Freddie Wilde analyses the strategies & tactics that shaped the second T20 international.
England made a significant change for this match, leaving out Moeen Ali and selecting Jake Ball. Moeen struggled in England’s two recent T20s, conceding 58 in four overs against Australia and 34 in two overs against India but there was more to this decision than just form. The straight boundaries in Cardiff are very short – just 60 metres and England have legitimate concerns surrounding Moeen at this venue, having also left him out of a Champions Trophy match against New Zealand last June. Across his T20 career batsmen have had success when coming down the pitch and hitting Moeen straight – scoring 95 runs at a run rate of 14.25 with just one dismissal and in Cardiff batsmen average 38.20 when playing straight against spin – the third highest average of any venue in England. To compound Moeen’s difficulties all of India’s batsmen have excellent records against off spin. Unlike Moeen, Jake Ball’s shorter natural lengths were far more suited to the large square boundaries; it was a logical swap but a brave one given it weakened the batting.
ENGLAND’S EXCELLENT POWERPLAY
After being thrashed in Manchester England responded brilliantly in the first six overs in Cardiff. They bowled a very tight line and an excellent good length – in fact, the 50% of deliveries pitched on a good line and length by England’s pace bowlers in the Powerplay is the third most they have ever managed in a T20 international. England were rewarded for their immaculate lines and lengths with three wickets – Rohit Sharma seemingly beaten for pace by a well-directed bouncer; Shikhar Dhawan messily run out and KL Rahul bowled when charging Liam Plunkett.
ENGLAND GO SHORT
In the Powerplay there was 0.83° of swing, above the global average and enough to encourage England to pitch 62% of balls on a full and mid-range length. However, once the field restrictions were lifted and the shine had worn off the ball England quickly reverted to their modus operandi when playing in Cardiff: consistent short lengths to force batsmen to hit to the large square boundaries and protect the short straight boundaries. Outside the Powerplay England’s pace bowlers pitched 56% of their deliveries in the short length range – the seventh highest proportion of balls England’s pace bowlers have ever bowled in the short length range outside the Powerplay.
DHONI GOES STRAIGHT ANYWAY
The 22 India scored off their last over, with 14 of them coming from MS Dhoni, elevated India from a poor score to a respectable, but still under-par total, of 144. Until the last over Dhoni had laboured to 17 off 19 balls but in the final over he gave up trying to hit the square boundaries and used his power to club two fours down the ground despite Ball’s short lengths. Only one score lower than 144 had ever been defended at this venue.
KOHLI TRUSTS HIS QUICKS
With India defending a low total and in need of wickets Virat Kohli must have been tempted to bowl at least an over of his wrist spinners in the Powerplay – targeting the weaknesses of Jos Buttler and Jason Roy against leg spin. Instead he trusted his pace bowlers – and particularly Umesh Yadav after his first over which was full of short balls, was taken for fourteen. After that over Umesh pitched the ball up – attacking the stumps, and was rewarded with the wicket of Roy – brilliantly bowled by a nip-backer, and the big wicket of Buttler. Kohli’s faith in pace had worked and India entered the middle overs with England two wickets down and eight overs of spin still available.
In the first T20 after being taken for 16 from his first over Chahal responded by bowling a defensive line, bowling 45% of balls wide outside off stump and bowled exclusively leg breaks to the right-handers. In Cardiff, with India searching for wickets to defend a low score Chahal bowled a straighter, more attacking, line – delivering just 20% of his deliveries wide outside off stump and bowled Joe Root with a vicious googly – his first of the series against a right-hander.
CALCULATED ATTACK v KULDEEP
With Root gone the game was in the balance when Kuldeep Yadav was introduced into the attack – how England played him would define the match. After being spun out by Kuldeep in Manchester they appeared better prepared this time around. They dealt with his googly more effectively, scoring eight runs of the nine balls without losing a wicket; in Manchester he took four wickets for 12 runs with 18 googlies. They played the same number of attacking shots against him here as they did in Manchester – eight, but here there was more method to them: Eoin Morgan skipped down the track to hit a four and Alex Hales took a big stride forward to hit a six. Jonny Bairstow – as observed on Sky Sports – used the crease expertly, playing from deep in his crease to force Kuldeep to bowl fuller and when he did Bairstow took him on, slog sweeping two sixes over wide long on in the seventeenth over when the game was on the line. All four shots targeted the shorter straight boundary – it was calculated aggression from England against India’s key bowler.
Hales is one of the most destructive Powerplay batsmen in the world, but after being forced down the order by Buttler’s promotion he has assumed a different role in the middle order. He struggled in Manchester but succeeded here. Once England lost both openers and Root by the seventh over Hales appeared to take it upon himself to see England through to the end. He only played 15 attacking shots, giving him an attacking shot percentage of 37% – the lowest proportion in any innings in his T20 international career when he has faced more than 20 balls. When he did attack he made it count. With 12 required from the last over he hammered the first ball of the over from Bhuvneshwar Kumar for six and managed to squeeze the second away for four. It is unlikely Hales’ long-term future is in the middle order but at least he secured his place in the team in the short-term with Ben Stokes set to return on Sunday.
Freddie Wilde is an analyst at CricViz. @fwildecricket