CricViz Analysis: How England can beat India

CricViz analysts Freddie Wilde, Patrick Noone, and Ben Jones examine where Eoin Morgan’s side can get ahead.

CricViz Analysis: How England can beat India

England need to stay calm. Over the past four years, Eoin Morgan has made a lot about England’s approach to the game being a “brand” of cricket, or to use a less distressing term, “philosophy”. They have repeatedly presented their uber-attacking batting style as being a holistic process, as being the right way to play to win cricket matches, not simply the only way they can play. They have set it up as a style that you can’t criticise on the basis of one result, and they have been vindicated by their rise to No.1. England should be proud of their achievements. 

It would be cowardly then, and disingenuous to all they have achieved, to abandon the plan that has made them the best in the world. England shouldn’t be going slower, because that’s not who they are. Jonny Bairstow is wrong, of course, in saying that people want England to fail, but it could easily feel like that. England haven’t won all those ODI series in a vacuum, they have won them against all teams all over the world, playing in this way. England in this World Cup have not been guilty of using the wrong tactics, they’ve been guilty of executing those tactics extremely poorly. At times – the Sri Lanka game in particular – as poorly as they have ever executed them.

England don’t need wholesale changes. What they need to do is tweak a few of their selections, adapt the odd strategy, and target the weaknesses of the opposition players who’ll be looking to knock them out their home World Cup. Below are a few suggestions as to how they can do this.

Team Selection Analysis

The CricViz bowling options graphic is an advanced way of looking at batsman and bowler match-ups. As well as considering basic head-to-head, batsman by bowler-type and bowler by batsman-hand data, this model evaluates players on a deeper level. Not all right-arm pace bowlers are the same, for example; neither are all right-handed batsmen. So using ball-tracking data for bowlers and shot-type and footwork connection for batsmen, we have created sub-types of player. For example, Rohit Sharma is a top order, power-hitter, leg side player and Virat Kohli is a top order, dynamic, leg side player. Building on these archetypes of players we can look in more detail at how Jofra Archer, a new ball, attacking, high arm bowler, fares against all batsmen in the mould of Rohit and Kohli – who are of course different. These match-ups go beyond conventional measures and allow us an even greater analysis of player preference. 

Liam Plunkett is reflected excellently in the captaincy grid. He is a good match-up to bowl to every single one of India’s key batsmen, and whilst there’s no guarantee of success against a team like this, he would be working from a position of strength. He’s had fitness issues, but a relatively quiet campaign should mean he is ready and raring to go.

The question of how to get Plunkett into the side is tricky. Wood and Archer have both had excellent tournaments, but both have – at various points – been suffering with injury issues. Most likely, England will want to pick both Wood and Archer if they are at all available.  If for any reason either isn’t fully fit and England decide to take them out of the firing line, then Plunkett should be a straightforward replacement. 

However, such is Plunkett’s suitability to bowling at this India side, including him is slightly more pressing than normal. England need to find a place for him, and the most logical option is to replace Moeen Ali. The reasons for this are slightly more complex than simply Moeen’s poor form. Whilst he’s struggled with the bat, Moeen’s bowling economy of 5.34 is perfectly fine, and he’s picked up key wickets at various points. However, he is significantly better when bowling to left-handed batsmen (as an average of 39.55 v 55.52 attests), and India’s top order doesn’t have any unless Rishabh Pant makes an unlikely return.

This means that Moeen drops out of the side for Plunkett, unless England’s staff make a call on the pitch and expect it to turn significantly. If Jason Roy isn’t fit – though all signs suggest he will play – then a slightly unorthodox move could be to move Moeen to open, perhaps with license to try and get cheap early runs with the field up, thus allowing England to play the extra bowler. James Vince has been an excellent white ball batsman for several years at domestic level, but has struggled to adapt to international cricket over a long period of time now. Both him and Moeen offer significant risk with the bat, but Moeen has the added bonus of being a bowler.

