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MEHEDI MAGIC: HOW TIGERS’ TALENTED NEW SPINNER UNPICKED ENGLAND

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.

Mehedi removes Woakes

Mehedi removing Woakes on day two and ending a 99-run stand for England’s ninth wicket

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.

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.

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

RATING ANDERSON’S MASTERCLASS

Just how good was England’s bowling at Headingley? Sri Lanka’s batsmen struggled in tricky conditions against a skilled attack and CricViz can measure how much more dangerous the hosts’ seamers were than their counterparts.

The BatViz model analyses ball tracking data to produce wicket and run ratings for every ball. We conduct a nearest neighbour analysis of the six Hawk-Eye categories that comprise each ball: speed, line, length, seam, swing and bounce.

This process, counting the runs and wickets associated with the 1,000 most similar deliveries in our database based on those categories, allows the measurement of wicket threat and ease of scoring.

England’s bowlers had an average wicket probability of 1.87% per ball, Sri Lanka’s 1.38%. The top five bowlers in this ranking were members of the home attack, led unsurprisingly by James Anderson (2.13%).

Average wicket probability per ball bowled 
Bowler%
Anderson2.13
Stokes1.90
Vince1.83
Finn1.74
Broad1.71
Eranga1.60
Pradeep1.55
Chameera1.50
Herath1.45
Moeen1.18
Mathews1.13
Shanaka1.12

The Hawk-Eye data from the first Test testifies to Anderson’s mastery of seam and swing. Of the frontline seamers, only Shaminda Eranga had a lower average speed, but the Lancastrian’s 81mph is plenty when combined with lateral movement that no other paceman in the world can match.

Eranga actually swung the ball more on average, but Anderson’s ability to move the ball both ways is crucial. 16 of the 25 biggest inswingers (as faced by a right-hander) were delivered by England’s talisman.

Dangerous swing bowling is partly about controlling the movement in favourable conditions and Anderson is adept at finding just the right amount. Eranga bowled 13 of the 20 biggest outswingers (to right-handers) in the match, but these were not of the right line or length to trouble the batsmen.

Anderson can famously switch between inswing and outswing with little discernible change in action, a skill that is especially useful in the context of expert seam bowling. He possessed the highest average seam movement in the match.

Average wicket probability per ball faced 
Batsman%
Herath2.38
Mathews2.08
Karunaratne2.07
Mendis1.98
Finn1.94

Applying the wicket probability ratings to each batsman, the struggles faced by the visiting batsmen become clear. Of frontline batsmen the highest average wicket probability per ball was faced by Angelo Mathews (2.08%) and Dimuth Karunaratne (2.07%).

That the best was kept for the two most experienced opposing batsmen says much about the efficiency of England’s bowling. Anderson’s unique combination of seam, swing and accuracy, a combination that has brought him 443 Test wickets, was too good for the tourists.

SOUTH AFRICA’S RECIPE FOR COOK SUCCESS

Alastair Cook holds the key to success for the tourists as the South Africa v England Test series reaches its halfway point. Joe Root, Ben Stokes and James Anderson are notable match-winners for the away side, but the Proteas know that a recovery is very achievable if Cook continues his run of low scores.

The away captain currently averages 10.5 in the series, his lowest average in any of the 37 Test series he has played in. An upturn in form would not be a surprise considering Cook’s pedigree and record-breaking efforts against Pakistan before Christmas, but South Africa have found the right tactics to give the best chance of restraining the opposition batting anchor.

Cook has only twice had a lower batting strike rate than the 36.8 he currently has in this series. How have South Africa restricted Cook?

The durable left-hander often wins a battle of wills when opposition bowling attacks starve him of scoring opportunities. When in form Cook invites bowlers to try a straighter line after getting frustrated with an off stump channel approach. Death by a thousand nudges to leg ensues.

However, South Africa have retained their discipline so far against Cook. BatViz analysis of ball tracking data shows that just six of the 114 balls he has faced in this series would have hit the stumps, 5.3%. For comparison, 13.6% of those faced by opening partner Alex Hales would have struck the timber.

