Freddie Wilde examines the detail behind Australia’s innings and 80 run defeat in Hobart.
Here you will find detailed analysis highlighted from the CricViz app.
Wide turn stymies spinners
This was a difficult pitch to read with ball-tracking data indicating that it took significant turn from the second day onwards and by the third day was taking more turn on average, 5.14 degrees, than the pitch in Dhaka did at the same stage, 5.09 degrees. The graph below shows the rate at which the pitch turned as the match progressed. However despite this significant deviation only 21 wickets fell in the first 380.1 overs of the match and only when eight fell in the last 69.2 overs did the scorecard begin to reflect the amount of turn on offer.
The critical difference between this pitch and the one in Dhaka was that the extra grass on this pitch held it together far better and for longer meaning in Rajkot the sharpest turning deliveries predictably pitched in worn areas of the pitch, whereas in Dhaka balls spun big unpredictably from previously compact areas of the pitch that were broken up by the impact of the ball.
The nature of this pitch meant that the sharpest turning deliveries pitched well outside the line of the stumps, nearer the bowler’s foot holes, as illustrated by the pitch map above. Naturally more of a threat is posed if balls turn big from within the line of the stumps. 41% of the 58 deliveries that turned more than eight degrees but did pitch within the line of the stumps were bowled in the fourth innings when the pitch was most worn.
England’s spinners improve; India’s get worse
Speaking after the match England’s coach Trevor Bayliss suggested that their spinners had improved their control of length. Ball-tracking data shows this not to be the case with England’s length percentages remaining almost exactly the same as in the Bangladesh series. What they did improve however was their line, illustrated by the pitch map below: they maintained tighter groupings and conceded runs at 3.36 runs per over compared to 3.63 against Bangladesh as a result.
India’s spinners meanwhile bowled with less control than against New Zealand, as illustrated by the pitch map below. This was the flattest of the four pitches India have played on this season and England’s first innings was the longest they have been in the field in a home Test since they played England in Kolkata in 2012. In these less helpful conditions Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja struggled to maintain the exceptional groupings they managed against New Zealand.
England’s best spinner in this match was Adil Rashid who took match figures of 7 for 178. Rashid displayed significant improvement in his control of line and length from the Bangladesh series, illustrated by the pitch map below.
In this Test Rashid landed 60% of his deliveries in a two metre range between four and five metres from the batman’s stumps, in the Bangladesh series that figure was just 46%. The principal improvement came in bowling fuller: against Bangladesh he dropped 14% of deliveries shorter than six metres from the batsman’s stumps, in Rajkot that figure fell to just 9%.
England commit forward and back
It is perhaps too soon to pass judgement on England’s batsmen against spin given that this pitch did not break up and turn as both pitches in Bangladesh did and as they are expected to do more in the rest of this series. However, England’s four centurions, Joe Root, Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes and Alastair Cook, as well as debutant Haseeb Hameed showed really encouraging signs with their footwork against spin. None of Root, Moeen or Stokes played a single shot with footwork categorised as “no movement” in their hundreds suggesting that they committed clearly to going forward or back, which is critical to playing spin well, while Cook played just 28 out of 290 balls in the match as such and Hameed just 12 out of 259.
England escaped defeat in Chittagong thanks largely to a superb all-round performance from Ben Stokes and Bangladesh’s first innings batting collapse; they were not so lucky in Dhaka where their shortcomings playing and bowling spin were exposed again and they crashed to a heavy defeat. There is no shame in losing to this Bangladesh team but there is shame at the manner of the result, in which their batting, bowling and fielding were alarmingly substandard.
It is difficult to ascertain which area of their spin-game, playing it or bowling it is a greater problem and quite frankly it is facile to apportion blame to one or the other; both were poor and both must be improved dramatically if they are to avoid a thrashing at the hands of India.
As bad as England’s batting was though, chasing 273 in the fourth innings was always going to be a very difficult task on a turning pitch against an excellent spin attack, and the size of that run-chase can be traced back to bowling and fielding errors throughout the Test.
After the match Alastair Cook was forthright in admitting that “we didn’t bowl great. And yes, their spinners did out-bowl our spinners. We’re not hiding behind the fact that we haven’t got world-class spinners.”
If the spinners England do have cannot exploit helpful conditions at their disposal then they are always going to struggle to win matches on the subcontinent because they will more often than not be chasing too many runs.
