England v South Africa, First Test, Day Two, Analysis: Moeen’s use of the slope

Freddie Wilde uses CricViz data to analyse how Moeen Ali used the Lord’s slope to his advantage.

England’s key bowler on day two at Lord’s was Moeen Ali who dismissed South Africa’s most experienced batsman Hashim Amla before removing their top-scorer in the innings Dean Elgar.

When Moeen trapped Amla lbw with the first ball he bowled to him, the most striking aspect of the dismissal was the prodigious spin that Moeen had found, which ball-tracking shows to have been 6.02° – his eighth biggest deviation of the day. Big turning deliveries was a pattern throughout the afternoon with Liam Dawson also finding some sharp turn. Comparing the average amount of spin that Moeen has extracted in the second innings so far with Moeen’s ball-tracking data from previous second innings at Lord’s shows how this pitch is taking an unusually high degree of spin.

Lord's TestMoeen 2nd Innings Average Deviation
v Sri Lanka, 20143.19°
v New Zealand, 20152.67°
v Sri Lanka, 20163.24°
v South Africa, 20173.92°

Moeen dismissed Amla from the Pavilion End, the end at which the Lord’s slope runs from left to right, accentuating the direction of Moeen’s spin. The wicket of Amla brought JP Duminy to the crease and meant both the batsmen were left handers. Speaking after the day’s play Moeen said that when bowling to the left-handers from the Pavilion End he didn’t feel as if short leg was in the game because the slope meant the ball was unlikely to hold its line and threaten the inside edge of the left-hander’s bat and more likely to consistently turn away from the bat towards the outside edge.

After the wicket of Amla Moeen only bowled 1.5 more overs from the Pavilion End to the left handers before returning from the Nursery End, where the slope, running right to left, went against the direction of his turn. While this may at first seem counter-intuitive it in fact added another dimension to Moeen’s threat: now he was turning the ball up the slope there was more of a chance that some balls may spin appreciably less than others meaning the batsmen would less confidently predict the line of the ball. Having only threatened the outside edge from the Pavilion End, now at the Nursery End, Moeen had brought both edges into play.

This is exactly what happened to Dean Elgar who first inside edged ball 31.1 which turned just 2.66°—1.26° less than Moeen’s match average—into the turf in front of short leg, before five balls later edging ball 33.2—which turned 2.41°—into his pad and into the hands of Keaton Jennings at short leg. On both occasions Elgar was playing for more turn than there actually was. Speaking afterwards Moeen said that there was no specific intention for those deliveries to turn less, but that them doing so was most likely a benefit of bowling from the Nursery End.

Closer analysis of Moeen’s spin from the either end of the ground further illustrates how the change of ends made him harder to play.

Bowling EndDeviation of 3.00° or more (left to right)Deviation of less than 3.00°
Pavilion End19 balls5 balls
Nursery End35 balls19 balls

From the Nursery End 35% of Moeen’s deliveries deviated by less than 3.00° whereas from the Pavilion End only 20% of his deliveries did. Moeen continued to cause problems from the Nursery End and it was a surprise he didn’t bowl more than his 13 overs.

Freddie Wilde is an analyst at CricViz. @fwildecricket 

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