sorry but that wasp needs to buzz off...

The Cricket Paper - - FEATURE - It may be Septem­ber, but Peter Hayter is in spring clean­ing mode as he clears out the rub­bish in cricket’s locker

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...

PIC­TURES: Getty Im­ages

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

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