Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.


Recent Comments

Monthly Archives

Most recent entries


Advanced Search

Other Blogs I write for

Brian Micklethwait's Education Blog

CNE Competition
CNE Intellectual Property
Transport Blog


2 Blowhards
6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alan Little
Albion's Seedling
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Alex Singleton
Another Food Blog
Antoine Clarke
Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
Armed and Dangerous
Art Of The State Blog
Biased BBC
Bishop Hill
Bloggers Blog
Blognor Regis
Blowing Smoke
Boatang & Demetriou
Boing Boing
Boris Johnson
Brazen Careerist
Bryan Appleyard
Burning Our Money
Cafe Hayek
Charlie's Diary
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
Chicago Boyz
China Law Blog
Cicero's Songs
City Comforts
Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog
Clay Shirky
Climate Resistance
Climate Skeptic
Coffee & Complexity
Coffee House
Communities Dominate Brands
Confused of Calcutta
Conservative Party Reptile
Contra Niche
Contrary Brin
Counting Cats in Zanzibar
Скрипучая беседка
Dave Barry
Davids Medienkritik
David Thompson
Deleted by tomorrow
diamond geezer
Dizzy Thinks
Don't Hold Your Breath
Douglas Carswell Blog
Dr Robert Lefever
Dr. Weevil
Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights
English Cut
English Russia
EU Referendum
Ezra Levant
Everything I Say is Right
Fat Man on a Keyboard
Ferraris for all
Flickr blog
Freeborn John
Freedom and Whisky
From The Barrel of a Gun
Fugitive Ink
Future Perfect
Gaping Void
Gates of Vienna
Global Warming Politics
Greg Mankiw's Blog
Guido Fawkes' blog
Here Comes Everybody
Hit & Run
House of Dumb
Iain Dale's Diary
Idiot Toys
India Uncut
Jackie Danicki
James Delingpole
James Fallows
Jeffrey Archer's Official Blog
Jessica Duchen's classical music blog
Jihad Watch
Joanne Jacobs
Johan Norberg
John Redwood
Jonathan's Photoblog
Kristine Lowe
Laissez Faire Books
Last of the Few
Lessig Blog
Libertarian Alliance: Blog
Liberty Alone
Liberty Dad - a World Without Dictators
Lib on the United Kingdom
Little Man, What Now?
listen missy
Loic Le Meur Blog
L'Ombre de l'Olivier
London Daily Photo
Mad Housewife
Mangan's Miscellany
Marginal Revolution
Mark Wadsworth
Media Influencer
Melanie Phillips
Metamagician and the Hellfire Club
Michael Jennings
Michael J. Totten's Middle East Journal
Mick Hartley
More Than Mind Games
mr eugenides
Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism
My Boyfriend Is A Twat
My Other Stuff
Natalie Solent
Nation of Shopkeepers
Never Trust a Hippy
NO2ID NewsBlog
Non Diet Weight Loss
Nurses for Reform blog
Obnoxio The Clown
Oddity Central
Oliver Kamm
On an Overgrown Path
One Man & His Blog
Owlthoughts of a peripatetic pedant
Oxford Libertarian Society /blog
Patri's Peripatetic Peregrinations
Picking Losers
Pigeon Blog
Police Inspector Blog
Power Line
Private Sector Development blog
Publius Pundit
Rachel Lucas
Remember I'm the Bloody Architect
Rob's Blog
Setting The World To Rights
Shane Greer
Shanghaiist The Violin Blog
Sinclair's Musings
Slipped Disc
Sky Watching My World
Social Affairs Unit
Squander Two Blog
Stephen Fry
Stuff White People Like
Stumbling and Mumbling
Style Bubble
Sunset Gun
Survival Arts
Susan Hill
Technology Liberation Front
The Adam Smith Institute Blog
The Agitator
The AntRant
The Becker-Posner Blog
The Belgravia Dispatch
The Belmont Club
The Big Blog Company
The Big Picture
the blog of dave cole
The Corridor of Uncertainty (a Cricket blog)
The Croydonian
The Daily Ablution
The Devil's Advocate
The Devil's Kitchen
The Dissident Frogman
The Distributed Republic
The Early Days of a Better Nation
The Examined Life
The Filter^
The Fly Bottle
The Freeway to Serfdom
The Future of Music
The Futurist
The Happiness Project
The Jarndyce Blog
The London Fog
The Long Tail
The Lumber Room
The Online Photographer
The Only Winning Move
The Policeman's Blog
The Road to Surfdom
The Sharpener
The Speculist
The Surfer
The Wedding Photography Blog
The Welfare State We're In
things magazine
Tim Blair
Tim Harford
Tim Worstall
Transterrestrial Musings
UK Commentators - Laban Tall's Blog
UK Libertarian Party
Unqualified Offerings
Violins and Starships
Virginia Postrel
we make money not art
What Do I Know?
What's Up With That?
Where the grass is greener
White Sun of the Desert
Why Evolution Is True
Your Freedom and Ours


