The T20 Over: a treatise

I have the complete ball-by-ball data for all but a couple of the over 600 T20 Internationals played so far. T20 analysis is very well-defined and the data lends itself to multiple shades of nuanced analysis. This is the first of a series of such analyses. For this piece, I have taken the over as the unit of analysis.

Raymond Price of Zimbabwe has bowled 4 maidens out of a total of 61 in his T20I career. This works out to 6.5 %, the highest percentage of maidens sent down by a bowler in T20Is.   -  Getty Images

A T20 over is a very significant unit of match play. It forms a huge 2.5% (1 in 40) component of a T20 match. Let us say that a team chases 160. If the team ends the first over at 4 for 1, the pendulum has swung clearly towards the bowling team, probably 52-48. If the batting team scores 12 for no loss, the batting team gains significantly, may also be 52-48. An over lost is a big step backwards and couple of overs lost could set the team back significantly. If 3 or 4 overs are lost, it might mean defeat.

The T20 over is also more under control of the bowler than the batsman. A batsman could play a couple of dot balls, take a single and lose strike. Then any catching up work has to be done by the other batsman. Even if a bowler conceded a few runs in the first 3 balls, he has the rest of the over to make up.

I have the complete ball-by-ball data for all but a couple of the over 600 T20 Internationals played so far. T20 analysis is very well-defined and the data lends itself to multiple shades of nuanced analysis. This is the first of a series of such analyses. For this piece, I have taken the over as the unit of analysis.

Let me emphasise that this is an overall numbers-based analysis and not one on the impact and value of specific overs. To do that, we need context. Let us take the 40th overs from two matches. In one match, the bowler concedes 18 runs, but this over may very well be deemed a great success since 20 runs were needed by the batting team to win. The other over, in which the bowler captured a couple of wickets and conceded 6 runs might be considered a failure if the batting team won the match off the last ball.

1. Redefinition of the Dot Ball

I have made a very significant and common-sense based redefinition of one of the pillars of bowling analysis: the dot ball, leading to the maiden over. Henceforth I will treat a dot ball as one in which no run was conceded to the opposing team. Thus, a maiden over comprises six such tougher-defined dot balls. I am sure most readers would agree with me. The current definition of a dot ball and maiden over that goes back to 1877, is outdated and archaic for the fast-paced T20 game.

A bowler should earn his maiden today. Already we have amendments to the law that do not allow wides and no balls to be exempt while looking at dot balls and maiden overs. I have simply extended this concept to byes and leg byes. During the 2012 WC, Steyn bowled 6 balls to Sehwag & Gambhir and conceded 5 leg byes. He was credited with a maiden. That is eminently unfair. Note the incongruity of the over summary: “End of over 3 (5 runs, maiden) India 22/0 (RR: 7.33)”. Steyn, a wonderful bowler though he is, did not deserve a maiden. An interesting sidebar is that India won by a single run.

Similarly, Tait bowled a wonderful first over to Imrul Keyes, in 2010. It is classified as a maiden. However, he conceded 4 byes and that was not a dot ball.

The bottom line, as far as I am concerned, is that it is the runs conceded to the other team that matters, not the runs conceded to the batsman. This also emphasises the team game concept.

I have talked about this in depth since I know that it is a contentious issue. The bowling analyses have already been changed in my database to reflect this. I have 214 maidens in my database and the other scorecards, 263. 49 of these overs have had 1-5 byes/leg byes conceded and thus have been classified by me as non-maiden overs. I am certain this is a welcome change and makes the maiden that much more treasured.

2. Dot Balls in a spell

Mohammad Amir, playing for Pakistan, bowled 21 dot balls out of 24 balls in T20 #514 against UAE. He conceded a four and two singles off the other three balls. Included in the spell was one maiden over.

Mudassar Bukhari, playing for Netherlands, also bowled 21 dot balls out of 24 balls in T20 #490 against UAE. He conceded four, two and a single off the other three balls. Included in the spell were two maiden overs.

