Ben Jones examines the aggression of the Pakistan seam attack on an abbreviated final day at Lord’s.
England fans were allowed one night of hope. One night, one evening where the tiniest, most optimistic recesses of their minds could think that this was still on. In the cold light of a London morning, that hope lasted about ten minutes, as Jos Buttler fell, followed swiftly by the rest of his side, and Pakistan displayed a ruthlessness fuelled by the thoughts of an historic victory.
It may seem easy to reflect on an emphatic victory now, but Pakistan would have had that nagging doubt as well. They would have been worried about what Jos Buttler can do. Yet still, they bowled an extremely full, aggressive, attacking length from the get-go, risking a Buttler counter attack and offering England a way back into the game.
On Day Three, Pakistan’s seamers bowled 26% of their deliveries full of a length, drawing their lengths further and further back as Bess and Buttler fought on. Their average length was 7.4m from the stumps.
On Day Four, they switched it up. They bowled 40% balls in that full region, and their average length was 60cm fuller. They found around 20% less swing than on the previous day, but the fuller length made a big difference. England’s false shot percentage against pace leapt up from 14% to 25%, and the last four wickets were mopped up with ease.
As the above graphic shows, this Lord’s wicket has been one for stump-to-stump bowling, targeting the pads and the bails and ignoring almost everything else. Pakistan understood this, particularly Abbas, and he rightly walks away with the Man of the Match award. 84% of his deliveries were on a good length, the highest figure for any seamer in the match, showing his instinctive feel for the right area to bowl. The dismissal of Buttler with a brilliant piece of old ball bowling was classic Abbas, the ball 3m fuller than the previous, seaming three times as much, which is remarkable considering the age of the ball and the dog-eared nature of the seam in question. He’ll be eager for Headingley, and the generally helpful surfaces he’ll find.
By contrast, England will undoubtedly reflect on this Test match over the coming week in a kind of daze. After the toss, barely a thing has gone their way, a mixture of loose techniques and a surprisingly lean and match-fit attack has left them chasing their tails, and with far less success than Pakistan’s chase to claim victory. They have a lot of self-examination to do, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see changes in strategy and personnel. It’s been a chastening few days for Root and his men; can they bounce back in Leeds? They won’t have recent history on their side – they’ve won just two of their last eight Tests at Headingley.
Ben Jones is an analyst at CricViz.