Freddie Wilde and Ben Jones analyse day one at The Adelaide Oval.
Joe Root’s decision to field first was a bold one and saw him become the first captain to win the toss and field at Adelaide since 1992. In the first 13 overs of play the ball swung about 30% less than the Australian average for the new ball but it seamed around 50% more – so there was something there for England’s bowlers to work with. However, Root’s gamble was let down by his bowlers who wasted the new ball by bowling too wide and too short. In the opening 13 overs of play, just one of England’s deliveries would have hit the stumps. The effect of this was to allow Australia to play no shot 36% of the time, well above the global average of 22%. When Cameron Bancroft and David Warner did play a shot England’s length meant they were pulled onto the front foot less than 50% of the time, reducing the threat of lateral movement. To full length deliveries, Australia played false shots 20% of the time. To short deliveries, that dropped to 17%, and dropped again to 13% for good length deliveries. Despite this, only 23% of England’s deliveries were pitched on a full length.
IMPROVEMENT AFTER TEA
In the 20 overs after tea England displayed improvements in their lengths, increasing their percentage of full length deliveries from 23% to 36% which kept Warner’s scoring rate in check. This pressure eventually told when Warner, who had been unusually patient – leaving 30% of his deliveries compared to his career average of 11% – was drawn into a shot outside off stump. The ball from Woakes deviated 1.1° off the pitch to take the edge and the wicket.
TOO SHORT TO KHAWAJA
Usman Khawaja is a supremely strong back foot player, averaging 116.20 when playing back foot shots against pace – and more specifically 211.00 when pulling and 82.00 when cutting. In contrast when he is drawn onto the front foot against pace he averages just 35.07. The beehive on the right shows how England bowled too short to Khawaja, pitching 31% in the short zone compared to just 23% in the full zone – feeding his back foot strength. His eventual wicket-ball was the 11th fullest delivery he faced against pace in his innings.
SMITH FINALLY SNARED
Craig Overton had the joy of dismissing Steve Smith for his first Test match wicket, but it was the combination of England’s most junior and most senior bowler who worked Smith over. Overton and Anderson bowled a very tight line to Smith delivering 60% of their deliveries in the channel outside off stump which induced 13.5% false shots. In contrast Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes were looser, delivering 40% in the channel which drew only 7% false shots. Overton’s tight line meant that when he nipped one back by 1.2° it snuck through bat and pad to bowl Smith through the gate. It was also noticeable how Anderson made an adjustment from the last Test, bowling 8cm wider on the crease to Smith than he did at Brisbane. This allowed him to still hide the ball to Smith, but with the threat of the ball coming back in. After Smith’s hundred in Brisbane England will have been pleased that their subtle adjustment was rewarded.
Australia did well to negotiate a tough period up until the close, lifting their WinViz back up to 58% – the level it was at before the dismissal of Smith. However, they were fortunate to reach stumps unscathed, with Peter Handscomb in particular riding his luck. Handscomb closed the day having played 17% false shots, but after 37 balls that figure was just under 25%. The average Test innings in Australia includes 11 edges or misses before dismissal – Handscomb has already played 14 in 83 balls but crucially, he’s still there.
ENGLAND TOO SHORT
Although England improved on their poor first session this was largely as a consequence of a better line: increasing their percentage of deliveries on a good line from 56% to 65%. The heatmap on the right shows how throughout the day they bowled too short for Adelaide where bowlers are more threatening when they pitch the ball up. England did not appear prepared to concede runs in search for wickets.