January 7, 2017

The art of the middle-overs batsman in T20

How does Dan Christian go about his job - different in T20 to that in other formats?

Ninth life: Dan Christian's strike rate is 141 from the ninth over of the first innings onwards © Getty Images

In long-format cricket, Dan Christian is a lower-middle-order batsman. In short formats, he is a middle-to-late-over batsman.

For him, the preparation isn't much different for a T20 game than for a first-class game. He will have a net, some throwdowns. The biggest difference is practising six-hitting. The team's strategists will inform him of the opposition's tactics, the bowlers he can target, the dimensions of the ground, plus the details of where he has hit sixes at the ground before.

In the dugout he will continue to look for weaknesses in the opposition's attack and work out what his role will be. For Hurricanes in the Big Bash, he knows that no matter what start they get, he will never go in before George Bailey, but that he is best suited to start batting from overs ten to 12.

When he gets in, Christian "knocks them around for a few" until he feels set. That could be two balls if he goes in after the 16th over, it could be five if he goes in in the tenth. He also doesn't try to force balls for boundaries. Instead, he waits for mistakes and the balls landing in his zones, then tries to make "good contact". He doesn't worry about his average; he deals in strike rate - 20 off 11 balls is a good innings. He's looking to keep the pace of the innings up.

He prefers to chase, because then he knows when he needs to hit a six, letting the situation dictate his urgency. But he doesn't know if he is a better player when chasing or not. "T20 is an interesting one. There are so many potential statistics, but in the most successful teams I've played in, you don't talk about them at all, you just use your cricket skills," Christian says.

Christian is brutal from long-on to deep square leg - he knows this, the bowlers and opposition captains know this, most of the TV viewers know this

It was Christian's Nottinghamshire who lost to one of cricket's most proudly data-driven sides in the semi-final of the t20 Blast this year. Of the data that Christian has seen, he believes trying to ensure there are no dot balls is very important. For a naturally aggressive batsman, it's probably not that much of a problem.

While Christian may not know the breakdown of his stats or data, other teams do.

In the first innings of a match, when Christian has to start batting in the Powerplay, he is pretty ordinary. He averages 25 and has a strike rate of 117, which completely reduces his effectiveness. Also in the first innings, he averages 14 balls a match, so the chances of him playing a long knock are pretty small. While chasing, his batting average is pretty much the same, but his strike rate is over 140. However, on average he only faces ten balls in a chase, so yet again, he isn't really the man for an early start.

Up until the ninth over, his record is pretty poor. It's clear from the numbers and common cricket perception that Christian should come in around the tenth over. It is the ninth over onwards that Christian becomes the batsman for whom many are willing to spend close to a million dollars. His strike rate is 141 from the ninth over of the first innings onwards, and 39% of his innings start from between the ninth and the end of the 13th over.

Christian is rarely dismissed by spinners but has a strike rate of around 120 (with no real differential between spin that turns in or away). Against the ball spinning in, he only hits a six every 28 deliveries. Unsurprisingly, it is in the IPL that he struggles the most, with a strike rate of 116, an average of 18, and a boundary once every 22 balls.

Christian is more attacking against fast bowlers, which opens up more opportunities to dismiss him, while he's slower to score against spinners but more likely to remain at the crease long enough to hit out later © Cricket Australia/Getty Images

Against the quicks overall, he scores at a strike rate of 140, hitting a boundary every five balls off left-arm fast bowlers, and a six every 17 balls against the right-armers. Meaning he'd probably love to face his own bowling (which has seemingly gotten quicker this year). If you bowl Christian seamers after he's got himself set, he will clear the ropes, but you might also get him out. Bring on a spinner and you'll slow him down, but you also might keep him around to do more damage later on.

Christian is well known, so there is a lot of data and general cricket knowledge on him. Everyone knows where he is going to hit the ball. He is brutal from long-on to deep square leg - he knows this, the bowlers and opposition captains know this, most of the TV viewers know this. But when the ball is in his zone, he simply tries to clear it.

