Introducing the Non-Boundary Strike Rate.

And how it shows that Alastair Cook is squeezing the life out of the England top order.

During the innings break of the 5th One-Day International between England and India, Jonathan Agnew said the following of Alastair Cook:

“And yet his strike rate is higher than Michael Clarke’s, for instance.”

For someone who’s job it is to be knowledgeable about the game of cricket, to look at statistics so naively and try and draw conclusions is troubling. Even if Aggers was correct about the statistic, comparing 2 batsmen with only their strike-rate is an exercise in folly.

Consider the following 2 spells (The shots from the player we are interested in are in bold):

1) 4 0 0 0 0 1 | 2 0 0 0 4 0 Total: 11 Player S/R: 92

2) 1 1 1 4 1 0 | 4 1 0 1 4 0 Total: 18 Player S/R: 60

These are obviously 2 very extreme examples, but I think it displays well how looking at strike-rate alone is sometimes deceiving. If a player is only dealing in dots and boundaries, they could be robbing the player at the other end of the chance to get runs (which in turn may put extra pressure on that player to score once they do actually get a chance to bat).

Our player above may be berated for his poor strike-rate, when in actual fact he allowed the player at the other end the chance to tonk it around by rotating the strike. Let’s call this player the “straight man”, the least exciting one in the partnership, but important non-the-less. Some of the greatest ODI opening partnerships have been based on this mix of players, such as Mark Waugh & Adam Gilchrist.

The Non-boundary Strike-rate (NBSR)

In a perfect world, we would count the number of dot balls that a batsman faces in an innings to get a measure of how well that batsman is farming the strike. Unfortunately StatGuru doesn't have that data (not that I can find anyway), so we need to find another way.

The NBSR is calculated thus:

(Total runs - Boundary runs)/(Totals balls faced - Boundary balls faced) * 100

Lets calculate the NBSR for the 2 spells from earlier:

1) 4 0 0 0 0 1 | 2 0 0 0 4 0 Total: 11 — Player S/R: 92— NBSR: 30

2) 1 1 1 4 1 0 | 4 1 0 1 4 0 Total: 18 — Player S/R: 60 — NBSR: 60

So here we can see that the NBSR gives a good indication if a player is successfully farming the strike or not.

To put the NBSR into perspective, here’s a list of some players that average over 40, ordered by their career NBSR:

Mike Hussey was renowned for his running between the wickets, and the table above bears that out. On the other hand Chanderpaul’s running between the wickets was less than stellar, and his place lower on this list means he lives up to his ‘Selfish Shiv’ nickname!

So on to Mr. Cook. Here are his current career statistics:

So to be fair to Aggers, he’s not far off. Alastair Cook does indeed have a strike-rate similar to Michael Clarke. Unfortunately though that comparison looks far worse once you look at the difference in average and non-boundary strike-rate.

It was not always this way though. Let’s hop in the time machine back to February 2012. England have just Whitewashed Pakistan in the UAE. Cook top scored in the series with 323 runs at an average of 80.75, strike rate of 88.98 and non-boundary strike rate of 55.2. That’s Kohli levels of NBSRiness! Cooks careers statistics at that point were thus:

So at that point Cook was a fixture at the top of the order, doing his job pretty well as the “straight guy” in the opening partnership. The name of the other opening batsman at the time escapes me, whatever happened to him eh?

OK now back in the time-machine to the present day. Oh how things have changed! Cook’s England side have just lost a home ODI series to India 4–0, in which Cook’s figures were hardly the best (118 runs @ 29.50, SR: 65.19, NBSR: 37.1). Here’s Cook’s statistics between February 2012 and the present:

Ouch. Let’s ignore the average for the moment (hard I know). Hell let’s even ignore the strike rate. Let’s look at that non-boundary strike-rate and try and put it in some perspective. Given the above statistics, Cook faced an average of 38 ‘non-boundary’ balls per innings in which he scored 15.8 “non-boundary” runs per innings. If we then guestimate that 70% of those runs are singles, we see that that Cook hits around 11 strike rotating singles per innings, 29% of the non-boundary balls.

Here’s Michael Clarke’s statistics over the same period:

I think it’s important to look at the same period as strike rates have risen as a result of the changes in fielding restrictions (well except for Cook’s).

Given these statistics, Clarke is hitting 37% of his ‘non-boundary’ balls for a single. If Cook was hitting at the same rate he’d be hitting an extra 3 singles per innings. This may not sound like much, but that that could be 3 more opportunities for the man at the other end to smack it out of the park.

Putting all this together, it just backs up what many people are saying already, that England cannot win the World Cup with the current version of Alastair Cook in the top order. Not enough runs, not enough boundaries and not enough strike-rotating singles. He’s bringing very little to the table unfortunately. Either England need to get rid, or Cook needs to get in our time machine and rediscover the man he was in 2012.

Discuss this article on /r/cricket.

You can view my data on Google Docs here.