Cricket Strategy

The authority on American cricket strategy is Tony Payne. Tony Payne is a well known world class American dart player who was recognized for his exceptional skills and aggressive cricket strategy. He wrote a series of articles entitled " Thermonuclear Cricket" which have been published in Bull's Eye News magazine.

I will outline some of the concepts presented by Tony in these articles. If you wish to read further on this topic, visit the Bull's Eye News website to back order the original articles. Some of the Bull's Eye News issues that contain articles on Thermonuclear Cricket are Fall 1985, August 1998, November 1998, Issues 2 and 3 of 2008, and Issues 1, 2, and 6 of 2009.

Close Strategy

The fundamental difference between cricket and the '01 games is that in cricket you can control the length of the game not only with skill, but also through strategy. By scoring points you can extend the length of the game. On the other hand, you can shorten the game by closing numbers that your opponent has opened. This prevents your opponent from scoring excessively and forces the game forward. Logically, it makes sense to shorten the game when you are in a winning position and to lengthen the game when you are in a losing position. Moreover, thermonuclear cricket adds a third element - close strategy. When the position is too close to commit to either a winning strategy or losing strategy, close strategy leaves your options open.

For example, consider the situation where you open the game with three single twenties. Your opponent strikes back with a five count on nineteens. Now it is your shot. What do you do? Winning strategy would require you to close the nineteens and prevent your opponent from continuing to point more. But this is clearly wrong since your opponent has a two count lead at the moment. Losing strategy would require you to point on the twenties. Many cricket players would opt for this choice. But they are not taking in to account the advantage of being the player at the line. As the shooter, you should anticipate that you will be making marks on your current throw. How many, of course, depends on your skill level. But in general, a two count deficit on your throw at the very least makes the game unclear. So close strategy is the best option here as it gives you more flexibility. Open strategy in this situation requires you to play eighteens! Yes eighteens. It sounds weird to many darters, but consider the following. If you start off strong and hit two triple eighteens, you can now switch to nineteens on your last dart with the hope of closing the nineteens and gaining a very commanding position. On the other hand, a poor start of two or less eighteens on your first two darts gives you still lots of opportunity to point on your third dart by either sticking with the eighteens or switching back to twenties. If you were to hit a five count on eighteens, the game would remain close and you would not have committed incorrectly to either a winning or losing strategy. You would continue to have several options open for your next turn. The biggest problem with pointing on twenties in the above situation is that if you do succeed in making a good throw, let's say seven twenties, you would have failed to push the game forward to a close. Your opponent could easily stay in the game with another five count on nineteens. Even if you hit four twenties and then moved downstairs to close the nineteens on the last dart, your opponent would still be relatively threatening with a five count reply on eighteens. However, the above recommendation of four eighteens and then closing the nineteens forces your opponent to pursue the seven-teens. Even though your opponent would still have a 38 to 18 point lead on the score, it would be too risky for them to try and close both twenties and eighteens on the next throw. By forcing them to seven-teens, you now have commanding control of the the powerful numbers - twenties and eighteens against their seven-teens. Even in the case where your opponent takes the risk and succeeds in closing both the twenties and eighteens, the situation is relatively good for you. Depending on your next shot on seven-teens, their risk may either pay off or completely devastate their position.

Avoid "Follow the Leader" Strategy

Thermonuclear cricket warns that one should not waste marks when you are in a losing or close position. In a winning position, unavoidably you must risk wasting marks to finish off your opponent. However, when losing or in a close position, a strategy that wastes marks can be devastating. Cricket players often refer to this situation as "follow the leader strategy". For example, let's consider the situation where your opponent opens with three single twenties. Following this with single twenty, single twenty, triple twenty is wasteful. You've out shot your opponent by two counts but you do not get credit for the extra two counts. Since it is now your opponent's shot, you remain in a losing position despite your efforts. Better, would be to score the 5 count on nineteens, where the extra two counts score points.