Rangana Herath bowled 18 dot balls, but out of 21 he bowled, in T20# 395 against New Zealand. Hence, as a % of dot balls, this works out to 85.7%.

Yuvraj Singh slammed Stuart Broad for six 6s in Durban in September 2007 in the T20 World Cup, the most runs scored by a batsman in a T20I innings.   -  AFP


Raymond Price and Chris Mpofu, playing for Zimbabwe against Canada in T20 #75, bowled 20 dot balls each out of the 24 they bowled. They bowled unchanged from the start of the innings and restricted Canada to 15 for 3 in 8 overs.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar (T20 #517 against UAE), Jadeja (T20 #499 against Sri Lanka, Ajanta Mendis (T20 #263 against Zimbabwe) and Sulieman Benn (T20 #150 against Zimbabwe) bowled 20 dot balls each, out of the 24 they bowled. Let me add that Mendis’ final bowling figures were 4.0-2-8-6, the best spell in T20 history.

Let us not forget that these are the ‘tougher-defined’ dot balls, as explained earlier. It is of interest to see that five of these nine bowlers are spinners.

3. Career maiden overs

Harbhajan Singh bowled 5 maiden overs out of the 102 he sent down in his career. This works to 4.9%.

Kulasekara bowled 5 maiden overs out of the 197 in his career. This works to 2.5%.

Price bowled 4 maiden overs out of the 61 in his career. This works to 6.5%. This is the highest percentage of maidens bowled by any bowler in T20 internationals.

Mendis bowled 4 maiden overs out of the 147 in his career. This works to 2.7%.

Mohd. Nabi of Afghanistan bowled 4 maiden overs out of the 194 in his career. This works to 2.1%.

It is worth a reminder that these are the ‘tougher’ maiden overs. Here also spinners reign supreme, since four of these five bowlers are spinners.

4. Maiden overs bowled in a T20 innings by a bowler

A number of bowlers bowled two maiden overs in their spells. These are Bhuvneshwar Kumar (T20 #517), Ajanta Mendis (T20 #263), Swann (T20 #268), Herath (T20 #395), Harbhajan Singh (T20 #272), Tsotsobe (T20 #334), Mudassar Bukhari (T20 #490), Price (T20 #75), Suleiman Benn (T20 #150) and Shapoor Zadran (T20 #137).

Five wickets fell in one Mohammad Aamir over in a Pakistan-Australia match in 2010! Two batsmen were bowled, two run out and one stumped in the carnage.   -  GETTY IMAGES


5. Maiden overs bowled in a T20 innings by the team

In T20 #517, India bowled four maiden overs against UAE. These were by Bhuvneshwar Kumar (2), Harbhajan Singh and Pandya.

There were three maiden overs each in T20 #64 (Ireland), T20 #134 (Australia), T20 #150 (West Indies), T20 #268 (England), T20 #272 (India) and T20 #330 (Afghanistan).

6. The overs which were owned by the batsmen

Broad to Yuvraj Singh, 2007 (36 runs): Everyone knows about these few minutes of madness in Durban. Broad bowled six balls, mostly of good length, and was sent over the fence six times by Yuvraj Singh, then at the peak of his form. I have always felt that Broad could have bowled a deliberate wide, in the third/fourth ball, if nothing else, at least to break the rhythm of Yuvraj. However, history would not have been made and we would not have Yuvraj Singh in the company of Herschelle Gibbs (36 runs in an ODI over) and Lara & Bailey (28 runs in a Test over). It is ironic that Broad has moved on to become a terrific bowler and has captured 583 international wickets since then.

Parnell to Buttler, 2012 (32 runs): The sequence of events, fairly self-explanatory, ran thus: 6, 6, 2, nb+0, nb+4, 4, 6 and 2. A disjointed sequence, but England moved from 74 to 106 in this 11-over match, won by them comfortably.