In the first Test England’s spin problem was primarily their inaccuracy and in the second Test the same can be largely said again. England’s inability to land the ball in roughly the same area consistently contributed to Bangladesh’s spinners bowling 15 maidens in the match compared to England’s eight and 50 in the series to England’s 21.
This failure to build pressure prevents spinners finding a rhythm against batsman and lining them up. Balls that turn fractionally more or less than preceding deliveries are far more dangerous if they are bowled at the same batsman rather than a different batsman because the same batsman is more likely to be influenced by the ball before and play down the wrong line.
Cook said that he would be interested to see the stats comparing England’s spin lengths to Bangladesh’s, suggesting that their bowlers maintained a better length. In fact both sets of spinners bowled very similar lengths overall [see below] with Bangladesh over-pitching slightly less, but both teams landing about 60% of deliveries in a two metre range between 3 and 5 metres – categorised as a ‘good’ length for spin bowlers.
England’s lengths, were almost identical to the first Test [see below] while Bangladesh’s actually got slightly worse. The home team were able to maintain more control because they bowled far tighter lines [see above]. Bangladesh’s pitching line groupings are tighter and straighter than England’s which forces the batsman to play and increases the chances of getting a wicket bowled or lbw.
Moeen was the most accurate of England’s three spinners [see below] and improved the percentage of deliveries bowled in the 3-5 metre range from Chittagong from 58% to 61% by cutting down on over-pitched and short deliveries. He also improved his line considerably – recording a far higher percentage of deliveries that would have gone onto hit the stumps. Rashid’s lengths actually got worse from Chittagong, most notably pitching 13% of his deliveries six metres or shorter. Ansari, meanwhile, recorded better lengths than Gareth Batty did but struggled to maintain his line.
Speaking after the match Cook explained the problem inaccurate bowling poses for setting fields. “You always feel you are a fielder short,” he said. “If you are leaking four, five runs an over in a low scoring game you have to put your boundary-riders out. It would be great if you could attack but you have got to hold your line and length better.”
England struggled to play spin just as much as they struggled to bowl it. Their dramatic collapse from 100 for 0 to 164 all out in a single session was the vertex of a problem that had been made all too apparent in the three preceding innings in the series in which they were 106 for 5, 62 for 5 and 114 for 6.
As has already been mentioned, batting in these conditions is not easy and Bangladesh have a very good spin attack, however to lose ten wickets in a single session is indicative of a more deep-rooted problem.
In terms of personnel, five of England’s top seven: Cook, Joe Root, Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow, are proven performers at this level and are guaranteed selection, while Ben Duckett’s second innings fifty showed enormous promise. Only Gary Ballance, who could well be dropped for the first Test in India, can be said to be out of his depth. In this sense England’s problem is not who, it is how – it is technique and strategy.
What has characterised the success of Bangladesh’s spinners, like that of Ravi Ashwin, Ravi Jadeja and Rangana Herath too in recent years, has been the lack of ‘mystery’ in their bowling. Rather than doosras and carom balls posing the threat instead it has been orthodox spin bowling. Alongside their accuracy these bowlers’ chief weapon is very slight differences in deviation and the key variation is the one that goes straight on. What makes this particular variation so deadly is that more often than not it is a natural variation, meaning it cannot be consistently read from the hand.
Eight of the fourteen dismissals of England’s top seven batsmen were to deliveries that deviated less than the average for any of the frontline spin bowlers [see below]. Playing against natural variations such as these is understandably difficult because there are no visual cues on which to predicate decision making other than the trajectory of spin after pitching, by which point the reaction time is negligible unless the batsman has gone back deep in his crease and therefore has some time to adjust, or, the spin can be nullified if the batsman is well forward and has smothered the turn. This reemphasises the importance of clearly committing either forward or back.
Given the average height and stride length of a batsman, deciding whether to commit well forward or well back is particularly difficult to balls pitched between 3 and 5 metres from the batsman’s stumps, within which 60% of all Bangladesh’s spinners deliveries landed, and also, as the match progresses and bounce becomes less predictable, balls pitched between 5 and 6 metres from the stumps, within which a further 21% of the spinners’ deliveries landed.
All the deliveries to dismiss England’s top seven batsmen excluding Ballance’s second innings leading edge pitched within this three metre range. This illustrates how difficult it must have been for England to commit either forward or back to those balls that they got out to because they were landing within a length range in which making the appropriate footwork is extremely difficult and even then once having committed either back or forward they then have to play the ball successfully. The less committed they are to going forward or back the less spin they will have smothered or the less time they will have to adjust.