This is partly explained by Hales’ greater exposure to spinners, who generally bowl a higher proportion of balls that would hit the stumps. Nonetheless, Cook has certainly received a lower proportion of full and straight deliveries from the fast men: the team percentage for balls hitting the stumps in all four of England’s innings range between 11% and 18%.

Cook has been unable to rotate the strike, failing to score off 95 of the 114 balls he has faced. 24 of his 42 runs have come in boundaries. Those relief shots into the legside have not been available – 44 of the 52 balls he has faced against the first choice seam line-up of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Kyle Abbott have been dots.

Whether Cook can find a way to frustrate the South African pacemen is a key factor in the two remaining Tests. If the skipper has tired the home attack out, the prospects of a sparkling contribution from the middle order is increased.

LYON’S SHARE

Little is likely to be remembered of the third Test between Australia and West Indies, so ransacked of playing time has it been by inclement weather, in a series already convincingly won by the hosts. Yet one statistical quirk – that of Nathan Lyon bringing up his 100th Test wicket in Australia, removing Kraigg Brathwaite on day one – should ensure it is not completely lost in the ether.

It’s taken a long time for the 28-year-old twirlyman’s value to be truly appreciated, but one that is now receiving rightful recognition after becoming his nation’s most successful Test offspinner in history earlier in 2015. Following a decent Ashes showing in England, where most of his team-mates floundered, Lyon has continued his impressive form since returning home.

And his experience and, crucially, ability to adapt to slight changes in pitch conditions is demonstrated clearly when compared to current young counterpart, West Indies’ Jomel Warrican.

Warrican, 23, has made quite an impression in his short Test career, stunning Sri Lanka by removing 4-67 on the first day of his debut bout with them back in October. However, while also exciting during the ongoing Australia tour, a mixture of zapping rigours and youthful exuberance has prevented him from adding the consistency required to frustrate and topple Australia’s batsmen.

Lyon showed the benefits of regularly bowling good lengths in the first Test, 80% of his deliveries at Hobart either landing on or just back of a length, while Warrican wasn’t far behind (70%), 23% of his deliveries were sent down as half volleys, accounting for 46 runs.

1st Test, HobartGood lengthBack of a lengthHalf volley 
Lyon59%21%17%
Warrican63%7%23%

The Australian further proved his reliability by maintaining a line of outside or on offstump 86.1% of the time, where as Warrican managed 74.3%, straying down leg too often and releasing the pressure he had built up.

The difference in control is exemplified again by the number of full tosses bowled by the pair, Lyon sending down just a single full delivery – coming in the second innings of the 2nd Test – unlike Warrican who has bowled 11 so far.

Lyon is, of course, notably aided by a better pace bowling unit who can almost constantly nag away at opposing batsmen. Warrican, meanwhile, is not afforded such a luxury, his side still to undo more than four Australian batsmen in a single innings.

However consistency is key to Warrican’s development, and importantly he has already attempted to make improvements, exhibiting an enhanced understanding and awareness in this series by tightening his lines in the second Test (85.3% outside or on offstump). It is a skill that Lyon built up over a number of seasons, and Warrican can expect to need just as long. Then he may be in a position to know when and how to pitch the ball a little bit fuller or shorter, extracting extra bounce to deceive a batter, just as Lyon did to remove Brathwaite and record his ton.

1ST PAKISTAN V ENGLAND TEST ANALYSIS

The first Test of the series was largely a story of batting dominance. 16 wickets in four days and two first innings totals of 500+ suggested the final day would be a procession towards a draw. This proved not to be the case, thanks to a last gasp contribution by a leg spinner that ranked alongside the most dramatic of its kind.

That Adil Rashid’s 5-64 could not quite get England over the line did not prevent his spell from being the major contribution of the match. The Yorkshireman made a statement for the rest of the series, showing why he is so dangerous in the second half of matches.

