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Looking at T20 Batsman-Bowler Combinations

Having looked previously at some of the top ranked T20 batsmen and bowlers in cricket based on my new ranking system, I thought it would be interesting to delve slightly deeper into a few of the players and take a more detailed look at how certain batsmen perform against certain bowlers, and vice versa.

Obviously, when we are looking at specific pairings of batsmen and bowlers, we are looking at relatively limited sample sizes, but it should still give us an idea of whether certain batsmen enjoy facing certain bowlers or whether they have particular bowlers that they struggle against.

Let us start off with the #1 rated batsman in T20 cricket - Chris Gayle. Being a player that has played a huge amount of T20 cricket over the past five years, there are actually no fewer than 38 bowlers in this period that have bowled 30+ legal deliveries at Gayle (as an aside, there are a grand total of 329 different bowlers that have bowled at least one delivery to the legendary West Indian in my database). The table below shows the highest strike rates for Gayle against particular bowlers:

Chris Gayle is a fearsome hitter of spin bowling, so it is no surprise to see a host of spin bowlers with some awful figures against him. Glenn Maxwell has conceded no fewer than 70 runs in 30 deliveries against Gayle, while Samuel Badree, the #1 rated bowler in the ICC ratings and #13 in my ratings, has also struggled, conceding a boundary every 2.33 deliveries. Dwayne Bravo has bowled a huge 79 balls to Chris Gayle, conceding 21 boundaries, but dismissing him on six occasions.

At the other end of the scale, Lasith Malinga has conceded just 29 runs in 53 balls at Gayle, which is really very impressive. Admittedly, he does benefit from bowling to Gayle early in his innings before he really gets going, but it is still hugely admirable.

Three spinners in particular here really stand out - Mohammad Hafeez, Sunil Narine and Ravichandran Ashwin. Given the way that Gayle can destroy spin bowling, the fact that the three of them combined have conceded just 102 runs in 144 balls at Gayle with just 9 fours and one six in those deliveries is very impressive. Whether Gayle has a real problem against those bowlers or whether he has the confidence in himself to just see off the star bowlers of the opposition, the data cannot tell us, but it is interesting.

So, if Chris Gayle struggles to score off Lasith Malinga, let us look at the batsmen that can. The table below shows the top 10 SRs of players to have faced at least 24 balls from Malinga:

In AB de Villiers, MS Dhoni and Shahid Afridi, we have a trio of three very destructive hitters at the end of the innings that have been able to score runs off Malinga, often mentioned in the debate about the greatest death bowlers in the history of T20 cricket. However, interestingly it is Marlon Samuels that tops the list, having hit a huge five sixes off Malinga in just 28 deliveries (all the other batsmen to have faced 24+ balls have 16 sixes combined off 956 balls). It was his memorable innings of 78(56) in the World Cup T20 Final in 2012 that did the damage here, when he took 39 runs off 11 balls from Lasith Malinga in what would be a match-winning innings.

So, we saw earlier that another bowler that Gayle struggled against is Sunil Narine, the #2 bowler in my ratings. However, he is far from the only batsman to struggle against Narine. Indeed, of the 29 batsmen to have faced at least 30+ deliveries from Narine, just 9 of them have a strike-rate of greater than 100.0. There are only four batsmen to have a strike rate of greater than 130.0 against Narine - JP Duminy and David Warner (both 133.3), AB de Villiers (140.0) and Suresh Raina (147.4).

There are actually no fewer than 7 of the 29 batsmen that Narine has over 50% dot balls against as well - Martin Guptill (51.5%), Dwayne Bravo (51.6%), Chris Gayle (51.9%), Marlon Samuels (53.1%), Naman Ojha (55.9%), Darren Sammy (57.6%) and Yuvraj Singh (64.4%). Interestingly, we find four of Narine's West Indian teammates in here, which suggests that facing him regularly in the nets does not seem to help in terms of being able to score runs off of him.

In Malinga and Narine, we have looked at two of the top T20 bowlers in world cricket. One name that has appeared in being able to score quickly off both of them is AB de Villiers, the #5 rated batsman in my rankings. Let us look at bowlers that he has scored particularly well against:

It is safe to say that there are more than a few bowlers that AB de Villiers has obliterated over the past five years. His South African teammate, Dale Steyn, is an interesting one - for a bowler than scored reasonably well in the economy part of the bowling ratings, he has been destroyed by AB de Villiers, conceding an extraordinary five sixes from just 19 balls.

It turns out that there are just six bowlers with 18+ balls at AB de Villiers to restrict him to a SR of less than 100.0. Indeed, Piyush Chawla has conceded just 27 runs from 30 balls against de Villiers, while dismissing him three times (joint-highest with Ashwin, Mathews and Balaji).

However, when it comes to destructive batsmen, there are few more devastating than Andre Russell. The table below shows the 11 bowlers that have bowled 20+ balls to Russell in the past five years:

With the exception of Sunil Narine, Andre Russell has a SR of upward of 150.0 against every bowler to have bowled regularly to him. Indeed, against five of the eleven, he has a SR of above 200.0, which is quite simply incredible. That Sunil Narine has only conceded a single boundary in 30 balls to Andre Russell just goes to show why he is undoubtedly one of the all-time great T20 bowlers.

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