Freddie Wilde and Ben Jones analyse day four at The Adelaide Oval.
ACCURATE ENGLAND; RECKLESS AUSTRALIA
In the night session on day three England undoubtedly bowled brilliantly: they combined extravagant lateral movement of 1.15° through the air and 1.15° off the pitch with a full average length of 6.67 metres from the stumps.
On day four, however, England’s bowling was, although tight, notably less threatening. Perhaps unsurprisingly with an older ball they found far less movement: 0.45° in the air and 0.76° off the pitch. They also bowled more than a metre shorter than on day three, with an average pitching length of 7.70 metres from the stumps and their percentage of balls in the full length range fell from 37% to 24%.
England certainly didn’t bowl badly: they induced 20% false shots, which is well above the global average of 14% – although this is partly due to Australia’s attacking intent – and they generally bowled with good control, pitching 42% of deliveries on a good line and length, 10% above the global average. However, finding less swing and bowling a shorter length reduced their wicket-taking threat.
It is an indictment therefore on Australia’s batting that they managed to surrender 6 wickets for 85 runs in the session including four to attacking shots. Australia’s attacking shot percentage of 29% on day four was well above the match average of 22% and suggests that they felt confident in the size of their lead. At the start of the day PredictViz was forecasting that Australia would score 152 – in the end they made 138 and England’s WinViz increased from 9% to 11% as a result. Time will tell whether Australia should have shown more restraint.
England’s chase started with an optimistically high scoring rate, taking 38 runs off the first 10 overs. Australia were almost too attacking, pushing 56% of deliveries into the full region, despite swinging the ball less than the match average. The fact that England were able to score at easily the fastest rate in the match barring Australia’s declaration period, whilst only playing 20% attacking strokes (match average 23%), is evidence of how inconsistent and loose Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood were.
LYON v COOK
Not for the first time in this series it was Nathan Lyon who arrested Australia’s slide and not for the first time in this series it was his straighter line to the left-handers that proved deadly. Across Lyon’s career he pitches 32% of his deliveries to left-handers in line with the stumps but of the 19 balls he bowled to Alastair Cook on day four 13 of them – 69%, pitched in line with the stumps. This straighter than normal line forced Cook to play at all but one of the 19 deliveries and challenged both edges of his bat. This attacking line ultimately was rewarded when Cook was trapped lbw, playing across the line of a ball that straightened just enough to be deemed to be hitting leg stump.
Australia would have been initially worried by Stoneman’s aggressive start, which saw him score 32 from 34 deliveries in the first 13 overs. However, after the 14th over his scoring rate dropped enormously, making only 4 more runs from 31 deliveries. What happened in the 14th over? Stoneman faced his first delivery from Lyon, and began to look under severe pressure. This change in approach from Australia disrupted Stoneman’s rhythm, and allowed the seamers to tighten their lines and restrict Stoneman from thereon. His attacking shot percentage against the seamers only dropped by 3% after facing Lyon, but scoring rate went through the floor. 15 balls without a run saw him chase a wide one from Starc, and Australia had their man. It was good captaincy from Steve Smith, but Stoneman’s could have displayed more patience.
Yet again England fans will be frustrated by James Vince’s dismissal as he was caught at gully driving away from his body. Vince has now been dismissed 12 times by pace bowlers in Test cricket, with 9 of them being caught: three by the wicket-keeper, four in the slips and two in the gully – all of them behind the wicket.
ROOT FINDS HIS FORM
England’s chase has so far been led by Joe Root, who stands on 67 not out. What has been so impressive about the innings, in a perverse way, has been the risk he has undertaken. Rather than trying to simply occupy the crease, he’s looked to score, with 29% of his shots being attacking strokes (average in Australia being 25%). In the first innings here he played 40% attacking shots and looked frenetic, lasting 10 balls. At Brisbane he played 22%, and had a dot-ball percentage over 75%, which is very high for him. Here he found an equilibrium between the two which allowed him to score briskly, whilst still offering a below average 11% false shots. If he can continue to strike that balance on Day 5, England have a substantial chance of victory.
The wicket of Dawid Malan meant a thrilling day ended with a late twist. In the last six overs of the day, Pat Cummins and Hazlewood searched for an extra gear, and found 17% more swing and 30% more seam movement than they had in the previous 10 overs, and sent the ball down nearly 9kph faster than they had been. That extra pace helped to beat Malan, as Cummins delivered a 143kph rocket that swung away 0.7° before seaming back in 0.6°. It was a superb delivery which many players would have found hard to keep out. Australia’s increased intensity for that short period may prove to be crucial in this contest – the dismissal reduced England’s chances according to WinViz from 32% to 19%.