Mainstream Media

The Sun
This is London


RSS 1.0
RSS 2.0


Billion Monkeys
Bits from books
Bloggers and blogging
Brian Micklethwait podcasts
Career counselling
Cats and kittens
Civil liberties
Classical music
Computer graphics
Current events
Digital photographers
Emmanuel Todd
Expression Engine
Food and drink
Getting old
How the mind works
Intellectual property
Kevin Dowd
Latin America
Media and journalism
Middle East and Islam
My blog ruins
My photographs
Open Source
Other creatures
Pop music
Quote unquote
Roof clutter
Science fiction
Signs and notices
Social Media
South America
The internet
The Micklethwait Clock
This and that
This blog

Monday June 08 2009

Well, England have survived.  Had I put “England has survived”, you’d know that this was about something important, like the recent elections we’ve been having, but “have” means it can only be sport, and indeed it is.

Having lost in the Twenty20 cricket to The Netherlands, England had to beat Pakistan to stay in the tournament that England itself is hosting, and ... they did.

There was, however, one very odd feature about the BBC radio commentary, which concerned the rules about who gets through, and who goes out.  If England didn’t win, they were out.  That much was made very clear.  And all the commentary was from that, English, point of view.

But what of Pakistan?  England, Pakistan and The Netherlands are in a group of three, of whom two will go through to the next round.  My understanding now is that Pakistan must beat The Netherlands by a greater margin than England beat Pakistan, or Pakistan go out on worse run rate.  But the commentators were talking as if all Pakistan had to do was beat The Netherlands.  Only much later did they mention the thing of Pakistan having to thrash The Netherlands.

This was a serious omission, because it resulted in them not describing the state of mind of the Pakistanis as the Pakistan England game drew towards its close, with the England victory that eventually happened becoming ever more likely as the required scoring rate for a Pakistan victory got higher and higher.  During those closing overs, the commentators were all asking: Why aren’t the Pakistanis even trying to hit sixes?  They were asking rhetorically, but there was a real answer.  Pakistan were no longer even trying to win.  They were trying to maximise their losing score, to minimise the margin of victory they now need to achieve against The Netherlands.  Had they had a final thrash against England and lost by sixty, that would have made it much harder to get through, because then they’d have to beat The Netherlands by sixty one.  As it is, they have to beat The Netherlands by a mere forty nine, or whatever it is.

This Cricinfo piece says I am right:

Pakistan ... maybe suffered from knowing they have a second chance against Netherlands on Wednesday, but this defeat was so heavy that even a win in that game might not be enough.

If I have this all wrong, and Pakistan merely have to beat The Netherlands, by anything, well, this too should have been spelled out by the commentators during the England game, because it would have meant that the losing margin didn’t matter, and Pakistan would have been behaving illogically to bat as they actually did.  And if I have it right, as I obviously think I have, then this too should have been explained, because it made sense of the Pakistan batting.

