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Old 9th January 2016, 16:52   #821
Michelle Fivefer
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I just thought the same.

As much as your analysis suggests that tactically it's flawed to declare early there are equally plausible reasons against batting on. Batting on may not cause any more grief for the fielding side- they may be beyond any point of further suffering. Not declaring may also be viewed as a defensive decision by a captain who'd rather ensure a draw than force a game towards a result, giving the opposition a boost.
My reservations about declaring apply mainly to the team batting first declaring in their first innings. But there are of course factors that might justify such a declaration, most of all the likelihood of weather affecting the remaining days' play, and known weaknesses in the opposition batting -which whatever their recent travails, does not apply to South Africa. At Cape Town I can see no reason why a team with 600 runs on the board before tea on the second day and good weather forecasts would be thought to be being defensive in not declaring. The strike rate was a touch under 5 an over.
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Old 9th January 2016, 17:49   #822
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My reservations about declaring apply mainly to the team batting first declaring in their first innings. But there are of course factors that might justify such a declaration, most of all the likelihood of weather affecting the remaining days' play, and known weaknesses in the opposition batting -which whatever their recent travails, does not apply to South Africa. At Cape Town I can see no reason why a team with 600 runs on the board before tea on the second day and good weather forecasts would be thought to be being defensive in not declaring. The strike rate was a touch under 5 an over.
I think sometimes after a big partnership like that you can get silly periods of play when new players try and match the scoring rate and get out in silly ways, wasting time and losing momentum. You say in this post that it's not defensive to bat on, yet have also implied that doing so would've removed any risk of defeat at Adelaide or Cape Town. That, to me, is defensive -trying to avoid defeat before going for the win.
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Old 9th January 2016, 20:24   #823
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I thought the declaration was poor because we were always going to need more runs so we might as well have scored them when scoring fast. If we wanted to bat later then we could but we would never have scored as quickly as bairstow was. The fact it completely removed the defeat option was a bonus. My argument was they should have thought about time Rather than some arbitrary number of runs (which stokes has said cook set)
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Old 9th January 2016, 21:09   #824
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I thought the declaration was poor because we were always going to need more runs so we might as well have scored them when scoring fast. If we wanted to bat later then we could but we would never have scored as quickly as bairstow was ...
The run-rate in between the fall of Stokes's wicket and the declaration was 21 runs per over ...
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Old 9th January 2016, 21:11   #825
Michelle Fivefer
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I think sometimes after a big partnership like that you can get silly periods of play when new players try and match the scoring rate and get out in silly ways, wasting time and losing momentum. You say in this post that it's not defensive to bat on, yet have also implied that doing so would've removed any risk of defeat at Adelaide or Cape Town. That, to me, is defensive -trying to avoid defeat before going for the win.
I don't see that removing the risk of defeat necessarily reduces the chance of winning. And I'm not a big fan of "risk losing in order to win". Given everything we know about England cricket, any risks that might lead to defeat inevitably do.

I take the point about players batting on and losing momentum. What might have actually disturbed the momentum is Cook sending messages out to Stokes asking if he wanted to bat on for a triple century. Being aware of this option and having to think about targets might very well have contributed to Ben being run out. He and Bairstow could have happily carried on as they were doing.

However, such discussions can never lead to satisfactory conclusions because advances in technology and human understanding have so far been unable to prove beyond doubt that if Action A is taken it will produce Result B.
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Old 11th January 2016, 16:25   #826
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There was nothing mistimed about England's declaration.

We wanted a chance to get into their middle order (Amla and AB) whilst they were mentally tired and our bowlers were still fresh. That represented our best chance of winning the match.

Had we caught the chance Amla offered that evening I believe we would have won, probably convincingly. We didn't and we drew instead. So what's the issue?

And what would be the advantage of batting on? When would you have declared? Overnight, to give the shell-shocked Saffers time to recover? An hour later (how important would another 60 runs have been?).

I'm no fan of Cook's captaincy but he got the declaration right.
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Old 11th January 2016, 17:59   #827
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There was nothing mistimed about England's declaration.

We wanted a chance to get into their middle order (Amla and AB) whilst they were mentally tired and our bowlers were still fresh. That represented our best chance of winning the match.

Had we caught the chance Amla offered that evening I believe we would have won, probably convincingly. We didn't and we drew instead. So what's the issue?

And what would be the advantage of batting on? When would you have declared? Overnight, to give the shell-shocked Saffers time to recover? An hour later (how important would another 60 runs have been?).

I'm no fan of Cook's captaincy but he got the declaration right.
I agree that taking two or more early wickets would have been to our advantage in trying to win the test. And I agree that we'd have been more likely to win had we held our catches. But I think those things are true whenever one declares. It's not clear to me why you think we maximised our chances of taking several early wickets by declaring when we did. You've mentioned mental tiredness, but it's a bit of an elusive concept, isn't it? Would SA have been more mentally tired if we'd batted for longer? Who knows.

