## Australia v Serbia Russell Degnan

I don't have much to say about this game that hasn't been said elsewhere, but, for closure, it is worth finishing things off. This was a typical Australian performance, attacking without controlling the game, giving chances but largely stopping the opposition from scoring (bar the inevitable soft goal), scoring without any particular beauty, and fighting until the end.

Pim Verbeek will no doubt leave us now, wondering why he tried to mould a footballing team so foreign to his preferred manner of play. That we seem capable of playing in only one manner means Australian fans are doomed to suffer the frustrations and joys that the team brings.

This campaign was a failure - the second round should be the aim, even if going further is a matter of luck. But it wasn't a total one. Qualification, firstly, and third in the group are successes of sorts, even if you hope for more, and even if, with a bit more luck, we could have had more - perhaps much more, in a quarter boasting Uruguay, South Korea and the USA.

Finally, on a completely unrelated note, the comparative failure of Africa (at home) has hidden the resounding success of Asia, with two teams moving forward. Given those two continents relative ability to foster the game, don't be surprised if we have an Asian champion before an African one.

Idle Summers 26th June, 2010 00:41:11   [#] [0 comments]

## Ratings - 23rd June 2010 Russell Degnan

Recently completed matches

2nd TestWest IndiesvSouth Africa
Pre-rating921.871191.65
Form-10.96+5.51
Expected MarginSouth Africa by 85 runs
Actual MarginMatch drawn
Post-rating924.181189.55

Football teams park the team bus in front of goal to achieve a draw; the West Indies must have parked the roller on the pitch last week to get this result. A team more assertive than South Africa might have chanced their arm at 3/398 at lunch on the second day, but they didn't, and the only team with the ability to force a result on this pitch left it to crawl to its miserable end. The West Indies did begin their innings positively enough, but Bravo and Chanderpaul were content to play for a draw, as only 117 were scored in 67 overs following Nash's dismissal. If this test was played as part of a test championship we'd debate the consequences of the draw with great intensity. But in the midst of a forgettable and pointless tour of the Carribean this a test best soon forgotten.

Rankings at 23rd June 2010
1.Australia1220.38
2.India1209.48
3.South Africa1189.55
4.England1125.95
5.Sri Lanka1103.96
6.Pakistan1073.88
7.West Indies924.18
8.New Zealand917.91
10.Zimbabwe556.79

11.Ireland547.06
12.Scotland477.92
13.Namibia378.09
14.Afghanistan362.06
15.Kenya351.46
16.U.S.A.296.99
17.Uganda280.48
18.Netherlands210.64
19.Nepal196.51
21.U.A.E.161.47
22.Hong Kong148.65
23.Bermuda138.61
24.Cayman Is134.24
25.Malaysia123.90

Shaded teams have played fewer than 2 games per season. Non-test team ratings are not comparable to test ratings as they don't play each other.

Idle Summers 23rd June, 2010 15:58:37   [#] [0 comments]

## Monday Melbourne: CCVII, June 2010 Russell Degnan

Fed square. Taken June 2010

Melbourne Town 23rd June, 2010 00:28:38   [#] [0 comments]

## World Cup Group Qualification Russell Degnan

Presented without further comment, for my own benefit. Top diagram represents first place, bottom second. Both possible teams are represented where decided on goals scored.

Idle Summers 22nd June, 2010 12:42:15   [#] [2 comments]

## Australia v Ghana Russell Degnan

No team is a more natural to the role of plucky losers than Australia. No doubt everyone involved in Australian soccer is happy and comfortable with the situation: last in their group, extremely unlikely to qualify, but teeming with righteous indignation.

Naturally, the Kewell send-off is the main talking point, not least because Australia had dominated the game up to that point, and for long periods after, against a poor Ghanaian side.