By the way, the basic reason I think I do have it right (besides Cricinfo agreeing with me I mean) is that even if the regular way they decide who goes through is to ask: of the two teams contending for the second place, which one beat the other in the game they played against each other? ... well, in this case, that wouldn’t settle it, because, The Netherlands having beaten England and England having beaten Pakistan, this problem will only now arise if Pakistan then beat The Netherlands.  Which will mean that all three teams will have one win each, and you get a never ending tail-chasing loop instead of an answer to the above question.  So, it has to be done on scoring rates.

Which means that there is a further twist to all this.  There is now every chance that The Netherlands will beat Pakistan.  This is because Pakistan may find themselves having to score a lot of runs not in twenty overs but in, I don’t know, sixteen overs, and will lose wickets trying to do that, will fail, and will then be beaten, not least because of having nothing to gain then from winning by an insufficient margin.  Which will put The Netherlands not just through to the next round, but through as the group winners!  How about that for a freak result?

Fun, fun, fun.

That last point is one I have still not come across in any of the commentary I have since read, anywhere.  You almost certainly read this here first, in the unlikely event that any of you are reading this at all.

All of which I have merely deduced from reading around this subject.  Had the BBC people been doing their jobs properly, the above intricacies are what they would have been talking about towards the end of the England Pakistan game.  As it was, as I say, we heard nothing of this, until long after the game was over.

It’s rare for me to have any serious complaints about BBC cricket commentaries, but this was a definite error.  And note too that it was an error based on seeing things entirely from an English-supporting point of view.  A Pakistani listening to this commentary would have felt seriously left out.  Biased BBC, but biased in favour of the English, and biased against Pakistan supporting people in England.

Later this afternoon, it’s Australia v Sri Lanka.  If the Aussies lose, they’re out.  But if the Aussies win, then the Sri Lanka West Indies game will be the same hyper-complicated handicap that the Netherlands Pakistan game will be.  The Aussies could win this afternoon, narrowly, but if the Sri Lankans then beat the Windies, the Aussies could still be out, because of the thrashing they got from the Windies. 

Sri Lanka’s first match of the tournament is the most crucial one for Australia, who must win to stay alive in an event which has barely started. Even then a victory might not be enough after their heavy seven-wicket loss to West Indies, which puts them well behind on net run-rate.

The Windies really like to beat the Aussies, and would also have a good chortle if they ejected the Aussies from the tournament by letting the Sri Lankans beat them, by a bit.  More fun.

It is only now dawning on me what a pickle the Aussie are now in, far worse than the pickle England were in after losing very narrowly to The Netherlands.  The Aussies may well be faced with the dilemma of wondering whether to go for a big win against Sri Lanka, and thereby risking losing and definitely going out, or settling for a small win, which will then mean that if Sri Lanka beat the Windies by, according to my calculations, anything, the Aussies still go out.  Or something.

What a way to run a tournament.  But, as I recall saying apropos of similar complexities concerning the first round of a soccer tournament a while back, you try to do better.

It’s a bit like trying to organise elections, you might say.  There’s no perfect way.

UPDATE evening: Ireland through.  Australia out.

The same issue may well come up in the Aus/WI/SL group.

There are no perfect systems, and this can be mathematically proven. (Quite a lot of mathematical study has been done on the closely related problem of optimal electoral systems). However, some systems are clearly better than others, and the “two teams go through from a pool of three” system is clearly problematic. A smaller number of larger groups is usually better than a larger number of smaller groups, for one thing. The last 50 over World Cup had a short first round with small groups that was supposed to eliminate the minnows quickly so that the eight teams that were any good could get on with it. Instead we had India and Pakistan eliminated in the first week, which was not what the organisers wanted.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 08 June 2009

"During those closing overs, the commentators were all asking: Why aren’t the Pakistanis even trying to hit sixes?  They were asking rhetorically, but there was a real answer.  Pakistan were no longer even trying to win.  They were trying to maximise their losing score, to minimise the margin of victory they now need to achieve against The Netherlands.  Had they had a final thrash against England and lost by sixty, that would have made it much harder to get through, because then they’d have to beat The Netherlands by sixty one.  As it is, they have to beat The Netherlands by a mere forty nine, or whatever it is.”

