England v South Africa, Third Test, Day Four, Analysis: England exploit South Africa’s indecision

Freddie Wilde uses CricViz data to analyse how England’s line preyed on the indecision of South Africa’s top order.

Across the first two sessions of play on day four England increased their WinViz from 80% at the start of the day to 83% by the time they declared their innings. Interestingly, England’s WinViz reached 87% when their lead was 384 and in fact lost 4% to the draw as a result of batting on to extend the lead to 491. It was not until the evening session that the match really moved along with the four wickets taken by England increasing their WinViz from 83% to 94% at the close and put them on the cusp of victory.

Finding the right balance between attack and defence in a fourth innings such as that facing South Africa is perhaps the most fundamental challenge, and from that comes the right balance between playing and leaving balls.

England’s pace bowlers brilliantly exploited South Africa’s indecision regarding this dilemma by bowling an immaculate line and length. Ball-tracking analysis shows England’s pace bowlers to have pitched 45.7% of their deliveries on a good line and length—the highest proportion of any innings in this series, with 73.9% being on a good length—the highest in the series—and 59.8% being on a good line—the fifth highest in this series.

This accuracy preyed on the uncertainty of South Africa’s top order as to whether to play or not play and accounted for the key wickets of Hashim Amla—playing at a ball he should have left—and Faf du Plessis—leaving a ball he should have played at.

Shot-type analysis of balls from England’s pace bowlers that passed within a 40cm range of off stump—the channel of uncertainty—shows Amla appeared to have less confidence in the position of his off stump than Bavuma who left 52% of his deliveries in the channel compared to 21% for Amla.

v Balls in the Channel from pace bowlers (4th Innings)PlayedLeft
Hashim Amla154
Temba Bavuma910

Although du Plessis’ dismissal was his second fateful misjudgement of the match, Ben Stokes deserves credit for moving wider of the crease—it was released 91cm outside middle stump compared to his innings average of 28cm—and angling the ball in. 

Dean Elgar and Bavuma’s fighting partnership has at least kept South Africa’s faint hopes of saving this Test alive but without Amla—the victim of indecision—and du Plessis—an induced misjudgement—they are facing an uphill task.

Freddie Wilde is an analyst at CricViz. @fwildecricket

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