The law is suitably unclear, but it is not a foul unless the handball was "deliberate". Given the shot from 8 yards, Kewell's reaction time (roughly 0.2s), and the speed of shot (probably 24 m/s) it is impossible for Kewell to either avoid the ball or make a play at it. The determining factor therefore is whether Kewell had his arm in an unusual position, such that he could have expected the ball to hit it. Clearly, as the photo shows, that is not the case. His hand might have been out a little, but his upper arm couldn't have been much closer to his body.

As always with football, plenty of these are given (plenty of referees are rubbish and most players are unfamiliar with the laws). But if it was a foul, it was a penalty, and it was a red card. Triple punishment is a bitch.

On a related note, this is one of several football laws that are poorly implemented in comparison with other sports.

• Advantage is either given or play is stopped. The rugby union approach, where play continues until no advantage is clear (lost possession/out of play) and then play brought back, would improve several things. Not least, there would be less advantage to diving for a free kick when, if given for minor contact, a player could get both the free kick and the goal scoring opportunity.
• Non-deliberate Handball gives a clear advantage to a defending side. Basketball plays foot contact as a side-ball, unless advantage is played. An indirect free kick from outside the penalty area would have been more appropriate for Kewell's contact.
• Time-keeping is just a mess. The fourth official should do it. Time should also stop when the ball is out of play during injury time to save the pointless time-wasting.
• More referees/linesmen and/or video refereeing would be a huge improvement. Basketball is played on a much smaller area, and it has two referees. Mind you, there is no point having a referee at all if minor infringements go unpunished, unless the player crumples to the ground. FIFA have made a rod for their own back for the joke they have made of shirt-pulling and incidental contact.
• A sin-bin rather than sending-offs. As usual, the haphazard display of cards is having far too big an effect on the results.

But back to Australia. They played their natural game against Ghana, getting numbers forward (a sloppy goal), harassing the players on the ball (fouling indiscriminately), and pumping the ball long. Australia makes up for a lot of poor technique and organisation with effort, but we also fail to score from opportunities where a clinical finish is required, and give up soft goals from sloppy play. Ghana's build-up to the goal was a typical example of this, where Wilkshire and Emerton failed to stop the cross, despite having an opportunity to put the ball out for a corner.

Ultimately, Australia should ave won, even with 10 men, which makes the draw galling, as now we depend on either a Ghana win, or a thumping result by either Germany or ourselves (or both) to get through. Unlikely.

Idle Summers 20th June, 2010 12:38:43   [#] [2 comments]

## If football was organised like cricket Russell Degnan

Like Dileep Premachandran, I've several times suggested that cricket could learn a lot from football, not just in terms of the world cup - the forthcoming edition of which promises to be an utter debacle - but in several other ways: its regional focus, its qualifiers, its willingness to accept mismatches and in the centrality it gives to domestic competition.

But what if it was the opposite, what would football look like then?

• There would only be ten "full member" sides playing international football: Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay. France, Italy, Germany, England, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands. But most people would be a bit dubious on Uruguay, who've been crap for years, the Netherlands who were only admitted to stop their players going to Germany and Portugal, who were only admitted to bolster the 'latin' bloc.
• Almost all football would be organised bilaterally. To make the most money, England, Germany and Brazil would play each other 10 times per year; and the other teams, reluctantly, for a couple of games every 5 years. There would be the occasional, very very reluctant game against teams outside the full members.
• Players would rarely, if ever turn out for their clubs, who, lacking any star power would attract no support and depend on handouts from their national board. All players would play in their home country, except for a handful of vagabonds, who don't play internationals.
• Except for a handful of "test" grounds, no stadium would hold more than 20,000 people.
• There would be a world cup every year, either only amongst the full members, or with the full members (who automatically qualify, and therefore never play anyone outside the top 16), or with a handful of "minnows". Players for the minnows, who only get to play well trained, organised and technically skilled players every four years are routinely thrashed.
• Teams who wish to attain "full member status" must be able to create a domestic league of the same standard as current full member leagues. That their domestic markets are tiny is irrelevant.
• Players from outside the full members regularly switch allegiance to full member teams, even during the world cup - and can't go back. (Which admittedly, does happen a little).
• Two of the world cups are 7-a-side tournaments, which are popular because those games tend to have more goals.
• The meaningless and increasingly unpopular 90 minute game has been "modified" to attract spectators. For the first 15 minutes of the game, and in a nominated 10 minute "power-play" the off-side rule is modified so a team can only have 3 defenders in their own half. In addition, defenders cannot stand in the line between the ball and goal during free kicks, to encourage spectacular long-range shots.
• Strikers must be substituted after 15 minutes. Not sure why, actually.
• Having found a sudden love for domestic 7-a-side football, administrators would organise a league, but play it on 150 consecutive days, instead of in weekly rounds, to maximize the amount of televised games.

