Here you will find detailed analysis highlighted from the CricViz app.

ROOT’S MANCHESTER MASTERCLASS

England v Pakistan, Second Test, Day Two Analysis

Pakistan 57 for 4 (Masood 30*, Misbah 1*, Woakes 3-18) trail England 589 for 8 dec (Root 254, Cook 105) by 532 runs

Read more

COOK AND ROOT SHOW ENGLAND THE WAY

England v Pakistan, Second Test, Day One Analysis

England 314 for 4 (Root 141*, Cook 105) v Pakistan

Read more

RAHAT ALI: FROM UNDER THE RADAR TO OVER THE MOON AT LORD’S

While all the focus before the first Test at Lord’s had been on the return of Mohammad Amir to the Pakistan side, few were highlighting the talents of fellow left-arm seamer Rahat Ali. Indeed, Rahat came into the series as very much the least heralded of Pakistan’s left-arm trio that also included Wahab Riaz. English fans of course knew all about Amir, while Wahab’s match winning spell of 4-66 in Dubai in October was evidence that he could cause the home side plenty of problems in even the toughest conditions for fast bowlers.

Nonetheless, at Lord’s this week it was Rahat who quietly went about his business and made key contributions to Pakistan going 1-0 in the four match series. With England chasing 283 for victory on a pitch that was still adequate for batting, the visitors needed early wickets to keep them in check and it was Rahat who delivered.

In his eight over spell with the new ball, the England batsmen played no shot to just 15 of his 48 deliveries. That was despite our ball tracking data showing that only a fraction over 2% of all his balls bowled would have gone on to hit the stumps. In essence, this tells us that England were playing at balls they could have left and on this occasion it proved to be their downfall.

The ball to dismiss Alastair Cook was a classic seamer’s dismissal – a hint of movement (0.89°) through the air towards the left hander before finding just enough deviation off the pitch (0.66°) to hold its line and draw the outside edge.

Next to depart was Alex Hales, an opponent whom Rahat is enjoying bowling against so far in this series. He only bowled nine balls in the whole match to the Nottinghamshire opener but that was enough to pick up his wicket in both innings. On each occasion, Hales was caught in the slip cordon; however what is noticeable is how much Rahat varied his length to him, even in the relatively low number of balls he bowled.

In the first innings, Rahat bowled three balls on a good length (roughly six metres from the batsman’s stumps) with one back of a length at eight metres and a fuller delivery at 3.9 metres. However, his four deliveries in the second innings to Hales were much shorter; the first three pitching at 9.9 metres, 9.6 metres and 8.1 metres before the wicket ball that was slightly fuller at 7.6 metres. This variance in length prevented the batsman from settling and drew the false shot – it is clear from Hales’ hesitant footwork for his second innings dismissal that he was unsure what length to expect. The Rahat v Hales contest could be one to look out for in the remainder of the series if this pattern continues.

It seems hard to believe now that Rahat was very nearly not even selected to play in this match. Sohail Khan picked up 3-26 in the first warm up match against Somerset before Imran Khan impressed during his 2-60 against Sussex. Either one of those right-arm bowlers could have taken Rahat’s place but the selectors opted for the left-arm triumvirate and it paid dividends. It perhaps goes to show the benefits of competition in a squad; the need for a player to perform when he knows there are team mates knocking on the door to take his place.

The final blow from Rahat in his opening spell was the big wicket of Joe Root. With what was his second shortest ball of his spell at that stage (11.8 metres from the batsman), he forced Root to hole out to square leg and England were in real trouble at 47-3. Wahab and Amir would go on to have their say later in the innings, not to mention the brilliance of man of the match, Yasir Shah. But at that stage, Pakistan’s unsung hero had seized the moment and set his side on their way to famous victory.

ENGLAND IN A SPIN

Much of the talk in the aftermath of England’s defeat to Pakistan in the first Test at Lord’s was on the contrast between Moeen Ali and his Pakistani counterpart Yasir Shah.

