Why a county has to sign Mark Watt

By Ronan Alexander

Mark Watt helped light up the T20 World Cup with his economical and exciting slow left arm bowling with the help of his now famous and unique 24 yard delivery.

After being immediately picked up for the Abu Dhabi T10 off the back of his World Cup heroics, you would have thought counties would be going all out for his signature. It’s now three months since Scotland departed Sharjah and we haven’t really heard a whisper of what Watt will be up to in the summer.

The graph below helps to understand how good his World Cup performance really was, by looking at a range of different metrics to gauge how good he is throughout the full innings. I calculated all these stats for every spinner who bowled more than seven overs throughout the tournament. Then, the percentile rank means that 50%, where the faded black line is, is the average for each player in each metric. (Think that makes sense). Basically, you want to be ahead of the black line. Some players will achieve this in some areas, but be poorer in others. As you can see, Watt is above average in 12 out of 16 metrics, which is quite incredible.

Two of the metrics where he was below average are for Strike Rate and Average. Which I don’t think really matters, as he is used as a defensive spinner. You can’t really complain at any T20 bowler going at a run-a-ball. Taking 1-24 so consistently is also a compliment to him from the batters as they just try to see him off and not get out.

His ‘run prevention’ section is pretty awesome. He’s better than most in every aspect, with the number of boundaries he concedes extremely low which helps keep things tight during those middle overs as well as being good against both right and left handed batters, meanwhile bowling plenty dot balls.

He was also used occasionally during the powerplay, although Scotland mainly opted to use their seam attack with two overs each from Wheal/Davey/Sharif, or Ali Evans when he played.

His bowling at the death was exceptional. Watt bowled more overs (7) than any other spinner during overs 17-20, and again by the stats, did a great job. The only bowler better than Watt during this phase was Wanindu Hasaranga who grabbed 5 wickets in 5 overs at an average of 5 and economy of 5. Guy must love number 5.

I like the variety in both his bowling actions and numbers, proving himself to be a proper ‘three-phase’ spinner. Not something that is too common. Off the top of my head perhaps the only two left armers that currently fit this mould in county cricket are Tom Hartley and Samit Patel.

So, who should be after his signature? Four counties don’t have a recognised frontline left arm spinner. Those include his old side Derbyshire who are under new guidance from Mickey Arthur, and he’s already been freshening up the squad. After Matt Critchley’s departure, a spinner should be top of their shopping list. Yorkshire also don’t have an SLA bowler in their squad. Whereas, Sussex and Worcestershire do have left arm spinners, although not frontliners. Sussex have Delray Rawlins and the Pears have young duo Jacques Banton and Josh Baker. He’ll also add some value with the bat at number 8/9 and would no doubt fit in perfectly at either of these four options.

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