The foundational aspect to succeeding against spin bowling therefore is reading the length well, something that England are going to have to work on ahead of the India series where the opposition is even stiffer.
You would not have required an expert knowledge of cricket to make the visual observation that the wicket prepared for Bangladesh’s historic Test win over England was a raging “bunsen”. The pseudo-Cockney slang term (bunsen burner = “turner”) indicates a wicket particularly conducive to spin, and traditionally alien to cricketers brought up in English conditions.
What was less usual about this particular surface was that it turned from the word go and did not deteriorate as such. CricViz ball-tracking data shows England debutant Zafar Ansari was getting deliveries to turn a whopping 11 degrees on day one. The most successful bowler in the match by some distance – Mehedi Hasan, who brilliantly captured 12 wickets – was peaking at between nine and 10 degrees deep into the final session.
The BatViz slider on the CricViz app provides further evidence to support this theory. Rather than showing a gradual move towards maximum difficulty, it reveals fluctuations throughout the course of the match.
And that’s really what made the Test match quite as fascinating as it was: three big partnerships, one of 170, one of 100 and one of 99 (by England’s ninth-wicket pair, no less) and yet modest totals of 220, 244, 296 and 164. If ever there was a track where batsmen had to get themselves in before finding any confidence then this was it.
What was surprising was that only one spinner in the match consistently caused problems, and that was Mehedi – the man who turned 19 in the short window between the Tests. A fairly conventional off-spinner in style, he would have been delighted to find himself up against four left-handers in the England top six – and by bowling round the wicket to them he worried the outside edge of their bats with the one that turned a lot, and the stumps with the one that didn’t turn so much.
His first wicket in the match was the key one of Alastair Cook, and it came early. The six balls in Mehedi’s first over had turned between 3.7 degrees and 6.9 degrees. The six in his second varied even more widely, turning between 2.7 and 7.3 degrees. Cook had faced 10 of those 12 deliveries and was on strike again when Mehedi bowled the first ball of his third.
This one turned the least of all of Mehedi’s deliveries up to then, just 1.7 degrees. You may have heard commentators at the time mentioning the ball “skidding on”. Well that’s partly becuse the ball didn’t bounce particularly high either – 55cm from a pitching position five metres from the stumps. A considerably fuller ball in his previous over had bounced higher. With variable bounce and variable degree of spin to account for, there was much in favour of high-quality spin even against the most watchful batting and Cook was a gonner – lbw after a successful review by the Bangladesh team.
Even good right-handed batsmen were prey to Mehedi’s variations. Jonny Bairstow, statistically England’s best batsman in 2016, had survived for almost an hour when also falling lbw to the young man from Khulna. This one was pitched 58cm shorter than the ball he had trapped Cook lbw with but bounced even less and Bairstow, playing off the back foot to give himself time to assess the degree of spin, was unable to adjust to the low bounce.
The most important wicket of all for Mehedi was Cook in the second innings. England were by now in deep trouble at 127-4 needing 273, but with their captain still there on 59, an in-form partner in the shape of Ben Stokes and a capable tail to come the beast had not yet been slain.
“I always wanted to do well whenever I got the opportunity. I didn’t really think it would be this series. It could have been any time in the next year or two. I wanted to come into the national team with a strong mentality so that I could perform well” – Mehedi
This delivery was again at the perfect in-between length. On another pitch Cook might well have played back to it, but perhaps wary of the manner in which he had fallen in the first innings, he came forward and looked to push runs into the off-side. But this was a slower one from Mehedi and it turned a fair bit, not too much as Cook would have missed it and the delivery would have been wasted but at 6.2 degrees of spin it was just right, slightly more than the average spin achieved by Mehedi through the match, and enough to locate a thick outside edge – and for the man at silly point to complete a fine catch.
Mehedi’s consistency of length was so important. He bowled 78% of his deliveries in the match on a good length, so was constantly provoking doubts in English batsmen. As for England’s spinners, they fell well short of this, particularly in the first innings where they collectively sent down just 40% of deliveries on a good length (Moeen Ali the best of a very poor bunch with a 50% ratio). And that really says it all: when you’re a slow bowler there is no substitute for being able to exert control over your opponents – just think back to the halcyon days of Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne. Mehedi had it; England’s spinners did not.
