After a brilliant performance from Pakistan’s seamers on Day One, Ben Jones looks through the numbers and marvels at the variety of their attack.
In truth, after all the talk of new eras and shifts in mentality, batting order changes and switches in selection, it could hardly have been a more familiar day for England’s batting line-up. Cloudy skies and accurate Pakistan bowling saw the hosts dismissed for 184, but Joe Root’s men weren’t entirely to blame. The opening day of the series saw Lord’s play host to a dazzling collective display of fast bowling, with an inexperienced Pakistan side at their very best.
Before this inaugural Test of the English summer, Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur was pushing the important “It’s getting that length right. We’ve been working on that since the game against Kent, and we’ve solidified that by showing them Trent Boult’s performance.” But these could easily have been empty words; most sides speak like this ahead of a series in England, much like how England sides heading down under become infatuated with the idea of pulling their length right back, and bouncing the opposition into submission. Yet on this occasion, Pakistan made good on the hype.
Since records began, Pakistan have only ever once got a higher percentage of balls on a good length in a Test match. A quite magnificent 49.3% of their deliveries were on that difficult “in-between length”, and England found it almost impossible to play – against those balls, England lost five wickets, and averaged just 6.00.
What’s more, this was not a day when the ball hooped around more than these English batsmen are used to. Pakistan swung the ball 0.95, the average in England marginally more at 0.999°. The point of difference came in the movement off the pitch; 0.57° is the average amount of seam movement in England, but Pakistan managed to find 0.73°. As such, their control of length was even more important.
At the toss, Pakistan’s captain Sarfraz Ahmed was bullish in suggesting that he’d have opted to bowl had he had the chance. It’s an easy call to make when it’s hypothetical, but the performance of his attack gave credence to his assertive attitude. In particular, it was the all-round ability of Pakistan’s pace attack which was the most impressive aspect of their performance. All three of the out-and-out quick bowlers contributed, and each offered something unique to the attack. Mohammad Amir found 1.249° of swing, the most in the attack; Mohammad Abbas found 0.758° of seam, the most in the attack; and Hasan Ali clocked speeds of 137.96kph, the fastest of anyone in the attack.
Abbas’ temperament seems to suit his game to a tee. Calm even in celebration, his strength is in his consistency of line and length; by contrast, the two firebrands of Amir and Hasan complimented each other perfectly today. As shown in the graphic below, they were able to dovetail, each predominantly swinging the ball in one direction. Whilst Amir broadly got the ball to swing from left to right, Hasan went the other way.
On top of the shakey batting display, what’ll frustrate England fans is that even in the face of some excellent examples of how to bowl in these conditions with the new ball, the hosts weren’t able to replicate the visitors’ success. Just 43% of England’s deliveries in the first 10 overs were on that good length which Pakistan exploited, 20% less than the tourists. They’ll return tomorrow knowing that a renewed effort is required – they could do worse than echo their opponents.
Ben Jones is an analyst at CricViz. @benjonescricket