miss for my liking. But batting order is something that England really need to consider if they want to stay competitive in the shorter formats, regardless of batting first or chasing.

  • Ria_meow on June 21, 2013, 9:08 GMT

    Totally agree with JeffG .. had the same thought.. high averages mean these slow players occupy crease for longer than needed.. which means more pressure from the lower order to produce the goods in less time... I think Eng can do without Bell and have an attacking opener to compliment Cook.. if the attacking bloke is out then get Root/KP in, if Cook gets out, get Trott in...

  • anton_ego on June 21, 2013, 9:31 GMT

    Most people criticize England top order not for their slow start but for taking time to accelerate. So the best indicator would have been the average team score at the end of 35 overs when batting first in the last 2 years. Because other teams fret when they have a run rate of below 5 at this point but England seems to be fine to play with around 4.5 even till the end of 40. They should start playing shots after 30 to post a score of over 300, as India usually does.

  • SDHM on June 21, 2013, 9:57 GMT

    I just think it's the wrong mix of players personally. Separately, all three are good players, but they are all trying to play the same innings anchoring role. Half the reason Cook, and especially Bell, get out when seemingly well set is because one has to kick on and push the scoring rate up if both have got in, and neither are particularly comfortable doing it. Just think a more aggressive opening partner for Cook - KP, Prior, Wright, Hales, Carberry, whoever - would help the team more. There's a reason Cook's hundreds have dried up, and that's because there isn't someone at the other end taking the pressure off. Trott can keep doing what he does - I'd take an average of 52 at a strike rate of 77 any day.

  • on June 21, 2013, 10:31 GMT

    Our team isn't that slow but because Morgan and Joe have higher strike rates, I would be tempting to go with Root at 2 and Bell at 4. If you look at Bell ODI record, played over a 100 matches but only 3 100s and 27 50s and that says a lot. Usually openers with that many matches should be on at least 10 ODI 100s. Remember Marcus Trescothick? If you have i.e. Root at 2 and Morgan at 3, you are looking at an extra 30-50 runs on a lot of games especially on batting wickets.

  • TimMann on June 21, 2013, 10:46 GMT

    The point is should the repeated failures of Morgan and co. be put at the door of Cook, Bell and Trott? I should think the players would say not! I should like to see the times Bell makes a big score linked with strong successful performances by the team. Especially when England bat first, I think you'll find he is an absolute barometer. If Bell performs, they team does, and vice versa. But, hey, we're doing well without KP, remember! Wait till he returns!

  • JeffG on June 21, 2013, 10:51 GMT

    @SamuelH - completely agree that adding KP to the top 3 would improve England. It would probably be at the expense of Bell, which would be harsh, but it would be right thing to do for the team.

    However, i disagree about Trott. I would rather he averaged 42 at a SR of 77 than 52 at the same rate. That way, Morgan, Buttler, Bopara etc would have an extra couple overs available to them, and more often than not, they'd score more than 10 runs.

    Of course, even better would be if Trott averaged 42 but at a SR of 85 - that would then give the middle order an extra 3 overs to play with.