Ben Jones analyses day one at the MCG.
The morning session was a tale of two contrasting batsmen. David Warner charged to 83* by the lunch break, playing 24% attacking shots – exactly double that of his partner Cameron Bancroft, who was as scrappy and uncomfortable as Warner was fluent and assertive. They played a similar number of defensive strokes, Bancroft managing 36% defensive shots compared to Warner’s 35%, but the difference came when they were looking to attack. The left-hander’s ability to dispatch the bad ball allowed him to score rapidly, compared to the sedate strike rate shown by Bancroft.
Indeed, after an impressive start to his career back at Brisbane, Bancroft has really struggled to find fluency at the crease. What will worry Australian fans most is that he looked like he was struggling for scoring options whilst the bowling was still accurate. Of the 93 deliveries England’s seamers bowled to Bancroft today, 53 were in the channel outside off-stump, from which Bancroft could only score at 0.79rpo. Wicket ball was just over a metre fuller than the previous ball, but swung and seamed less – the pressure England had built was enough to keep Bancroft rooted to the spot.
WARNER REGAINS HIS STRENGTHS
One of the few positives for England this series had been the way they had shackled Warner, restricting his scoring options through his dominant region square on the off-side. Facing England’s seamers this series, he’s scored at just 1.95rpo to balls wide outside his off-stump, with England sticking with a boundary sweeper to slow the run-rate. However, today he scored at 4.23rpo to deliveries on that same line, able to punish the England bowlers when they strayed away from his body. Warner’s extensive range of shots came to the fore – before today he’d scored 29 runs driving the seamers in this series at 6rpo, but today he made 31 at 11.5rpo.
PROMISE FOR CURRAN
Tom Curran’s first day of Test cricket will understandably be remembered for “dismissing” Warner on 99, before the Australian was recalled due to Curran overstepping. Yet it was the lead up to the “wicket” which showcased what the Surrey youngster could bring to this bedraggled England side the next time they find themselves on flat foreign pitches. The first ball of that over swung a substantial 1.4° away from Khawaja, at a reasonable 137kph. The third ball was 28kph slower, an off-cutter which gripped 1.2° off the surface, a delivery which showed admirable innovation from Curran with Warner looking to force the milestone. That fateful fifth ball, Curran’s ghost wicket, was a more regulation delivery – but Curran’s white-ball skills had allowed him to build pressure on the well-set Warner, pressure which could and should have brought a wicket.
After being struck on the right hand in the nets this week, Steve Smith mentioned that he would have to slightly adapt his technique. There has been evidence of this change in the way he amassed his 65* on Day 1 at the MCG. In his career, 42.4% of Smith’s runs come on the off-side, but today that lifted to 55.5% – with his slightly more closed stance, the top hand taking over the stroke, Smith scored more freely through the off-side. Here is yet another example of how Smith’s technique is a product of his expert cricket brain, showing that when the situation changes, he’s able to adapt quickly, and effectively.
Ben Jones is an analyst at CricViz. @benjones_13