CricViz Analysis: The Ashes, First Test, Day Four

Freddie Wilde and Ben Jones analyse day four at The Gabba.

LYON LEADS AUSTRALIA

At the start of day four Australia’s pace bowlers were down on pace by around 4 kph and started poorly, allowing England, who played just three false shots in the opening half an hour, to ease into the day. The same could not be said for Nathan Lyon who was introduced into the attack in the eighth over and immediately started challenging the batsmen.

In the first innings Lyon bowled a straighter line to the left handers on day two compared to day one, increasing the percentage of balls he pitched down leg or in line with the stumps from 27% to 47% and was rewarded with the wicket of Moeen Ali. In the second innings Lyon combined that tighter line – pitching 34% of deliveries down leg or in line with the stumps – with the pervasive psychological threat of a variation delivery when, with the last ball of the 26th over, he delivered an arm ball to Mark Stoneman. The arm ball spun by just 2.03° – his third smallest spinning delivery of the match (he also bowled two arm balls late on the third evening). The delivery itself was safely negotiated by Stoneman but the lack of turn will have sowed doubt in his mind as to whether he could confidently leave the ball purely on line. That doubt was clearly evident when, just four deliveries after the arm ball, he played at a delivery from Lyon which pitched 5cm outside off stump. The ball gripped, turned and took the edge to send Stoneman on his way.

Lyon’s tight line and significant spin accounted for two more left-handers: Dawid Malan and Moeen and by the end of England’s second innings his average against left-handers in 2017 had fallen to an astonishing 13.12.

Lyon in 2017WicketsAverage
v Right-Handers2632.19
v Left-Handers2413.12

AUSTRALIA EXPOSE ROOT’S MAJOR FLAW 

At the start of day four Root was clearly the key man for England, and so it proved. His half-century was balanced and proactive, playing 23% attacking strokes and only leaving 14% of deliveries. Yet he fell just after reaching his milestone, to yet a full inswinging delivery at his pads for the second time in the match, this time from Hazlewood. The two deliveries were bizarrely similar, both swinging in around 1.5° and seaming in about 0.9°, and pitched only 47cm apart on length. It was a crucial moment in the match, but also points to a worrying trend for the England captain. 11 of his last 30 dismissals have been LBW, 36%; before then, that figure was 10%. Before 2016, Root averaged 102.00 to deliveries from pace bowlers that would have hit his stumps. Since then he’s averaged 15.72 to the same deliveries. Without question, Root has developed a technical issue to tight, full bowling, and Australia have exploited it superbly. Root’s dismissal meant he had failed to convert yet another fifty into a hundred, something which the table below illustrates is a major problem for England’s number four.

ICC RankingPlayerHundredsFiftiesConversion Rate
5Virat Kohli191457.58%
1Steve Smith212150.00%
4Cheteshwar Pujara141646.67%
6David Warner202445.45%
7Hashim Amla283544.44%
3Kane Williamson172540.48%
10Alastair Cook315536.05%
9Azhar Ali142734.15%
8Lokesh Rahul41028.57%
2Joe Root133328.26%

LYON OUT-BOWLS MOEEN 

Lyon’s success in the second innings and Moeen’s subsequent struggles in the evening session raised further questions as to why two off spinners could have two such differing performances on the same pitch. Aside from Moeen’s recent lack of competitive cricket due to his side strain and an injury to his spinning finger, ball-tracking data shows that Moeen bowled around three kph slower than Lyon and and around 50cm fuller than Lyon – both things which are likely to have reduced the positive influence of extra bounce from the Gabba pitch. Lyon’s over-spinning action also extracted 5.07° of spin compared to 3.26° for Moeen’s more side-spinning action.

ENGLAND LACK INTENT 

Although Lyon bowled excellently in both innings of the match, and extracted significant spin, it could be argued that England did not do enough to upset his rhythm. Typically against Lyon Test batsmen have attacked 25% of deliveries and come down the pitch to 7.60% of deliveries; in this Test against Lyon England attacked 16.9% of deliveries and came down the pitch to 3.0%, allowing Lyon to bowl accurately and build pressure, which in turn allowed Australia to rotate their three pace bowlers at the other end. On day four Lyon bowled 20 overs unchanged at one stage. [Video analysis below].

CLEANED UP

In both of England’s innings in the match Australia were able to swiftly dispose of England’s lower order with their last four wickets adding just 62 runs across both innings. The principal reason for this was the struggles of England’s tail-enders against a barrage of short bowling from Australia’s pace bowlers which saw them pitch 75.6% of deliveries in the short range, against which England scored 22 for 4. Batting at number eight Pat Cummins played a crucial role in Australia’s first innings; in contrast England’s tail were blown away.

FICKLE FORTUNE

The first 15 overs of Australia’s two innings in this Test have illustrated the significant role of luck in Test cricket. The average number of false shots (edged and missed) played by a batsman before being dismissed is 12, yet in the first innings, Australia’s batsmen played eight false shots in the first 15 overs and lost two wickets. In the second innings, Warner and Bancroft played 12 false shots in those 15 overs, yet both survived. In essence, England bowled better in the second innings, or certainly induced more mistakes, yet those mistakes went unpunished at the crucial time. Once Australia were through the new ball, the game was as good as won.

Freddie Wilde and Ben Jones are analysts at CricViz. @fwildecricket @benjones_13

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  1. […] straightening his line following day one at the Gabba – something we have analysed here, here, here and here. Lyon’s dismissal of Moeen on day five was yet another delivery to the […]

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