I don’t think this is quite right.  The points table is based on run rate, not total number of runs.  Regardless of how many runs the Netherlands actually score, Pakistan have to score at a rate of more than 2.4 rpo more than the Netherlands.  I’m pretty sure it isn’t as you describe - Pakistan having to beat the Netherlands by a fixed amount - since, if the Netherlands batted first and were all out for a tiny score - say, 40 - then it’d be impossible for Pakistan to exceed that by the required amount, despite obliterating the opposition.

From this perspective, the ideal Pakistan batting strategy against England when they started to realise that they weren’t going to win would have been to try and hit as many sixes as possible.  It would be preferable to be all out for 150 in 15 overs (10 rpo) than reach 160 in 20 overs (8 rpo).  The Pakistan strategy really was inexplicable… maybe they were taking advice from John Dyson?

[I should add that I’m writing this in Chrome, which I’m trying out following your previous post (and finding to be impressively fast, if not customisable), and there’s a very convenient thing in the corner which allows me to expand the text box - see screenshot_14664.png]

Posted by Andrew on 08 June 2009


Thanks.  I’m sure you’re right that it’s based on run rate, if you say so, and indeed I do vaguely recall reading such a thing myself.

But, I think it is the case that if (say) a side is all out for 60 in 8 overs, that would count as them scoring at 3 runs per over.  I.e. all twenty overs would be deemed to have been used up.  Reaching 150 in 15 overs is 10 runs worse than 160 in 20, and 0.5 lower in run rate.

Or something.

All very complicated, and I bet that’s still not it exactly.

All the more reason, then, for the commentators to do their job and find out what IS exactly right.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 09 June 2009

What I don’t quite understand is why they didn’t go for two groups of six, with the winner of each playing the other group’s runner up in a semi-final.

The maximum number of games for the winner would be seven, which it is now. We’d see more of Scotland, Bangladesh and Australia, and if a game is rained off, well they still get another chance.

If England’s game had been rained off on Sunday we’d quite possibly have been out having played one game only. How crazy is that?

Posted by Peter Briffa on 09 June 2009


Agreed.  The whole virtue of Twenty20 is that it doesn’t take too long, and you can even play it on consecutive days without it being an unfair advantage to whichever side didn’t, if you get my drift.  So, do as you say, and give everyone a decent number of games.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 09 June 2009

From Cricinfo today:

“Netherlands, to progress and thus consign Pakistan to a fate they seem worryingly resigned to, can afford to lose, but by no more than 24 runs. If Pakistan chase, then they must do so with roughly three overs to spare.”

Roughly?  Presumably this means that exactly how many overs depends on the total they are chasing.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 09 June 2009

I thought Pakistan had to catch up with the margin of the Dutch win over England as well as the margin of their own loss.

I can’t say if that would make a steady run rate worthwhile.

Posted by Antoine Clarke on 09 June 2009

If x is the number of runs that the side batting first score, then the solution will be able to be expressed of the form a + f(x), where a is known already ("roughly three overs"), and f(x) is a so called “higher order term” which will be small compared to a. If x is such that f(x) is of the magnitude as a, then this form of the solution will cease to be valid.

And commenting on other terms in the thread, if a side is bowled out then they are considered as having scored their runs off the full number of overs. If this were not the case then there would sometimes be incentives for sides to get bowled out deliberately, which would be undesirable. Usually the people setting the rules for tournaments like this are far too stupid to figure these sorts of things out for themselves, and they normally only get fixed after someone actually does exploit a problem with the rules, so I am sure this once actually happened.

Australia can’t complain though. Being out for losing both games is fair enough.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 09 June 2009

I think the rules were changed precisely because of this kind of thing, Michael.

Posted by Peter Briffa on 10 June 2009
Commenting is not available in this weblog entry.