In answer to your question about the advantage of batting on, one might say that one thinks it would have made us more likely to bowl SA out cheaply, but that seems to be rather subjective business. Personally I would have been inclined to try for the full thousand and see how SA felt coming out to bat after a night of sleeping on that. Seems a shame to have a godhead aggressive lower-middle order and not take full advantage when you can. But then, there's always the possibility that scoreboard pressure is a made up concept, or that it peaks at 650. So more securely, I'd say, first, that scoring more first-innings runs would have made us less likely to get into a losing position on the last day. Yes we only got there because we dropped loads of catches and the oppo batted very well; but both of those things seem to happen fairly regularly, so it might be fair enough to take them into account in advance, as possibilities. You could say we didn't lose, so whatever we did is OK; and that'd be right. But I'm not sure I'd trade off the extra peril that we experienced on day 5 against the extra chance of winning that you imagine we gave ourselves by declaring early. Secondly, I'd also say that batting on would have made us more likely to be able to press for a win if SA had not got within 200 of our total but had nonetheless batted for so long that we didn't want to risk running out of time by going in to bat third and scoring runs we might not need.
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Old 11th January 2016, 18:42   #828
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I agree that taking two or more early wickets would have been to our advantage in trying to win the test. And I agree that we'd have been more likely to win had we held our catches. But I think those things are true whenever one declares. It's not clear to me why you think we maximised our chances of taking several early wickets by declaring when we did. You've mentioned mental tiredness, but it's a bit of an elusive concept, isn't it? Would SA have been more mentally tired if we'd batted for longer? Who knows.

In answer to your question about the advantage of batting on, one might say that one thinks it would have made us more likely to bowl SA out cheaply, but that seems to be rather subjective business. Personally I would have been inclined to try for the full thousand and see how SA felt coming out to bat after a night of sleeping on that. Seems a shame to have a godhead aggressive lower-middle order and not take full advantage when you can. But then, there's always the possibility that scoreboard pressure is a made up concept, or that it peaks at 650. So more securely, I'd say, first, that scoring more first-innings runs would have made us less likely to get into a losing position on the last day. Yes we only got there because we dropped loads of catches and the oppo batted very well; but both of those things seem to happen fairly regularly, so it might be fair enough to take them into account in advance, as possibilities. You could say we didn't lose, so whatever we did is OK; and that'd be right. But I'm not sure I'd trade off the extra peril that we experienced on day 5 against the extra chance of winning that you imagine we gave ourselves by declaring early. Secondly, I'd also say that batting on would have made us more likely to be able to press for a win if SA had not got within 200 of our total but had nonetheless batted for so long that we didn't want to risk running out of time by going in to bat third and scoring runs we might not need.
I think scoreboard pressure doesn't increase linearly. It may I suppose decrease at about 650 as the more time you take the more likely it is to be a draw (the more likely the draw the less the scoreboard pressure) but this match was about keeping the fast bowlers fresh (England's best spinner being wicket less in 50+ overs I think). We let them have a blast before tea, then a session and then a sleep. That gave them the best chance to win it. Batting onto 1000 was only really necessary if you were planning on bowling spin for 150 overs- something that would have given SA a chance of winning.

Bowling 200+ overs (if we enfirced the follow on) without a bat is generally a bad idea.
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It was a poor innings by Bell with the bat.
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Old 11th January 2016, 21:04   #829
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I think scoreboard pressure doesn't increase linearly. It may I suppose decrease at about 650 as the more time you take the more likely it is to be a draw (the more likely the draw the less the scoreboard pressure) but this match was about keeping the fast bowlers fresh (England's best spinner being wicket less in 50+ overs I think). We let them have a blast before tea, then a session and then a sleep. That gave them the best chance to win it. Batting onto 1000 was only really necessary if you were planning on bowling spin for 150 overs- something that would have given SA a chance of winning.

Bowling 200+ overs (if we enfirced the follow on) without a bat is generally a bad idea.
I wouldn't recommend it, but you'd give it a go if it was your best chance of going 2--0 up. On another occasion the oppo might make you do it as a punishment for losing the toss. In this test SA did it to us anyway.

I think the peaking graph of scoreboard pressure should probably not just have runs on the x axis, because as you point out, it's partly about how much time there is left in the game. In this instance, for example, England's 629 had not used up even as much time as 400 might have in another game, and so would have been exerting far more "scoreboard" pressure than 629 would in that other (hypothetical) game, were the batting team keep going that long.

Mind you, as we saw in this game, the more time the team batting second have to occupy the crease for in order to make the game safe, the more of an opportunity they have to bat up to parity and put pressure back on the team that batted first. In this test the scoreboard pressure seems to have been felt most keenly by Cook, who from about lunchtime on the second day seems to have been scrabbling around to find a way for his bowling attack to have a chance of taking 20 wickets without all passing out from exhaustion, and also by his fielders, who were so hyper-aware of the consequent need to take every catch that they instead dropped them all.

Maybe England should just have bowled first?
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Old 11th January 2016, 21:12   #830
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Should have played a 6 man seam attack.
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It was a poor innings by Bell with the bat.
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Old 12th January 2016, 02:44   #831
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Best chance of winning is catching world class players when they offer a chance. With hindsight the best way to have won this test would have been to have got South Africa batting on the last day, when I think the atmospheric conditions and a swinging ball would have been made for Jimmy A, the pitch itself didn't really offer much help to bowlers.
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Old 12th January 2016, 09:45   #832
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Should have played a 6 man seam attack.
So what would that XI have been? If it had had Jordan in then that might have helped with the catching, I suppose.
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