Patrick Noone looks ahead to the 2nd Test in Perth and what conditions India and Australia can expect at the new venue.
The 2nd Test will be a trip into the unknown for both Australia and India as the Optus Stadium in Perth hosts its first ever Test match. The new ground has only staged one First Class match, last month’s Sheffield Shield clash between Western Australia and New SouthWales. That match was a low-scoring affair with NSW’s first innings total of261 the highest of the match as the visitors prevailed by 104 runs.
Perhaps more pertinently, 32 of the 40 wickets in that encounter fell to seamers. There has been talk ahead of the 2nd Test that the pitch at Optus Stadium is uncharacteristically quick and bouncy by drop-in pitch standards and that conditions are reminiscent of the WACA Ground, the current ground’s predecessor in Perth.
The fact that Jhye Richardson, one of the quickest bowlers on the Australian domestic circuit, took match figures of 11-105 in the Sheffield Shield match surely bodes well for the fast bowlers for both sides. That, coupled with the fact that 14 of the 24 wickets to have been taken by seamers in the two ODIs hosted at Optus Stadium have been from balls shorter than a good length, suggests that this is a venue where seamers can cause batsmen discomfort.
The data from the most recent of those two ODIs – Australia’s defeat to South Africa in November – suggests that this is avenue with plenty of pace and bounce. The quick bowlers found an average 93cm of bounce from good length balls, more than any ODI in Australia since 2015 and the 11th highest of any match in our database (2005-present).
Of course, that match featured some of the fastest bowlers in world cricket so it is perhaps no surprise that the likes of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Kagiso Rabada were able to find so much life in the pitch. However, even Marcus Stoinis, whose average speed is 130kph, was able to find 90cm of bounce from good length deliveries, compared to his career average of 84cm.
India’s top six have largely struggled against balls bouncing to that extent with only Ajinkya Rahane able to say he has mastered playing that kind of delivery. That said, it is a similar story for Australia. Though they collectively have a better record than India, Usman Khawaja’s formidable record is something of an outlier and in the cases of Aaron Finch, Marcus Harris and Travis Head, they are yet to be dismissed but it can be said that none of the trio have been tested on bouncy surfaces having only played in the UAE and at Adelaide last week.
So we can expect the pitch at Optus Stadium to be quick and bouncy, but what about the movement on offer? In terms of deviation off the pitch, the South Africa match featured 0.65° on average, with Rabada extracting the most average movement (0.73°). Only one ODI match hosted in Australia in 2018 featured more average seam movement than the Perth fixture, and the red Kookaburra typically finds more deviation than its white counterpart.
We can therefore expect there to be plenty of assistance from the pitch in terms of seam movement, in addition to the pace and bounce on offer. If the seamers are able to find more than 0.75° on a regular basis – and it is a reasonable assumption that they will, based on the data available – the records of the respective top six batsmen suggest that Australia have a slight edge over India when facing balls that move to that extent. Collectively, the hosts average four runs more than their Indian counterparts and Virat Kohli is the only visiting batsman who averages more than 20 against the seaming ball.
The evidence suggests that, if conditions in Perth are as we expect, Australia will find the pitch much more to their liking than the one they lost on in Adelaide. There is enough to suggest that the hosts can come roaring back into contention with a win at Optus Stadium to leave the series beautifully poised at 1-1 with two matches to play.
Patrick Noone is an analyst at CricViz.