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Mar 10 2010

There are probably very few Hampshire fans of a statistical bent who haven’t been doing a bit of research in the run up to the Friends Provident Trophy Final on Saturday. We will have all found out that Jimmy Adams has a stunning average of 90.7 in the competition so far and Billy Taylor and Dominic Cork are among the best bowlers with 16 wickets apiece.

On the Sussex side, Ed Joyce is the top scorer in the Friends Provident with a frankly frightening 531 runs and the dangerous James Kirtley has fourth best bowling figures of 6 for 50. But how useful are these statistics? Do they really mean anything?

One lifelong Hampshire fan who does make good use of such figures is Team Analyst Kevin Baker. But it isn’t just numbers; its video footage, wagon wheels and all manner of other technological tools, as he was kind enough to explain.

“I do a lot of statistical work for Giles White; ground records, batsmen’s averages etc, but my main job is video analyst which means using a programme called Cricstat where we analyse every ball that’s bowled. It records wagon wheels, pieces of footage and graphics to show where every ball’s gone.” I had watched with great interest as Kevin recorded a few overs of Hampshire’s LV County Championship game against Warwickshire, and he uses his own judgment and experience to set down where the ball bounces and where it is played to – it isn’t as automatic process at all.

“Batsmen’s strengths and weaknesses can be worked out from the information – the coaches can take what they want from it really. They ask me for pieces of video footage of batsmen, maybe the first twelve balls of the innings, to help the bowlers see where the weaknesses are early on. Same with the bowlers – you might want to look at a couple of overs with the new ball and a couple with the old ball to see if there’s a difference.”


From this it sounds as though information is as readily available on the opposition as it is on our own players. “Basically the ECB require every County to supply a home analyst to record every ball of every First Team game. Providing the footage adds to the payments the ECB give to the Counties so we have to do it – which is why I’ll be at Lord’s on Saturday” Kevin says with a grin.

I know that he’s been involved with Hampshire’s preparations for the big day as well. “With a team like Sussex it’s a bit easier because we seem to play them every other week! The teams are very familiar with each others’ players and their idiosyncrasies. But they will still ask me for wagon wheels, they’ll still ask for footage, especially for new players, someone like Devon Smith perhaps, who hasn’t been around for long, just to see where he’s been scoring his runs.

“We all know what James Kirtley does. You see so much of Kirtley but you’ve still got to play him and he’s a dangerous bowler. There’s only so much footage you can show; it’s a question of whether we can play him well on the day. Every team has their danger men that the opposition concentrate more on.” So who from Sussex has struck Kevin as he’s been rooting through his footage? “They’re pretty strong. Ed Joyce has obviously fitted in very well and Murray Goodwin always seems to score runs against Hampshire. Our guys know what they have to do, but it’s a question of how they execute the plans.”

Kevin also has a theory about the dressing rooms. Hampshire have drawn the away changing room which is apparently where they have had most success at Lord’s. “If you’re superstitious at all then it may be a good sign, but we’ll see.  I’ve watched Hampshire since I was eight years old; my first year of watching Hampshire was when we last won the Championship in 1973 and I’m a life member of the club. I’ve seen it all – I’ve seen us lose semi-finals by taking fewer wickets, I’ve seen us lose semi-finals by one run. I can help in a small way but it’s really down to the players.”

Hampshire fans not travelling to Lord’s can follow the team’s progress live on The Rose Bowl website.

Over the summer Jane Cable is writing on The Ashes for Cricket on Five at www.five.tv/programmes/sport/cricket-on-five.


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