Ahead of the first-ever Finals Weekend in Minor League Cricket, stats guru Tom Nielsen crunches the numbers on both Conference Finals on Saturday, starting with the Atlantic: how did each team make it? Who are the players to watch for? Read on to find out and take your pick on which two will make it to Sunday’s Championship Final in Morrisville!
New Jersey Stallions v Empire State Titans
First up on Saturday is the Atlantic Conference final, where it’s a clash of the Eastern Division’s best as the Empire State Titans take on the New Jersey Stallions. We’ll look at how these teams got here, what happened when they met in the regular season, and what to expect this weekend.
How They Got Here
The New Jersey Stallions took the Eastern Division title this year with an 11-4-1 record. The Stallions started the season hot, winning 8 of their first 10 results, then stumbled a little bit after losing US National Teamers Jessy Singh and Dominique Rikhi. The Stallions dispatched the Morrisville Cardinals with relative ease in the Semi-finals (in Morrisville), winning by 41 runs in the first match, and six wickets in the second to advance to Finals weekend. The Stallions got to the finals on the back of true team performances with both bat and ball: they used the same six bowlers in both semi-final matches, with all 6 bowlers getting a wicket in each match.
The Empire State Titans were second in the East, taking a 9-4-3 record into the playoffs, but with a monstrous 2.29 NRR (Net Run Rate), well above New Jersey’s 0.85 NRR. The Titans’ four losses included a two wicket loss, a three wicket loss, and a two run loss: a wicket or a boundary here and there might have turned them into a first place team. The Titans needed a full three games to take care of the Atlanta Fire in the semi-final round. The first two matches went down to the final over: a 1-run win for Empire State in match one and a five wicket win with two balls left for the Fire in the second.
On Sunday, Empire State cruised to an 8-wicket victory to advance to the Finals. In a high scoring series, Empire State was led with the bat by Christopher Barnwell, Bhaskar Yadram, Trevon Griffith, and Richard Ramdeen, each of whom scored 60+ runs in the semi-finals at strike rates of 150+.
The Stallions and Titans met twice this year, both matches being played on artificial surfaces at the Howe Athletic Complex.
Week 2: New Jersey Stallions won by 27 runs, restricting Empire State to 88/8 in defense of 115. Hiren Patel (48 off 44) and Jessy Singh (27 off 30) did most of the scoring for the Stallions, who got wickets from all five bowlers, suffocating the top order for the Titans on the way to victory.
Week 4: A couple weeks later, the Stallions squeaked by the Titans with a 2-run win, holding the Titans to 135/6 defending 137. The Stallions got a solid start from openers Aaditya Varadharajan (39 off 41) and Dominique Rikhi (34 off 33), before being held to the relatively low total. The Titans responded with 12 sixes but didn’t rotate the strike enough with singles and fell just short of the required total.
Season Long Player Impact Ratings
The table below details season-long batting and bowling impacts for the Stallions and Titans. As a reminder, these impacts should be interpreted as the number of runs above average a player is contributing to their team’s total (for batting) or subtracting from their opponent’s total (for bowling).
Note below that the two teams have distinctly different roster constructions. For the Stallions, talent is spread deep across the entire roster, with ~13 players making significant contributions this year, but only 1 player contributing more than 50 runs of value on the season. The Titans, on the other hand, have 5 players who have added 100 runs of value this year, though they fall off a little more quickly after that.
The New Jersey Stallions don’t have a lot of big hitters, with only Rovman Powell and Jon Ross Campbell carrying a strike rate above 120 – their top batters by our impact metrics. But the Stallions make up for that by batting deep, with the joint-most batters in the league that have faced 100+ balls this season, showing some staying power at the crease. This includes Sai Mukkamalla, who is 9th in the conference in runs with 360, despite a slow strike rate of 99, less than a run per ball.
The strength of the Stallions’ bowling attack might depend on Jessy Singh’s availability, who was the most effective bowler for the team when he was available. Even without Singh, they have a fairly deep group: Stephen Wiig (26) and Justin Dill (20) are the primary wicket takers, though they come at a slightly expensive run rate, and Sachin Mylavarapu restricts opponent’s totals by over half a run per over. Without Singh, it’ll probably be Dill and Mylavarapu opening the bowling for the Stallions.
The Titans are led by top-line all-rounders Christopher Barnwell and Trevon Griffith. Along with Hammad Azam of the Golden State Grizzlies, Barnwell and Griffith are two of the three players in the league to add at least 100 runs with the bat and subtract 35 runs with the ball. Bhaskar Yadram adds some firepower with the bat, with 359 runs at a strike rate of 142.
With the ball, the Titans feature four elite bowlers. Barnwell, Griffith, Trinson Carmichael and Damion Jacobs each restrict opponents by over a run per over, offering incredible quality depth in the bowling attack. Among bowlers with 40+ overs, Trinson Carmichael is #4 in all Minor League Cricket with a bowling impact of -2.02 runs per over. Thirty of Carmichael’s 47 overs have come in the powerplay, so he will open the bowling with spin, probably alongside Trevon Griffith or Bhaskar Yadram, who each offer medium pace.
The model pegs the Eastern Conference Final to be basically a toss-up, with the Titans as just very slight favorites. In the regular season, the Stallions were able to defend somewhat light totals in each match-up. We’ll find out this weekend if it’ll be “third time’s the charm” for the Titans. Happy watching!