Posts

India can still take the series

The India v Australia Test series has been set up for the remainder of the rubber quite beautifully thanks to Australia’s comprehensive win in the Pune opener.

India began by losing the toss on a dry, excessively spin-friendly surface, but after bowling Australia out for 260, the hosts’ WinViz moved up to just shy of 80%. This looked reasonably justifiable given the Indian batsmen’s renowned prowess in their home conditions and, it appeared, no obvious match-winning spinner in the Aussie ranks.

But the extraordinary events of day two: India all out for 105, Australia 143-4 for a lead approaching 300, turned the match unexpectedly and decisively. WinViz had moved in one way only during that second day, and by the end of it Australia were 88%.

There was to be no twist in the tale on Saturday as the slow left-armer Steve O’Keefe once again proved Australia’s hero. He took his second six-wicket haul of the match and Australia won by 333 runs without recourse to days four or five. O’Keefe had cobbled together 14 wickets from his first four Tests. Now he has 26 from five and presumably heads to the Bengaluru Test this coming Saturday with a rare old spring in his step.

For every bit as brilliant as Australia were in Pune, India were very, very poor. The first thing they got wrong was the wicket, for this was a virtual dustbowl, full of cracks and loose clods of earth being dislodged from the opening exchanges. It is detrimental rather than helpful for India’s chance to play on tracks like this, and after the events of last week we surely won’t see another one like it for a long time.

The pitch held out for about an hour before the first signs of excessive turn and bounce emerged, but when the opportunity came, India did not bowl or catch as well as Australia did when it was their turn in the field.

Of the 40 wickets that fell in the match, 30 went to the spinners, of which all but three were to good-length deliveries. In other words, 67.5% of wickets were off good-length balls bowled by spinners. But, how often were the five spinners in the match finding a good length?

Interestingly, all of them radically improved their lengths in the second innings. But it is notable how poor Jayant Yadav’s control was in the first innings, while the most dramatic improver was Nathan Lyon (56.0%-87.6%, reflected in figures of 1-21 and 4-53 respectively).

This table shows the % of each spinner’s deliveries on a good length, in the first innings (first row) and second innings:

Ashwin
65.1%
78.6%

J Yadav
51.8%
70.5%

Jadeja
63.2%
79.1%

—————

O’Keefe
64.6%
74.4%

Lyon
56.o%
87.6%

Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are skilful enough to regularly bowl well over 70% of deliveries on a good length but it was a clear failing that they didn’t manage that until the second innings.

Incidentally, perhaps the reason why good-length deliveries were so much more effective for the spinners is that batsmen were pretty much looking to play back all the time and read the turn off the wicket. To do so against good-length spin bowling as opposed to back-of-a-length bowling is that much tougher.

Though the game was ebbing away from them by the time India started dropping catches in the second innings (Steve Smith three times, Matt Renshaw once), these failings served to drain the last vestiges of hope for the Virat Kohli’s men.

Australia’s players celebrate the crucial wicket of India’s captain Virat Kohli on the third and final day in India

One thing I want to look at in this match is the issue of luck. Some Indian fans were most insistent that Australia’s batsmen were more fortunate than India’s, and when covering day one for CricViz I did find myself looking up how many times players were missing or edging the ball without being dismissed.

So here is another simple table showing the percentage of balls edged or missed by the batsman in each innings who survived the most balls.

Renshaw
16.0%

Rahul
8.2%

Smith
16.3%

Pujara
8.6%

Perhaps there is some credence then in the theory that the cricketing gods did not look particularly favourably on India. However the old adage of “making your own luck” rings true to some extent. Notably, there were those dropped catches by India already detailed; in addition Yadav contrived to bowl David Warner on the first morning with a massive no-ball and there were plenty of questionable tactical decisions made by Kohli, not least the decision to take the new ball on the first evening against the free-hitting Mitchell Starc.

I would be reasonably confident that India can do the minimum required to come back and win the series now. It won’t be easy. They can do no worse than draw one and win two of the remaining Tests so pitch preparation will be vital. It would clearly be dangerous to replicate Pune again and lose the toss, while any wickets that are too flat and bring the draw strongly into the equation must also be avoided.