There is a footnote to this blog and it concerns the value of picking a talented young player unexposed to the rigours of hard-toil professional cricket across multiple formats. Mehedi is the first teenager ever to take 19 wickets in his first two Tests.
England are famously reluctant to pick teenagers for Test cricket. One of the most remarkable stats I found during the Dhaka Test was that in all, only five teenagers have ever represented England in Test cricket. Bangladesh, who began playing Tests more than a century after England, have had 26.
And another thing: when given their head, talented youngsters have tended to do well in the bowling department. Three bowlers took 50 Test wickets as teenagers, and you may well have heard of them: Waqar Younis, Daniel Vettori and Mohammad Amir.
Bangladesh have produced four of the most productive teenage batsmen ever, including England’s nemesis Tamim Iqbal, in a list headed overall by a certain Sachin Tendulkar, who amassed 1,522 runs before turning 20.
Perhaps the two most important areas of a team’s game to win Test matches in Asia are scoring big top order runs and the spin bowlers bowling well. England won this Test despite doing neither of those things: their top order failed twice and their spin bowlers had a limited effect on the match.
That England managed to win despite these shortcomings can be seen as an example of their strength in depth, and that they were given a tough fight from start to finish by Bangladesh can be seen as a benefit for their preparation ahead of their series against India, but that the top order struggled so plainly against spin and that their own spinners could not cause similar discomfort should be cause for concern ahead of six more Tests in Asia this winter.
Admittedly, the combination of a fantastic Bangladesh performance, a dry, turning pitch and playing in searing heat was about as tough an introduction to cricket in Bangladesh as there can be and England deserve credit for winning not ridicule for how close it was. However, India will pose England a far tougher test than Bangladesh and although it is too soon to draw any firm conclusions they will need to improve on this performance if they are to stand any chance in India.
England’s top-order will be a primary area of concern after their first three wickets fell for under 30 in both innings for the first time in a Test match in Asia and thereafter they were 106 for 5 and 62 for 5. 19 of the 20 England wickets to fall did so to spin bowling as their top four batsmen, Joe Root’s first innings 40 aside, struggled to cope against Bangladesh’s three frontline spinners. The balls that took the wickets were, more often than not, excellent deliveries but Ben Duckett and Gary Ballance, both unproven in these conditions, need to find ways to rotate the strike and ensure they don’t allow spinners to settle into a rhythm against them. Duckett’s footwork was particularly stodgy in his second innings with him not committing either back or forward, instead stuck on the crease, to 31% of his 34 deliveries.
The performances of Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow with the bat were instructive. Although this was a match in which batting against spin appeared to get easier as the ball got older both Stokes and Bairstow batted excellently, succeeding where Duckett could not: playing with no or minimal footwork on only 1.98% and 2.38% of the time respectively – well below the match average and demonstrating clear committal to playing forward or back, allowing them to smother the spin or adjust their shot according to it. Moeen Ali’s first innings 68 also bore lessons of patience with him only scoring one run playing against the spin from the 54 deliveries bowled by left arm spinners. He was more clinical against the off spin of Mehedi Hasan, three times hitting brilliant boundaries against the spin. He was judicious in choosing the moments to attack however, recording the lowest attacking shot percentage, 41%, of any innings of more than 25 runs in the match.
England’s batting depth benefitted them notably, allowing them to capitalise on the passages of play when batting got easier against the older ball – Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid contributed 90 valuable runs.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this match was Alastair Cook’s hesitation to entrust his spinners with responsibility, instead turning to Stokes and Stuart Broad when the match reached its climax. Cook has been criticised for this and for his defensive field settings which did allow singles to be taken fairly easily, and while these may be fair claims it is important to remember that they are in part influenced by the inaccuracy of his spinners and Cook’s desire to cut off boundaries.
The trouble with England’s spinners is not that they can’t bowl wicket-taking balls—they took 11 of the 13 wickets of Bangladesh’s top seven batsmen—but rather that they struggle to maintain control – 12.32% of deliveries bowled by England’s spinners were over-pitched (fuller than three meters from the batsman) compared to 6.70% for Bangladesh’s – and against better batsmen the pressure they release will diminish their wicket-taking threat. In this match they still took 12 wickets between them but Moeen and Rashid in particular were expensive. England can perhaps take some comfort from the fact that their inaccuracy is largely a product of over-pitching rather than under-pitching suggesting they are trying to bowl an attacking length.