Alternatively, England would run the game and internationals would be the exclusive preserve of the home nations. Perhaps their historical indifference to the world cup was more of a blessing than we realise?

Idle Summers 19th June, 2010 17:37:39   [#] [5 comments]

## Ratings - 17th June 2010 Russell Degnan

Recently completed matches

I-Cup MatchNetherlandsvScotland
Pre-rating219.46464.97
Form-30.22+46.17
Expected MarginScotland by 73 runs
Actual MarginScotland by 4 wickets
Post-rating210.64477.92

What looked like a comprehensive win for Scotland was almost one of the great turn-arounds in cricket history. Chasing just 75 in the fourth innings, Jonkman ripped out 5 wickets to have them teetering at 6/18. McCallum and Haq successfully counter-attacked to get a deserved win, but the Netherlands could reflect on what might have been if they'd not suffered four reckless run-outs, and scored even another 100 runs. While the loss ends the Netherlands chances in this competition, for Scotland the win catapults them to the top of the standings, with games against their likely finals opponents (should they make it) in Afghanistan and Zimbabwe to come. They'll be perturbed by the weakness in the top order, and an over-dependence on the all-round efforts of Berrington, Parker and Haq, but with their stock continually rising, they might take over as the most highly ranked associate by season-end.

1st TestWest IndiesvSouth Africa
Pre-rating927.041187.58
Form-2.54-3.50
Expected MarginSouth Africa by 80 runs
Actual MarginSouth Africa by 163 runs
Post-rating921.871191.65

The beauty of the internet is that I had my choice of games between technically poor sides being outclassed by a ruthlessly efficient opponent. West Indies actually had the best of this game early on, playing tight, attacking cricket to have South Africa 5/107 after 47.5 overs. But from then South Africa dominated, first grinding out a comparatively large total, then inducing two rapid collapses: first Morkel ripping out Nash, Dowlin and Gayle to have them 3/12, then Steyn causing a collapse of 6 for 4 in just over 4 overs to effectively kill the game.

As usual, South Africa showed a remarkable lack of urgency in their second innings, setting a moderate, not comprehensive, target but with Steyn and Morkel in such compelling form, they were never going to lose. The West Indies managed to turn around their first test performance in Australia in December, but in the absence of a number of first-choice players, it is hard to see how their current batting or bowling lineup can contribute enough to win. Only close losses or better can keep them above New Zealand in the next couple of games.

Rankings at 17th June 2010
1.Australia1220.38
2.India1209.48
3.South Africa1191.65
4.England1125.95
5.Sri Lanka1103.96
6.Pakistan1073.88
7.West Indies921.87
8.New Zealand917.91
10.Zimbabwe556.79

11.Ireland547.06
12.Scotland477.92
13.Namibia378.09
14.Afghanistan362.06
15.Kenya351.46
16.U.S.A.296.99
17.Uganda280.48
18.Netherlands210.64
19.Nepal196.51
21.U.A.E.161.47
22.Hong Kong148.65
23.Bermuda138.61
24.Cayman Is134.24
25.Malaysia123.90

Shaded teams have played fewer than 2 games per season. Non-test team ratings are not comparable to test ratings as they don't play each other.