Whatever they say in public, Australia will certainly be unusually bullish about their chances. But Steven Smith’s leadership skills will surely be tested if India mount a strong response in Bengaluru this coming weekend. India need to improve sharply in all departments of their game – but they certainly have the capability to do so, and WinViz is sure to start in favour of the the home team on Saturday.

4TH ASHES TEST ANALYSIS

On the first morning of the Trent Bridge Test match, Australia batted first and at the first drinks break were 38 for 7, their top seven all back in the pavilion. England started batting 50 minutes later and an hour into their innings were 30 for 0. The Ashes were, barring a freak turnaround, already on their way back to England.

What happened? Why did Australia collapse so dramatically? Great bowling? Poor batting? A green-topped, bowlers’ dream that simply handed the match to the captain lucky enough to win the toss?

Why was the first hour of England’s innings so different to that of Australia’s an hour and a half earlier?

Did the conditions get easier?

A little. The ball kept swinging; the average deviation in the air when the Australians bowled was 2.1 degrees, slightly more than the 1.9 degrees when England bowled. Both teams swung roughly 60% of the balls they bowled by more than 1.5 degrees, the amount of swing that starts to have a significant impact on a batsman’s performance.

There was more seam movement when Australia batted. 31% of the balls in the first hour deviated by more than one degree off the pitch, whereas the figure when England batted was 18%. The average seam movement faced was 0.7 degrees for Australia and 0.5 degrees for England.

However, this was part of a pattern in the series. England’s seamers got more lateral movement off the wicket and were more accurate throughout; the Australian pacemen consistently bowled a little quicker on average and got more movement in the air.

Conditions had got a little easier by the time England batted, but not drastically so.

Did England out-bowl Australia?

England, and Stuart Broad in particular, bowled very well. A traditional good length in Test cricket is usually defined as balls pitching six to eight metres from the stumps. These are the balls that have the lowest average (runs per wicket), regardless of pitch, conditions and opposition. When the ball is moving around in the air and off the wicket, the metre or so fuller than that (5-6m from the stumps) becomes equally, if not even more, dangerous. England landed just over 60% of their deliveries in these areas, and these balls accounted for all but one of the wickets in that innings. Australia though, bowled even more balls on these lengths, 67% in their first 11 overs.

The England bowlers also bowled unusually straight. Their average line was middle and off, very straight for Test cricket; 49% of the balls they bowled were within the line of leg stump and six inches outside off stump. It was the balls on these lines that did the bulk of the damage to the Australian top order.

Australia bowled significantly wider. Their average line was six inches outside off stump – they put 52% of their deliveries wide of this mark, compared to 35% of England’s. This allowed England’s batsmen more easy leaves than the Australians got, nearly half as many again.

So, as was the case all summer, better areas and more movement off the pitch from England, albeit at a slightly slower pace. When the pitch offered assistance, England were the more dangerous attack. When it didn’t, Australia’s pace and swing posed the greater threat. Trent Bridge was no minefield, but nor was it the pitch where you wanted your great strength to be taking the pitch out of the equation.

Did Australia go too hard at the ball? Play too many shots? Not leave well enough?

Using the BatViz system we can compare how Australia played the deliveries they faced with how an average Test side would have played them.

Given the balls they faced, we would have expected 25 attacking shots in the first hour. Australia played 22. BatViz projected 14.5 balls to be left; they played no shot on 19 occasions.

For comparison, we would have expected England to play 24.5 attacking shots and they played 21. They got more balls to leave, as Australia bowled wider than England. 17.5 leaves were forecast – they actually left the ball 25 times.

First hour BatViz shot analysis   
AustraliaEngland
Attacking shotsExpected2524.5
Actual2221
LeavesExpected14.517.5
Actual1925

There therefore seems to have been little difference in the overall intent of the two sides and it is worth noting that only three of the seven Australian wickets fell to attacking shots. That might be three too many given the situation and conditions, but it is easy to criticise attacking shots when they don’t come off and applaud them when they do: England showed a very similar level of attacking intent and left the ball marginally better.

Was it therefore poor shot selection and execution?

Given the balls received, BatViz projected 11.9 false shots – edges and misses – from the Australians. There were 19. For comparison, we would have expected eight false shots from England and there were just six (five misses and one edge). On average in 11 overs of Test cricket there would be 4.5 false shots.

England had to play fewer balls and the balls they played at moved a little less. They also played them better than par, whereas the Australians underperformed against the balls they faced.