On the subcontinent pitches tend to give spinners plenty of assistance – the challenge therefore is exploiting that by bowling accurately – England will need to improve this – and at the right pace, which encouragingly England largely appeared to do. Batty could have perhaps bowled a touch quicker but the signs in terms of pace, are positive.
The success of Stokes and Broad in getting the ball to reverse swing was important because like the lower order batting it allowed England to dominate old-ball phases of the match. It does also throw up a tactical proposition that if it can be maintained then England could perhaps look at their seam bowlers as wicket-takers and their spin bowlers as containers. This will require the spinners to offer more control than they did in this Test however and is a high-risk strategy in that reverse swing requires careful management of ball shining and a greater emphasis on seam bowlers will exhaust the attack.
While the result of this series, a Pakistan win, might not have been a total shock given that it was being played in the UAE, the margin of it, three-nil, and of each victory, 111, 59 and 136 runs, was. There was little between the teams in the rankings before the series with West Indies eighth and Pakistan ninth and both teams chasing valuable points for automatic World Cup qualification; on the pitch however, there was an enormous gulf in class.
This was an encouraging result for a Pakistan team in their third series under new coach Mickey Arthur. Particularly impressive was their batting – perennially their weaker suit in limited overs cricket – which registered scores of 284 for 9, 337 for 5 and 308 for 6. Their series run rate of 6.23 is their second best ever against major opposition.
The standout player was of course Babar Azam who scored a century in each match on his way to surpassing Sir Vivian Richards as the leading ODI run-scorer after 18 matches with 886 runs. The top five generally were very impressive with Azhar Ali, Sharjeel Khan, Shoaib Malik, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Azam scoring 806 runs between them at an average of 62 and a strike rate of 99.87.
This series offers an interesting case-study of Pakistan’s approach in ODIs because in none of the three matches did they suffer a significant collapse meaning they were able to apply their strategy largely unaffected. Analying their innings in ten over phases reveals their strategy to be one of attack in the Powerplay, led by Sharjeel, followed by a consolidation and a gradual increase through the middle overs towards the last ten. Their ten over phase run rates were 6.23, 4.73, 6.43, 6.00 and 8.03.
Although Azam was the leading run-scorer for Pakistan it is hard to look beyond Sharjeel as Pakistan’s most important player not only in this series but to Pakistan’s batting strategy more generally.
Sharjeel is Pakistan’s only player with a career strike rate of more than 100 and his aggression in the Powerplay is integral to affording Ali and Azam the time to play themselves in. Across his first ten balls in this series Sharjeel’s strike rate was 130.00, while Ali and Azam’s was 56.86; across his next ten balls Sharjeel’s strike rate was 145.45, while Ali and Azam’s was was 70.00, only after facing 30 balls did Ali and Azam’s strike rate begin to rise towards a run-a-ball and once they had faced around 70 they begun scoring at consistently more than a run-a-ball.
Interestingly there was only a very subtle difference in intent from Pakistan’s batsmen in this series compared to the series against England that they lost 4-1, playing at 3.05% more deliveries and attacking 2.17% more. It seems that the critical difference, beyond the opposition and conditions, was that Sharjeel played three quick fire cameos at the start of the innings, with strike rates of 125.58, 200.00 and 92.68. Sharjeel’s aggression alleviated the pressure on Ali and Azam, who were able to play themselves in without feeling forced to play more positively, and as a result Pakistan did not lose as many early wickets as they did against England and were able to stay in control of their run rate, attacking balls they wanted to attack rather than those they felt compelled to after rebuilding.
There is a fragility to Pakistan’s batting success in this series. Ali and Azam are capable of scoring at strike rates of around 90 and may well get better at doing so earlier in their innings but currently they take their time to do so. While Shoaib and Sarfraz are in a bracket above in terms of scoring rate Shoaib has only played eight innings of more than 20 balls at a strike rate of above 110 since 2010 and Sarfraz has only played three ever. With little lower-order firepower below Shoaib and Sarfraz to speak of this batting order places enormous importance on the contribution of Sharjeel to get Pakistan off to a quick start to allow Ali and Azam to play themselves in which subsequently doesn’t leave Shoaib and Sarfraz too much to do when they come to the crease.
