Freddie Wilde and Ben Jones analyse day three at the Waca.
ASHES TO ASHES
Day three was an utterly soul-destroying day for England. Only once have England conceded more runs in a day of Test cricket whilst only taking one or no wickets – the fourth Ashes Test at Leeds in 1934, on day two. Then Australia scored 455-1, with Don Bradman and Bill Ponsford putting on 388. In Steve Smith Australia have a batsman genuinely comparable to Bradman but that should not detract from what was a woefully insipid bowling performance from England.
What day three at the Waca illustrated, in brutal fashion, was just how toothless England’s pace attack is when confronted with conditions which offer little assistance. The ball swung 0.47° and seamed 0.47° – both well below the global average of 0.90° and 0.56°. Despite the lack of movement England plodded away with the same approach all day, bowling 47% of deliveries on a good line and length – a figure which represents England’s attempts to bowl consistently. Yet, at an average pace of 135kph and with no movement in the air or off the pitch, such accuracy proved futile: they drew just 6% false shots all day, less than half the global average of 14%. Australia played and missed at only 11 deliveries.
To really hammer home the point, in the same conditions Australia showed that better bowling can get results on this pitch. Australia have bowled faster than England – 141.75kph v 136.18kph; Australia have found more swing than England – 0.68° v 0.47°; and Australia have found more seam movement than England – 0.48 v 0.47°.
England’s attack has been exposed as lacking in the speed and skill to succeed in challenging conditions. Other than simply not being good enough, England have no excuses.
On day three Smith batted as he did on day two, and for that matter, as he has for most of the last few years: in near-total control. In his 390 ball innings, despite playing an attacking shot to 27% of deliveries – the second highest proportion of any top order batsman in the match, Smith edged 13 and missed six. According to the false shot rate of the rest of Australia’s batsmen he should have played 26 false shots in that time and according to the false shot rate of the typical Test batsman he should have played 55. Smith played 19.
In Brisbane Smith’s hundred – his slowest for Australia – was marked by patience with him playing no shot to 27% of deliveries from pace; in Perth his innings was notably more aggressive with him playing no shot to 11% and attacking 27% of deliveries, scoring at 3.52 runs per over. This positivity is further evident in his strike rate wagon wheels.
Smith’s intent can largely be attributed to the difference in conditions. In Brisbane the pitch was low and slow and not conducive to shot-making; in Perth the pitch has been fast and true, which when combined with a quick outfield, has encouraged run-scoring. The match situation has also afforded Smith the freedom to bat more positively which he has done emphatically, grinding England into the dust.
MARSH PUNISHES ENGLAND
Mitchell Marsh’s first Test century was perfectly constructed for the match situation, taking the game away from England with a dazzling array of attacking strokes. When he arrived at the crease, England’s WinViz was already dwindling at 21%; by the close of play with him unbeaten on 181 (234). As his wagon-wheel shows, he was able to score rapidly all around the ground, but was particularly ruthless against full deliveries – anything fuller than six metres from his stumps invited a scoring rate of over 9.63 runs per over.
Yet what will frustrate England is that Marsh was able to score so quickly whilst only playing 29% attacking strokes (global average 24%), and with 7% false shots (global average 14%), because England bowled so many poor deliveries to the Australian No.6. 12% of balls faced by Marsh were hit for a boundary, the highest figure in the innings, with England’s seamers in particular allowing him to relieve any pressure at regular intervals. Balls on his stumps were dispatched at 7.87 runs per over, an area which England’s pacers drifted onto and down the leg side 41% and whilst fatigue may be an explanation for the bowlers’ lack of accuracy, Marsh punished them with aplomb.