Adil Rashid has had a poor tournament so far. Part of that appears to be down to injury issues with his shoulder which have affected his ability to bowl googlies to left-handers, meaning that his bowling average against them has risen from 26.85 in 2017/18 to 38.20 in 2019. Thus, just as the absence of left-handers is detrimental to Moeen’s inclusion, it’s a good sign for Rashid. His record against right-handers has remained solid and there is no excuse for a sub-par performance this Sunday.

Venue Analysis: Edgbaston 

England like playing at Edgbaston. Since the last World Cup, they have not lost an international game of any description in Birmingham. There will likely be a substantial proportion of India supporters in the ground, helped by Birmingham’s large British Asian population, and so things could feel pretty intense, but England can count on rowdy support particularly later in the day.

There have been two matches played at Edgbaston in this World Cup: New Zealand v South Africa and New Zealand v Pakistan. The pitch used on Sunday will be a fresh 22 yards, but if this second strip at Edgbaston is anything like the first then conditions are likely to be slow and low, with plenty of assistance for the spin bowlers.

PitchViz is CricViz’s unique model for evaluating the characteristics of pitches using ball tracking data. It measures all sorts of features, but the defining feature of Edgbaston pitches so far has been the pace – it’s extremely slow. Indeed, the two pitches we’ve had at Edgbaston in this World Cup have the two lowest Pace Ratings. It’s also been obscenely helpful to the spinners; of the three surfaces in this World Cup with the highest Deviation Rating, two have been at Edgbaston. Slow, and low.

What does this mean? Well, such conditions are likely to work marginally in India’s favour. Since the 2015 World Cup, India’s record on pitches like this – tricky ones with a lower than average PitchViz Pace Rating – has been better than England’s.

The extreme nature of conditions at Edgbaston in the first two matches at the venue give both teams no excuse for being caught off guard by a slow and turning track, should they be faced with that on Sunday. It needs to be considered in selection on the morning of the game.

Specific Batsman Analysis (Since CWC 2015 unless specified)

ROHIT SHARMA

The Indian opener is probably the second most important batsman in the Indian line-up. England will be desperate to find a way to limit his effectiveness, and ideally remove him early – easier said than done.

However, there are clear patterns to the way Rohit does get out in ODI cricket. In the first 20 balls of his innings, he struggles against good and full length balls from seam, just like any other batsman.

He has an issue with swing in both directions when the bowler pitches up, but struggles against neither more than the other. Rohit’s technique is very simple, and whilst he sets up to dominate the short ball early on, he doesn’t obviously favour the offside or legside.

As such, later movement can find cracks in his technique more obviously. Seam movement away from him is more dangerous than movement back in – you can square him up, and nick him off early. You have to stay aggressive with plenty of catchers, ideally two slips and a catching cover.

After that first 20 balls, you have to change things, because pitching it full becomes a far less effective tactic. You have to adjust your lengths – the defensive option becomes the good length ball, and the aggressive option becomes the short ball. What’s happening at the other end can dictate the approach here – going hard, if Rahul is still around, could feel too high risk, and a more sensible holding pattern could be dropped into by trying to dot him up.

KL RAHUL

Rahul is a very talented young batsman, but his flaws are far more straightforward and easy to target than Rohit’s. Rahul has repeatedly struggled to deal with the ball coming back into him, and with the ball targeting his stumps. He averages 14.33 against the ball swinging in, compared to 49.00 against out-swing; he also averages just 12.33 against the ball coming back in off the seam. It’s clear that his exaggerated backlift, which does give him excellent power and range of strokes, also stops him being able to defend with ease against full and straight bowling. In all international cricket, Rahul averages 10.73 against deliveries that would have hit his stumps.

VIRAT KOHLI

We have analysed how to dismiss the Indian captain in plenty of detail in this piece here, but there are still some key pointers to remember. Essentially Kohli’s dismissals follow the same pattern as Rohit’s – he gets out to full and good length balls early on, and short balls once set.

Equally, the narrative around bowling to Virat Kohli became very focused on the idea of hanging the ball out wide, and drawing him into loose shots away from his body. Amir in the Champions Trophy Final kick-started an idea that Kohli was vulnerable wide outside his off-stump. Initially, Kohli countered this by not going after those balls – or at least trying not to. Before 2019, he only attacked one in two deliveries in the channel outside off-stump, and one in four against balls wider outside off. 