Idle Summers 17th June, 2010 19:17:14   [#] [0 comments]

## Australia v Germany Russell Degnan

Predictably, the immediate coverage of Australia's hammering by Germany has been an over-reaction to a shoddy loss. And, admittedly, it couldn't really have gone much worse. The worst bit was that we were lazy and disorganised in defence, and, needless to say, Germany have a knack for cracking weak defences. The second worst bit was losing Cahill to a rash but not red-card offence. The third worst bit was shipping four goals, which ends any hope of sneaking through on goal difference. The loss itself wasn't that important, we always expected to lose, but must continue to hope that Germany keep on winning, to even out the competition for second-place.

It is the defence Australia has to worry about. The midfield was nowhere to be seen, leaving the Germans free to time simple balls in behind the defence for the cut-back. The first and fourth goals were classic examples of this problem, with noone picking up the run, nor more crucially marking the players joining from midfield. Frankly, given how frequently the Germans got free inside our penalty area, we were lucky not to let in more.

Tactically, Australia is ill-suited to play on the counter-attack, being both likely to concede goals regardless of the formation and unable, for lack of technical proficiency, creativity and pace to score on either the break or via the leading forward. Nevertheless, after five minutes it still appeared to be a sensible option, as Australia started well. You cannot win on the counter if you concede easily, and unfortunately, I have yet to see an Australian side that doesn't do that. Klose's goal being yet another demonstration of Schwarzer's frustrating inability to command the box and let in unnecessary goals, even if he saves several others.

That all said, Verbeek can be expected to turn out a different lineup for the next two games, against sides Australia are not only capable of defeating, but now have to defeat, which should force his hand. The evidence against Germany suggests Australia remain a team whose best, if not only, chance of scoring comes from the wings, and that means getting players forward.

Idle Summers 14th June, 2010 14:33:09   [#] [5 comments]

## Ratings - 9th June 2010 Russell Degnan

Recently completed matches

Pre-rating1125.95640.26
Form+0.57+21.86
Expected MarginEngland by 301 runs
Actual MarginEngland by 8 wickets
Post-rating1127.08638.24

On several levels, Old Trafford was a miserable failure for Bangladesh, they lost 10 wickets in just over a session twice. Once is okay, as several teams showed last year: England (10/91 in 29.5 overs - 4th test), Australia (10/87 in 29.5 overs - 5th test), but if you do it twice, like say, the West Indies (10/106 in 23.4 overs - 1st Test and 123 in 31.5 overs - 2nd Test) then you don't deserve to play test cricket. Not that the collapse mattered on that front. It is a peculiarly English thing to treat teams with condescension until they've beaten them at home - after which they must be good. But trawl through those dates, and they seem instantly familiar: Australia 1882, South Africa 1935, West Indies 1950, Pakistan 1954, India 1971, New Zealand 1983, Sri Lanka 1998. When Bangladesh next tour, if they ever next tour, then they can add their names to that list.

Other failures were more important: having found their way into a favourable position, they played really badly, when they need to learn to hang in and fight; they just missed their expected margin again, which indicates that their improvement is stalling, and their rating is about right; and by rushing off to the Asia Cup, they've passed up a valuable opportunity to tour the counties (and associates) to learn something about batting and bowling in difficult conditions.

Nevertheless, it wasn't all bad, and their overall performance was similar to how New Zealand and the West Indies performed in the previous three May tours:

West Indies  2007 P:4 W:0 D:1 L:3 Bat:28.60 Bowl:49.07 Ratio:0.582
New Zealand  2008 P:3 W:0 D:1 L:2 Bat:25.85 Bowl:34.67 Ratio:0.746
West Indies  2009 P:2 W:0 D:0 L:2 Bat:22.35 Bowl:61.12 Ratio:0.366
Bangladesh   2010 P:2 W:0 D:0 L:2 Bat:25.07 Bowl:49.40 Ratio:0.507


For England, this was a learning opportunity for certain players. Bresnan, though injured, seems to have been written off for his bowling at Lord's. Morgan clearly needs work and Prior was criticised while Finn and Shahzad seem to have great potential. How much you can learn from so few performances against such an ordinary side.

