Freddie Wilde and Ben Jones analyse day three at the SCG.
KHAWAJA’S ADJUSTED APPROACH
Despite batting for such a long period of time, during which his confidence must have been high and against a tiring attack, Khawaja actually attacked a lower proportion of deliveries from pace – 20% – than his career average of 22%. Rather than attack more over such a long innings Khawaja increased his rotating shot percentage from 32% in his career to 43% in this innings. Batsmen are typically dismissed once every 32 attacking shots in Test cricket but only once every 59 rotating shots. By playing more of the latter Khawaja sacrificed his scoring rate to bat for longer. As the beehive on the right shows Khawaja left the wide balls, defended the balls around the top of off stump, rotated the balls that were too straight and attacked the short balls and the over-pitched balls. Clinical and controlled batting.
Against spin Khawaja’s approach was different. Across his career Khawaja has struggled against spin largely because of a weak defensive game that sees him dismissed once every 62 defensive shots, well below the global average of 85. In this innings Khawaja’s defensive shot percentage against spin was just 18%, considerably less than the 24% he has typically played in his career. Instead Khawaja attacked 37% – compared to 32% in his career, and rotated 43% – compared to 39% in his career. This positivity was also evident in his footwork which saw him come down the pitch to 19% of his deliveries from spin, well up on the 8% of his career to date.
The longest innings of Khawaja’s career was built not on the foundation of defence – although that remained resolute – but of batting positively.
Arriving in Australia, one of England’s supposed strengths was meant to be their new ball bowling, fuelled by the excellence and experience of James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Yet they’ve been comprehensibly out-bowled by the hosts, and again it’s down to their length being too short. With the new ball across this series, England’s average length has been 7.21m from the stumps, with a collective bowling average of 63.66. By contrast, Australia have bowled 60cm fuller, and they’ve managed a bowling average of 29.87. Just 28 of England’s new ball deliveries have been pitched full of a length, compared to 43% for their opponents. It’s been a criticism of Broad and Anderson for a long time now, this issue of length, and they make sound arguments about their lack of pace making it a necessity, but whatever their reasoning, it has cost England wickets.
For much of his Test debut, Mason Crane has looked promising and enthusiastic, but largely innocuous. However, this could be a result of the sheer quality of some of his opponents. As a leg-spinner, Crane would have been looking to target the right-handers – and the contrast between the two he’s been faced with could not have been greater. Against Steve Smith, Crane toiled for 41 deliveries and drew just one false shot, 2% of his total bowling to the Australian captain. Yet once Moeen Ali removed Smith and brought Mitch Marsh to the crease, Crane leapt into life. He passed the bat of Australian all-rounder four times in the first five balls he bowled, and ended the day having drawn 22% false shots from the younger Marsh. Given that most batsmen in international cricket are more similar to Marsh than Smith, Crane is within his rights to feel quietly optimistic about the career ahead of him.
In the last hour the Marsh brothers put England to the sword. In the final fifteen overs of the day, they attacked 37% of the deliveries they faced, compared to 24% up to that point, the scoring rate leaping from 2.55 RPO to 5 RPO. Mitchell Marsh in particular flew up through the gears. His first 28 balls saw just three runs, and 20% attacking strokes, with Crane beating his bat almost every ball. From there, he threw caution to the wind, playing 43% attacking strokes and scoring at more than a run-a-ball. Vintage late innings batting from the two brothers, who took the game out of England’s sight.