Thursday, December 09, 2010

The 4th Innings Hype

Reading Gaurav's analysis on Lara Vs Sachin during the 4th innings of a test match confirms my belief that "Lara is an awesome 4th innings player" is one of those hypes that can spread without any data support. It also opens an avenue to discuss my pet peeves with test cricket analysis. The theory that batting well in the 4th innings is somehow associated with not just greatness but also proves that the said batsman is a good player under 'pressure' or a good 'crunch moment' player. This is much broader than a Lara Vs Sachin or a Anyone Vs Laxman discussion. This is a discussion on how the mechanics of the game works based on the rules and the logic inherent to the game.

Here is my hypothesis on measuring the value of good innings in test cricket based on 'when' it is played. This hypothesis is based on an intuition that 4th innings century makers have been unjustly glorified as 'match winners' as opposed to more deserving first innings century makers. Ideally I wanted to pull some data from "stats-guru" database to back the hypothesis. But time constraints and inability to pull the data the way I want to has left me with the cop-out option of just stating the hypothesis and have a kind soul prove or disprove the hypothesis. This hypothesis is not earth shattering or by any means new. It is in fact very obvious to most and in general used as an axiom by most test cricket captains. I state this only to counter-point a new trend in cricket analysis that seems to glorify 4th innings centuries. So here goes

1. Team that bats well in their first innings of the test match is less likely to lose the test match. (Note that this is very different from saying "...more likely to win the test match").

2. The above point can be proven by analyzing data of all test matches played so far. We should find that the team with the higher first innings score would have a greater likelihood of *not* losing the match. As a corollary we should also find that the greater the gap between first innings scores the lesser the instance of team scoring higher having lost the match. For e.g. In instances where delta between first innings scores of two teams is 50 (lets call this variable 'X') or less - let us hypothetically say that the percentage of instances where team scoring higher in first innings loses the test match only 8% of the time (let us call this percentage 'B'). The assertion I am going after is that B is super inversely proportional to X. This data is hard to get and holds the key to whether my theory has any merit or not.

3. Restating 2 to narrow down to the point I want to make - As X (per definition above) increases - the ability of each subsequent innings of that test match to change/reverse the course of that test match decreases. For example When X = 100 let us say that the probability of 3rd innings of the match changing the course of the match is N. Hypothesis here is that the probability of 4th innings changing the course of the test match is actually N/2 or worse. Further hypothesis is that as X increases 3rd innings becomes more and more irrelevant and 4th innings a mere formality to be closed out.

Now up until now #1, #2 and # 3 above are bleeding obvious. Now lets get down to the merely obvious.

4. Following from #1 above - teams should look to maximize the first innings score as much as possible in order to give them the best shot of winning a test match.

5. Following from #2 if a team is faced with a choice of picking Player-1 who will reliably perform well in the first innings of a match Vs Player-2 who will reliably perform in the second innings of a match. The team should always pick Player 1 to firstly maximize there chances of not losing the match and secondly to set themselves up for a win.

6. Following from #3 it is true that in those very rare instances where a player's 4th innings score manages to change the course of the match they have a higher probability of being noticed purely because the event is a low-probability one and so happens very rarely. However, it can be argued (not always) that the player is "curing" a situation as opposed to "preventing" the situation. And if he had batted well in the first innings things would actually have been much better (statement is based on assumption that the said player isn't hitting a century in both innings but 'woke up' in the 4th innings to play well). Sort of analogous to doing well in your arrears exam as opposed to the actual exam. Yes arrears has infinitely more pressure but you shouldn't be writing one in the first place. And you can't be regarded as a good student just because you do consistently well in arrears.

But the direction we are trying to get to is that the most important phase of the test match is the team's first innings. That is what should be called as the "crunch time". And a player who consistently plays well under those circumstances should be regarded as a player who is more effective in winning the match for the team by playing well "when it matters". This is the player who should be regarded as a match-winner

Needless to say - I am stating this as hypothesis based on casual and random filtering and sorting of cricinfo data. I do realize that this may be completely wrong.

