Cricket: England v West Indies

Simon Hughes: England play numbers game

Computer analysis of cricket in May was behind decision to bowl

Simon Hughes: England play numbers game

England’s decision to bowl first may have gone against the timeworn cricketing principle that you bat first on a good batting surface.

But cricket has changed since that dictum was formed. Modern pitches don’t deteriorate like they used to do and this is especially true of Lord’s which has tended to get better as the matches go on. England haven’t lost here for seven years so they have a good understanding of the conditions.

Another change in modern cricket is the amount of statistical computer analysis which goes into making decisions. We know England pre-meditated their decision to bowl first because Stuart Broad said so before the toss.

It was probably because their computer programme told them it gave them statistically the best chance of success so early in the season, in May. Later in the summer, the number crunching might have come up with a different answer.

It seems odd that England would be worried about losing to the West Indies, but the desire to reduce the risk of it happening was probably another key factor in Strauss’s decision at the toss.

Bowling first reduces the chances of losing as you can wrest control of the game when you bat in the second innings which is the pivotal time in many ways. If you bat first and are 100-5 there’s more chance of losing than if you bowl first and the other team reaches 100-0.

But there wasn’t much in it. The ball swung in the air all day, but it didn’t do much at all off the pitch. England’s bowlers were hard to fault as a unit and Bresnan justified his selection ahead of Onions and Finn. But the West Indies top order were a bit more solid and obdurate than many people had expected. Bowling them out for under 300 on this pitch would be a job well done.

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