CricViz analyst Patrick Noone looks at how Dom Bess found success in Leeds.
Headingley is traditionally thought of as something of a spinner’s graveyard, especially in the early part of the English summer. Since 1999, there has been a lower percentage of balls bowled by spinners (19%) in Leeds than at any other of the main six English Test venues.
Back in 2012, England were convinced that the conditions would do so little to favour spin that they opted to leave out Graeme Swann from their XI against South Africa. All of this makes Dom Bess’ second innings performance on Sunday, in just his second Test match, all the more impressive.
Attacking the stumps
The young Somerset off-spinner bowled particularly straight, with 30% of his deliveries going on to hit the stumps. Off-spinners have typically only been hitting the stumps with 22% of deliveries bowled and Bess’ willingness to make the batsman play as often as possible was a key factor in his success.
In fact, Pakistan’s batsmen only left two of the 66 balls Bess bowled in the innings, illustrating how probing his line and length was throughout.
There had been a lot of talk during the two Test matches about England’s seamers needing to bowl a full length to trouble the Pakistan batsmen. The same applied to Bess and his numbers imply that he was more than willing to pitch the ball up. His average length was 3.9m from the batsman’s stumps, 40cm fuller than the average length bowled by off-spinners at Headingley in the last 12 years.
In that period, Bess’ length was the optimum length for off-spinners at that venue; the average for off-spinners when bowling that length is 22.89 and 29 of the 40 wickets to have to fallen to off-spin at Headingley have been from balls on a length of 4m from the batsman’s stumps, on average.
The visiting batsmen were perhaps guilty of underestimating Bess after his inauspicious debut with the ball at Lord’s. As a team, Pakistan attacked 39% of the balls Bess bowled, a higher percentage than any other England bowler but they were guilty of poor execution. Bess drew an edge with 6% of the balls he bowled – only Anderson (10%) found the edge of the bat more often – and both Faheem Ashraf and Usman Salahuddin lost their wicket to the off-spinner through loose attacking shots.
England can be encouraged that, despite Pakistan’s obvious attempts to go after Bess, the newcomer remained unfazed and continued to bowl the same lines and lengths to ultimately cause the batsmen enough problems to win the match for his team.
Patrick Noone is a CricViz analyst