P.S: In support of the hypothesis some of the types of data I wanted to pull outside of what was mentioned in #2 are as follows:

a. what % of the matches won by a team had centuries scored by some batsman in the first innings of the match? (knowing fully well that 'century isnt the only definition of good innings but merely a decent indicator)

b. what % of the matches not lost by a team had centuries scored by some batsman in the first innings of the match?

c. what % of the matches lost by a team had centuries scored by some batsman in the first innings of the match?


Anonymous said...

You lost me after the first few lines....too technical

I said...

You are also a Tendulkar fanboy-a?

I said...

In the tenth scene of a movie, hero's friend saves hero in a little fight with a small/allakai villain.

In the climax, hero saves heroine, hero's friend, his mother, and beats up the main villain. Who is the real hero?

By the 4th inning of a Test, a pitch can deteriorate and it can be much harder to bat. So, it is also a question of skill and concentration, to save a Test, play with the tail and/or win it? Also, in the 4th inning there is no comeback or return. If a team screws up in the first inning, they can try to make amends later.

Only Tendulkar fanboys who repeatedly watch his centuries against Zimbabwe or Thiruvarur XI make this argument that the first inning is the most important because it helps their Tendulkar-is-MGR theory. The first inning is the most important, yes. But the argument is not about that.

Even before the first inning, a batsman's mother delivered him. So delivering a baby is more important than the 4th inning of a test a batsman plays 20 years later. So what?

Ram said...

I second I

Sreekrishnan said...

Its a 2 sided argument. [:P] i can say Sagarakalathil Sangara Sangara ... but i am like that - it requires some talent to do so. So Some one who does that is really good too.

I've never been able to take sides with 4th or 1st innings ..

Hawkeye said...


yours is the kind of superficial analysis that I am opposing.

Your examples are not analogous. If 9 out of 10 times the villain kills the hero in the first 1 hour of the movie, rapes the heroine and pethufies 3-4 children with the heroine before the beginning of second half - there will never be a climax fight scene. And that is what I am saying in the post that more often than not it is decided so early on that the climax fight scene is either irrelevant or non-existent. climax fighting skills arent required that many times. unnoda hero velakku venumna pidikalam.

indha 4th inings pitch deterioration etc ellam one-side buruda. in first innings the pitch seams a lot, its new ball and the bowlers are fresh and the batsman has not settled into the match at all and is cold starting. comparing the relative dificulty is a subjective discussion

if you think the argument is not first innings players are more valuable than subsequent innings players then you are commenting on the wrong post. you are writing physics anwers in chemistry question paper.

elegantstroke said...


I got some numbers to answer the questions you raised for 3 players -to see how your theory holds up:
questions am referring to are a, b and c at the end of your post.

a=15% b=14% c=4%
a=12% b=13% c=15%
a=57% b=41% c=40%

the theory holds strong merit for sachin, decent for sehwag and weak for ponting. What can we really say then?

Regardless of the innings played, it is about the impact the player can have on the game that matters. Let us ignore draws in this argument for now. To win the match, a player can have maximum impact for the team's cause if he is able to achieve what he can(take runs/get wickets) in a short period of time. Sehwag scoring a 195 in the first innings and the match is drawn. Sehwag scores a 83 in second innings within 60 balls and the match is won. what would you say is better? The team won in the second case, and that's all that matters.

For draws, we have to filter out the dull draws and look at the draws that could have gone either way. "either way" meaning things were even till the first innings and the second innings is actually very crucial. For winning - above argument of accomplishing things quickly still holds true.

For the matches that could have been lost but saved, some player must have soaked a lot of time with tons of concentration. (e.g. gambhir hit a 133 last year in second innings in NZ and played for nearly 2 days to ensure we save the match, which also meant we win the series.) or a bowler who took wickets periodically but concentrated on his line/length and contained for a substantial period to not give opposition any advantage.

as for the 4th innings hype - may be because when someone accomplishes that late in the game, that stays in the memory longer ;)

I said...

Illa ba, I am only saying that to glorify or romanticize a fourth innings scorer is reasonable to an extent, if at all it comes to that. Yes, a match is often decided within the first 2 days. I am not even talking about who is more valuable.