Izatullah Dawlatzai vs. England, 2012 (32 runs): The sequence was Buttler 4, Buttler Lbw, Bairstow nb+6, nb+1, Wright 6, 6, 6 and 1. England, not exactly moving the world at 155 for 4 in 19, suddenly motored to 187 for 5.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar is one of 10 bowlers to bowl two maiden overs in a T20I innings.   -  AP


Binny vs. West Indies (32 runs): Binny bowled this over during the run-fest at Lauderhill, Florida. He had the misfortune to bowl the 11th over when West Indies were zipping along at 132 for 1. Lewis faced Binny for all the seven balls and the sequence describes the massacre: 6, 6, 1wd, 6, 6, 6 and 1. The over ended at 164 for 1. It was a miracle that West Indies scored 81 more runs in the next eight overs. The match ended in a pulsating 1-run win for West Indies.

Tuffey to Ponting, 2005 (30 runs): This was the very first T20 match played and Ponting took Tuffey to the cleaners to the tune of 6, 2, 6, 6, 4 and 6. Tuffey never really recovered from this mauling.

Bilawal Bhatti vs. Australia, 2014 (30 runs): This was in the recent WC. Finch scored 4 and 1 and then Maxwell took over with 4, 6, 6, nb+4 and 4. The irony was that this was in the 8th over. Australia moved from 72 for 2 to 102 for 2. They needed 90 runs in 12 overs but messed up the chase and lost. Bilawal Bhatti redeemed himself when he was entrusted with the last over. He conceded only 6 runs and captured 2 wickets.

Robert Taylor vs. Hong Kong (30 runs): 4 sixes, a four and a brace adorned the over. Tanwir Afzal faced all the six balls. Scotland still won since this over occurred when Hong Kong were 86 for 8, chasing 162.

Almost all of these are medium pacers.

7. The overs which were dominated by the bowler and fielders

Mohammad Amir vs Australia, 2010 (5 wickets): I consider this to be the most incredible over in T20 history. Compared to the 36-run over against Broad, I feel a single-over move from 191 for 5 to 191 all out gets the nod. I would always take the side of the bowlers anyhow. In addition, the opponents were Australia and established batsmen were at the crease. The sequence was Haddin caught, Johnson bowled, M. Hussey run out, Smith run out, Tait dot ball and Tait bowled. 5 dismissals, 3 wickets to the bowler, 6 dot balls: This was the Twilight Zone.

R. P. Singh (and the fielders) vs. New Zealand, 2007 (4 wickets): The sequence was Vettori bowled, Bond 4, Bond run out, McMillan 1, McMillan run out and J. S. Patel run out. New Zealand moved from 185 for 6 to 190 all out. However, they still won the match.

D. A. J. Bracewell vs. Zimbabwe, 2011 (4 wickets): Mutizwa 1, Mutizwa run out, Price run out, Jarvis caught and Mpofu caught (5 balls). Bracewell hastened the end of the Zimbabwe innings getting rid of 4 batsmen in 5 balls.

Haseeb Amjad vs. Nepal, 2014 (4 wickets): Malla 6, Malla 2, Malla c & b, Vesawkar run out, 1 bye, Budayair bowled and Gauchan run out.

Al-Amin Hossain vs. West Indies, 2014 (4 wickets): Samuels caught, Russell caught, 1 bye, Bravo caught, 1 bye, Ramdin run out.

8. Graphical views of the T20 over — Runs per over

I have shown below the way three important measures changed across the overs in a T20 innings. Since these are the mean values determined after considering over 1150 innings, we can derive many safe inferences on the way the value changes across the overs.


First, let us look at the The Runs per Over value. The first over of the innings is the most economical one. This is understandable since it is a new ball over bowled by a quality pace bowler or often, a canny spinner. The value is a mere 6.14. This increases steadily until we reach over No. 6, at which point the teams score at around 8 runs per over. Then the fielding restrictions are removed and the scoring rate drops like a brick, to 6.53. This moves sluggishly until the 8 mark is reached again in the 15th over. The average scoring rate keeps on moving up until it goes past 9.0 in the 19th over. The average for the 19th over is 9.64 and just above 10 for the 20th over.

The overall average for the 21665 overs across 601 matches is 7.75. The overs 1-3 and 7-12 have averages below this value and the other 11 overs have values exceeding the average of 7.75.

