Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Fixing The Women's Ashes Points System

Meg Lanning has become the latest to chip-in on the #WomensAshes points system, arguing that the system over-weighs the Test and that perhaps allocating 3 points* for the ODIs might be the way to go?

Whether or not Lanning meant that just the ODIs should be worth 3 points, or the T20s as well, it is worth bearing in mind that under both scenarios Australia would still have failed to reclaim The Ashes. (An 11-10 victory for England if the T20s were still 2 points; a 12-12 "retain" for England if they were 3.)

One thing we shouldn't lose sight of is that the points system was designed to over-weigh the Test - it was a concession to those who felt that the hallowed traditions of The Ashes were being 'dumbed down' by bringing ODIs and T20s into the equation.

Nevertheless, I have some sympathy with the idea that the current system negatively impacts the competition as a sporting contest, by making it too difficult for the losing team in the Test to come back into it from 6-0 down.

Clearly allocating 3 points to the limited-overs matches doesn't solve the problem; nor does playing the Test at the end, which just incentivizes the team going in ahead to play for a (bore) draw.

So how about this:

Change the emphasis so that points are allocated by series rather than by match - leave the Test, ODIs and T20s all at 6 points each, but allocate ALL 6 points to the winner of each mini-series.

This maintains the primacy of the Test, but means that the other team has to win only 2 of the 3 ODIs to come right back into the contest at 6-all.

Under this system, Australia would have won The Ashes - though perhaps it is debatable whether England would have played quite so badly (even depleted as they were) had the trophy not already been in the bag.

Of course, it isn't perfect - as with the current system, it would still be possible to win The Ashes after just 3 games, leaving a long 'dead rubber' which the losing team could go on to win 4-0; but by putting the emphasis on 'series' rather than 'matches' even this would feel a little fairer.

What Lanning actually said was that two ODIs should carry the same weight as the Test - but whether you reduce the Test to 4 points, or up the ODIs to 3, the difference is the same.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Cricinfo quote Lanning as saying "You could fix that by giving more points to the ODIs," and "Perhaps two ODI victories is similar to a Test match win" so this strongly suggests she is advocating 6 points for the Test but 3 for each ODI.

    This statement is a good example of not looking at the Maths because, believe me, this is a mathematical problem and quite a complex one.

    Under the current system the probability (assuming Aus & Eng are equally balanced and all matches are played) that the series is undecided after 6 matches is about 31.25%.
    Under the quoted Lanning suggestion of T(6), O(3), O(3), O(3), t(2), t(2), t(2) this drops to only 14.58%. If ones thinks about it, its bound to be worse because we've just allocated more points to the earlier matches (ie matches 2, 3 and 4).

    One could reverse ODI and T20s to get T(6),t(2),t(2),t(2),O(3),O(3),O(3). This at least gets the probability back up to 31.25%. It even gets the probability that the series is still undecided after 5 matches to 62.50% (better than the 50% in the current system).

    If you go T(4),t(2),t(2),t(2),O(3),O(3),O(3) then the prob that the series is still undecided after 5 matches reaches 75% and 37.50% that its not decided after 6 matches.

    Lannings idea has one really good feature. Assuming no wash outs you can't get a tied series.

    Playing the ODIs after the T20s has one really good feature (related to your later open letter) - and that is that the women-only supporters WILL be able to see The Ashes decided ! Well almost certainly – both T(4),t(2),t(2),t(2),O(3),O(3),O(3) and T(6),t(2),t(2),t(2),O(3),O(3),O(3) give a nearly 92% chance that the series will not be decided before the ODIs start.


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