CricViz Analysis: Australia v India, First Test, Day Three

Freddie Wilde’s analytical notes from day three at the Adelaide Oval.

INDIA’S PLANNING EXPOSED

India managed to seal a small first innings lead of 15 but it could have been more were it not for Nathan Lyon’s cameo of 24 off 28 balls. Lyon’s brief innings suggested a lack of planning from India who bowled 38% short balls at him despite his Test average against short bowling being a very impressive 43.33. Against full and good lengths Lyon averages just 9.57. 11 of Lyon’s 18 runs against pace came against the short ball, including an emphatic hook for six off Mohammad Shami – runs that could prove crucial in a low-scoring match.  

TALE OF TWO NEW BALLS

After 15 overs of India’s first innings they were 30 for 3; after 15 overs of their second innings they were 45 for 0. These differing results can be explained by a combination of slightly shorter Australian bowling and more watchful Indian batting. 

The lines bowled by Australia’s pace bowlers in the first 15 overs were almost identical in both innings but in the second innings they pitched just 39% of their deliveries full compared to 47% in the first innings. 

Across the first 15 overs of both innings India’s overall leave percentage was relatively similar but crucially in the very early overs they left more second time around, giving themselves more of a look as they eased into the innings. 

VIJAY & RAHUL CAN’T RESIST 

Early on Vijay an Rahul resisted the temptation to flirt with deliveries outside off stump but their restraint was short lived. Of course, runs still needed to be scored and in both instances there was width on offer but aggression needs to be calculated and both shots demonstrated questionable judgement in this regard. Vijay fell into a simple trap: driving at a wide one angled across him by Mitchell Starc with a packed cordon. Rahul’s shot—a huge booming, drive—was inexcusable. Earlier in the innings he’d nailed a ball on a similar length from Pat Cummins over the off side for six but that delivery was significantly wider than the one which dismissed him. Rahul’s slapped six and his dismissal trying to the same shot encapsulated what a frustrating talent he is. 

CLASH OF KINGS 

Late on day three Lyon became embroiled in an utterly fascinating battle with two of the best players of spin in the world: Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli. Bowling from over the wicket Lyon was aiming into a large patch of rough which was on a good length, about half a metre outside off stump. 

Pujara and Kohli adopted different methods to counter Lyon. 

Kohli opted to get onto the front foot to 25 of the 40 balls he faced from Lyon and trust his and hand-speed and supple wrists to smother the turn, working the ball into the leg side 13 times or defending it onto the off side ten times. Recognising the danger of driving out of the rough Kohli only did so twice when on the front foot. On 15 occasions Kohli was able to play off the back foot. 

In contrast, Pujara only played nine of the 57 balls he faced from Lyon off the front foot. Instead he came down the track on 23 occasions and to 12 of those 23 balls he opted to pad the ball away. This method nearly cost Pujara his wicket when he was adjudged lbw only to be reprieved on review when the ball was shown to be bouncing over the top. Pujara’s proactive footwork forced Lyon to occasionally drop short and when he did so Pujara was able to rock onto the back foot. 

This Adelaide pitch is taking big turn and Lyon is a big turner of the ball. A comparison with Ashwin yesterday illustrates this point. 

This sharp turn simultaneously made Lyon dangerous but complicated his task. Perversely the bigger the turn, the smaller the margin of error in terms of line and length.

The challenge for Lyon was one of angles: too straight and the ball would turn down the leg side but too wide and it wouldn’t challenge the stumps; too full and it wouldn’t have time to turn but too short and Pujara and Kohli would have time to adjust. 

This challenge is illustrated by the pitch map below which isolates balls that were too full (fuller than 3.50 metres), too short (shorter than 5.00 metres), too straight (no further than 20cm from off stump) or too wide (wider than 70cm from off stump). This created a danger area of 0.75² square metres which is labelled as ‘Perfect’ in the pitch map. 

The relative success of these different groupings is revealing. When Lyon missed the area he was searching for Pujara and Kohli were able to rotate the strike – particularly when he dropped short. But when he landed in that perfect spot they could barely score and right at the end of the day he was rewarded with the wicket of Kohli, caught bat-pad with Kohli pushing forward by a sharp turning off break. 

Interestingly Lyon only bowled one ball that was considered too wide. Given the amount of turn he was finding it would be very risky for the right-hander to leave or pad the ball purely on line. On day four it could be worth him trying more wide deliveries outside off stump and daring Pujara to continue padding it away. 

Freddie Wilde is an analyst at CricViz. 

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