Freddie Wilde’s analytical notes from day two at the Perth Stadium.
India’s decision not to open the bowling with Jasprit Bumrah at the start of day two was peculiar. On day one Bumrah was clearly India’s best bowler, drawing a higher proportion of false shots and having a higher Expected Wickets sum than any of India’s bowlers.
It was also strange to see Umesh Yadav not start on day two. Since the start of 2017 Umesh has the best record of India’s pace bowlers in this match against the lower order. Umesh’s extra pace is an asset against tail end batsmen.
Eventually Kohli turned to Bumrah and Umesh and as soon as he did the wickets begun to fall but not before Australia had survived the first hour and added 29 invaluable runs.
PITCH IT UP
In the first hour on day two India opted for a short ball tactic to Tim Paine. Given Paine was dismissed pulling in Adelaide and only averages 15 playing the shot in Test cricket it was a legitimate tactic but with movement in the pitch and a relatively new ball at their disposal India arguably persisted with that short ball tactic a little too long. It wasn’t until after drinks that India started bowling a more consistent good length and they were immediately rewarded with four wickets falling in 5.3 overs – two to good length balls and two to full length balls.
PACE BEHEADS INDIA
The first ten overs of the two first innings could scarcely have been more different. On day one Australia calmly ticked over without losing a wicket but on day two India were reduced to 8 for 2.
Interestingly India and Australia bowled almost identical lengths in the first ten overs.
In addition to that India actually found significantly more movement in the air and off the pitch than Australia.
The key difference between the two teams was pace. Australia’s average speed was 5 kph faster than India’s with the large majority of their deliveries faster than 140 kph.
So while India’s attacking full lengths were floaty and lacked snap; Australia’s were the opposite: fizzing and sharp. It was a small but crucial difference between the two teams and it produced very different results.
KOHLI COUNTER ATTACKS
After Vijay and Rahul had been dismissed Australia’s WinViz surged to 79%. With the ball swinging and seaming there was blood in the water and sharks circling as Cheteshwar Pujara was joined at the crease by his captain Virat Kohli. India were trailing by more than 300 and their two best batsmen were at the crease. The match was on the line.
With four sumptuous shots Kohli changed the entire feeling of the occasion. Hazlewood was attacking – bowling very full and straight and Kohli seized the chance to counter-attack, twice driving through the off side and twice working the ball through mid wicket. Kohli’s four boundaries increased India’s WinViz by 6% – the comeback was on.
Kohli’s clinical attack of Hazlewood forced Australia to retreat. The field dropped back and Hazlewood was replaced in the attack by Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc replaced by Nathan Lyon.
AUSTRALIA REGAIN CONTROL
Cummins has a stunning head to head record against Kohli having dismissed him twice before today and maintaining an economy rate of 1.55 across 77 balls. He was the perfect man to help Australia regain control after Kohli’s counterpunch and he—alongside Nathan Lyon—did that brilliantly in the afternoon session.
By bowling a line outside off stump Cummins played on Kohli’s patience but Kohli was equal to the task – putting his attacking shots away.
Meanwhile from the other end Lyon maintained an exceptional grouping outside off stump. As in Adelaide, Pujara used his feet to counter the spin while Kohli used his wrists and as in Adelaide it worked excellently. Lyon plugged away with unerring accuracy but he couldn’t find a way through.
In an enthralling passage of play, with Cummins testing Kohli’s patience, Lyon testing both Pujara’s footwork and Kohli’s wristwork, Australia choked India’s scoring, restricting them to just 17 runs in 18 overs, but crucially they couldn’t find the breakthrough. India went into the tea break at 70 for 2 in 32 overs, Pujara and Kohli had increased their WinViz to 32%.
FIGHTING FIRE WITH FIRE
After the tea Australia’s pressure accounted for Pujara, strangled down the leg side by a wayward delivery from Starc. Pujara’s wicket opened the door to Australia once again but for the second time in the day India fought fire with fire. Rahane attacked eight of his first 22 balls and raced to 23 not out including an audacious upper cut off Starc for six. For the remainder of the session Rahane dropped his tempo down but his intent had lifted the immediate pressure on India once more.
In Kohli’s innings so far he has displayed exquisite judgement of length. He remained watchful against good and short lengths but has latched onto anything over-pitched.
The skill on display in the afternoon and evening session—from both teams—was exceptional. Australia’s pace bowlers bowled quickly, accurately and moved the ball fractionally more than the global average on a pitch that has displayed uneven bounce and Lyon’s grouping to the right-handers was exemplary. Despite this challenge against four world class bowlers Kohli and Rahane somehow stayed control, each only playing 11% false shots – significantly below the global average of 15%.
According to Expected Wickets (xW) Australia bowled well enough to take 8.09 wickets today but because of how brilliantly India batted they only lost three. Australia barely gave India an inch but under immense pressure—chasing the game—India have simply been too good. Today was a day of cricket rare in its excellence.
Freddie Wilde is a CricViz analyst. @fwildecricket