Pakistan would go a long way to solving this problem by unearthing more lower-order firepower, thereby lifting pressure on the squeezed middle order from below as well as above. Pakistan’s run rate of 8.03 in the final ten overs in the series may not seem too bad but in this era most teams are scoring at nearer 10 in that phase. Pakistan have failed to score more than 75 in their final ten overs seven times in their last ten ODIs batting first (HT: Hassan Cheema).
Although Ali scored a hundred in the third match of the series, doubts about his ability to score fast enough in limited overs cricket remain, and it is an inconvenient possibility that Pakistan’s ODI team would be better off without their captain. While most teams now have two power players in their top three, Pakistan have just the one and the effects of that are felt throughout the batting order.
The lingering uncertainty surrounding Pakistan’s ODI batting should not tarnish the acceleration of the emergence of Azam in this series who appears a to be a fantastic player. He scored runs off all types of bowling, on both sides of the ground, off front and back foot and coming down the pitch and did so at a healthy strike rate. It is possible to see him filling a Joe Root-style role at number three for Pakistan for a long time to come.
For the West Indies this was a bitterly disappointing series. With the ball they were unable to expose the holes in Pakistan’s batting and when chasing they got off to slow starts, struggling to time the ball despite positive intent, missing or edging 18.81% of their shots and they found it hard to rotate the strike, recording a dot ball percentage of 54.12% compared to Pakistan’s 38.30%. Ultimately they fell too far behind the rate too early to make their way back against Pakistan’s spin bowlers on slow pitches.
Freddie Wilde is an analyst at CricViz.
India 316 (Pujara 87, Rahane 77, Saha 54*, Henry 3-46) and 263 (Rohit 82, Saha 58*, Boult 3-38, Henry 3-59, Santner 3-60) beat New Zealand 204 (Bhuveneshwar 5-48) and 197 (Latham 74, Jadeja, 3-41, Shami 3-46, Ashwin 3-82) by 178 runs
Pakistan’s 3-0 whitewash of the T20 world champions West Indies was a stunning result and one that uncovered the shortcomings of West Indies’ power-hitting strategy on slow pitches with big boundaries and also suggested the capability of Pakistan’s bowling attack to become one of the world’s best.
Before the start of this series the West Indies had won six of their seven completed T20 matches in 2016 and had utilised a deep and powerful batting order but in this series it was largely their batting that lost them each of the three matches.
In the first match, batting first, they were reduced to 22 for 5 before being bowled out for 115; in the second match, chasing 161, they were reduced to 19 for 3 and then 45 for 4 before finishing 144 for 9 and in the third match, batting first, they were reduced to 31 off 4 before scrapping their way to 103 for 5.
The first two matches of the series were played in Dubai while the third was played in Abu Dhabi. Pitches in the UAE are slower and lower than elsewhere and the boundaries are bigger; such conditions, where the ball does not come onto the bat as well and the bounce is less predictable, are not conducive to power-hitting which is largely dependent on the ability to swing hard and fast through the expected line of the ball and being rewarded for this is understandably made harder as the size of the boundary increases. The conditions therefore required the West Indies to adapt their method but they didn’t.
Prior to this series the slog made up 10% of the shots played by the West Indies in 2016, in this series that number fell slightly to 7% but tellingly the strike rate of those shots fell from 242 to 51, the average from 31 to five and the shots per dismissal from 13 to nine. Similarly, prior to this series the pull shot made up 8% of shots played by the West Indies in 2016, in this series that number actually increased fractionally but again the strike rate of those shots fell from 261 to 151, the average from 68 to 15 and the shots per dismissal from 26 to ten. Similar falls were experienced for the cut shot as well. Revealingly, the shot-types that failed the West Indies were cross-batted shots – ill-advised on slower, lower pitches. Unsurprisingly the larger boundaries in the UAE correlate with a rise in the strike rates for working, pushing, flicking and steering the ball.
The conditions in the UAE mean boundaries are harder to come by and running between the wickets assumes greater importance but it is clear from the shot-type analysis that the West Indies either failed or refused to recognise this.
Speaking after the first match West Indies captain Carlos Brathwaite appeared to suggest that it was not the shot selection but shot execution that cost his team. “We didn’t execute it the way we wanted to,” he said. “On some other day those same shots could have gone for boundaries and sixes.” Brathwaite did admit however that his players needed to be more “situation aware” for the following two matches. There was some improvement in this regard with West Indies scoring 144 in the second match and Marlon Samuels and Kieron Pollard restraining their aggressive instincts in the third match but they failed to find a gear in between attack and defence and both scored at well under a run-a-ball. Samuels’ innings was the third slowest of all innings to have lasted at least 50 balls in T20i history.