First hour BatViz false shot analysis  
AustraliaEngland
False shots - predicted11.98
False shots - actual196
Missed105
Edged91
Wickets from edge60

Even so, 19 false shots to six can’t be the difference between seven down and no wickets very often.

So were Australia just unlucky?

They certainly were to an extent. Of their 19 false shots, nine were edges (47%). Generally only about 37% of false shots are edges, so they were unlucky to nick almost as many as they missed. England played and missed five times for their solitary edge.

About 15% of edges result in a wicket. Australia’s nine edges produced six wickets, so the picture of a perfect storm is forming. The pitch had good carry, so there was little chance of edges with the new ball falling short of the slip cordon. The England bowlers’ areas were good, so the edges produced were more likely to find catchers than fly to safety. Two wickets in the first over meant that for the remainder of the innings Alastair Cook employed five or six catchers, so any edge was likely to find a catcher rather than a gap.

And what about the catching?

The first hour brought five slip catches, the innings as a whole comprised eight. Every single one of the chances offered were held, including Ben Stokes’ stunning one-handed grab.

On average in Test cricket roughly 70% of slip catches are caught. PlayViz goes deeper by rating chances according to where they come and the reaction time the fielder has. In doing so we can estimate that the five chances presented in the first hour would normally have resulted in two or three wickets (2.65 to be exact): the English cordon hugely over-performed.

A bit of everything?

The Australians were hit by a perfect storm of several factors, each multiplying the effect of the others that together created a manic 11 overs that devastated their Ashes dreams.

The ball swung and seamed enough to trouble the batsmen. The bowlers – Broad in particular – used the conditions very skilfully, and allowed the batsmen little respite. The Aussies didn’t cope with the moving ball particularly well and didn’t have a lot of luck when it came to playing and missing. A pitch with good pace and bounce ensured the edges carried and early wickets meant a packed slip cordon. The chances went to hand and the fielders caught exceptionally well. 38 for 7. Ashes gone.

2ND ASHES TEST ANALYSIS

England maintained their pattern of following a win with a defeat due to a below par performance in all three disciplines at Lord’s. After winning the first Test with positive PlayViz scores in batting, bowling and fielding, they slumped well below what was expected at headquarters.

In being dismissed for 312 and 103 on a flat wicket, the hosts recorded a batting score of -267 in PlayViz – they scored 267 runs below what an average Test team was projected to score in those conditions and against that bowling attack.

Australia’s seam unit was as expected quicker than their counterparts, averaging more than 3mph faster, but crucially their accuracy and movement in their air was also superior. England seamed the ball more, but the tourists attacked the stumps with greater frequency (13% in line with stumps, England 11%) and found a way to swing the ball more as the Test developed.

10% of England’s pace deliveries swung more than 1.5 degrees in Australia’s second innings, compared with 29% of Australia’s as they stormed to victory. This was a higher proportion than they recorded in England’s first innings (26%).

England’s lack of incisiveness – the tourists declared twice – contributed to a bowling score of -135, vastly inferior to Australia’s 452. Mitchell Johnson led an attack that showed its suitability to the Lord’s conditions, assisted by a fielding effort that out-performed England; Australia dropped five chances, England eight.

ENGLAND CATCHING ON

When the England squad headed to Spain for a pre-series training camp it was derided as a holiday by the Australians. Some form of team bonding was required by a team that had only just been introduced to new coach Trevor Bayliss, but it became clear that their Almeria trip was far more than a jaunt in the sun.

In his post-match interviews at Trent Bridge Alastair Cook placed heavy emphasis on the fielding preparation done in Spain. The slip cordon became settled and hard work was done, with the captain keen to point out how much catching practice was conducted.

The rewards are clear – England have saved more runs through their fielding than Australia. CricViz measures the fielding actions of both teams in each game, producing a run value that their fielding has had on the opposition’s score. The use of projected averages and a detailed rating system allows the accurate measurement of fielding impact.

Australia recorded negative fielding scores in each of the first four Tests, combining to produce a total of -124. England saved runs in three of these four Tests, heading to The Oval with a fielding score of +67.

Fielding impact (runs)EnglandAustralia
Cardiff84-26
Lord's-133-58
Edgbaston41-2
Trent Bridge75-38
Total67-124

The worst fielding score of the series so far was England’s -133 at Lord’s, part of a performance where nearly everything went wrong. England showed they could bounce back better from a nightmare performance than Australia, and this was especially true in their fielding.

