The average first innings score in the five most recent ODIs at the Rose Bowl before England v Pakistan on Wednesday was 310 and the average winning first innings score in ODIs at the Rose Bowl is 289.
The primary reason why Pakistan lost this match was that their first innings score of 260 was realistically too few to challenge England on a relatively high-scoring English ground. England’s successful run chase was indeed processional.
The ten over breakdowns of Pakistan’s innings (45-1, 49-1, 40-1, 59-1, 61-2) indicate a sedate start and a conspicuous lack of acceleration as the innings progressed.
A quick glance at the strike rates of the Pakistani batsmen indicate that Sharjeel Khan (106), Babar Azam (95), Sarfraz Ahmed (94) and Mohammad Nawaz (113) all scored above the innings strike rate of 86, while Azhar Ali (74), Mohammad Hafeez (73), Shoaib Malik (68) and Imad Wasim (85) all recorded strike rates below the innings strike rate.
While it would be wrong to pin blame for the below-par total entirely on one or two individuals, given the number of balls faced by Ali (110) and Malik (25) – their two innings, both played at critical phases, stand out as particularly damaging.
There is room for a variety of methods and approaches in ODI cricket. Ali, with a career strike rate of 74.49, is rarely going to score at a run-a-ball. His method is based on strike rotation punctuated by occasional boundaries and this can be successful as an anchor innings.
However, when Ali faces as many balls as he faced in this match it is detrimental for him to be scoring at a strike rate 16.51 runs slower than the rest of the team. Not only is it directly detrimental in terms of converting balls faced to runs scored but it is indirectly detrimental in that it creates pressure on the other batsmen to score faster.
A breakdown of his innings as it progressed (28 off 53, 29 off 39, and 25 off 18) shows an acceleration of sorts but it was too gradual given the conditions and the match situation.
CricViz’s shot-type data reveals that Ali’s failure to accelerate early enough was due to a combination of intent and, on occasion, execution.
Of all Pakistan’s batsmen Ali had the highest defensive shot* percentage (70%) and the lowest attacking shot* percentage (30%) suggesting a reluctance to accelerate. Closer analysis reveals that when Ali scored 28 off his first 53 balls and 29 off his next 39 his shot selection percentages remained exactly the same (74% defend; 26% attack). In other words he started scoring slightly faster without playing notably differently. The increase in strike rate can be explained by defensive shots accruing him more runs once the second Powerplay had ended, which relaxed the field restrictions and made more ones and twos available. However, the progression of strike rate is only marginal and from a low-base it remained below the innings average even in the second phase. That he scored as quick as he did in the third phase of his innings makes the slow first two phases all the more frustrating. His rate of scoring in the third phase increased as his attacking shot percentage rose to 68%.
Across his entire innings Ali had the joint-lowest attacking shot strike rate (111) of any of Pakistan’s batsmen, suggesting when he did attempt to attack he struggled to do so successfully. This was particularly the case when he was driving. In the first third of his innings he played six drives which brought him no runs suggesting an inability to pierce gaps in the field. However, even when the field was dropped back in the second phase of his innings his struggles with the drive persisted, when he scored four runs from five attempts. Only in the final third of his innings when he twice fully-committed to drives against Adil Rashid was he rewarded with boundaries. He also pulled and baseball-swatted two other fours in his 18-ball burst, further displaying positive tendencies that were hidden for too long.
Encouragingly for Pakistan Ali did at least suggest that he had most of the requisite skills to play an anchor-role successfully – what appears to have been lacking was the acumen to pace his innings correctly, defending for too long and attacking too late.
It is harder to draw encouragement from the innings of Malik who, arriving at the crease after 35.5 overs with Pakistan 178 for 4, failed to hit a boundary in his 25-ball innings. Had he played a successful death over phase innings Pakistan could still have made up the ground lost by Ali’s. However, despite batting in the phase that most compels positive play Malik recorded the second highest defensive shot percentage (68%) and second lowest attacking shot percentage (32%) of any of Pakistan’s batsmen. Furthermore when he did play an attacking shot he executed it poorly – he had the joint-lowest attacking shot strike rate (111).
Once a player has faced as many balls as Malik they are expected to accelerate. Malik failed to do that and when he was dismissed in the 44th over Pakistan’s chances of a match-winning total largely went with him.
Interestingly, Sarfraz recorded the joint-lowest attacking shot percentage (30%) of any of Pakistan’s batsmen alongside Ali, and the joint-lowest attacking shot strike rate (111) alongside Ali and Malik. He did at least partially make up for it with the highest defensive shot strike rate which elevated his innings to fractionally below a run-a-ball, but if Pakistan are going to challenge in this series they will need more successful power hitting from him as well as Malik.
*Defensive Shot: No Shot, Forward Defensive, Backward Defensive, Worked, Pushed, Steered, Ducked, Swayed.
*Attacking Shot: Drive, Cut, Pull, Hook, Sweep, Reverse Sweep, Slog Sweep, Ramp, Lap, Reverse Lap, Switch Hit, Slog.