Freddie Wilde and Ben Jones analyse day five at The Adelaide Oval.
Joe Root and Chris Woakes came to the crease on day five thinking that maybe, just maybe, they could pull off something special. However, a superb spell from Josh Hazlewood soon put pay to any hopes of an England victory. Hazlewood hasn’t been prolific this series, averaging 31.80 compared to England’s wickets costing 24 runs in these two Tests, and he’s struggled to keep up with the rapid exploits of Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc, but his accuracy in the first hour was phenomenal. A remarkable 67% of his deliveries were on a good line and length (match average at 40%), and his deliveries to Woakes and Root were sublime. Both were less than 10cm from hitting the stumps, and seamed away more than 0.60°. England would have been praying for some loose bowling and quick runs, but Hazlewood emphatically denied them. Worryingly for England fans looking ahead to Perth, he also seems to have found rhythm – Hazlewood’s match average speed of 141.86kph was his fastest since the Boxing Day Test against India in 2014
ROOT’S CONVERSION PROBLEM CONTINUES
Root batted really well in difficult circumstances on the fourth evening and deserves credit for doing so. However, while fourth innings hundreds are extremely rare his dismissal on day five meant he yet again passed fifty without converting into a hundred. Root has now scored 47 scores of more than fifty in Test cricket but has only reached a century on 13 occasions – his conversion rate of 27.65% is the worst of the current top ten ranked ICC Test batsmen.
MOEEN IN A MESS
Not only has Nathan Lyon bowled considerably better than his opposite number Moeen Ali in this series but he has got him out in each of his innings so far. Lyon has bowled brilliantly to England’s left-handers in this series, particularly after 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 left-handers that pitched in line with the stumps: he has now bowled 132 such balls in this series, taking 6 for 38 from them.
In Brisbane it was notable how as brilliantly as Lyon bowled, England didn’t play him particularly well – not showing enough intent to disrupt his accuracy. In Adelaide England improved in this regard, increasing their attacking shot percentage against him from 16% to 26%. However, it is illustrative of Lyon’s quality that he has not been unsettled by England’s more positive approach and has in fact recorded better match figures in the second Test. In Brisbane England lost four of their five wickets playing defensive shots, in Adelaide England lost all of their six wickets when looking to score (four rotating shots, two attacking shots). Moeen’s shot on day five: trapped lbw when looking to sweep Lyon from the stumps – a very high-risk attacking option – was indicative of the tangle England have got themselves in.
Regardless of Hazlewood’s excellence, Cummins was the pick of the Australian bowlers, and was the recipient of some bad luck throughout the match. More false shots were played against his bowling than any other Australian bowler (17% of shots), despite England defending him more than any other Australian seamer – yet he only took three wickets in the match. They were significant wickets, most clearly that of Dawid Malan late on Day four to check England’s progress, but it is remarkable how such incisive and aggressive bowling gained very little tangible reward. One potential criticism, and one which may explain his surprising wickets tally, is that he’s bowled slightly too short. The average length of a seamer’s wicket ball in this match is 6.90m from the stumps, whilst Cummins’ average length has been 7.50m. He won’t be too concerned however, as his pace and aggression set a platform for his teammates to exploit.