THE ANATOMY OF A THRILLER

Freddie Wilde analyses the key moments in the first ODI of the five match series between England and Sri Lanka that ended in a tie.  

England’s early inroads

England’s decision to bowl first after winning the toss was vindicated when they reduced Sri Lanka to 59 for 3 by the end of the mandatory Powerplay. England expected there to be some assistance for their bowlers early on both in the air and off the pitch after Nottingham had experienced plenty of heavy rain before the match. These expectations were fulfilled as Chris Woakes and David Willey extracted an average of 0.70 degrees seam and 0.90 degrees swing movement per delivery in the first ten overs of the match, compared to Sri Lanka’s 0.44 degrees and 0.76 degrees in their respective phase.

Rashid maintains control

Cle9ABuWIAE_1sCAfter England’s seamers had exploited the helpful early conditions Sri Lanka were forced to rebuild their innings. Their task was made appreciably harder by an excellent, uninterrupted spell of bowling by Adil Rashid who bowled ten consecutive overs between the 11th and the 29th over of the innings. Although Rashid did not take a wicket he conceded just 36 runs to bring Sri Lanka’s run rate down from 5.54 when he started his spell to 4.75 when he finished it, and the pressure he built arguably accounted somewhat for the wicket of Dinesh Chandimal who was caught attempting to sweep Moeen Ali in the 26th over.

Rashid bowled at an intelligent pace, realising that he could extract most turn when he bowled slightly slower than his normal speed. Of his leg-breaks that
turned more than three degrees Rashid’s average speed was 48.25 mph compared to those which turned less than three degrees where his average speed was 49.96 mph, the trend is more evident when grouping those deliveries which turned less than two degrees where his average speed rises to 50.32 mph. Rashid displayed excellent control of his line and length, bowling 40 of his 60 deliveries on or outside off stump and only dropping one delivery short and over-pitching to a full toss or a yorker on three occasions.

 

Prasanna and Mathews wrestle back the momentum

When Rashid completed his spell Sri Lanka were 138 for 4 and Seekkuge Prasanna was 14* (12). The end of Rashid’s spell brought about a change in mindset from the right-hander. After playing out two dot balls to take his score to 14* (14), Prasanna scored 45 runs from his following 14 deliveries before being dismissed in the 34th over. In his innings he scored 50 of his 59 runs on the leg side and his most productive shot was the slog sweep, earning him 20 runs from just six shots. Our nearest neighbour hawkeye analysis* does not suggest England bowled particularly badly to Prasanna; his success in attack is therefore testament to his timing and power.

Prasanna ended the innings as Sri Lanka’s second highest run-scorer behind Mathews, who played a very different, but arguably more important innings of 73 (149). When Prasanna was dismissed Mathews had scored 39* (69) and although he elevated his strike rate slightly by the end of his innings from 56.52 to 66.97 this was not an innings of aggression, but rather of mature anchoring. Mathews hit just five fours and three after Prasanna was dismissed but crucially stayed in until the last ball of the 47th over and prevented the collapse which seemed possible at 188 for 5 and batted with the lower-order long enough to ensure that Sri Lanka registered a competitive total of 286 for 9.

Sri Lanka’s seamers suffocate England

Given that in two Royal London One Day matches played in the two weeks preceding this ODI the average score across the four innings was 416 there was a feeling, despite the recent rain lending assistance to the bowlers, that Sri Lanka’s score of 286 for 9 was under-par. Any thoughts that England would chase the runs with ease quickly dissipated as their top-order collapsed to 82 for 6 after 18 overs. Sri Lanka’s seamers did bowl with exceptional accuracy during this phase—88% of deliveries pitched in a 4.62 metre range on and around a traditional good length—but a number of England’s batsmen contributed to their own downfalls.

Mathews’ delivery to dismiss Jason Roy, a 74.01 mph ball that pitched outside off stump on a good length and deviated in by 1.09 degrees, was the eleventh most likely delivery to take a wicket in the match, and although Roy could have been slightly tighter in defence, he cannot be blamed. Jonny Bairstow also fell to a good delivery when Nuwan Pradeep managed to extract some extra bounce from a good length and find the edge of the bat. Eoin Morgan was stifled well by Sri Lanka. He faced 16.90% of the deliveries in the innings but faced 20% of the hardest 100 deliveries to score off and the pressure appeared to force him into attempting to guide an off stump ball through third man with a slip in place and he could only succeed in edging a rising delivery to the fielder.

It is hard to apportion blame for Alex Hales’ dismissal. It was a good ball—the 46th most likely to take a wicket in the innings—but he should arguably have not been playing an attacking shot to it.

It is almost impossible to defend the dismissals of Moeen and Joe Root who fell to the 189th and 109th most threatening deliveries of the innings. Only Mathews, attacking at the death, was dismissed by a lower ranked delivery than Moeen and only Kusal Mendis separates Root from him.

Sri Lanka certainly bowled with control early on, but our system ranked England’s first 20 overs bowling as marginally more threatening than Sri Lanka’s, yet England contrived to lose three more wickets in that period and for that they have largely themselves to blame.

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Buttler and Woakes ride out the storm

With England reeling at 82 for 6 the match appeared to be as good as over, however a record 138-run partnership for the seventh wicket between Buttler and Woakes hauled England back into the match. Much like Mathews before them the innings of Buttler and Woakes were not defined by aggression, but good running and proactivity. That Woakes hit just four boundaries in his innings—fewer than four other players in the match—yet emerged as top-scorer is demonstrative of his positivity and the ease at which runs could be accumulated on this pitch once batsmen were established. According to our hawkeye analysis Sri Lanka’s bowling after the wicket of Moeen was marginally more likely to concede runs than beforehand but not significantly so. Buttler used his feet excellently, scoring 33 of his 93 runs on occasions when he advanced down the pitch.

Fine margins in the final over

Sri Lanka’s captain Mathews was off the pitch with hamstring tightness for more than half of England’s innings. Had he been on it for the final over, it is not outlandish to say his experience of 172 ODIs could have kept Sri Lanka’s prematurely celebrating fielders more alert as Woakes and Willey turned two into three on the penultimate delivery and kept the possibility of a tie alive.

Having bowled a near-perfect over, Pradeep’s final delivery was more than 2.50 metres shorter than the previous four attempted yorkers, an error large enough to allow Plunkett room to swing his arms and hit the six to tie the match.

We conduct a nearest neighbour analysis of the six Hawk-Eye categories that comprise each ball: speed, line, length, deviation, swing and bounce. This process, counting the runs and wickets associated with the 1,000 most similar deliveries in our database based on those categories, allows the measurement of wicket threat and ease of scoring.

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