Adil Rashid took 4-36 as England went 2-0 up in the five match series. Patrick Noone looks at how England’s legspinner used his googly to great effect in Pallekele.
England were forced to wait nearly six hours before they could begin proceedings in Pallekele as rain interrupted proceedings for the third successive match. When they finally took to the field after the match had been reduced to 21 overs per side, it was Adil Rashid who proved the difference between the two sides. Rashid has of course been an integral part of England’s post-World Cup revolution in ODI cricket – only Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan has taken more wickets in the format since that tournament. Today though, Rashid was in T20 mode.
In the shortest format, he bowls his stock ball 71% of the time while in ODIs, that figure is slightly higher at 77%. In an ODI that effectively became a T20 owing to the rain, Rashid turned 69% of his deliveries from right to left – ie the direction of a stock ball for a legspinner – the lowest percentage he has ever recorded in an ODI in Asia. However, Rashid was not merely tossing up a mixed bag of deliveries and hoping for the best; his strategy when using his googly was clear and effective.
Sri Lanka had got off to a flyer, scoring 58-1 from the first six overs. Rashid was introduced in the seventh and bowled his first googly with just his second ball, beating Kusal Mendis’ defences and bowling him for a golden duck. It was the first of seven balls that would turn the ‘wrong’ way from Rashid during his five over spell.
There was a remarkable consistency of both line, length and speed from those seven balls. Rashid’s average length in this innings was 4.9m from the batsman’s stumps, yet each one of his googlies was fuller than that; five of the seven landed between three and four metres. Rashid’s average speed was 81kph, yet each one of his googlies was quicker than that; the quickest – the wicket of Dasun Shanaka was up at 85.51kph.
It’s clear from these numbers and from the pitchmap above that Rashid’s tactic with the wrong’un was to fire them in outside the right-handers’ off-stump, attacking the stumps. This might not seem like anything particular exceptional in terms of a line of attack, but Rashid is atypical in bowling his googly quicker than his stock ball. Since 2006, the collective average speed for legspinners bowling their googly is 83.37kph, compared to 84.26kph for their stock ball. While others have perhaps chosen to attempt to deceive batsmen in the flight or tempt them into a big shot before beating them off the pitch, Rashid instead opts to deceive them with a slightly quicker pace and target their stumps – 36% of his googly wickets have been either bowled or LBW.
Mendis and the dangerous Shanaka became the latest of his victims to depart in that manner today but what made Rashid’s performance even more impressive was how unfavourable conditions were for him. The steady rain throughout the day meant that parts of the outfield were moist, despite the groundstaff’s best efforts to cover the entire playing area as the rain fell.
A damp ball is no fun for any bowler but particularly so for a legspinner. It’s a factor that might have played a part in Rashid opting for the googly line of attack; it is easier to grip the ball in the manner required to bowl a wrong’un when the ball is wet and it is something he has fallen back on before when dew has been a factor, most notably in the 2016 World T20 final when googlies made up 29% of the balls he bowled. That he was still able to exhibit the control over his line and length despite the rain points to a highly skilled bowler at the top of his game.
Rashid also only found an average of 2.8° of turn during his five overs today. That’s the third lowest of any innings in which he’s taken four wickets or more and the only occasion in an overseas ODI that he has picked up four wickets with less than 3° of average turn. On a tour where so much of the focus has been on spin bowling, whether it be England’s ability to play it or how effective they will be at bowling it, there is enormous satisfaction to be taken from the fact that they have a bowler capable of finding a way to deliver a matchwinning performance whatever the weather.
Patrick Noone is an analyst at CricViz.