Freddie Wilde’s analytical report from day three at the Perth Stadium.
NATURAL VARIATION DOES FOR RAHANE
Day three got off to the perfect start for Australia who removed Ajinkya Rahane with the fourth ball of the day. The wicket was the result of natural variation which saw the wicket-ball spin less than Lyon’s match average which meant Rahane played inside the line and could only get an outside edge to first slip. Rahane making this misjudgement was understandable – Lyon is a big spinner of the ball and doesn’t have an intentional arm ball. Rahane expected the ball to turn more than it did. The wicket was also reward for Lyon’s accuracy: on day two he bowled 75% of his deliveries on a good length without reward.
KOHLI PLAYS AGAINST THE SPIN
The focus of Kohli’s masterful innings was largely on how he played the quicks, not because Lyon wasn’t bowling well (he was) but because Kohli remained in near-total control against the off spinner, playing just 8% false shots, while he was more obviously tested against the pacemen, playing 18% false shots.
Kohli’s approach against Lyon saw him calmly rotate the strike with an ease that betrayed the difficulty of the shots he was playing. Kohli played 69% rotating shots against Lyon – up on his career average against spin of 43%. With the quicks bowling brilliantly from the other end Kohli made a conscious effort to be more proactive against Lyon.
When Lyon dropped short Kohli was able to rock onto the back foot and work the ball into the leg side. But when Lyon got his length right Kohli was forced onto the front foot and from here he had just two scoring shots: the work and the drive. Both shots involved him expertly rolling his wrists over the ball on impact to smother the turn and pick gaps. The work for the leg side and the drive for the off side.
A comparison of Kohli’s scoring areas against the rest of India’s right-handers against Lyon showed how Kohli was the only Indian player brave enough—and perhaps good enough—to drive against the spin and through the off side. Kohli’s skill in being able to play on the off side as well as the leg side enabled Kohli to continued to rotate the strike and alleviate pressure in a way that the rest of India’s right-handers could’t.
INDIA’S LOWER ORDER FOLD
When Kohli was controversially caught India still trailed Australia by 75 runs. A streaky cameo of 36 from Rishabh Pant helped reduce that deficit but India’s numbers 8 to 11 contributed just eight runs and faced just 46 balls between them. By comparison Australia’s numbers 8 to 11 added 35 runs in the first innings and faced 85 balls between them. After England’s lower order significantly out-performed India in the series earlier this year, it looks as if the same thing is going to happen in this series as well.
Although we are only one and a half Tests through the series Australia’s 8 to 11 area already pulling away from India’s. India’s lower order may not face 449 balls in the series; Australia’s have already faced that many.
INDIA DROP THEIR CHANCE
After conceding a first innings lead India needed to take early wickets and in the first ten overs they certainly deserved to. In those ten overs India bowled a significantly higher proportion of balls on a good line and length than in any innings of the Test so far and they did so at a high pace, while finding decent swing and seam.
The quality of India’s bowling was reflected in Australia’s false shots count of 20 – typically in Test cricket a wicket falls every 12 false shots. By that measure they deserved to have India at least one wicket down after ten overs and possible two. Although they were unlucky that more edges didn’t go to hand if they’d held onto the one that did—a Marcus Harris edge off Ishant Sharma—then they would’ve had their wicket. But Pant was wrong-footed and the catch was shelled by Cheteshwar Pujara at first slip.
AUSTRALIA LET INDIA BACK IN
After Australia survived the opening burst the match seemed to be slipping away from India but a combination of luck and poor batting let them back in in the evening session.
India continued to bowl fairly well—although according to Expected Wickets their threat diminished through the session—but three of Australia’s four dismissals, and perhaps Aaron Finch’s injury, could be explained by poor batting.
Finch’s injury can partly be attributed to bad luck but by batting 2.50 metres outside his crease, further than anyone in the match – even Kohli, Finch was risking injury against a fast attack. Having only recently taken a blow to that same finger in a practice match the decision to stand so far out was slightly foolhardy.
Harris’ dismissal looked bad – bowled leaving a ball, but the brilliance of Jasprit Bumrah – who got the ball to move in and out from similar areas, absolves Harris of any significant blame.
The same cannot be said of Travis Head – slashing at a wide delivery and caught at third man for the second time in the match; or Shaun Marsh – attempting a high-risk cross batted pull shot on a pitch with uneven bounce; and Peter Handscomb – pinned lbw after being trapped on the crease following a severe lack of footwork.
According to WinViz Australia remain 74% favourites but had they been tighter in the evening session this match could be beyond India by now.
Freddie Wilde is an CricViz Analyst. @fwildecricket