Rashid’s final day burst followed the pattern he has set in county cricket in recent years. Like most leg-spinners, he is more dangerous in the second innings and against the tail – in the last three County Championship seasons he has taken more than twice as many tail-end wickets (7th to 10th to fall) than middle order (3rd to 6th).

Adil Rashid - last 3 County Championship seasons
Wicket to fallInns 1Inns 2Inns 3Inns 4Total
1st213
2nd3227
3rd2316
4th46111
5th14128
6th12227
7th17210
8th47415
9th557320
10th885122
3rd - 6th41012632
7th - 10th182714867

Rashid performed his Yorkshire role at Abu Dhabi and England fans should not expect anything else. His job is not to contain well-set batsmen on days one and two – few leg-spinners can – but to becoming an attacking option when tail-enders are at the crease or when the pitch offers more help.

The balance of England’s attack helps in this regard. The presence of Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali in the top six of the batting order means there are plenty of resources for Alastair Cook to juggle. A flat wicket like Abu Dhabi makes it hard for any bowler to contain batsmen in full flow, but the tourists at least have options to take the pressure off Rashid.

Not bowling the legspinner on day one does not necessarily denote a lack of confidence and the below BatViz numbers for spinners – statistics based on the quality of each ball rather than its actual outcome – show that in Moeen Ali England have a decent foil for Rashid.

BatViz Bowling Figures 1st Test - Spin
BowlerBallsWktsRunsAvgEcon
Moeen Ali2204.510924.12.98
Shoaib Malik235411529.12.95
Zulfiqar Babar463722932.72.97
Adil Rashid3164.415234.62.89
Joe Root300.41535.92.98
Asad Shafiq420.42053.12.84

Rashid’s own confidence on day five was evident and the below table shows how much more dangerous he became. He turned 77% of his deliveries on day five more than four degrees; this proportion was 63% in Pakistan’s first innings. His average amount of turn increased from 4.8 degrees to 6.1 degrees.

Adil Rashid in 1st Test
InningsAvg speed - mphAvg turn - degrees% turn > 4 degrees
1st48.94.863
2nd48.96.177

Pace bowlers also performed their expected roles. Mark Wood and Wahab Riaz are the strike bowlers in their respective bowling units and both produced the wicket-taking threat their captains desired.

The pace bowling BatViz numbers reveal that they had the best projected averages, based on the quality of the balls they delivered. BatViz evaluates every ball’s quality by comparing it with a database of similar deliveries and averaging the runs and wickets associated with these 1,000 similar deliveries.

BatViz Bowling Figures 1st Test - Pace
BowlerBallsWktsRunsAvgEcon
Mark Wood1763.69927.13.36
Wahab Riaz2474.5139313.37
James Anderson1912.89534.22.97
Ben Stokes1452.38335.63.43
Imran Khan1622.27935.92.91
Stuart Broad1752.38938.73.04
Rahat Ali1681.99449.93.34

Their BatViz economy rates also hint at their priority of taking wickets and England should be wary that Wahab’s strike bowling threat will probably increase should Yasir Shah return for the second Test. The left-arm paceman can be used in even shorter, pacier bursts with the team’s premier spin bowler operating for large parts of the innings.

PAKISTAN V ENGLAND SERIES PREVIEW

Predicting what will happen in England’s Test tour of UAE is a difficult task. Will we see a run feast, or perhaps death by spin? A Joe Root masterclass, or maybe a seamer-inspired show of English bowling strength?

The memories of 2012 are fresh. England arrived as the number one-ranked Test team. Unbeaten in nine series, they had risen from seventh to first in that list in little more than two years. Ashes winners down under and World T20 champions, a win in alien conditions against a talented, if fragile, Pakistan team seemed very much achievable.

However, England were humbled in all three Tests, coming out second best in a series that was defined by the bowlers. The expected attritional slog never materialised – batsmen struggled from the outset, with England’s 58-5 at lunch on day one of the opener setting the tone.

Azhar Ali scored 251 runs in his five innings, but no other batsman from either side averaged more than 40 in the series. On supposedly batsman-friendly wickets, the England batting unit misfired spectacularly.