As Yasir sprung to the top of the ICC Test rankings for bowlers, Moeen now has his place under threat. While Yasir got more turn and had a had a higher chance of taking wickets according to nearest neighbour analysis, the difference in terms of pure data between the two bowlers was a slim one.

England v Pakistan 1st Test, Lord'sMoeen AliYasir Shah
Average degrees of turn3.223.86
Average length (metres from stumps)4.6m4.64m
Average weighted runs per ball0.430.43
Average wicket probability per ball (%)1.21.34

Moeen didn’t bowl badly. He performs at pretty close to his potential ability as possible, maintaining a consistent line and length and getting the ball to turn on a regular basis.

While he had the odd horror ball, like the ball in each innings that slipped out of his hand and got to the batsmen at head height, this was a steady performance by England’s spinner. He was just played very well by the Pakistan players, especially Misbah-ul-Haq in the first innings, who took him for 32 runs from just 23 balls, including seven fours. Misbah targeted him successfully in the first innings, but less so second time around.

This is not to say Moeen is as good a bowler as Yasir, who is clearly a world class performer streets ahead of the England off spinner, but the difference between the two is not as simple as saying Moeen bowled badly and Yasir bowled well.

The massive difference between these two bowlers is that Yasir has the ability to turn the ball both ways. Every single delivery that Moeen pitched in this Test turned from off to leg, so into the right hander and away from the left hander. There was a wide range of the degrees of turn, from 0.69 degrees to 7.9 degrees, but all of them went the same way. The batsmen knew what to expect and could adjust.

Yasir on the other hand got the ball to turn in both directions. His biggest leg break turned 11.16 degrees, his biggest turning googly moved 2.81 degrees the other way. A difference of 13.97 degrees – more than enough to keep a batsman guessing.

Batsmen can play with more confidence against off-spin than they can against high quality leg-spin. This difference in approach is very apparent in the context of these teams’ respective batting line-ups. England as a batting unit lack a plan against Yasir that the tourists have for Moeen.

The point here is that Moeen is not objectively bowling badly, he is just struggling to trouble Test class batsmen on a consistent basis. The question isn’t one of whether he is bowling well, it is whether he is good enough at this level. If it was a question of form rather than ability the fix would be an easier one, but throughout his career Moeen has made the absolute most of what he has got.

Adil Rashid has been brought into the squad for the Old Trafford Test. He has the advantage of possessing a googly that can turn the other way from his stock ball, something that Moeen has never mastered despite occasional talk of him working on a Doosra. That makes him a different challenge for the Pakistan batsmen, but history tells us that Rashid is more likely to bowl boundary balls than Moeen, not less.

With few other notable spin options in county cricket the selectors have a straight choice between premier off-spinner and leg-spinner. However, with a glut of all-rounders at their disposal they might choose both for the second Test.

Yasir, offering control and wicket-taking threat, is two bowlers in one. It is perhaps logical that England need to select two spinners to instil those characteristics in their spin attack.

Masterful Misbah

In the build up to their tour of England, Pakistan’s cricketers were put through the toughest training routines of their lives by the Pakistan Army. As they punched above their weight to improve their fitness levels, the go-to exercise at the camp was a set of 10 push-ups. Perhaps fittingly, then, as Pakistan’s most successful Test captain brought up his hundred on the opening day of the Lord’s Test, he proceeded to do another set of 10 push-ups. At 42, he got through the push-ups with great ease. 

Almost six years ago, Misbah ul Haq was so frustrated with how he was being treated by the Pakistani selectors that he wanted to burn his kit. His career would have ended having played 19 Tests with a batting average of 33.60 – low enough for him to fade into obscurity and have no legacy. Fast forward six years and a 42-year old resilient Misbah has, to his credit, 4,462 Test runs in 61 matches. Age, they say, is only a number. Misbah is perhaps a living example of this.

Pakistan’s tour of England is extremely significant for Misbah, both as a player and as a captain. This is, afterall, his first Test tour of England in a career spanning 14 years now (he has only played consistently since October 2010). In fact, out of his career tally of 61 Tests, he has only played 11 matches in England, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Assessments of Misbah’s batting talent have always taken this fact into account. He has plenty of runs in conditions that favour batsmen but what about testing conditions? A 100 at the Home of Cricket is not a bad way to prove one’s ability.