They dropped just one chance at Edgbaston – a difficult opportunity that flew high through the slips – and were flawless in the first innings at Trent Bridge. Not only was every catch opportunity taken, but no ground fielding errors were recorded in Australia’s 111-ball procession.

With the urn within reach chances were spilled in the second innings, but the work done in Spain was evident. Ben Stokes and Joe Root pulled off memorable diving efforts and whilst Steven Smith did something similar for the tourists, it was an act of defiance that did not represent the team’s fielding standards.

1ST ASHES TEST ANALYSIS

FIELDING COMPARISON

With two well-matched sides, each batting and bowling well, to a large degree the deciding factor in the series opener was the quality of their fielding in the first innings. In a game where both sides got a number of half-chances, England were sharp and clung onto theirs, Australia spilt a few and suffered as a result.   The difference between the impact of the two sides’ fielding in the first innings was 113 runs, almost the entire 1st innings lead that gave England control of the match.

Eng Fielding ScoresAus Fielding Scores
1st Innings51-62
2nd Innings3336

At the end of Australia’s first innings WinViz had England at nearly 70% to win the match.

Take away the 113 runs between the teams’ fielding and the situation would have been different. England would still have had a small edge – Australia still had to bat last on a wearing wicket – but it would have been far more evenly poised contest.

1st-Test-CricViz-Analysis-WinViz-2

AUSTRALIA’S AGGRESSION AGAINST SPIN

Australia pursued a policy of aggression against the English spinners, but in doing so lost 7 wickets for 158, including 4 key top order wickets to Moeen Ali. Australia’s record against spin overseas has been poor in recent years, and Ali was the bowler against whom they underperformed most in this match.

Test Avg Overseas – since 2010
SpinPace
Aus30.732.3
Eng35.230.8

From the Hawkeye data, BatViz predicts that an average Test batsman would have attacked 39% of the balls bowled by English spinners in Cardiff. The Australians attacked almost exactly half. On this occasion, the strategy hurt them considerably.   With long periods when there was little assistance for the spinners from the pitch, BatViz estimates that an average Test side should have averaged 45 against spin in this match, but instead Australia lost their wickets at 22.6.

Australians v Spin in Cardiff
BatViz PredictionActual
Batting Avg45.122.6
Attacking %39%50%

DIFFERENT APPROACHES FROM THE TWO SETS OF BOWLERS

CricViz’s analysis of the two pace attacks shows that while both sides bowled well in Cardiff, they did so in slightly different ways. Australia bowled slightly quicker, and swung the ball more in the air.

England in contrast, were able to get more movement off the wicket (often through the use of cutters) and were far more accurate. Australia were able to induce slightly more mistakes from the batsman, England did so in more dangerous areas.

FLUCTUATIONS IN THE CONDITIONS

With little pace or life in the surface, the pitch became more of a new ball wicket as the match went on.

BatViz Predicted Average by phase of innings
BallsInn 1Inn 2Inn 3Inn 4
5027.522.233.521.7
10027.632.326.734.3
15024.338.639.135.3
20031.545.641.735.0
25033.337.136.040.7
30032.439.734.149.5
35035.649.436.936.8
40037.633.231.838.5
48031.841.825.3
53028.623.5

On the first day, under cloudy skies, the ball swung for most of the day, and batting although slightly easier after the first two hours, remained difficult all day. As you can see from the graph, England’s new ball spells were more potent, but as the ball stopped swinging they were unable to sustain the threat to the batsman that Australia had in more helpful conditions on Day 1.

PLAYVIZ

This was a high quality encounter. An excellent Australian side buoyed by recent successes, and a good, young England side playing in their home conditions. As we can see from the PlayViz output, the general standard of play was very high.

1st-Test-CricViz-Analysis-PlayViz-1

Over the course of the match, England’s batting was 79 runs better than an average Test side’s under the same conditions, their bowling 81 runs better and the quality of their fielding was worth another 84 runs.

Australia’s bowlers were outstanding, 150 runs better than a typical attack, but they were let down by their fielding, particularly in the first innings. The Australian batting, whilst 17 runs better than a par Test side, was also down on their usual performance levels.