England v Pakistan, Second Test, Day Three Analysis

England 589 for 8 dec and 98 for 1 (Cook 49*) lead Pakistan 198 (Misbah 52, Woakes 4-67) by 489 runs

Paul Farbrace, England’s assistant coach, speaking after play on day three, explained England’s decision not to enforce the follow-on despite leading Pakistan by 391 by saying that they thought the pitch was, and still is, a very good pitch to bat on, and they wanted use of it before their opponents.

So, if the pitch is indeed as batting-friendly as England think it is, then how did they bowl Pakistan out for just 198 in 63.4 overs?

The simple answer is discipline, some poor shot selection and skill. England’s four seamers took the first eight wickets and our data analysing their bowling will help to explain how.

Of England’s seamers, only James Anderson found prodigious swing, averaging 1.87 degrees compared to Stuart Broad, 0.75, Ben Stokes, 0.72, and Chris Woakes, 0.85. According to our system only 18 deliveries bowled by the seamers other than Anderson moved enough in the air to be categorised as balls that had swung and none of the eight wickets taken by seam bowlers fell to deliveries that swung. In fact, seven of the eight fell to deliveries classed under ‘no movement’ – only Broad’s leg-cutter to Asad Shafiq was not so. Of course, it would be churlish to dismiss the positive influence of Anderson’s swing for England, which built pressure (Pakistan scored only 11 runs off Anderson’s 48 away-swingers) and sowed doubt in the batsmen’s minds, but the fact is that it was not swing, directly at least, that took the wickets.

The line and the length of England’s bowling is more revealing. England bowled a very disciplined line and length pitching 295 of the 337 deliveries (87.53%) outside off stump and 239 of the 337 deliveries (70.91%) on a traditional ‘good’ length. By sake of comparison, Pakistan’s seamers managed 42.44% and 56.59% for that line and length respectively. Interestingly, even though Pakistan’s seamers pitched a higher percentage of balls in line with off, middle and leg stump than England and bowled many more overs than England, England’s four seamers bowled more deliveries that would have hit the stumps (36) than Pakistan (28). Pakistan’s seamers bowled too straight and too short, too often.

England’s seamers dovetailed deliveries that Pakistan had to play at with those that they did not need to, but were tempted to play at. Pakistan’s batsmen fell straight into the trap. Of the eight batsmen dismissed by England’s seamers only Azhar Ali fell to a delivery that would have gone on to hit the stumps.

However, to attribute England’s success solely to accuracy preceding the dismissal and poor Pakistani shot selection for the dismissal would be doing a disservice to the skill of the bowlers.

Anderson swung the ball, all of them seamed the ball, all of them got good carry and Stokes and Woakes in particular bowled with hostility. The wickets of Azhar Ali and Younis Khan aside, both to poorly executed shots, each of the other six wickets taken by England’s seamers can, at least in part, be seen to have seamed enough or bounced enough to have found the edge of the Pakistani bat. An element of that is natural variation but an element of it too is simply skill.

Woakes’ delivery to Mohammad Hafeez had a great seam position and after pitching deviated 1.02 degrees away. Woakes’ delivery to Rahat Ali was not rapid at 82.70 mph but was directed right at the badge on his helmet; too good for a tailender. Anderson’s delivery to Shan Masood found some extra bounce off the pitch. Broad’s delivery to Shafiq was a clever leg-cutter which was wide and almost seemed to float out of his hand but was still 81.40 mph. It drew the shot before deviating away by 0.57 degrees to find the edge. Stokes’ delivery to Sarfraz Ahmed was four metres shorter than the preceding delivery and slightly angled in. Sarfraz had committed to the front foot and looked to force it behind square, playing with his hands away from his body. The ball bounced more than he expected and hitting the seam it held it’s line, deviating away by 0.39 degrees and caught the shoulder edge of the bat. Woakes took the last of the wickets by the seamers when a back of a length, 84.90 mph ball to Yasir Shah, again with a lovely seam position, bounced just a bit more than expected and found the edge.

England’s first innings bowling performance was an exemplar of how to bowl on a flat English pitch. They showed discipline with their lines and their lengths to test the patience of the batsmen and they showed skill to extract enough movement and zip from the pitch for when that patience ran out.

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