Chasing say 320, with the score at 4/120 on the fifth day is a higher pressure situation/'crunch' compared to 4/120 on the first day, even discounting for subjectivities. Roughly similar to why some teams do poorly when chasing but better when setting, in one-dayers.

I am not saying the fourth innings is the only or even major measure of a batsman's prowess. It's like that important keyword/achievement on the resume.

elegantstroke said...

correction: the numbers on sehwag i state above is incorrect:

correct numbers are:
a=11.7% b=10.7% c=10.5%

actually if u compare a+b to c, then i think what you say can be strongly supported.

Alan Smithee said...

High 4th innings score is indicative of a poor bowling attack in your side which let the opponents to rake up so much runs. It is my guess that batsman in Aus (during McGrath-Warne time) and WI (during the pace quartet time) could be sloppy 4th innings batsmen. But most of Tendulkar's time has been with shoddy bowlers like Dodda Ganesh and Venkatesh Prasad. Therefore he is more likely than not to be in a position where he has to play a long innings to save the match. You shouldn't be looking at wins. Instead you should be looking at losses where India was batting in the 4th innings and figure out how many could have been saved. Like batting out the last 4-5 sessions.

Alan Smithee said...

Looks like batting 4th Tendulkar had been in 22 losses. If you further filter this with matches where you only had to survive 120 overs (4 sessions), you will get a better idea of how many times he really sucked.;filter=advanced;innings_number=4;orderby=start;result=2;template=results;type=batting;view=match

Anonymous said...

1. Team that bats well in their first innings of the test match is less likely to lose the test match. (Note that this is very different from saying "...more likely to win the test match" )

4. Following from #1 above - teams should look to maximize the first innings score as much as possible in order to give them the best shot of winning a test match.

Measuring the quality/value of a test innings based on when (first day/innings, last day/innings) it is made from raw aggregate facts - not possible.

- Ramesh, not the one you know :-)

Anonymous said...

Everything is hyped including Tanda Kullar. His height in cricinfo says 5.5 thats hyped as well.

Kokki Kumarru said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kokki Kumarru said...

I am confused. But Gaurav seems to have relied on one particular Walsh lara match though. I lost count of the number of similar passionate moments sachin produced for sure.

And he seems to have mentioned all the stats of both and there s a clear advantage in terms of numbers to sachin.

And still I just dont get it. I read gaurav's analysis. He s proposing that playing in the fourth innings is tougher to play compared to the first innings. And you exactly the opposite. According to the way i comprehend cricket why wasn't the first day green wicket and 4th day madras wicket considered. The ball, sky, clouds, swing, spin, etc.
I am on no one's side. Cricket is a beautiful game. Both are flamboyant artists. I adore them. But lets not forget mapis, the game is greater than anybody else.

Hawkeye said...

elegant stroke, alan, ramesh, kokki kumar

1. so you are focusing on the data from an individual player's perspective.

2. really... the data from #2 mentioned in the post is the key piece of data as that includes more factors than just 1 individual player

3. having said that elegant stroke's data doesnt seem right to me. "winning" is a subset of of "not losing" (which is reall win + tie + draw). so I am not sure how pontings "win %" can be more than "not lose %" or how tendulkar's "win %" is such a big part of his "not lose %" ( i thought alot of his centuries were in drawn test matches).

4. ramesh - my assumption is that "win %" is a subset of "not lose" and can be generally assumed to be a 'constant' -> 'growing' part of "not lose" space. so i dont think the parts of the sentences you have highlighted as bold are contradictory. they hold true. data may not cover the exceptions but hold good for the norm.

5. i also think anecdotal evidence is overriding emperical data. so people tend to remember rarely occuring anecdotes vs more frequently occurring ones.

6. also in general chasing 400 in 5 sessions or surviving 5 sessions to save a game etc is all like saying you will prepare for JEE exam in 2 months. really 1 in 10000 will be able to do that successfully but would you call him a good student. match winner is someone who helps you win matches but batting when it 'matters' (read as most effective to help you win the game). why put yourself in that bad situation to start with?