However, it seems like Kohli’s had enough; now, he’s going after them. In 2019 he’s still being very restrained against balls in the channel, but against balls wider than that he’s almost doubled his intent early on in his innings.

The reason it’s a weak point is that the ball is outside of Kohli’s eyeline, and his hand-eye co-ordination is superb – if you disrupt it, he’ll struggle. England should target this. In addition to the length variations, England should consider ‘creating’ a left-arm option, by sending one of the right-arm seamers round the wicket early and bowling a very wide line, leaving a boundary option through cover if Kohli wants to go after it. Given current form, he’ll likely go after it, and back himself. However, England need only remember back to the Birmingham Test last year to know that when Kohli wants to, he can be very restrained.

MS DHONI

At the start of Dhoni’s innings he is massively restricted by spin in terms of scoring, but gets out far more regularly against pace. It is as if he’s made a choice not to be dismissed by spin early on, and will take the consequences.

The way seamers can maximise their chance of getting Dhoni early is bowl very full, or very short. The Indian veteran doesn’t get out to length balls early on, treating them with similar respect to how he treats the spinners.

Once he’s set, Dhoni can be much harder to dismiss, and so you need to keep a range of tricks up your sleeve. Slower balls are a good attacking option to Dhoni, because whilst he scores relatively briskly against them, he does get out to them far more often than normal deliveries.

Another trick to have up your sleeve, particularly as a right-arm quick, is to go wide of the crease. Dhoni averages a whopping 63 when bowlers are releasing the ball close into the stumps, but when they’re wide of the crease that drops to just 27 Mark Wood has often done this in international cricket, leaping wide at the end of his run-up, and it could be a very good option to Dhoni.

HARDIK PANDYA

The most basic rule when bowling to Hardik is to avoid bowling spin as much as possible. Hardik destroys spin, and has a very healthy average against it.

Rather, what England should do is attack him with pace, and in particular with full and short deliveries. Hardik sits deep in the crease and gives himself time to hit short balls – and is thus very effective against them.

The other main option is to go hard at Hardik with extreme pace. His average against bowlers slower than 140kph (87mph) is mediocre, but it plummets against bowling quicker than that. England are blessed with two bowlers – and if Plunkett is on form, three – bowlers who can hit 140kph regularly, and they will likely be bowling at the death. If England manage to push through the top order and get Hardik to the crease in the middle overs, then going hard with Archer or Wood is a great option.

Restraint is needed though – don’t go for the magic ball. Hardik destroys very full lengths, so trying to hit a length around 6m from the stumps (just full of a good length, nothing fuller) is the best option, allowing for any movement but not quite an attempted yorker.

It’s also important to stay straight. Hardik’s uniquely high grip allows him extra reach, meaning “wide” yorkers in particular aren’t out of his hitting zone. Challenging him instead to hit straight, by bowling at his stumps, is a much more effective measure.

Specific Bowler Analysis 

FRONTLINE SEAMERS

In the first Powerplay of the innings Jasprit Bumrah, arguably the world’s best white ball bowler, is likely to be partnered by Mohammed Shami – who only came into the team after an injury to Bhuvneshwar Kumar but has since proved his worth with two excellent performances. Bumrah and Shami are both right-arm quicks but they demonstrate how within this type of bowling it is possible to have very different styles. 

In 2019 both bowlers have stayed over the wicket to right-handers in the first ten overs from over the wicket, and both largely look to hit a classical good length – around 6 to 8 metres from the batsmen. However, that is where the similarities end. As illustrated by this graphic, Bumrah – with his unique high-arm action that goes beyond the perpendicular has an exceptionally wide release, while Shami is far more conventional. 

Bumrah’s wide release creates an angle into the right-hander, while Shami’s conventional release produces a more natural stump-to-stump line. 

Bumrah’s more skiddy bounce allows his short lengths to be slightly fuller than Shami’s – whose more traditional up and down bounce means he has to go really short to attack the neck and head of the batsmen, or else the ball will sit up. Bumrah’s back of a length balls have partly given rise to the term ‘hard length’ where the top of the batsman’s bat is attacked by balls that are short but on a flat trajectory. 

