How can you use statistics to make sense of cricket?
Cricket, is a game believed to have originated in south-east England sometime in the 16th century. Since then, it’s been loved by sports fans the world over for the competition and sportsmanship. But, this isn’t the only reason people love the game. Statisticians love the vast amount of data generated as the game is played (statisticians are a different breed).
So how can we make use of all data to deepen our appreciation of the sport? Let’s start by looking at the history of the English national team to see how well they’ve done in the past.
Comparing cricket statistics between England and Pakistan
From 1877 to 2020 England has played 1024 matches as the national team. In that time they have won 372 times and lost 305 times. Is that good? Thankfully statistics come to the rescue to help us in that decision.
From 1952 to 2020, Pakistan have played 428 games, won 138 and lost 130. Can we compare the two countries? Let’s start with what percentage of games each of these countries have won.
A quick bit of maths tells us that the percentage of games England has won is 36.32%. On the other hand, Pakistan has a winning percentage of 32.24%. So England is better then?
I know what you are thinking, it’s not fair to compare Pakistan’s winning record against England’s, England have had 75 years more practice. Fair enough, let’s turn back to the stats to see if we can make a ‘more fair’ comparison.
Comparing cricket statistics between England and Australia
The only other country to have played cricket competitively as a country, as long as England has, is Australia. Both countries’ international statistics start in 1877. I wonder if this statistic in itself tells us about the first international game?
Anyway, before getting sidetracked, let’s get back to the key question: is England’s winning percentage any good?
Between 1877 and 2020, Australia played 830 games and won 393 of them. I wonder if it’s possible just to look at those final two numbers and estimate whether Australia wins more of its games, more often, than England — 393 is just about half of 830. England’s winning percentage is close to one third. I think Australia may hold the crown on this one.
Comparing cricket statistics between England and the West Indies
Fast forward to July 2020, the first international cricket matches since lockdown are between England and the West Indies (whose winning percentage is 31.99%, in case you were wondering).
It’s a three-match series. As I write this, England has won one and the West Indies have also won one. So it’s down to the last game. High excitement, I hear you say. Let’s check to see if that’s true.
The game of cricket can be won, lost or drawn. Most people will want a result so one team can say, “We won the series!”
I want to know how excited I should be that the outcome of the match will be a win or a loss. It turns out I can quantify my excitement using statistics.
England’s draw percentage is 33.88%, they have drawn almost a third of all games. The West Indies have a draw percentage of 31.99%. They too have drawn almost a third of all games. Can someone be two-thirds excited that the game will finish in a win or a loss?