Freddie Wilde’s analytical notes from day five at the Adelaide Oval.
SHORT BALL USAGE BY INDIA
At the start of day five India had 31 overs remaining with the old ball. With less seam and swing on offer India’s use of the short ball was notable. On day four India’s quicks only bowled four bouncers but before the new ball on day five they bowled 13, using it as a weapon to keep Australia’s batsmen in their crease and most significantly bringing them the wickets of Travis Head.
Ishant Sharma’s bouncer to Head was a brute of delivery. After a sequence of fuller balls the bouncer was an effort ball—139.63 kph, two kph faster than the previous ball and above his match average. The way Ishant pulled his fingers down the left hand side of the ball caused the delivery to rear up from a length. The key though was the tight line: the ball cramped Head for room and gave him nowhere to hide.
BUMRAH’S MARSH SET UP
After the early wicket of Head the dismissal of Shaun Marsh later in the session dealt a huge blow to Australia’s hopes. Marsh had batted with admirable control and it was fitting that it took a brilliant piece of bowling from Bumrah to prise him from the wicket. An over of tight off stump deliveries set Marsh up before the wicket-ball swung away by 0.73° and nibbled by 0.25° away off the seam to take the edge of Marsh’s defensive push.
After Ashwin’s struggles on his previous tours of Australia his returns in this match, collecting 6 for 149 at an economy rate of just 1.71 represent an enormous improvement. Perhaps as encouraging as his figures was the manner of success which has come from bowling notably slower than on the last tour, suggesting he’s made a big effort to adjust his method to turn his fortunes around. In addition to that Ashwin’s success primarily came against Australia’s top order – five of his six wickets were top four batsmen.
On day five – although Ashwin remained very economical – he only took one wicket and was unable to seize the match in the manner that a turning pitch suggested he might. Criticism should be tempered though.
Ashwin maintained the slower speeds that brought him success in the second innings and to the right-handers managed to hit the footmarks outside off stump with 42% of his deliveries, only slightly fewer than Lyon’s 48%. The day five pitch may have helped but by the measure of false shots he improved on his first innings performance from 12% to 15%.
Admittedly, at times his approach appeared a little erratic—he changed his angle to the left-handers Marsh and Head four times in five overs in the morning session and he appeared less willing than Lyon to consistently aim for the footmark to the right-hander. At times it seems as if Ashwin lacks the patience that bowling off spin in Australia requires.
Yet despite these minor issues he maintained an exceptional economy rate of 1.74 runs per over throughout the innings. At the very least Ashwin fulfilled the role of a holding bowler to perfection, throw in his six wickets and this Test marks significant progress.
India had waited ten years for a Test win in Australia and in an absorbing afternoon session Australia’s lower order made them wait just a little bit longer. When Marsh was dismissed Australia were still 167 runs adrift of their target and a heavy defeat was looming but it was not until the afternoon session, scheduled to end at 4.10 had been extended by half an hour that Australia finally subsided when Josh Hazlewood was the last man out with Australia just 31 runs shy of their target. Australia’s last four wickets had endured 48.4 overs and their last three wickets 35.4 overs.
India did not bowl terribly to Australia’s lower-order—they maintained the excellent lines they’d hit throughout the Test but analysis of their lengths relative to the strengths of Australia’s bottom four suggested poor planning. Most clearly, Cummins, Starc and Lyon are all relatively strong against the short ball but India’s quicks bowled a large proportion of short balls to all three of them and certainly didn’t bowl enough full deliveries to Lyon.
Australia deserve enormous credit though. Cummins, Starc, Lyon and Hazlewood are very strong lower order batsmen with excellent defensive games and could have frustrated many attacks. They had their fair share of luck though—their 22% false shots was well above the global average of 12%.
Australia may still be searching for their first win under Tim Paine’s captaincy but their fourth innings batting in Dubai (139.5 overs) & now in Adelaide (119.5 overs) are better examples of so-called ‘tough Australian cricket’ than any number of sledges or send-offs.
For India, on the one hand the way Australia’s lower order hung on for so long is a concern and continues their worrying trend of being unable to clean up the tail but on the other it underlines how hard it is to win away Tests—especially in Australia—& that should help guard against complacency in Perth.
Freddie Wilde is a CricViz analyst. @fwildecricket