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Which T20 Batsmen Are Fast Starters?

In T20 cricket, getting off to a good start can be very important when it comes to setting a formidable total, but at the same time, different players need different amounts of time to really settle in before they can really start to play their shots.

In this article, I want to look at a selection of 20 different opening batsmen from seven different countries, all of whom have played plenty of T20 cricket across multiple different competitions over the past five years. In particular, I want to focus on the first 30 deliveries that they face. Obviously, the majority of T20 innings from opening batsmen are likely to last less than 30 deliveries and once a batsmen has reached his 31st ball, you would hope that he is in a position to really go on the attack, but we will look at that in more detail in a future article.

To begin with, let us get an overview of all 20 batsmen and their overall strike rate after each delivery in this 30-ball spell:

As we can see, virtually all the batsmen rapidly increase their overall strike rate over the first 10 balls that they face, at which point it begin to flatten out for the majority of batsmen. What this chart effectively shows is the score that we would expect a batsman to be on having faced a set number of deliveries. For example, with a strike-rate of 104.2 after 10 balls, we would expect Ahmed Shehzad to be on 10.42 runs, whereas with a strike-rate of 123.1, Aaron Finch would expect to be on 12.31 runs.

Obviously, the most aggressive batsmen also tend to have a higher risk of being dismissed, so in terms of an opening partnership, you might be looking to pair an aggressive batsmen that will get the scoreboard moving immediately with a slightly more gradual batsman, who may need a few balls to really settle before steadily increasing his strike rate.

If you have two slow starters, you potentially run the risk of finding yourself in a concerning position if they both fall after around 10-15 balls each at a run-a-ball and it increases the pressure on the players coming in afterwards.

So that initial chart is quite difficult to pick out individual players, so let us take a look at a few groups of players at a time. Firstly, we shall look at the four English players in the group - the current England opening pair of Alex Hales and Jason Roy, plus two former England internationals in Luke Wright and Michael Lumb:

We can see that the four players split into two pairings in this chart. The pair of Jason Roy and Alex Hales are both very fast starters, not only compared to the other English players, but compared to all of the opening batsmen in the sample. After five balls, Roy and Hales are 3rd and 4th respectively, but we can see that Luke Wright and Michael Lumb take a couple more deliveries to get moving.

Having said that, we can see that both Michael Lumb and, particularly, Luke Wright, increase their strike rate rapidly after the first couple of deliveries and it is also interesting to note that all three of Roy, Lumb and Wright are among some of the faster scorers through 20 deliveries. One concern for Alex Hales might be that his eventual strike rate is only around the middle of the pack, but at least he does reach that strike rate rapidly rather than eating up deliveries.

Next, let us look at the Indian batsmen. The immediate concern for India is that all their openers in this sample - Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane - are all close to the bottom of the group in terms of strike rate. None of them are particularly rapid starters and none have a particularly high top gear in terms of making big scores in general. Admittedly, Rohit Sharma has hit a couple of incredible innings over the years, but those are not all that common.

The fact that none of the openers are able to constantly get India off to a flying start and with Rohit Sharma having the highest strike rate of the quartet after 30 balls at just 124.7, there is a lack of real dramatic acceleration, it puts a lot of pressure on the middle-order batsmen to score quickly from the start.

Chris Gayle have long been known as a relatively slow starter, but once he gets going, he accelerates well and importantly, continues to accelerate throughout the innings. Beyond the 30 deliveries in the chart, he continues to speed up reaching a final strike rate of an incredible 153.0. The concern here for the West Indies is finding an opening partner that can get the innings moving to give Gayle the time that he seemingly wants to get his eye in.

Neither Dwayne Smith or Lendl Simmons would appear to be the ideal foil for Gayle. In particular, Lendl Simmons is a very slow T20 opening batsmen and does not even break the 100.0 strike-rate mark until his 15th delivery. When partnered with Chris Gayle, this can lead to a very slow start to the innings, which then puts pressure on Gayle to convert his innings. With the big hitting further down the order, they can often get away with this, but finding a fast starting opening batsmen could improve them further. Time will tell whether Evin Lewis or Johnson Charles can be that player.

When it comes to fast-starters, there are very few in T20 cricket that are better than Aaron Finch. He is regularly able to get the innings off to a flying start, which gives his partner the opportunity, if needed, to build into his innings. The fact that he seemingly plateaus very quickly might raise the odd question about his stamina, but he is still a valuable opening batsman. He also makes a good foil for David Warner, who we can see starts slightly slower, but builds to a very good strike rate.

Another fast-starting opener, which will come as a surprise to very few, is New Zealand's Brendon McCullum. Now retired from international cricket, he is a very effective and fast-scoring opening batsman, who will undoubtedly be in great demand from franchises around the world, particularly given his ability either behind the stumps or in the field.

While he is pipped slightly over the first five deliveries, there is no opening batsman that can live with AB de Villiers. The South African is one of the greatest T20 batsman in history and the strike rate that he peaks at after 30 deliveries is streets ahead of his closest contender, Jason Roy. His rapid start is a perfect foil for his South African partner, Quinton de Kock, who is one of the slower starters in this sample, but he steadily builds to a very solid strike rate as his innings progresses.

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