The tour also holds great significance for Misbah as captain because his legend as captain is built around victories in the UAE. Since 2010, his team has guarded the UAE fortress remarkably well. They have not lost a series at their home away from home in these six years. However, during the same time, Misbah’s side has not played a single Test in England and Australia. In South Africa, they were blanked 3-0. So, how can Misbah be ranked as Pakistan’s most successful Test captain if he has not been tested where others have succeeded? 

So, as he walked out of the Long Room for the toss this morning, Misbah knew he had to deliver as both, player and captain.

Opting to bat first after winning the toss was a no-brainer. With the sun out, Pakistan just needed to get through the new ball on a harmless Lord’s pitch. But that would make life simple, uncomplicated, and non-Pakistani. Post lunch, Pakistan found themselves in a tangle at 77/3 and in walked Misbah.

Misbah has reduced his body fat and looks leaner and fitter. But doing all this at the ripe old age of 42 runs the risk of also losing balance as a batter. Misbah had adjusted his technique accordingly. For one, his knees are more bent than they used to be before this tour. This braced position has helped him to maintain his balance while at the crease. He also took guard closer to the off-stump, an attempt to gain better off-stump awareness. There seemed to be a conscious effort to bring down a straight bat barring a few extremely tempting freebies from Moeen Ali.

Most importantly, there was positive intent after a familiar start to his innings during which he blocked nearly everything. During Pakistan’s last tour of England in 2010, Pakistani batsmen regularly made the mistake of trying to block everything. As a result, the scorecard did not move and wickets were lost. It is no surprise then that Misbah batted with a strike rate of 61, 17 better than his career strike rate. The innings itself was a mixed bag. Against the pacers, he showed caution except when Steven Finn began drifting down the leg side. Against the spin of Moeen Ali, he became brutal hitting him for 32 runs off 23 balls.

Even though Pakistan will rue the soft dismissals from Day 1, they could probably not have asked for a better start to a tough tour. Sitting at a healthy 282/6, they now have their last recognised batting pair on the crease and getting through the first session tomorrow will be key. Misbah has passed his first test as a player with flying colours – in his first Test innings in England, he is unbeaten on 110. His name will now make its way to the famous Lord’s honour board.

As captain, he knows fully well that the game has only just started.

ANALYSING ADIL RASHID

England’s stand-out bowler in the first two matches of the five match ODI series against Sri Lanka has arguably been Adil Rashid. In both games, bowling ten consecutive overs, he has recorded his best economy rate in ODI cricket, first 3.60 and then 3.40. He did not take any wickets at Trent Bridge, although he did build the pressure for Moeen Ali to dismiss Dinesh Chandimal, but took two at Edgbaston in a pivotal spell which ensured Sri Lanka set an under-par target that was subsequently chased with ease. While Jason Roy and Alex Hales’ record-breaking partnership stole the headlines, Rashid’s 2 for 34 was possibly the more important performance.

Length

The defining feature of Rashid’s bowling has been his accuracy. Leg-spin is a delicate art in which the slightest error in action or release can cause dramatic misdirection but in the first two ODIs Rashid has displayed ability and skills that suggests he may have taken his game to the next level.

Over the 120 deliveries Rashid has bowled his average pitching length has been 4.88 metres from the stumps and he has bowled 100 of his deliveries in a three metre range between three and six metres. From this length-range he has conceded 52 runs and taken two wickets. He has over-pitched from this range on five occasions and has dropped it shorter on 16, although 12 of those are in the six to seven metre range from which only eight runs have been scored.

Screen Shot 2016-06-25 at 15.42.42

Interestingly, analysing his lengths by match clearly shows how he bowled fuller in the second ODI. Having gone wicketless in the first match perhaps Rashid, striving for wickets, pitched the ball further up in an effort to tempt the batsmen to drive. Having bowled ten deliveries in the three to four metre range in the first match he bowled 17 in the second and bowled a more consistently full length delivering 51 of his 60 deliveries in the three to six metre range, compared to 48 of his 60 in the first. The charts below illustrate this.

