CricViz analyst Freddie Wilde profiles Peter Handscomb.
Peter Handscomb had a promising but unspectacular first class record when in November 2016 he scored the first double century of his first-class career in the same week as Australia were bowled out for 85 by South Africa in Hobart. Suddenly, part-time wicketkeeper Handscomb, who shot to fame with a Big Bash League century in the 2015/16 season and who had played for Australia A, was one of six changes to Australia’s squad for the following Test – a change unprecedented since 1984 – and was thrust into bat at number five against South Africa in a day-night Test in Adelaide. Handscomb’s rapid rise to a team in tumult didn’t appear to faze him and in his seven innings that season he scored two fifties, two hundreds and was not once dismissed for less than 50. Since then Handscomb has consolidated his position in the team at number five, reaching double figures in 11 of his 12 innings in India and Bangladesh and scoring two fifties, keeping his Test average above 50 in the process.
Handscomb has an unusual technique with very high hands, a periscope-back lift, and a wide stance that extends well back into his crease – so deep that one of his five Test dismissals against pace came when he trod on his stumps. Footwork data illustrates his unusual method by showing Handscomb’s footwork to be the polar opposite of global norms against pace: he plays off the back foot 50% of the time (global average 30%) and the front foot 30% (global average 56%). Given that Handscomb has only played ten Tests his averages off 114.00 on the front foot and 134.00 on the back foot can be expected to fall but it is telling of the strength of those movements that he has only been dismissed twice when making them. When his footwork has been categorised as no movement he has been dismissed twice and his average falls to just 2.00.
With such unusual footwork it is unsurprising that deeper analysis shows Handscomb to further contradict global norms. By standing deep in his crease Handscomb gives himself more time to judge the line of the ball and play it accordingly which is evident in shot-type data which shows he only plays no shot to 13% of his deliveries from pace (global average 24%) and instead plays a rotating shot to 41% of his deliveries from pace (global average 26%). The quality of Handscomb’s judgement is illustrated by his average of 94.00 against balls in the corridor outside off stump. This strength manifests itself in his scoring zone preferences which show him to score 66% of his runs against pace on the off side. It is telling that his most productive scoring shots against pace are the drive, the late cut, and the work.
While Handscomb’s deep stance affords him benefits in judging line it also makes him vulnerable to full bowling, particularly lbw when he is so far back in his crease. So far in his Test career all of his dismissals have come from deliveries that have pitched fuller than seven metres from his stumps – as the Dismissal Heatmap illustrates.
Against spin Handscomb displays more unusual footwork tendencies coming down the pitch an astonishing 27% of the time (global average 5%) – and that too from a sizeable sample of 816 balls against spin. Handscomb doesn’t see coming down the track as a purely attacking move, doing so 37% of the time (global average 52%) and is content to defend 39% (global average 30%) and rotate strike 23% (global average 17%) when doing so. As well as his brilliance coming down the pitch Handscomb appears to be a strong sweeper, scoring 77 runs without being dismissed and averages 101.00 when driving against spin. In contrast to his game against pace Handscomb scores 60% of his runs on the on side (global average 55%).
FULL AND STRAIGHT
For England’s pace bowlers the plan to Handscomb should be to bowl fuller than seven metres from his stumps – against which he averages 28.50 – and in line with his stumps – against which he averages 9.66, with three dismissals. Handscomb has been dismissed five times against pace in his career, twice bowled and once lbw which should encourage England to target his stumps.
Although Handscomb averages 58.25 against spin and 55.40 against pace, his average against spin is inflated by a superb record against leg spin. Against off spin Handscomb has been dismissed three times at an average of 39.66 which should give Moeen Ali reason for encouragement. What’s more Moeen has shown himself to be unfazed by batsmen coming down the pitch to him, a tactic Handscomb is likely to employ, averaging an impressive 27.61 (global average v spin 37.84). Given Handscomb’s preference for scoring on the leg side against spin Moeen could be well served by bowling a wide line and perhaps at a slower pace – tempting a leg side shot. Indeed, all three of Handscomb’s dismissals against off spin have come from balls that have pitched wide outside off stump with Handscomb twice looking to score on the leg side.
Freddie Wilde is an analyst at CricViz. @fwildecricket