What if Cook and Root were average?

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What if Cook and Root were average?

Postby The Professor » Sun Aug 27, 2017 11:10 am

Been a lot of chat this summer about the fact that England are hugely bolstered by the batting performances of Root and Cook. One commentator today went as far as saying that if they were just "average Test batsmen" England would be as good (or bad) as the West Indies.

I decided to put this to the Test with a bit of maths. I looked at the first innings of this Test and the previous four Tests and removed the performances of Root and Cook and replaced it with the average score the rest of the batsmen got.

I'm aware that this is flawed logic as the average will be pulled down slightly by losing top order batsmen and replacing them with lower order bowlers but it's closest I could get to a perfect fit.

If we start from this morning's play, West Indies have a 71 run lead over England's 258. Cook got 11 but Root got 59 - the rest of the batsmen averaged twenty. In our alternate reality the total would have been 217 - giving West Indies a much healthier 112 run lead.

It's the last Test that proves the most interesting. Cook got a huge 243 with Root contributing 136 in England's total of 514. The rest of the batsmen averaged 16. Downgrading their efforts accordingly gives England 147, meaning that the West Indies' 168 would have given them a first innings lead.

Now to look at the end of the South Africa series. In the last Test England got 362 with Cook on 46 and Root on 52 with the other batsmen averaging 28. Recalculating this the total would have been a slightly lower 306 but still have given us a 63 (instead of 119) run first innings lead. In the second innings Cook got 10 and Root 49 contributing to a total of 226. The rest of the batsmen averaged a mere 18. This would have meant a total of 195 - a lead of 257 - and a win by 56 runs rather than the 177 run margin we actually won by.

A similar tale is born out in the fourth Test. In fact in this one the average is drawn up by the middle order but still considerably lower than Cook and Root's contribution. In the first innings the average is 24 changing the England total from 353 to 267. This gives England a first innings lead of 92 rather than 178. In the second innings the average is so high (35) that there is only a small gap between the actual total (318-8d) and the alternate one (312-8). In the average world England win by a healthy 152 runs compared to a stinking 239.

The huge South Africa win is, unsurprisingly, even huger without Cook and Root. England end up losing by an innings and 114 runs with England managing just 133 in the first innings (the average being 12 and Cook and Root scoring a combined 71) and 96 in the second innings (average=9! Cook=42 Root=8)

Interestingly it shows that we'd be on a par with the West Indies to some extent but there are some statistical snaffus there. West Indies are performing way above average so far and in the first Test the declaration and the huge scores from Cook and Root make a huge impact. The South Africa results are more interesting. Even subbing out our two best players for slightly below average Test players we still would have held our own due to our healthy middle order.

Result; yes we are reliant on our big hitters....but not disproportionately so.

Would be interested to see how this would rack up with a Smith/Warner calculation or indeed a Kohli one.
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Re: What if Cook and Root were average?

Postby meninblue » Sun Aug 27, 2017 4:19 pm

Cook and Joe are exceptional players. Cook was a big innings player with good number of double tons and big 100's. Joe is becoming a similar kind of player. If they were average players, England would definitely have suffered as the others struggle to convert 100's into big scores as those two. It makes a difference. Having couple of bowlers who usually will tire the opponent bowlers will make it relatively easy for the middle order batters to cash in as well even if they are average batters.
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Re: What if Cook and Root were average?

Postby Arthur Crabtree » Mon Aug 28, 2017 7:33 am

Interesting read Prof. Just as well England are not operating under that disadvantage. They are very reliant on Root in particular, who is much more consistent than Cook. In fact, Root must be one of the most consistent batters since The Don. But the Axis of Stokes-Bairsow-Moeen offers plenty too.
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