Screen Shot 2016-06-25 at 15.42.53

Line

Rashid has also displayed excellent control of his line in the series bowling 85 of his 120 deliveries on or outside off stump from which he has conceded just 51 runs and taken one of his two wickets. As well as bowling fuller in the second ODI Rashid also bowled straighter, as the charts below show.

Screen Shot 2016-06-25 at 17.01.53

After delivering 34 of his 60 balls outside off stump at Trent Bridge he delivered none there at Edgbaston; the result of this was that it forced the batsmen to play at more deliveries and to hit more against the spin through the leg-side. This proved to be the case as Sri Lanka scored 52% of their runs off Rashid through the leg-side in the second match compared to 27% in the first.

Speed

Rashid’s average speed across the two matches has been 49.11 mph which, although slightly faster than his average speed in his last ODI series against South Africa of 48.55, is still relatively slow for a leg-spin bowler. By sake of comparison Piyush Chawla, Amit Mishra and Imran Tahir all normally average in the mid-50s.

Terry Jenner, the leg-spin coach who mentored Shane Warne during his career, advised that “the right pace to bowl at is the pace where you gain your maximum spin.” Our data shows that if Rashid is seeking more turn he should in fact bowl slightly slower still. This is illustrated by the chart below which shows degrees of deviation on the Y axis in relation to the speed of delivery on the X axis. The yellow line represents Rashid’s average speed.

Sacrificing pace for turn is a risky strategy however. The slower the pace the longer a batsman has to adjust his footwork, shot selection and shape. Anyhow, Rashid’s bowling figures suggests there is no need for anything to change. It is useful to know at least, that a slower speed may produce some additional turn.

Screen Shot 2016-06-25 at 19.41.20

Variation and Strategy

The large majority of Rashid’s deliveries are leg-breaks. However, he is not afraid to use his googly and bowled seven in the first ODI and five in the second (deviation to the leg-side displayed in the chart below does not necessarily represent a googly due to deviation caused by natural variation off the pitch and angle of delivery).

The value of the googly to a leg-spinner is pervasive: once a batsman knows a bowler has one and is willing to use it new dimensions are added to the contest. Firstly a batsman is worried about reading the spin and secondly he has to adjust how he plays each delivery. Even if the ball is a leg-spinner the batsman has to be wary of the one that turns back in. The danger of a googly does not end with the delivery itself.

The chart below maps out Rashid’s two spells ball-by-ball and gives clues as to the pattern of his strategy.

Screen Shot 2016-06-25 at 17.33.18

It is noticeable how Rashid does not employ the googly early. This could be because he wants to find his rhythm with his leg-break before moving onto variations. Trying and failing to land an accurate googly releases pressure and for Rashid, bowling in the middle overs, maintaining pressure is imperative. In both matches Rashid spins his early leg-breaks hard and far.

Examining patterns of deliveries is interesting. Googlies are generally followed by big-turning leg-breaks, except in the case of his 45th delivery in the first match, which seems to be a top-spinner or slider. In the second ODI, his first wicket came from the 41st delivery which was immediately preceded by a delivery which went straight on. His second wicket came from the 43rd delivery, which this time was preceded by a googly. Only once has he bowled consecutive googlies but in both matches he ended his spell with one.

***

The limits of analysis such as this is that while our data allows us to look inside the mind of a bowler, only by actually talking to Rashid can we truly understand what his thought processes and strategies are.

This analysis has been based on a small sample size but it has demonstrated Rashid’s growing mastery of his art. If he can maintain this form deeper into the series then we may be able to say with confidence that his game has indeed reached a new level.

THE ANATOMY OF A THRILLER

Freddie Wilde analyses the key moments in the first ODI of the five match series between England and Sri Lanka that ended in a tie.  

