Freddie Wilde and Ben Jones analyse day one at the Waca.
COOK’S WORRYING TREND
Australia bowled very full in the early exchanges on day one – pitching 72% of their deliveries in the opening five overs in the full length zone. This full length saw runs flow – five boundaries were hit in the first 21 balls – but it also targeted the stumps and forced Alastair Cook and Mark Stoneman to play. When Mitchell Starc combined this full length with the fastest delivery of the day at that point of 151.90kph it proved too good for Cook who was beaten by a hint of lateral movement in off the pitch and trapped lbw.
The wicket was yet another instance of Cook being dismissed playing a defensive shot – something that is become a worrying trend for England’s stalwart opener. Cook’s strong defensive game has for so long been the foundation of his success in Test cricket, but it is beginning to show signs of decline. His 48 defensive shots per dismissal in 2017 is his lowest in any calendar year.
Yet again, James Vince fell caught behind the wicket after an impressive start to an innings. He was playing with relative caution and solidity, leaving 41% of deliveries from the seamers, and managing a lower-than-average 11% false shots. However, the pressure never lifted – Australia got exactly half of their balls to him in that channel outside off-stump, targeting Vince’s weaknesses, and Hazlewood had his number. Vince scored just four runs of 24 deliveries from Australia’s metronomic opening bowler, and eventually fell edging a placid delivery outside off. It was reward for Hazlewood’s good bowling to that point, his average swing of 0.97° was the most of any Australian in the first session.
Mark Stoneman’s battling innings was ended by a ripsnorting bouncer which took his gloves on the way through to Tim Paine. Facing short bowling has been a familiar for Stoneman in this series: he has now faced 92 bouncers in five innings – more than any other player. The average pace of those deliveries has been 143 kph and he has been hit on his helmet once, his body four times and his gloves six times.
While Stoneman opted to tough it out against Australia’s short ball barrage, Dawid Malan took the more aggressive option. In the ten overs after his arrival at the crease Malan faced 22 balls that pitched shorter than 9 metres from his stumps and played a pull shot to seven of them – the same number as he played no shot to by ducking or swaying. Malan admittedly rode his luck scoring a four and a six from top edges, but he also upper cut a wider short ball through third man for four. Speaking after play Malan said that by looking to play, rather than leave, the short ball he generally gets in a better position to negotiate it. After the initial barrage which saw him face 73% of short deliveries, Australia only bowled 35% short to Malan from thereon – perhaps dissuaded by his aggression. Malan continued to look to be positive against the short ball and it was fitting that he reached his hundred with a pull shot for four.
ENGLAND TAKE ON LYON
England played Nathan Lyon exceptionally well on day one. Proactive, busy and rotating the strike, they looked far more capable than they have at either Brisbane or Adelaide. Admittedly, Lyon found less turn in Perth – 3.35° – than he did in either first innings in Brisbane – 5.07° – or Adelaide 5.08°. But England deserve credit for batting with noticeable intent, coming down the pitch to 21% of deliveries compared to just 5% in the first two Tests and as such their dot ball percentage has fallen from 80% to 75% and Lyon has gone wicketless.
This was very tense, combative day of Test cricket, and one which England gradually took control of rather than charging into the lead. At the start of the day, England’s WinViz stood at 32%; by lunch it had crept up to 36%; by tea, 38%; and at stumps, 44%. Jonny Bairstow and Malan have never ran away with the momentum, but they have slowly got England on top. In the first two sessions of the day, they played 20% attacking strokes and 12% false shots; after tea, they played 24% attacking strokes, with only 9% false shots. England managed both increased aggression and increased control as the day went on.