Hawkeye said...

kokki kumar,

gaurav's post is addressing a different hype - that lara is a much better 4th innings player than sachin. it doesnt address whether playing well in 4th innings is a valuable skill or not.

Gaurav said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gaurav said...

Firstly, the comments here show that I (aka murungakka) and Alan Smithee are still complete ignoramuses, dickwads, posers, and fuckwits. They really need to have more sex so their brains can comprehend other matters better. there's more to life than wiskey, you fugly arsewipes. At least murungakka is concise in his assholery. Smithee is way too verbose. I blame his pretentious single malt fetish. Sodomizing the cork screws of whiskey bottles can do that, Smithee. Quit the habit.

Moving on...

Nice post, Hawk. Totally agree with your hypotheses. If I recall correctly, Greg Chappell (before he became Indian coach) made this point about Sehwag too. That his first innings record is awesome that his 2nd innings records doesnt matter. A batsman who does so well in 1st winnings is invaluable because 1st innings tons "more often than not" set up wins. 3rd or 4th innings runs "more often than not" save matches. Am an admitted Viru fanboy, but not making that point here. Citing it to agree with your point about the importance of 1st and 2nd inning centuries. Not to take away anything from VVS's recent masterpieces, or Lara or Sachin's knocks. So, in sum, agree with you totally.

kokki, you said "I read gaurav's analysis. He s proposing that playing in the fourth innings is tougher to play compared to the first innings."
Am proposing nothing of the kind. Am sorry if you felt that way. I failed in writing clearly if that was the impression I conveyed to you. All I meant to write was that Lara, through his career, was no better or worse than Sachin, when it came to winning 4th innings scores.

I said...

If Gaurav writes one more post about IIPM (the last one dated Nov 30) his wife should leave him. or may be she already has.

So, hopefully he holds onto a job, gets that elusive erection and impresses his ABCD wife. Just don't think about IIPM during sex, fuckface That may make your marriage worth a little more than a Green Card.

Gaurav said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gaurav said...

Awwwww, my reply rattled you enough to scramble and look up the date of my last IIPM post? That's cute. Really cute. Hope your intellectually superior Mumbai-raised wife appreciates the effort enough to put out.

Nope, it's rattled you more. Enough to forget the right places that one should put uppercase at. Why else would you put uppercase where it does not belong? Do check your comments for typos before you post, dickwad.

Raj said...


I am dissapointed that an intelligent, gracious young person such as you stooped to such a low level of argument. Your time could have been better spent commenting on the analysis, which is what I expected you to do. I was sitting back waiting for a quality discussion and I saw this. A let down.

Gaurav said...


My point relevant to this discussion has already been made by Hawkeyeview - that I was not saying 4th innings were special, but that Lara and Sachin are the same in that regard.

Re: the tiff with I aka murungakka, sorry if that let you down. He is, in Hayden's words, an obnoxious little weed who needs to be put in his place. Ignorance coupled with arrogance is a combo that needs to be stopped. Sorry if my replies to him and the half-wit whiskey-drunk Smithee offended and disappointed you.

I said...

Ha ha. That's all, Sabnis? Pretty weak for a second try at a comeback. If you had sex every ten times you brought up IIPM, you could have done better, and would not be typing out a response to an ignoramus like me at midnight. (after deleting the original response typed 30 minutes earlier). Talk about getting rattled.

You scared me so much that you put me in my place, and I am trembling. Poi velaya paaru.

Alan Smithee said...

Hey Gaurav,

I think you mistook my post. The part starting with "http" is a hyperlink.

Dr.Dheep said...

I hate cricket, but love this mud slinging among you guys...

Sanjay Bhansali said...

Finally, the love hate relationship between Bharath and Gaurav has been consummated. And that too over Sachin. Wonderful. Toss the salad time.

Extra-Ordinarily Ordinary said...

if you think the argument is not first innings players are more valuable than subsequent innings players then you are commenting on the wrong post. you are writing physics anwers in chemistry question paper.


Sema nachchu reply!

Anonymous said...

Ok. Does that make Murli Vijay the greatest batsman of all time? Thought not. Give me a Viv Richards any day. Oh. Retired, has he?