That doesn't mean he tries to clear every boundary. "You have to be smart when trying to clear the square boundaries at the MCG, for instance," he says. When facing Samuel Badree at the Gabba recently, Christian knew that Badree would be bowling from the end with the longer straight boundaries. That meant the smarter option was attacking the seamers from the other, shorter, boundary end.

From the start of T20 cricket, Christian has always batted higher up the order than in the other formats. He became a specialist without ever really knowing much more than "In T20 I always batted higher, I suppose, just because I've been a half-decent striker, and that means I'm set for the end of the innings." As that kind of a striker it's interesting that he hasn't been used as an opener more than three times.

For whatever reasons, he wasn't tried there enough for us to work out if he would have made it. Instead, this old-school cricketer, born and raised in a pre-T20 age has become a modern, floating, middle-order batsman. The sort who knows that his job is to get 20 off 12 balls. His job is not to build an innings. It's to propel it.

Jarrod Kimber is a writer for ESPNcricinfo. @ajarrodkimber

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Alex on January 9, 2017, 11:07 GMT

    What ever that theory is there are many factors involved in player's performance. Player who have multi skills but lack stamina will get out often Test matches and ODI because lack of energy means lack of concentration. But can excel in short slog T20 game. You still have concentration issues. Leadership skill do not change t20 or test or Odi. Wicket keeping do not change. But batsman and bowlers gets more crowded in t20. Explosive players in T20 , you do not go by Date of birth. You go by anyone above 140 strike rate. But as you see http://stats.espncricinfo.com/indian-premier-league-2013/engine/records/batting/highest_career_strike_rate.html?id=7720;type=tournament , We are missing a stat. average*strike rate will give better than just pure strike rate. So many factors in T20 to find MVP. Some bowlers like russel gets more wicket but poor economy. Everyone have good day and bad day. My theory is more of pattern in life than specific solution to a specific problem.

  • Andre on January 9, 2017, 7:54 GMT

    I have a question Jarrod: how long before we start seeing retirement/individual declarations in T20 games to have the most effective batsmen bat at their individual most effective times? Extreme, I know, but that optimizes the batting side's chances of getting the highest possible total.

  • palash on January 9, 2017, 7:45 GMT

    @Evda LOL. You asked for it.

  • Alex on January 9, 2017, 7:16 GMT

    @evda_cheta Its complex. Start with - 1990-2011 - 12 year cycle My rules are: Batsman: 1990,1992, 1993,1995,1996,1997,1998,2000,2001.(Based on stability) Bowler:1994,1995,1992,1990,1996(based on smart) All rounder: 1999,1993 ( based on balance). Wicket keeper: 1999,1993,1996,1995 Captain:2000,2001,1993,1998(in that order)

    There you go. You can use it free that template. That team always stay above average to best.

    Want to learn more look up in chinese astrology signs.

  • Prem on January 9, 2017, 0:53 GMT

    Dan Christian should be in the Australian team. He is the best allrounder Australia currently have both with the ball and bat. Much much better than Mitch Marsh.

  • Mustansir on January 8, 2017, 11:04 GMT

    @Alexk400, can u please elaborate by the birth year who could be destructive batsman and bowler in T20 so that teams can analyze and select players according to that.

  • Alex on January 8, 2017, 9:52 GMT

    Who is dan christian. never heard of him. I even watched lynn smacking ball until it bleeds the blood. T20 it is all about Strike rate. Best player is pollard. But he is gold only when he comes in 16th over to 20. We have not seen good T20 player yet. You do not need to hit all the ball into fence. You should not waste ball. For me it is all about preparation. Who is bowling and max run they get out of the bowler. Abbott came and knocked down mccullum twice. It seems like someone is always bunny of someone. Dan christian may be like russell who kinda useless to my eye. Mainly because he takes stunning catch or leak runs truck load. Too much ups and down. Dan christian never clicked in IPL so its all hype. You are as good as bowler allow you to be.

  • indy on January 8, 2017, 9:20 GMT

    why Sangakkara is not plying? U bring international plyers nd keep the on bench?

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