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Wednesday March 04 2015

Yes, incoming from Michael Jennings:

As I see it, we have five teams in this World Cup who are any good and have some chance of winning it: Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lankan in Group A, and India and South Africa in Group B.

New Zealand will win Group A, the winner of the game between Australia and Sri Lanka on Sunday will come second, and the loser of that game will come third. (England will probably limp into fourth.) Barring major upsets, India will win Group B and South Africa will come second. Pakistan and the West Indies (or possibly even Ireland) will take the third and fourth places, but it is very hard to say in what order at this point.

This means in the quarter finals, New Zealand, India, and the winners of Australia v Sri Lanka get relatively easy quarter finals, and South Africa and the losers of Australia v Sri Lanka get a tough one. Given South Africa’s history of choking in World Cup knockout matches, I can’t imagine this thrills them. The possibility of playing Australia at home in the quarter final really doesn’t thrill them, I suspect.

Australia will want to beat Sri Lanka, though. Not only do they avoid South Africa in the quarter final, but that way they also avoid the possibility of having to play New Zealand in New Zealand in the semi-final. If they beat Sri Lanka and come second in the group, the only way they can play New Zealand again would be at the MCG in the final. The New Zealand crowd was apparently rather abusive towards the Australian players last week, and Australian crowds remember such things and have a tendency to want to get their own back. (The New Zealand players were apparently paragons of sportsmanship, though.)

Makes sense.

I’m following it from here.

Alas, the team I’ve been supporting (aside from Dead Team Walking England), Afghanistan, have just been crushed by Australia, by what I am guessing is a record (of some sort) margin.  These record margins have become a World Cup Thing, presumably because net run rate now looms large in qualification calculations.  So, when you get on top, you make sure you stay on top and cash in.  It will be interesting to see if anyone does qualify, or fail to qualify, because of run rate calculations.

I am not sure that is entirely it, actually. Australia came out today with their World Cup campaign in a slightly becalmed state. It wasn’t going badly, exactly, but it hadn’t really being going much at all since beating England easily on the opening day. Australia’s next match (a week after that) against Bangladesh was completely washed out, and then they managed to get bowled out by New Zealand for 151 a week after that, before bowling so well in that game that they almost won it anyway. Their batsmen hadn’t had a good hit in a match in two and a half weeks, anyway, so i think they really wanted to get out in the middle and get their momentum back, which they certainly did.

I am thinking more that the really high scores we are seeing in this tournament and in 50 over cricket in general are due to the fact that a number of teams have learned to play the kind of cricket that is played in Twenty20 matches in 50 over matches. The hitting of lots of sixes is part of this. Sixes were rare even in 50 over cricket a decade ago. They are now common. England have completely failed at this. Australia are good at it, which is curious given their repeated failure in Twenty20 internationals.

On the net run rate thing, something quite curious happened in that Australia v New Zealand match. For NRR calculations, a side that is bowled out before 50 overs is up is ruled to have scored the runs off a full 50 overs for NRR purposes. This ruling generally makes sense. If a side scores 230 batting first, it doesn’t matter if they made this from 23 overs and they were then bowled out, or if they scored 0/230 off 50 overs. The other side will face the same target either way. This rule also ensures that the winning side always has a higher run rate than the losing side, which is not necessarily the case if you don’t have such a rule.

Where it is a bit problematic is in matches where the side that bats first almost wins the match by bowling the other side out, as in that Australia v NZ match.

Australia batted first, and were bowled out for 151 off 32.2 overs. That was deemed as being off 50 overs, so Australia’s run rate for the NRR calculation was 3.02. Before the final ball of the match, New Zealand were 9/146 off 23 overs. If Australia had dismissed the final batsman, then New Zealand would have been all out for 146 off 23.1 overs, and their run-rate would have been deemed to be off a full 50 overs too, and 2.92, meaning Australia would have had a net run rate of 3.02 - 2.92 = 0.10 for the match, indicating that the game was very close and Australia had won.

As it happened, though, Kane Williamson hit the ball for 6, New Zealand won, and their score of 9/152 was deemed to be off only 23.1 overs, meaning that their run rate for the net run rate calculation was their actual run rate of 6.56, meaning that Australia’s net run rate for the match was 3.02-6.56 = -3.54. Australia took a huge hit on NRR (and New Zealand got a huge boost) for what actually was a very close match.

As it happens, Australia is extremely unlikely to have their net run rate matter, as they have an odd number of competition points due to that washout against Bangladesh. Which is another reason they probably weren’t too worried about this either last Saturday or today.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 04 March 2015

On the other hand, what happens if Australia have another game rained off?  Once drenched, twice shy?

But, well explained about that run rate anomaly.  Thanks.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 05 March 2015

Oh, these things are always possible. It’s not likely, though, and even if it were to happen it would only affect who and where Australia play in the quarter finals rather than whether they make it. I don’t think it is a big concern. It’s much more about having the right form and momentum going into the knock-out matches.

I’m finding the speed of this tournament to be a bit dreary. Even with the same format, they could have made it two weeks shorter by simply playing two games every day. We now have another week and a half of pool matches, only one or two or which are of any importance.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 05 March 2015

TV.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 05 March 2015

On the other hand, what happens if Australia have another game rained off?

Well, we almost found out this morning. Australia were easily beating Scotland when it started raining. A washed out game there would have meant that both Australia and Sri Lanka ended up on eight points in second place in the group. It turns out that there is another rule, which states that, in the event of two teams having the same number of points,

“The team with the most wins in the Pool matches will be placed in the higher position.”

Only after that does net run-rate come into play. If the Australia v Scotland game had been washed out, Australia would have had 3 wins, 1 loss, and two no-results for 8 points, and Sri Lanka would have had 4 wins, 2 losses, and 8 points. Although Australia would have had the better net run-rate (and Australia beat Sri Lanka when they played), Sri Lanka would have taken second place (and Australia third) due to Sri Lanka having more wins.

This rule makes no sense to me whatsoever. One win and one loss is better than two washouts? Why? A rule like this might make some sense in soccer, where you don’t really have washouts but do have draws, and you want to encourage teams to play for results rather than draws, but in cricket where there are no results (and a tie is an unusual result that certainly doesn’t indicate negative play) it makes no sense at all. In this instance Australia had clearly been hurt by the game against Bangladesh being washed out, would have been hurt again if the Scotland game had been washed out today, were not helped by the anomaly in the net run rate calculation I alluded to previously, and would have been penalised further by this rule being used to separate teams equal on points.

Fortunately, it didn’t happen, though, as the rain stopped for long enough for Australia to actually beat Scotland.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 14 March 2015
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