Read more

ENGLAND’S NO. 3 PROBLEMS CONTINUE

England will head into the late summer Test series against Pakistan with some comfort regarding certain selection issues. The bowling, although Steven Finn has taken some time to get going, is settled. Chris Woakes has filled in admirably for Ben Stokes and will count himself unfortunate to miss out on 14 July if the Durham man is fit and firing by then.

Most pleasingly, Alex Hales, ironically by throttling down his attacking instincts, has become the opening partner Alastair Cook has craved for. The irony is that he was given the role specifically to provide some oomph up front, but there is no way anyone can crab a production rate in this series of 292 runs at an average of 58.40 even if he has batted more slowly than expected.

Jonny Bairstow was the batsman of the series, but his wicketkeeping continues to cause serious cause for concern, and one solution going forward would be to pick a specialist gloveman while of course retaining Bairstow’s batting ability. Nick Compton looks sure to be discarded. And even though he has had just this series to make an impression, James Vince can scarcely be relaxed about his chances of appearing against Pakistan with only 54 runs in four innings.

The selectors put faith in Compton to make the problematic no. 3 position his own this summer after the 32-year-old had earned 13 Test caps on the fringes of the side starting in late 2012.

He has failed to pay that faith back, returning scores of 0, 9, 22 not out, 1 and 19. CricViz data reveals that during his relatively short stays at the crease the ball found the edge of his bat eight times and he was hit on the pads seven times. Those edges, by the way, do not include shots designated as “thick edges”, ones less likely to fly to catchers. The same analysis process finds that Vince, who had one fewer innings than Compton, edged the ball six times and was hit on the pads twice. In addition, he played and missed five times (Compton only once) for his four dismissals (9, 35, 10, 0).

What this data suggests is that beyond their poor results, these two right-handers were not playing well enough in any event to suggest that a big score would be around the corner. We might, for example, expect a batsman to play and miss a few times and edge the ball once or twice in a long, substantial innings – just as Compton and Vince did – but not in such curtailed circumstances.

Now let us look in particular at the no. 3 position and how England have tried to fill it since 1 January 2012. Why pick that date, you might ask? Well it was after sweeping India 4-0 that very summer that England reached the coveted no. 1 position. A rapid decline ensued with only one of the following four Test series won, and they’ve been generally inconsistent all the while.

At the start of 2012, the man in possession was Jonathan Trott, a reassuring presence at the crease. Trott performed creditably during the time in question (averaging 40.40), but was forced to relinquish the position after one Test of the 2012-13 Ashes debacle when suffering from severe mental burn-out.

The first man England turned to was Joe Root. But, for all his success before and since lower down the order, a promotion for the talented Yorkshireman did not work and it is not thought likely there will be a further Root experiment at three again any time soon. In June 2014, England went with Gary Ballance. For a while this was a great success, but then there was a run of five poor Tests for Ballance. And despite an average of 50.82 at number three, he was dropped. Ian Bell was tried – it didn’t work – and finally we got to Compton.

Good number threes are difficult to find. In the modern era, Kumar Sangakkara, Ricky Ponting, Hashim Amla and Rahul Dravid stand out. Before them, you really have to go as far back as Don Bradman, Wally Hammond and George Headley to find exceptionally good players at first drop. It’s notable that the great West Indians Brian Lara and Viv Richards preferred hiding themselves further away from the new ball, Greg Chappell did better lower down and Sachin Tendulkar never batted higher than no. 4 in 200 Tests. In other words, there appears to have been a golden age of number threes before the War, and then a 60-year hiatus before the emergence of Sangakkara et al.

It’s fair to conclude that this is a position that as a selector you have to take great care over. But England guessed when they dropped Ballance. They asked Bell to move up a spot following scores of 1 and 11 from the Warwickshire man in last year’s heavy Lord’s defeat to Australia. And they guessed again when they put Compton there despite some fairly modest form for his county Middlesex.

Essex’s Tom Westley and Durham’s Scott Borthwick are among the players who will be considered now for this critical position, and whichever one gets the nod could have quite a tough baptism given that Pakistan have a significantly more exciting bowling attack than Sri Lanka’s. There’s the added menace of the returning Mohammad Amir to consider too.

