Freddie Wilde and Ben Jones analyse day two at the SCG.
Dawid Malan’s dismissal early on day two represented the worst possible start for England and it was another instance of an England batsman getting to fifty but not converting to a match defining century. England’s inability to convert 50+ scores has been a theme of this series and another area where Australia have significantly out-performed them.
MOEEN SHORT SHRIFT
In the first three years of his Test career, Moeen Ali averaged 27 against balls further than 9m from stumps, and undoubtedly had an issue with the bouncer. However, a mixture of technical alterations and general confidence improved this significantly in 2017, when he averaged 60 and was only dismissed once, but he has started 2018 in his old habit. With his confidence low, it’s not surprising that these earlier issues have re-emerged, deeper flaws in his game being revealed as his game regresses. Moeen needs time out of the limelight to reconstruct his game, and to return as a stronger player – because right now, he’s going backwards.
BROAD AND CURRAN GO BERSERK
In a six over burst after the dismissal of Moeen, Tom Curran and Stuart Broad put on 41 runs that had Smith and his bowlers more than slightly rattled. They played attacking strokes to 56% of the balls they faced, and had a bit of luck – a quarter of their shots were false strokes, around twice the global average. Yet the intent coupled with Australia’s attacking fields meant that rewards came quickly, and they saw England charging towards their 346 total.
In particular, Curran was rather impressive. A tentative FC average of 17.47 did not suggest that England’s new No.8 was going to offer much resistance, but he had a clear plan, particularly against the spinners. Curran danced down the wicket to 17% of balls from Lyon, over three times the average, and the intangible confidence this gave him seemed to fuel his and Broad’s counter-attack. They may have been under par, but Curran got them an awful lot closer to a strong total.
BANCROFT’S WOES CONTINUE
In first class cricket Cameron Bancroft averages just 32 against right arm pace bowling – a troubling record for an opening batsman facing an England squad flush with right arm pace bowlers. That poor record has been evident in this series where all six of his dismissals have come against right arm pace. More specifically all of his dismissals have been to very similar deliveries which have pitched in a 2.3 metre range between 7.7 and 5.4 metres from the stumps, on an around off stump bringing Bancroft onto the front foot. He has been out bowled twice, lbw twice and caught twice. Only one of the six deliveries that have dismissed him has swung and seamed more than 1° – his second innings dismissal in Adelaide – this suggests that a technical failing is to blame for his struggles to balls in the off stump channel.
With a young leg-spinner on debut, there are probably more thrilling aspects you anticipate as a fan, but the most impressive thing about Mason Crane’s performance was his accuracy. He dropped short only 18% of the time, when the average for leg-spinners is 25% – to maintain that kind of control of length, on debut, as a 20 year-old wrist-spinner, is excellent. The control extended to his line as well – in his first two spells, Crane landed 35% of his deliveries on a good line and length. Since the start of 2016, only two leg-spinners have been able to better that – Yasir Shah, and Dawid Malan. This did fall away as the day drew to a close, but it represented a very polished start to a Test career, and offered substantial hope that perhaps he could become the elusive English leggie.