9. Graphical views of the T20 over — Dot balls per over


The ‘Dot balls per Over’ measure is equally interesting to study. As expected, the first over has an average of 3.45 dot balls per over. That indeed is a surprise since this indicates that there were more dot balls than scoring balls. This pattern continues with over No.2, which is likely to be bowled by an equally good bowler. Afterwards, the batsmen slowly find their scoring acumen and the number of dot balls per over goes down to a sub-3 value. From overs 3 to 12 the average dot balls remain at between 2 and 3. In the 13th over, the dot balls per over drops to below 2 and stays there for the rest of the innings. The last two overs have figures either side of 1.6.

The overall average across all matches is 2.29. The overs 1-6 have dot balls per over below this value and the latter 14 overs have values exceeding the average.

10. Graphical views of the T20 over — Balls per Wicket

The ‘Balls per Wicket’ is an interesting measure. There are a lot of moves up and down as the overs move on. As expected, with the batsmen taking care while settling down, the first two overs have figures of 24.4 and 22.1. Then, for some inexplicable reason, since the opening bowler is likely to bowl this over, the value plummets to below 20. It stays just above 20 for the fourth over but, not so surprisingly, moves up to 23.4 for the fifth over, which is likely to be bowled by the first change bowler. Lo and behold, the sixth over sees a drop to around 20!


As the fielders move into run-saving positions from the seventh over onwards, the ‘Balls per Wicket’ moves up to 23.4 and remains above 20 for the next four overs. How does one explain that the 11th over has a very high frequency of wicket-taking, with a figure of 18.7? In the 15th over, the value drops to 15 and progressively goes down to a value of a wicket every 7 balls in the 20th over. That is understandable with teams going all out to score runs.

The movement of the ‘Balls per Wicket’ measure is very intriguing. For no sound reason at all we have abrupt changes for the fifth, sixth, seventh and 11th overs.

The overall average across all matches is 17.2. There is some pattern in the distribution of the values. The first 14 overs have values above this average and the last six overs, have averages below this. This is just a reverse image of the Dot balls measure.

The T20 over is a beautifully defined 4-minute passage of the game. The data pertaining to the over is a treasure-house of information. This article barely skims the surface. So many other ideas are possible, including the way the overs chart a course for the result.

A follow-up to the Head-to-Head analysis done on the India-Australia series in February

I had done a comprehensive Head-to-Head analysis on the India-Australia and related Tests last month. I will complete the theme now with a summary on why India could come back so effectively, after losing the first Test, by a mile.

1. Ashwin was slightly off-colour, gathering 21 wickets at 27.4. However, Jadeja more than made up with series figures of 25 wickets at 18.6. While Smith mastered Jadeja (3 dismissals at 40), Jadeja dismissed 13 other top-order batsmen at 21.2. He also scored 127 runs, outshining Ashwin.

2. Umesh Yadav was taken to the cleaners by Smith (1 dismissal at 120). However, he dismissed 11 other top batsmen at an average of 20.5. All these wickets were crucial. Maybe this was the single most outlying bowling achievement during the series. Of the other two Yadavs, Kuldeep did well while Jayant failed.

3. Although Smith was the undisputed victor in his duels with the Indian bowlers (499 runs at 71.3), no other top batsman averaged more than 30. Only Maxwell and Wade did something of note.

4. O’Keefe started very well but fell off. Lyon started in an average manner but finished well. However, Hazlewood and Starc did not set anything on fire and Cummins was good, at best. Australia’s inability to dislodge the Indian late order also caused them problems.

5. Pujara, Rahul and Saha were outstanding. Jadeja’s late order runs were good as gold. These batsmen more than made up for the total failure of Kohli and Karun Nair and the indifferent form of Rahane and Vijay. Possibly the most important numbers are Pujara’s performance against O’Keeffe (1 dismissal at 117), Lyon (3 dismissals at 37), Hazlewood (1 dismissal at 98) and Cummins (no dismissal and 54 runs).