Ben Jones analyses the key aspects of England’s ODI series victory over India.
After Kuldeep Yadav ripped through England’s top order at Nottingham, many feared for the hosts. England have long had the tag of being poor against wrist-spin, and few trusted that Eoin Morgan’s men would be able to find a method against the left-armer.
However, contrary to the narrative, England have been excellent against wrist-spin in recent times; only India average more than them against wrist-spin since the last World Cup.
Accordingly, it’s no surprise that England found a way to play Kuldeep. His first 10 overs this series brought six wickets at an economy of 2.5rpo; his next 20 overs brought just three wickets at 6.15rpo. England’s recovery was built on more decisive footwork, and the graphics below make this plain. In the first ODI, England were unsure whether to play Kuldeep on the front foot or on the back foot, but in the following two matches they were making clear movements, either forward or back. Whether smothering the spin or reading the variations off the pitch, they gave themselves the best chance to do both.
Joe Root has had a tough time of late. At the outset of the series, some were questioning his place in this ODI side, the suggestion being that in an England side packed with power-hitters, Root’s calmer approach to white-ball batting looked old-fashioned. However, this series was among his finest; his average of 216, boosted by two unbeaten centuries, was his highest for any bilateral ODI series. Against England’s only serious rival for best ODI side in the world, Root brought his A-game.
Rediscovering his form, Root’s improvement came by returning to what he’s good at – rotating the strike, and manipulating the field. His century at Lord’s saw him hit just 7.73% of his deliveries to the boundary, the lowest figure for any of his last nine ODI tons.
Root’s ability to score all around the wicket came to the fore. Being able to score “360” generally refers to six-hitting in the mould of AB de Villiers and Jos Buttler, but for Root it’s more literal – he can score runs all over the field, and this series saw that more than ever. A comparison with Kohli, another player renowned for his scoring flexibility, shows the full extent of Root’s talent in this area. The Indian skipper may go on to be more influential in the Test series, but England’s No.3 got the better of him here.
ENGLAND DESTROY THE POWERPLAY
In the opening ten overs of the innings, England and India both bowled to broadly similar plans. This yielded similar results in terms of lateral movement; both sides found almost identical levels of seam deviation in Powerplay 1, England with 0.45° and India with 0.47°, whilst England found slightly more swing, 0.85° compared to India’s 0.68°.
Despite this, England scored at 7.51rpo against pace in Powerplay 1 this series, whilst India scored at just 5.32rpo. For this, credit goes to England’s relentless attacking intent. They attacked 49% of deliveries, compared to India’s 33%, as Bairstow and Roy consistently got England off to flyers.
India did slightly make up for their lesser intent with increased efficiency – their attacking shots scored at 11.06rpo compared to England’s 10.09rpo – but they were dismissed every 15 times they attacked, whilst England were dismissed every 88. Roy and Bairstow paired their aggression with skill and control, able to take on India’s attack without undue risk of losing their wicket.
WEAK INDIAN MIDDLE-ORDER
In many ways, if you’re going to be reliant on any players to score the majority of your runs, a triumvirate of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, and Shikhar Dhawan is not a bad group to be relying on. Since the last World Cup they’re the 1st, 3rd and 13th leading scorers in ODI cricket, and (in line with their averages in that time) can be expected to provide a rough aggregate of 190 runs in any given match. However, this series has shone a light on the extent of that reliance.
64% of India’s runs in this series were scored by Kohli, Dhawan and Rohit, and they are also the only three Indian batsmen to register a positive Batting Impact Average for the series.
By contrast, of England’s top seven only Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes (both of whom are frontline bowlers in this ODI team) registered a negative Batting Impact Average across the series, with the hosts’ batting line-up making far greater consistent contributions all the way down the order.
India have certainly tried a lot of players in the middle order. Since the World Cup, seven players have batted 5 or more times in England’s middle order (No.4-7); for India, it’s eleven. They keep trialling players in those positions, but it’s unclear the kind of player that they’re looking for. However, it’s unclear the profile of player they’re after – they’ve picked experience (Raina, Yuvraj), youth (Axar Patel), Test players (Jadeja) and white ball specialists (Kedar). In this area their selection has been muddled for some time, but it’s been masked by the success of the top-order. For a genuinely world-class team, they have a soft underbelly, and it always felt that a few early wickets for England would put them right in control of India’s batting efforts.
INDIA POOR AT THE DEATH
Whilst England did dominate with the bat in Powerplay 1, they actually struggled in the middle overs. Morgan’s side scored more slowly and lost wickets more regularly in Overs 11-40 than India, but crucially for England the impact of their struggles was limited by poor Indian bowling at the death, where England’s run-rate increased.
India’s seamers were considerably more expensive than their English counterparts in the last 10 overs, with an economy rate of 8.25rpo compared to 5.1rpo. There appeared to be a flaw in their strategy, gambling too much on trying to bowl yorkers, erring too full with their lengths.
Both sides bowled 25% of their deliveries in the “good length” zone, but whereas India bowled 43% full and 32% short, England bowled 44% short and 31% full, drawing their lengths back on dry, worn pitches, to good effect. Kohli’s bowlers were targeting that full zone in an effort to bowl yorkers – India bowled 8% yorkers, England bowled just 4% – but it was too high risk. Their full deliveries went at 10.6rpo, as the opposing batsmen set themselves for deliveries in the slot, whilst England’s went at just 5.82rpo. India failed to adapt, and were punished, allowing Joe Root and David Willey to charge to 322-7 at Lord’s, a total England were able to defend, keeping the series alive.
Ben Jones is an analyst at CricViz.