When bowling full and good lengths both men rely on seam movement rather than swing for their threat – they each only average around 0.50° lateral movement in the air – however, while Shami’s primary direction of movement is in to the batsman, Bumrah relies on movement away. It is the combination of Bumrah’s angle – speared into the right-hander, and his seam movement – going away from the right-hander, that make him such a dangerous bowler. Together this in-out duo is what gives rise to the effect of ‘opening up’ the batsman or ‘turning him into an S’ whereby they play down one line, typically challenging the stumps, but end up being beaten on the outside edge by the seam movement away. Handling Bumrah is immensely difficult because of this. Against Shami, England’s batsmen need to remain aware of the threat he is posing to their inside edge by the nip-backer. 

At the death Bumrah is a menace. No pace bowler in the world has a lower economy rate in overs 41 to 50 since the last World Cup than him. It is critical that England do not leave themselves too much to do against Bumrah in this phase of the innings because chances are they’ll come off worse for it. Shami doesn’t reverse the ball at the death, averaging just 0.6 degrees of swing in the last 10 overs, compared to Bumrah’s 0.9 degrees. As such, his plans should be a bit more predictable.

THE SPINNERS

In general, England have played Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal pretty well, despite the odd issue. Since the series last summer, both Indian wrist-spinners have begun to bowl more defensive lines, after being dealt with rather effectively by England. Despite the stereotypical concerns of facing Asian spinners on a dry wicket, England won’t be as concerned by the slower bowlers as they are by Bumrah.

However, there are some key points to remember. If you’re a left-hander, sweeping is a decent option against Chahal. You score at more than 7rpo, and average a very healthy 56.50. However, the same is not true of right-handers.

Chahal doesn’t bowl many googlies at all, roughly one every two overs regardless of whether he’s bowling to right or left-handers. He does increase his percentage the longer the innings goes on, but not by a lot.

By contrasts, Kuldeep Yadav bowls a lot of googlies, roughly one an over to the left-hander and two an over to the right-hander.

England have actually played Kuldeep rather well. After being taken apart by him at Trent Bridge last summer, they adapted their methods. Joe Root was pinned deep in the crease twice by Kuldeep in that first ODI – next two matches he came 1m further forward and counter-acted him. However, in general Kuldeep’s speed means that you can sit right back and play him off the pitch. He bowls a lot of googlies, and you can counter the effectiveness of these by playing him as late as possible.

Against Kuldeep, this is a much better option than sweeping . Neither left-handers or right-handers are able to sweep him effectively, his up and down trajectory so exaggerated that it’s tough to time the stroke appropriately.

Fielding 

In a game like this, the tiniest advantage could be influential. England should be aware of India’s stronger and weaker fielders, so that they can target them, turning ones into twos, twos into threes when possible. Unsurprisingly, the strongest fielder in the Indian squad according to CricViz’s analysis is Ravi Jadeja, renowned as an elite fielder for a long period of time. Perhaps more surprising is seeing Rohit Sharma at the upper end of the list. Similarly, KL Rahul being adjudged a poorer fielder is surprising, but other than that the fielders to target are exactly who you’d expect. Kuldeep, Chahal, Kedar are all weaker fielders than the average, and are worth pushing harder, particularly towards the end of the innings/if the required rate is rising. 

Conclusion

If England use these strategies, they’ll have a chance. India are an elite side, the newly crowned world No.1 team, and will take some beating. But as with everything else about this game, the key is England remembering how good they have been for such a long period of time, and how good they still are. If they can remember that, then we’re going to have one hell of a match on our hands.

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5 replies
  1. Chahat Aggarwal
    Chahat Aggarwal says:

    This is an analysis of the highest quality. Haven’t seen such insightful analysis of team India. Though there are a few typos which you can correct. 140+ and >140, seam instead of swing, etc.
    Anyway, fantastic job!

    Reply
  2. J
    J says:

    Wouldn’t you do an analysis of the top England batsmen and their weaknesses and how to target them and similarly how to target their quicks?

    It’s all nice analysis but clearly biased to only help on side. Good nonetheless.

    Reply

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