Suneer Chowdhary analyses day one at Centurion.
Much of the intrigue surrounding day one at Centurion occurred before a ball had been bowled when India’s team was announced. Virat Kohli has made at least one team change in every one of his 34 Tests as captain and here the major change was Ishant Sharma coming in for Bhuveneshwar Kumar.
In the first Test Bhuvneshwar took the most wickets by an Indian bowler and faced the most balls of any Indian player and second only in the match to AB de Villiers. One of the suspected reasons for his axing is the belief that he doesn’t get find enough movement – and is therefore less threatening – with the old ball. This was supported by evidence in Newlands where Bhuveneshar found 0.68° of swing in the first 15 overs compared to 0.52° thereafter with the number of false shots he induced falling from 23.5% in the first 15 overs to 18% thereafter. 18% was lower than Mohammad Shami’s 30.7% and Hardik Pandya’s 22.1% but was fractionally above Jasprit Bumrah’s 17%.
BIG SPIN FOR ASHWIN
In the first Test in Cape Town Ravichandran Ashwin bowled just eight overs across two innings. Here at Centurion he has already bowled 31 overs after being introduced in the 20th over of the day. The reason for his increased workload has been the very different nature of the pitch: in Cape Town the ball spun an average of 3.00° across the Test but after just 90 overs on day one at Centurion Ashwin has found 4.78° of spin.
At the toss Kohli had expressed his surprise at seeing the grass shaven off the surface and that may well have contributed to an unusually dry and abrasive Centurion pitch. Of the eleven Centurion Tests in the CricViz database no pitch has ever taken as much turn in the first 90 overs as this one – which has in fact taken 25% more spin than the next most. This big spin is likely to make second innings batting particularly difficult, increasing the importance on each team’s first innings.
AMLA & MARKRAM ATTACK
The assistance on offer for Ashwin saw him assume the role of a holding bowler which allowed Kohli to rotate his pace bowlers at the other end. After lunch South Africa’s intentions to disrupt this plan were clear as Aidan Markram and Hashim Amla attacked 23.5% of deliveries from Ashwin in the five overs immediately after the break – a significant increase on the 8.3% from before. Ashwin conceded a boundary in each of the five overs and went for 26 runs but Kohli persisted with his spinner who settled into his spell as the session progressed and regained control.