sorry but that wasp needs to buzz off...
What WASP did not see coming, of course, was Moeen going on to score 102 runs in 53 balls, and hitting six sixes in just eight balls
As the leaves start to fall, the evenings draw in and cricket writers polish up all the usual clichés about the end of the season, the time has come to nominate a couple of things that this column believes should now be consigned forever to Room 101.
All the clichés cricket writers polish up about the end of the season, for example...
Other than those, let’s start with SKY TV’s WASP, or, to give it its full title: the Win and Score Predictor.
For those who have not been paying attention, this is, according to Wikipedia, a calculation tool, “grounded in the theory of dynamic programming”, and used to predict scores and possible results of ODI and T20 matches. It is the product of extensive research from PhD graduate Dr Scott Brooker and his supervisor Dr Seamus Hogan at the University of Canterbury, in Christchurch, New Zealand, who worked on the project for four years.
“The prediction,” the online encyclopaedia tells us, “is based upon factors like the ease of scoring on the day according to the pitch, weather and boundary size. For the team batting first, it gives the prediction of the final total. For the team batting second, it gives the probability of the chasing team winning, although it does not just take the match situation into the equation. Predictions are based on the average team playing against the average team in those conditions.
This is how Dr Seamus Hogan – one of the creators of WASP – described the system:
“Let V(b,w) be the expected additional runs for the rest of the innings when b (legitimate) balls have been bowled and w wickets have been lost, and let r (b,w) and p (b,w) be, respectively, the estimated expected runs and the probability of a wicket on the next ball in that situation.
We can then write: V (b,w)=r (b,w)+p(b,w) V(b+1,w+1)+(1-p(b,w) V(b+1,w).”
Yes, Dr Hogan, but, with all due respect, just because we can, that doesn’t necessarily mean we should.
Now, maths was never my strong point, but even I can work out that that when a team is 18 for six chasing 350, the likelihood is that it is not going to win.
And WASP’s bizarre performance during England’s innings in the third ODI against West Indies in Bristol offered further evidence that the formula may turn out to be as important to future generations as the Sinclair C5.
As Rovman Powell ran in to bowl the final ball of the 34th over to Moeen Ali, WASP was predicting England would end up with a total of 302. Mysteriously, just after Moeen nudged the ball towards the fine-leg boundary and set off for a single, that figure dipped to 301.
But when, an instant later, it slid past the fielder then went on to cross the rope for four, the total jumped to 305. After Joe Root was given out lbw off Cummins from the very next ball, however, WASP reacted by predicting an England score of 285. So far, so good... What WASP did not see coming, of course, was Moeen going on to score 102 runs in 53 balls, including his second fifty from 12 balls, and a devastating sequence of six sixes in eight balls that enabled England to reach 369-9.
For the record, that figure was, variously, 84, 64, 68 and 67 runs more than the formula had predicted in that previous two-ball spell.
There are lies, damned lies and statistics and then there is the theory of dynamic programming, and that is why I am proposing a different answer to the question of what WASP stands for, namely, ‘What’s The So**ing Point?’
Joining it in my room of worst nightmares is the Decision Review System tool known as ultra-edge, formerly known as “snicko”.
The problem here is not that it fails to pick up sounds which, when converted into ‘spikes’ on its TV graphic, appear to prove the ball has hit the edge of the bat.
It does, but this summer there have been several incidents suggesting that it is so finely tuned that it is picking up too many and that only some of them are actually ball against on bat.
In Bristol, when England called for a review of the not out decision for caught behind against Marlon Samuels, it was clear that the bowler, Liam Plunkett, did not share their confidence. Samuels himself showed not a flicker of concern.
When ultra-edge showed the faintest of squiggles as the ball passed the outside edge, enough for the third umpire to inform his on-field colleague he must overturn his original call, the expression on the batsman’s face changed from the serene to the incredulous and as he passed the bowler, Plunkett had the good grace to
look embarrassed. This was not the first time this summer a batsman has apparently been given out erroneously because of the slavish devotion to the idea that DRS technology is always right, even when it isn’t.
Even those who invented it know that the system is not perfect. Spikes have been registered when the ball has been seen to pass inches away from the bat, the only possible explanation being that they can be caused by all sorts of other noises, including boot spikes scraping on the pitch surface or slip fielders clicking their fingers (a particular favourite along some gnarled old pros in the past).
Despite this, and for the avoidance of ambiguity, umpires have been instructed by ICC, the world game’s governing body, that when ultra-edge throws up a spike it should be taken as conclusive proof that the ball has hit the bat – unless, and only if, they can see clear daylight between the two.
In the fourth ODI at the Oval, Michael Holding had no argument with the decision that Shai Hope had edged the ball to Jos Buttler off Chris Woakes, confirmed by ultra-edge.
But he did have a problem with what the TV graphic had shown before the ‘fatal’ spike appeared.
“There are two little spikes before the big spike,” he commented. “Where do those little spikes come from?
“And if Marlon Samuels was given out on a little spike like that previously that means Shai Hope hit that ball three times. Work that out for yourselves.”
Pretty sure you’ve done that for us, Mikey...
Taking the plaudits: Moeen Ali celebrates reaching his 100 at Bristol in the third ODI
Bold claims: WASP as explained on screen by Sky
Disbelief: West Indies’ Marlon Samuels departs