Interestingly this is not the first time that West Indies’ approach has been exposed on such pitches. Earlier this year on the low, slow Nagpur pitch during the World T20 West Indies narrowly beat South Africa and lost to Afghanistan.
The West Indies’ task in this series was undoubtedly made more difficult by the brilliance of Pakistan’s bowling attack which, in four consecutive T20s including their win against England, has been superb.
Pakistan’s attack is made up of an eclectic mix of bowlers of varying styles, paces, angles and trajectories. Their unpredictability and variation combined with the low, slow UAE pitches makes them hard to dominate.
Pakistan played the same team in the first two matches before making two changes for the last match but in all three, and the match against England earlier in the month, their bowling order and changes followed a similar structure demonstrating the existence of a clear plan of who would bowl when and it was stuck to.
Left arm spinner Imad Wasim, who took nine wickets, the joint-second highest wicket-haul in a series of three matches or fewer, bowled the first and third over in each of the three matches and took three, one and two wickets in his three opening spells, setting the West Indies back early on and from there they could not recover.
Imad generally bowls an accurate line and length, largely full and very straight, relying on subtle changes in length, line, pace, angle and trajectory to avoid batsmen lining him up and waits for the batsman to miss, something the West Indies, attacking hard, did regularly on two-paced pitches with unpredictable bounce. Six of his nine wickets were bowled or LBW.
Imad largely bowled two different lengths: a traditional good length pitching between four and seven metres from the stumps and a fuller change-up length between one and four metres. In the match against England it was the fuller length that took him two wickets, here in this series, all his wickets came from the more regular length deliveries.
The damage done by Imad was reinforced and built on by the rest of the attack. Left arm seamer Sohail Tanvir bowled from over the wicket, angling the ball across right handers and into left handers, largely from back of a length, between seven and ten metres from the batsmen with the yorker and changes in pace, dropping to as low as 55mph, as variation.
Right arm seamer Hasan Ali bowled over the wicket and varied his length and pace with almost every delivery, rarely bowling similar balls consecutively with his speeds ranging between mid-80s to high-60s.
Left armers Wahab Riaz, entirely from over the wicket, and Mohammad Amir from over and round, were employed as impact bowlers, relying on significant changes of pace from around 90 mph to mid-60s and regular short deliveries. Left armer Rumman Raees bowled a slightly fuller average length than Wahab and Amir and dropped his pace from mid-80s to mid-60s almost every other ball.
The attack was completed by left arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz and off spinner Shoaib Malik who varied their line and length subtly and within a small range, never trying anything notably unusual but changing things just enough to ensure the batsmen could not settle.
The variation in style and strategy offered by Pakistan’s bowling attack is well-suited to T20 where being unpredictable is key. It will be fascinating to see them on flatter pitches with smaller boundaries to see if they can maintain their impressive form in more difficult conditions for bowling. Make no mistake though, this was a hugely impressive series victory for Pakistan and an equally, if not more unimpressive, series defeat for the West Indies.
Freddie Wilde is an analyst at CricViz.
India 318 (Vijay 65, Pujara 62, Boult 3-67, Santner 3-94) and 377 for 5 dec (Pujara 78, Vijay 76, Rohit 68*, Jadeja 50*) beat New Zealand 262 (Williamson 75, Latham 58, Jadeja 5-73, Ashwin 4-93) and 236 (Ronchi 80, Santner 71, Ashwin 6-132) by 197 runs
Unsurprisingly since India’s home Tests have begun being played on big turning pitches, this match was decided by spin: both how it was bowled and played. On both counts India were the better of the two teams. India’s two spinners, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja took 16 wickets at an economy rate of 2.65; New Zealand’s three spinners, Mark Craig, Michell Santner and Ish Sodhi took eight at 3.58.
After South Africa’s large first innings score in the Second Test at Centurion it was always going to be difficult for New Zealand to save the match with South Africa able to set aggressive fields and reap the benefits of scoreboard pressure. However South Africa still had to take twenty New Zealand wickets and they did so thanks largely to Dale Steyn who took 8-99 from 36.2 overs in the match.
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