CricViz analyst Freddie Wilde recaps day one at The Gabba.
AUSTRALIA’S PERFECT START
Mitchell Starc bowled the perfect line and length to Alastair Cook with his ten deliveries right at the heart of Cook’s Dismissal Heatmap. Cook left four of them alone but one of the six that he played at just held its line enough to take the edge.
After the loss of Cook England were lent stability by the caution of Mark Stoneman who blunted Australia’s pace attack by leaving 34% of deliveries, well above the global average of 24%. Stoneman’s beehive isolating those balls he left and those he defended illustrates the quality of his judgement outside off stump – playing those that came close to threatening his stumps but leaving those that didn’t.
UNUSUAL GABBA PITCH
It quickly became apparent that the pitch was not as quick or as bouncy as if often the case in Brisbane. Ball-tracking data shows the average bounce height at the stumps for pace bowlers of 84.9cm to be the second lowest after 80 overs of any Test at The Gabba since 2007.
|Gabba Test||Average Bounce Height At Stumps After 80 Overs|
|v South Africa, 2012||97.5 cm|
|v Pakistan, 2016||93.2 cm|
|v England, 2013||92.8 cm|
|v England, 2010||91.9 cm|
|v New Zealand, 2015||90.8 cm|
|v West Indies, 2009||87.1 cm|
|v New Zealand, 2008||85.5 cm|
|v England, 2017||84.9 cm|
|v Sri Lanka, 2007||79.6 cm|
James Vince’s first seven Tests were marked by his struggles outside off stump and with the drive shot in particular – with which he was dismissed three times at an average of 14.66. On day one in Brisbane Vince showed clear signs that he had learnt from his failed stint in the Test team displaying notable caution outside off stump. Vince still scored 70.5% of his runs against pace on the off side but the beehive on the right shows how Vince played fewer drive shots to wide balls outside off stump than he did in his first seven Tests. As a result Vince’s false shot percentage (shots edged or missed) when driving against pace fell from 32% in his firsts seven Tests to 16% at The Gabba. Vince also played notably straighter: hitting 38% of his balls in the V compared to the 26% he hit there during his first seven Tests.
The slower nature of the pitch and its spongy bounce appeared to lure Australia’s pace bowlers into bowling fuller. Overall they bowled 38% of their deliveries in the full region – 4% more than they typically have done since 2010 at The Gabba – and in the first and last session they bowled more than 40% of their deliveries there. This tactic ran contrary to historical ball-tracking data for the venue which shows the optimal length to be back of a length. Indeed, although this pitch has less bounce than recent pitches at the venue, the shorter lengths still performed better than the fuller lengths which cost Australia 4.32 runs per over throughout the day. They did at least bring the wickets of Mark Stoneman and Joe Root, however.
LYON’S KEY ROLE
Nathan Lyon was the pick of the bowlers and on a day in which the pace men were made to work hard, the control he offered and pressure he built was critical in ensuring England did not get away from Australia.
Two things standout as having made Lyon particularly effective. The first was accuracy: Lyon pitched 80% of his deliveries on a good length, well above the global spin average of 60%. And the second was spin: Lyon found 5.427° of turn; well above average spin on day one at The Gabba of 2.820°. Typically batsmen can play positively against spinners at The Gabba but Lyon’s spin compounded the risk of doing so.
Freddie Wilde is an analyst at CricViz. @fwildecricket