Forthcoming matches

I-Cup MatchNetherlandsvScotland
Pre-rating219.46464.97
Form-30.22+46.17
Expected MarginScotland by 73 runs

The inter-continental cup restarts with a vital game for both sides. The Dutch must win to have any chance of making the final, while Scotland must keep winning to stay ahead of Zimbabwe, and/or over-take Afghanistan. Without the county players, tied up in county games, Scotland probably have a slight edge, though not near as large as the ratings suggest. Plus, being the Netherlands, it will probably rain anyway.

3 TestsWest IndiesvSouth Africa
Pre-rating927.041187.58
Form-2.54-3.50
Expected MarginSouth Africa by 80 runs

A big test for the West Indies, who are rated to win one game, but have been erratic in the past year, with some good performances in Australia making up for a little of the rubbish they played in England. South Africa have recently lacked the edge that took them above Australia 18 months ago, and seem overly dependent on Steyn for inspiration. If the pitches are anything like the roads served up to England then the most interesting question might be whether Amla can break the record for most runs in a calendar year. A series being anticipated more in trepidation than anticipation, but worth watching regardless.

Rankings at 9th June 2010
1.Australia1220.38
2.India1209.48
3.South Africa1187.58
4.England1125.95
5.Sri Lanka1103.96
6.Pakistan1073.88
7.West Indies927.04
8.New Zealand917.91
10.Zimbabwe556.79

11.Ireland547.06
12.Scotland464.97
13.Namibia378.09
14.Afghanistan362.06
15.Kenya351.46
16.U.S.A.296.99
17.Uganda280.48
18.Netherlands219.46
19.Nepal196.51
21.U.A.E.161.47
22.Hong Kong148.65
23.Bermuda138.61
24.Cayman Is134.24
25.Malaysia123.90

Shaded teams have played fewer than 2 games per season. Non-test team ratings are not comparable to test ratings as they don't play each other.

Idle Summers 10th June, 2010 19:42:00   [#] [0 comments]

## Ratings - An Explanation Russell Degnan

While I've made some general comments before about how the ratings are calculate, until now, there has not been a definitive description. I first started compiling them, based on the same principles as the Elo Ratings used for chess (and football) 10 years ago.

The basic Elo approach requires that each match has an expectation. If a team beats that expectation, it receives points from the other team. If it fails to beat that expectation, it gives points to the other team. Each match is therefore dependent on the initial ratings, and every match in test history is needed to get the exact figure. (Reversing the result of the first ever test match raised England's current rating by 0.04, but that might be a rounding error).

A number of modifications to the basic formula have been added since, mostly to counter difficulties related to the comparative paucity of test matches played. By and large, how you calculate a rating usually doesn't matter much. But there are some subtle effects on the margin that I've tried to iron out, to balance out the problem of making a rating responsive to changes in true ability, but not erratic to individual results.

The rating itself is only a relative measure, useful to make comparisons between teams but a meaningless number. To make historical comparisons easier (but never completely valid) the test teams have always added up to 1000 (give or take). Each additional test side was given the rating of the current worst side, and the other ratings adjusted back to the 100 average. This isn't the best way - the best way is to set a rating rating that minimizes the rating adjustments in the following couple of years - this is what was done for the T20 ratings. But comparative analysis was deemed more important for the test ratings.

Each match is represented by a row in an excel table. The easiest way to describe the calculation is to go through one, so I'll use the last one:
England vs Bangladesh at Lord's, 2010.

Ratings

The ratings are looked up, and the difference calculated. A home team is given a 100 point bonus. The number is nice and round, but deceptively accurate. In T20 cricket, the home bonus is 20 points.

