CricViz analysts Freddie Wilde and Ben Jones breakdown day two at The Gabba.
Dawid Malan fought doggedly for his 56 runs, playing only at the deliveries he needed to – leaving 29% of balls from the seamers and only defending 4%. After 20 wicket-less overs on day two Malan’s stoicism forced Australia into attempting a short ball barrage which paid dividends after 12 consecutive short balls when Malan top edged a hook shot to the thirteenth. Crucially the ball which dismissed him bounced over 30% more than one from the same length five balls earlier, hence why he was unable to execute the shot correctly. 20 overs into the day and without a wicket Steve Smith’s bowlers were struggling, but the plan was inventive and the execution spot on. It is testament to the pace and effort of Mitchell Starc that he got the short ball to bounce as much as he did on an unusually placid Gabba pitch. Starc and Pat Cummins persisted with their short ball strategy and by the end of the innings had bowled 65% of deliveries on day two in the short length range compared to 31% on day one.
On day one Nathan Lyon bowled beautifully and gave Australia precious control. However, on day two the struggle of Australia’s pace bowlers on a relatively benign surface while Lyon extracted significant spin placed greater emphasis on his role as an attacking bowler, not least to protect Australia’s three-man attack. Although Lyon bowled very accurately on day one the significant spin and typical bounce of the Gabba pitch reduced the threat of his off stump line to left-handers, who were either beaten on the outside edge (7%) or could leave the ball confidently (23%). On day two however he bowled a notably straighter line to the left-handers, pitching 47% of his deliveries either outside leg stump or in line with the stumps compared to 27% the day before. As a result of this tighter line Lyon brought the possibility of lbw into the equation and forced England’s left-handers to play 5% more often. Eventually, when one of Lyon’s straighter pitching deliveries turned less than Moeen Ali expected, he was rewarded with a crucial wicket.
SUPERB NEW BALL BOWLING
England have done their research on debutant Cameron Bancroft. In first class cricket, he averages 77.50 with the cut, so they restricted his width with accurate new ball bowling, particularly Stuart Broad who bowled very full and very straight. Five of the nine deliveries Broad bowled to Bancroft were in line with the stumps, so when the wider one did come, Bancroft eagerly threw his hands at it, but the 0.90° of swing was both the most Broad had got so far, and enough to take the edge.
KHAWAJA’S OFF SPIN DEMONS
Bancroft’s dismissal brought Usman Khawaja and David Warner together, two players who have historically struggled against spin and in particular against off spin. It was understandable therefore, when just 26 balls into their partnership England turned to Moeen inside the first ten overs of the innings. It took just two deliveries for Moeen to remove Khawaja with a classic two card trick: a wide turner followed a straighter delivery that went on with the arm.
DEFENCE IS ATTACK V WARNER
England stationed a deep point for Warner almost as soon as he arrived at the crease. Although ostensibly a defensive move this was a sensible tactic from England. Warner averages 58.00 playing the cut shot inside the first 15 overs and is very strong when given even a hint of width – averaging 56.80 to balls in the channel outside off stump. By posting a deep point England cut off one of Warner’s favoured scoring zones and on two occasions the off side boundary-rider cut off certain fours.
ENGLAND TRAP HANDSCOMB
Peter Handscomb’s technique, which sees him camped deep in his crease and with a high back-lift is always going to encourage pace bowlers to bowl full and straight. England clearly employed that tactic, delivering five balls within five metres of Handscomb. Anderson found his way past his defence with a clever delivery which he pushed in and found 1.50° of in-swing – more than any other delivery to Handscomb – to beat the inside edge and trap him in front. Five of Handscomb’s six Test dismissals against pace have now come against balls pitched fuller than six metres from his stumps at an average of 19.60.
TOO MUCH SPIN TO MARSH?
Shaun Marsh is a superb player of spin, averaging 59.33 against it before the start of this Test compared to just 27.86 against pace. He is even stronger against off spin, averaging 74.16 against it. Although this Gabba pitch has so far taken 4.70° of turn, well above the Gabba average of 2.96° the 39% of overs bowled by off spinners Moeen and Joe Root since Marsh arrived at the crease seemed to play t0 his strength.
CAT AND MOUSE WITH SMITH
Smith is a very difficult batsman to bowl to, and England found it tough going today. As with all of Australia’s top order England did their research and had a plan – Smith averages 60.10 to deliveries on his stumps, and so the seamers bowled 79% of deliveries outside Smith’s off-stump. Whilst maintaining this line England switched between off side-heavy and on-side heavy fields in an attempt to draw a mistake but Smith left the ball extremely well, and was very patient. After 101 balls of his innings he had only scored one run on the off side, instead defending of leaving 44% of his deliveries, up from his career average of 36%, and in doing so wore the England bowlers down. As Root’s attack tired, Smith increased his range of shots; in the first 50 overs he played just 8% drives, but that leapt to 21% in the last 12 overs of the day. He also expanded the areas he was willing to target scoring 20 off side runs from his last 47 balls of the day.