England v South Africa, Third Test, Day One, Analysis: England’s improvement

Freddie Wilde uses CricViz data to analyse how England tightened their batting strategy on day one. 

Although England’s performance on day one cannot be declared a comprehensive success, a 3% increase in their chances of winning according to WinViz reflects a day in which they resisted South Africa’s attack more effectively than in the first innings at Trent Bridge.

An element of this resistance can be attributed to the performance South Africa’s pace bowlers, who although bowled a better length and found more deviation off the pitch than in Nottingham, they bowled a more wayward line.

SA Pace BowlersGood LengthGood LineDeviation
Trent Bridge67.4%57.0%0.655°
The Oval78.1%46.7%0.790°

Interestingly, South Africa’s pace bowling line was at its worst when Alastair Cook was partnered by right-handers Tom Westley and Joe Root, lending weight to the theory that England’s all left-handed top three at Lord’s and Trent Bridge was assisting South Africa’s control. When Westley and Root were at the crease South Africa pitched 42% on a good line compared to 61% before then and 52% after when Cook was partnered by left-handers Keaton Jennings, Dawid Malan and Ben Stokes.

Another critical difference to the first innings at Trent Bridge was England’s batting strategy. Shot-type analysis shows them to have played no shot or defended a far higher percentage of deliveries against pace than in their first three innings of the series.

InningsPercentage Left & Defended v Pace
1st Innings, Lord's42%
2nd Innings, Lord's50%
1st Innings, Trent Bridge49%
1st Innings, Trent Bridge67%
1st Innings, The Oval64%

Much like in the second innings in Nottingham, the wickets of England’s top-order can be largely attributed to a combination of technical flaws—in the case of Jennings and Westley—and good deliveries—in the case of Malan and Root.

Appropriately, on a day in which England exhibited more caution against pace bowling their standout performance came from Cook.

Cook’s commitment to defence and his reluctance to attack is best distilled by shot-type analysis which shows him to have driven less often on day one than any player who faced more than 40 balls and less often than anyone in the series other than Dean Elgar. Cook has faced 80 deliveries from Vernon Philander in this series but he has only played two drives against him.

PlayerLowest Percentages of Drives v Pace in this series
Dean Elgar3.23%
Alastair Cook5.49%
Faf du Plessis6.50%
Keaton Jennings7.96%
Hashim Amla8.09%

Despite England’s improved batting strategy they are still in a vulnerable position. Against a superb South African attack they cannot afford to let their guard slip on day two and will require strength in defence from their lower-order.

Freddie Wilde is an analyst at CricViz. @fwildecricket

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  1. […] day two at The Oval England did better than merely replicate their defence-focussed batting performance of the first day and showed the skill and awareness to adapt their strategy according to the […]

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