Yorkshire’s record in the Natwest T20 Blast hasn’t been the best over the years. They’ve never won the competition and, despite having an incredibly talented squad stuffed full of England players and top level overseas players, have reached Finals Day once (2012) in the competitions 14 year history. In fact, they have only qualified from the group stage three times – 2006, 2007 and 2012.
To say they need to improve their T20 cricket is an understatement, and I’ve had a look at one of their senior players to see if I can help explain it. Andrew Gale, the 32-year-old Yorkshire Club Captain, has been the T20 Opener for a long time but was dropped by the team midway through the 2015 campaign and missed their first T20 of the 2016 season vs. Leicestershire.
This decision could be the first steps towards improve their T20 fortunes, and here’s why:
Andrew Gale ranked 130th in Strike rate for all players, but 38th in total runs. These two figures taken together show that while Gale can score runs in T20 cricket, he does so at such a slow rate that the rest of the Yorkshire team have to play so recklessly that they’re unable to put together a decent total. Compared to top-ranked T20 openers, his average runs per over is vastly lower – Brendon McCullum and Chris Gayle score at over 11.50 runs per over, while Gale scores at 6.57. Yorkshire’s win rate with Gale in the team is 33%
There’s a well-used phrase in cricket “You’ve got to get him early”. It’s often used for players who, when they’re “in” can put together big scores. For Andrew Gale, the opposite is true – I’d much rather keep him at the crease, than to get him out.
The graph above shows Gale’s balls faced along the horizontal axis, and his strike rate on the vertical axis. The data covers his entire T20 career with Yorkshire. You can see that I’ve got the axes set to 70 and 400, the reason will become clear very shortly. What you can see is that Gale rarely faces more than 25 deliveries, but in that time scores at roughly a strike rate of 120. Even when he does face more deliveries, his scoring rate is very low – both times he’s faced 50+ deliveries his strike rate hovers at about 100.
How does that compare to Chris Gayle, the self proclaimed Universe Boss? Well, not particularly favourably.
While there are more data points available for Chris Gayle (after all, he plays T20 cricket all over the world), the sheer volume of points that exceed Andrew Gale’s data points suggest he is a far superior player – but that’s an obvious point to make, every single person who has watched the two bat could tell you that. Also, you can see that Gayle’s data points fit perfectly on the axes – his data was so extreme I had to use those dimensions for all of the players otherwise comparisons become rather difficult. So, rather than comparing Gale to one of the Kings of T20 I’ve also got some data for other English T20 openers. First up, here’s Jason Roy:
You can see that Jason Roy doesn’t often face more than 40/45 deliveries, but regularly surpasses a strike rate of 100. In fact, he’s more likely to score at greater than 125. That’s a good record, but not exactly setting the world alight. How about his England T20 opening partner Alex Hales?
What first strikes me about Alex Hales is how steep his trendline is as the beginning of his innings, and how closely his data points fit to it up to about 30 deliveries. Hales really is one of those players you need to get out early, or else he starts to motor along nicely. Like Roy, almost all of his innings’ have a strike rate of 125+, with a fair number of innings’ scored at 150+. Like with Gayle, we would assume that Jason Roy and Alex Hales are going to be a lot better than Gale in T20s. But what about a player who often gets overlooked by England, and probably should have played a lot more T20 cricket; what about Luke Wright?
Again, there’s a very good fit to the trendline with Luke Wright, and he has by far the steepest curve. When commentators say “You’ve got to get him early” he’s who they’re thinking of. Get him in his first 10 deliveries and he’ll only have scored 10. Let him face 25 deliveries and he’ll score 37/38. Unlike Roy and Hales, Wright also has a track record of batting for a long time, facing more than 60 deliveries on 4 occasions, compared to once for the two England players.
What happens, though, when we plot all the players on the same graph? Well, the results aren’t quite what you would expect:
Luke Wright appears to be by far the most explosive batsman, reaching a far higher strike rate than the other players once they’ve all faced at least 20 deliveries. Not only that, but look at Chris Gayle! He scores much more quickly at the beginning of his innings than Hales, Wright and Gale, but the longer his innings goes on the less explosive he appears to be. Now, that might be explained by the fact that when Gayle goes big, he quite often starts very slowly (I know, that’s against what you can see in the graphic, but hear me out!) I’ve heard him interviewed and say he knows he’s on for a big score when he takes his time early on, gets his eye in, and then goes big. My data can’t show this, because it’s only a plot for completed innings. If we could see how his strike rate changes across a big score, I’m sure we’d see a sharp increase in strike rate at somewhere between 15 and 20 deliveries. But that’s only a hunch.
For now, the take home message is this: Yorkshire need to keep Gale out of their T20 team this season. He hasn’t formally announced retirement from that format, but I would be shocked if he played much T20 this season. Well, that and you can expect some more interesting innings from Luke Wright!