Point Lead Does Not Necessarily Mean a Winning Position

Many cricket players mistakenly compute their position based solely on the points scored. In fact, you should convert the points advantage to marks and compare both the marks for score and marks for 'close out' to determine whether the position is winning, losing or close. For example, consider a situation where your opponent has closed the nineteens and scored 38 points while you have the twenties and eighteens closed but you have no points. Many players would instinctively begin pointing in this position because the opponent has a 38 point lead. However, the overall situation is that you have a three mark lead in close outs compared to a two mark deficit in points. This gives you overall a one mark lead in the game. If it is your turn, you should definitely play winning strategy and attempt to close the nineteens. Should you play poorly on your first two darts, you can always switch back to twenties on the third dart for some points.

Play the Uncertain Dart First

End game strategies in cricket are special and may even conflict with the usual cricket strategies. This is because the game can be decided in an instant with one good or bad shot. First of all, the 'end game' is when one or both players are within reach of finishing the game with three darts. End game strategies logically focus on a balance between keeping your opponent out of reach of a three dart finish and trying to bring yourself closer to a finish.

One of Tony Payne's suggestions for the end game is to play the uncertain dart first. By 'uncertain' dart, Tony is referring to the more difficult dart. By following this plan, you leave yourself options in case of a miss. For example, consider an end game situation where you require Triple 15, Single 19, Single 18 to finish the game. In this case, the Triple 15 is the uncertain dart since it is more likely a miss than the single shots. So, the correct order to throw these darts is by playing the Triple 15 first. That way, if you miss the Triple, you can try to score points with the other two darts. This will help make it harder for your opponent to finish on his/her next shot. If you had played the Triple 15 on the last dart, then there would be no opportunity for a 'Plan B'. This could be a deadly choice if your opponent is also within reach of finishing the game.

When to Shoot the Bull

Most cricket players shoot the bull last in standard tournament cricket format. But why? Probably because that is the way it is written down on the scoreboard. Not a very good reason! It makes sense to play the twenties to fifteens in that order since there is an advantage in trying to control the higher valued numbers. But where does the bull fit into the hierarchy?

Tony doesn't address this topic directly in the issues that I've read but I'm sure that he has given thought to this idea. He does state in thermonuclear cricket that in some situations it is wise to play bulls earlier. He states that the double bull is worth more than the Triple 16, that it takes at least two darts to close the bull, and that the single bull is worth more than any other single number. And for these reasons, it has become acceptable to play the bull in earlier stages of the game.

I'm going to take it one step further and state that the single bull is approximately 50% harder to shoot than the regular single pies and that in the long run it is approximately equal in value to the six teens. Amazingly, the dart board inventors have done exceptional work. The value of the single bull is almost exactly 50% more than the Single 16. Thus, the difference between bulls and six-teens is risk. The bulls are harder, but when you hit them they are worth more. And, the difficulty level almost perfectly matches the weight in value. As an added bonus, however, missing the bulls can often lead to a fluke mark on another cricket number. So, I would say that truly the bull should be played prior to the six-teens in most situations. However, because of the risk factor involved, you should consider the game situation. In a situation where you have a very slight lead after closing the seven-teens it might be advisable to play the six-teens first rather than playing a risky shot at bulls.

It is also worth mentioning that bulls are generally easier to hit when the situation is less stressful. If you are in the lead, it is often beneficial to get a few bulls in early to avoid a stressful ending.



Tony Payne Cricket Quotes

"Cricket is a game of strategy. Between equal players, the one who utilizes superior strategy will consistently win."

"Once a darter masters those physical aspects of the game (stroke, stance, grip, etc.), the game ceases to be physical."

"I have one rule that I always follow: Capture the highest available open number and point."

"Always check the scoreboard before your turn at the line."

"Those who survive are those who are willing to adapt to the hostile Cricket environment."

"Just because you have a point lead does not mean that you are ahead."

"Darters that describe the game of Cricket as slop, obviously have not played 301 or 501."

"There is no amount of strategy or cunning that can beat superior darts"