Cricket, like baseball, is a game of percentages, statistics and risk. Test match cricket is the ultimate sporting experiment. Is the effect when one side is batting and the other bowling reversed when the roles are reversed?
Over two innings and five days, the best side usually wins. The reason why Test Match cricket is the greatest of all games is because of the character, skill and intelligence that it calls upon each of the players to display.
Today was a great example. Kevin Pieterson, who is the most talented batsman in the world, was beginning to turn the match around for England, who've been in deep trouble for the whole game. Another hour or two from Pieterson and England would have been favourites to win. Pieterson went for glory - a 6 to bring up his hundred - and got out. Earlier, Ian Bell had given his wicket away to the first ball of a new spell by Makhaya Ntini.
The reason this is significant is that both incidents will contribute to England losing the game - it was high stakes. And second, both could have been avoided by a calm assessment of what was worth a risk and what wasn't. This may sound obvious, but I would provide England with the following statistics:
1. How many deliveries into a new spell does the risk of playing an attacking shot diminish?
2. Which shots carry the highest risk and against which bowlers?
3. How many deliveries after an interval does the risk of getting out diminish?
4. Who has the best strike rate (balls per wicket taken) and who has the lowest in the opposition bowling? The idea would be to attack those with the lowest and defend against those with the highest.
5. In-match updates of risk factors.
6. Risk analysis of near misses, especially to provide 5.
7. Regression analysis on the factors which go into scoring a century (i.e. caution after an interval, against a new ball bowler, against the best bowlers)
8. Average levels of (composite) risk taken per ball to score a century.
I am convined that if a risk mindset could be established as part of a batsman's thinking, results would rapidly follow.