The Joy of Six(es)

With the 2015 Twenty20 Blast kicking off this week, it’s a good time to look back at last year’s competition. The received wisdom is that it’s vital to get off to a good start in Twenty20, especially during the first six overs where only two fielders are allowed outside of the circle.

But what if we look at the stats? How important are those first few overs really?

Unfortunately, I only made it to one Nottinghamshire game last season – when they hosted eventual champions Birmingham Bears (or Warwickshire as they’re still known in my house) In fact it was this game that got me interested in just how important those first 6 overs were since Notts started like a freight train as they batted second.

Hales and Lumb started brilliantly, putting on 57 for the first wicket before they both fell in the same over. Despite that, the Outlaws were still 58-2 after the first 6 overs chasing 157 to win the match. Despite being well ahead of the run rate at that stage the Warwickshire spinners squeezed the life out of the middle overs and in the end Notts lost by 18 runs.

As a comparison, Warwickshire were 39-2 after the first 6 overs of their innings. So, despite having a superior start, Nottinghamshire lost the game. But how does this compare to the rest of the season? Are the first 6 overs as important as we think?

The Nottinghamshire Outlaws played 13 games in the T20 Blast last season. We’ve already seen what happened in the home fixture against Warwickshire. In the remaining 12 games, the team that scored the most runs after 6 overs won 9 of them.

In the home game against Worcestershire, both teams had 46 runs but the Pears won despite having lost an additional wicket during the powerplay. Of the remaining two games, Yorkshire were a paltry two runs ahead (39-2 vs 37-3) in their game at Trent Bridge before running out winners by 22 runs.

Which just leaves the quarter-final meeting with Hampshire. Nottinghamshire batted first and scored 64-1 off the first 6. Hampshire scored 59-0 but still won by 5 wickets.

Excluding the Warwickshire game that we began with, the differences between the scores after 6 were 0, 2 and 5 runs where the team with the worse score won. In the words of Peter Moores, we’ve examined the data and it’s clearly a big advantage to start your innings better than the opposition.

However, where Moores was too wedded to statistics, I think it’s important to state some caveats. If anything the advent of T20 has made teams more confident in chasing down 100-120 runs in the last 10 overs, even after a slow start, as long as they have wickets in hand. Plus things like changing pitch and weather conditions can impact the start of your innings.

So, we’ve seen that the conventional wisdom is right about making a good start. However, even if you are ahead after those crucial first 6 overs, you still need to keep the intensity going for the remaining 14.

Author’s notes

Originally published on the On Nottingham website

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