 Home Team ENG Rating(H) 1128.82 Lookup(Home Team) Away Team BAN Rating(A) 629.33 Lookup(Away Team) Diff 499.49 Rating(H)-Rating(A) Neutral h (h/n) Home Bonus 100 Neutral is h => 100 n => 0 DiffWHome 599.49 Diff + Home Bonus

Expected Margin

An expected margin is calculated from the ratings difference. This is complicated slightly by draws, which are a margin of 0. To compensate, the calculated expected run margin is slightly lower than what would be expected if there was a guaranteed result.

 Pt to Margin 0.5 Constant Exp Margin 300 Pt to Margin x DiffWHome

Margin Difference

An innings (the 4th) is considered to be worth 250 runs. This is slightly lower than the average for a 4th innings of 270 runs since WW2, but (as always) close enough. Adjusting any one constant seems to make very little difference to the final ratings. All games shift, a little. The calculated margin is therefore runs, plus 250 for an innings victory, or the number of wickets remaining, divided by 11. This should be scaled, really, but the spreadsheet is slow enogh already.

 Result h (h/a/d/t) Runs Margin 0 Wick Margin 8 Inn Margin 0 (1/0) Margin Value 250 Constant Home Margin 182 (Inn Margin + Wick Margin / 11) x Margin Value + Runs Margin Diff Margin -118 Exp Margin - Home Margin

Game Weight

Matches are weighted by importance. Matches increase in importance the longer a series is. Matches where the series has been decided (dead rubbers) ae worth half a live rubber.

 Series Length 2 Live Game a (d/a) Game Weight (T) 21.21 sqrt(Series Length) x 15 x (Live Game d => 0.5, a => 1)

Rating Change

The calculated points transfer is given by the game weight, multiplied by the difference between the margin and the expected margin (divided by one innings, but for no real reason). If a team has won the game, but is still losing points, the size of the transfer is reduced by 1/6th, and vice versa. Similarly, draws, which often owe a lot to luck, are discounted by half.

 Base Change -10.01 Game Weight (T) x Diff Margin / Margin Value Mod Change -8.34 Base Change x (Result is d => 0.5 Point gainer is w => 1 l => 5/6 )

The transfer is uneven, to account for differences in the perceived accuracy of the ratings. Historically, this fixed a severe problem with South African ratings, when they were only playing a couple of tests per year. Each team has a game weight - effectively a rolling average of the number of games played over two years. It is calculated by adding one for each test played, and by halving the weight at the beginning of the English season. A team pushes the change in proportion to the number of games they have played.

 Game Weight (H) 12.34 Lookup(Home Team) Game Weight (A) 6.46 Lookup(Away Team) Total Weight 18.8 Game Weight (H + A) PreChange(H) -5.73 ModChange x Game Weight (A) / Total Weight PreChange(A) 10.94 ModChange x Game Weight (H) / Total Weight

Team Rating Change

A team is no longer docked the entire preliminary ratings change. To allow the ratings to be more sensitive to changes in form, without making them erratic to off games (the West Indies massive loss to Pakistan in the late-80s stands out here), only half of the ratings change is added immediately. The other half, is added to a protected ratings table - often referred to as form, which it effectively measures.

If a team has a positive form, and receives points, they receive a quarter of their current form, in addition to half the rating change, and vice versa. Otherwise they receive only the ratings change. The protected rating is declined by 25% each game, plus half the preliminary rating change.

 Pt Decline 0.25 Protected(H) 0.57 Lookup(Home Team) ProtChange(H) 0 sign(PreChange(H)) is sign(Protected(H)) => Pt Decline x Protected(H) else 0 RatChange(H) -2.87 ProtChange(H) + PreChange(H)/2

 Protected(A) 21.86 Lookup(Away Team) ProtChange(A) 5.46 sign(PreChange(A)) is sign(Protected(A)) => Pt Decline x Protected(A) else 0 RatChange(A) 10.94 ProtChange(A) + PreChange(A)/2

The ratings are updated when I get to it, but if I'm watching, normally immediately. The post will normally coincide with a gap without any ongoing games, if one exists.

Idle Summers 8th June, 2010 01:42:51   [#] [0 comments]