What Statsguru can tell us about the first final between Australia and Sri Lanka

I played around with Cricinfo’s statsguru program so I could write a post about the first final for the Cricinfo blog Different Strokes. Ironically, that blog is down, as indeed are all of cricinfo’s blogs. Some technical malady has smited them. So because I’m going to the game and won’t be here to post anything, I’ve taken the liberty of reprinting it here.

Thanks to Tuesday’s result, we now know that Sri Lanka will play Australia in the finals of the VB series. This is good for the series, because in my opinion, Sri Lanka are better equipped then South Africa are to cause an upset win in at least one of the fixtures and push the series into a third final. Which is something that has not happened for twelve seasons. The trend strongly is that the team that wins the first final goes onto win.

So for Sri Lanka, to win the first final is very important indeed. If they can somehow conjure up a win in Adelaide on Friday night, they will have a great fillip, and the second final is on their favourite Australian ground, Sydney. Between now and Friday, Sri Lanka’s coach Tom Moody will be working on a game plan to surprise the Australians, and he’ll probably use Cricinfo’s Statsguru program. Let’s see what Statsguru says.

The variations of scheduling help here, since these sides have met 15 times since 2002/03. This gives us a good sample to work with, and from these results, certain trends can be inferred.

Australia has dominated recent meetings between the sides, winning eleven and losing only four. The alarming figure for Sri Lanka is that Australia have batted first seven times in the fifteen, and won six out of the seven. Whereas, Sri Lanka have batted first eight times, and won three of those matches.

So Sri Lanka would like to bat first. In those eight matches where they batted first, they won three with scores of 343/5, 245 and 309/7. The other five scores were below that, and they lost all five. So they know if they bat first and can score 245 or more, they have given themselves a good chance to win.

And history at the Adelaide Oval certainly backs that plan up. Adelaide Oval has hosted 60 limited overs matches, and the team batting first has won 35, but recent history is strongly in favour of the team batting first, with eight out of the last ten being won by the side batting first.

However there is one small problem with this scenario for Sri Lanka. They have to win the toss and bat first.

If Australia win the toss and bat first, Sri Lanka have a problem. Of the last seven times Australia batted first they have won six of them. The only game they did not win, they scored 198/7. They have defended several scores in the mid 200 range as well as scoring over 300 three times. So Australia will be very confident that they can defend anything over 200.

So Tom Moody has to somehow find a weakness in Australia’s armour. Thanks to Statsguru, we can fine tune our search. Let’s look at the last 15 games where Australia won the toss, batted first, and lost the game.

What is interesting here is that while Australia has quite a few low scores in that lot, the mean score over the last fifteen is 221; and further looking around suggest that eleven of Australia’s last fifteen defeats came while batting first.

The common thread is that Australia have lost by losing a lot of early wickets, and getting either bowled out, or close to it.

So this should flow into Sri Lanka’s tactics. They have three bowlers who can take wickets, Vaas, Muralithiran and Bandara. My own feeling is that Sri Lanka should look to try and bowl these key figures early, and dispense with at least one of the powerplays until the 40 over mark. Because if history shows anything, if Australia still have top-six batmen in at the 40 over mark, the score will already be past 200 and Sri Lanka’s chances will be slim indeed. So the key thing is to attack at all costs, take early wickets, and keep taking them. If Australia are able to bat through their fifty overs, Sri Lanka will find it very hard to chase them down, and the history of the venue also points to that.

I somehow doubt that Tom Moody will instill this sort of attacking gameplan into his charges; Marvan Attapatu is not one of the attacking captains. However, thanks to Statsguru, we can see that to win, he’ll need to win the toss and bat, and failing that, he’ll need to use his bowlers in a very aggressive manner to stop Australia.

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