England’s specialist batsmen cannot expect to keep being bailed out by the lower order, as they were both in South Africa and again during this series against Sri Lanka. And that’s why the men who are paid to make the big calls need to take great care in getting that number three selection spot on.

ENGLAND’S PAINFUL ASHES MEMORIES

Sri Lanka are expected to face friendlier conditions in the third and final Test of the series at Lord’s. Having struggled to cope with the seaming and swinging ball at Headingley and Durham, their batsmen should find batting at the home of cricket an easier task.

This season’s County Championship scores at the venue support this. The first innings scores in Middlesex’s home games at headquarters this year have been 376, 423, 354, 203/3, 452 and 468. Pace bowlers have found it hard to trouble batsmen on pitches that have lacked pace and movement.

However, the Lord’s wicket does not prevent decisive Test results as it once did. There were six straight draws between 2006 and 2008, but just two of 15 matches since have been stalemates. Sri Lanka secured one of those draws, hanging on nine wickets down after scoring 453 in their first innings.

That result contributed to England’s run of one win in their last four at Lord’s, with last year’s Ashes hammering a particularly chastening experience in placid conditions. The home side’s bowlers struggled to find the lateral movement to trouble Australia, whose pace men were far more menacing.

A Hawk-Eye comparison of England’s seamers in that match and this series reveals how they were blunted in that contest and lethal at Headingley. It is no coincidence that as conditions improved at the Riverside, so did Sri Lanka’s batting.

England seamers averagev Australia, Lord's 2015v Sri Lanka, Headingley 2016v Sri Lanka, Riverside 2016
Bounce height at stumps (metres)0.790.930.82
Speed (mph)82.0082.4082.40
Seam (degrees)0.550.810.55
Swing (degrees)1.061.460.76

England’s seamers have averaged around the 82mph mark this series, as they did against Australia at Lord’s last year. However, on the lively pitch in the series opener at Leeds, they found far more average seam, swing and bounce, the key factors in their crushing innings win inside three days.

At Durham they carried on where they left off. They fired out the tourists for 101, but Sri Lanka were far more resilient second time around, posting 475 in 128.2 overs.

England’s pace attack produced the same amount of average seam in that Test as they did in the 2015 Ashes Lord’s clash and only marginally more bounce. They swung the ball less overall, a reflection of how conditions eased as the game wore on.

England know they will need to work harder to take 20 Sri Lankan wickets this week. Their seamers took just five between them as Australia piled up 566/8 last year and whilst England can be expected to bat better than they did in that contest, a major challenge faces the bowling unit.

HALES MAKES HIMSELF AT HOME

Alex Hales is brimming with confidence. His 83 on day one of the second England v Sri Lanka Test was his third consecutive 50+ score in first-class cricket, his best such run since June 2011. Two near-misses in the search for a maiden Test ton do not prevent recognition that he belongs in Test cricket.

The Nottinghamshire man was a model of restraint in the first Test of the series. He left alone 28.6% of balls faced at Headingley, defending a further 28.1%. He played an assured opener’s innings, acclimatising to conditions – against bowlers who admittedly did not make him play enough – before showing more intent.

Hales played two attacking shots in first 20 balls in Leeds, four in his next 20 and 12 in the 20 subsequent deliveries. It was a knock that showed he could apply his natural game in the context of Test conditions.

That display helped produce an even more assured display at the Emirates Riverside. Sri Lanka bowled a tighter line in less helpful conditions, but a leave percentage of 11.7% showed Hales felt more at ease in imposing himself.

It was partly due to facing more spin in the second Test, but the touring bowlers attacked Hales’ stumps far more at Durham. 25% of deliveries he faced would have hit the stumps, compared with 4.3% at Headingley.

Less swing tightened their line, but Hales drew the bowlers into his hitting zone through his excellent judgment and concentration in the series opener.

In both his innings against Sri Lanka Hales has been dismissed attacking left-arm spin, errors of judgment that he should not be criticised for. Few can accelerate like the tall right-hander and whilst he will be frustrated in perishing after twice doing the hard work, it is that application which is notable.