The tourists’ opening day collapse was followed by a slump to 87-7 in the second innings and a failure to chase 145 in the second Test. They followed that by earning the unwelcome accolade of becoming the second team to lose a Test after dismissing the opposition for below 100 on day one.

The bowling attack functioned well. Stuart Broad took 13 wickets at an average of 20.4, Monty Panesar 14 at 21.6, Graeme Swann 13 at 25.1 and James Anderson nine at 27. However, the batting gave little respite – England were in the field on every day of the series.

Saeed Ajmal (24 wickets at 14.7 average) and Abdur Rehman (19 wickets at 16.7) were rampant. On low, skiddy pitches they bowled quickly for spinners, often touching 60 mph, testing both edges of the bat.

The pitches brought the stumps into play throughout, and a combination of excellent bowling and the new DRS system contributed to a record number of LBWs – the 43 in this three-match series is the joint-most ever recorded in a Test series.

However, the tour as a whole was not a disaster for England. They bounced back in the ODI series to deliver a whitewash of their own, and learned enough to seal a historic Test series triumph in India the following winter, the first by an England team in nearly 30 years.

So what can we learn from the last tour?

Attack the Stumps

Bowling straight in UAE gains much more reward than other host nations. Far more batsmen are dismissed bowled and LBW than the worldwide average, and in particular in comparison to Tests held in England.

Dismissals in Tests by venue
BowledLBWTotal
UAE19.7%24.8%44.5%
England16.7%14.6%31.3%
World17.1%16.9%34.0%

This table shows that nearly half of all dismissals in UAE are bowled or LBW, compared to less than a third in England. In the 2012 series 22.6% of the balls bowled would have gone on to hit the stumps. By way of comparison, in the fourth Ashes Test at Trent Bridge this summer, 9.1% would have struck the timbers.

The prominence of spin is obviously a major factor here – over half the overs bowled in the UAE are bowled by spinners, whereas in England it is about a quarter. Spinners bowl more balls that would hit the stumps, whilst the lower bounce of the pitches means that both seamers and spinners can hit the stumps from shorter lengths.

A Spinner’s Length

In general, balls that are hitting the stumps in Test cricket have a considerably lower average than those that don’t. For spinners, about 25% of balls bowled would go on to hit the stumps, and these take their wickets at an average of 17.4; the balls that are going to miss the stumps average nearly three times as much.

Stumps - Spinners% BallsAverage
Hitting25.7%17.4
Missing74.3%48.1

What the Pakistani spinners did particularly well in 2012 was to bowl quicker, dragging their lengths back a little whilst still attacking the stumps. Monty Panesar was able to perform a similar role for England when he was selected for the second Test.

 Average SpeedStumpsAverage LengthBatViz Predicted AverageSeries Average
Aimal56.136%4.724.814.7
Hafeez54.940%4.525.916.0
Rehman57.039%5.026.916.7
Panesar55.435%4.829.021.6
Swann52.932%4.539.325.1
Pietersen53.322%4.742.8-

The spin bowling in this series was of a very high standard. Spinners normally average around 36 in Tests, so for BatViz to be predicting averages in the 20s the size of the challenge facing batsmen is evident. The actual Series averages show how much batsmen struggled to cope, with all the spinners having greater success than was expected.

For comparison, here are the statistics of spinners in the Ashes Test at Cardiff. They bowled slower and fuller, and were less able to attack the stumps.

 SpeedStumpsAverage Length
Root53.231%4.2
Ali50.822%4.5
Lyon52.423%4.3

Pakistan start as favourites

With their strong batting and bowling line-ups and traditional strength in familiar conditions, it is no surprise that WinViz favours Pakistan at the series outset.

WinViz   
EngDrawPak
1st Test28%21%51%
Series23%19%59%

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.

3RD ASHES TEST ANALYSIS

After ending the Lord’s Test with a batting collapse, England inflicted one of their own on the opening day of the third Test. Conditions were rather different at a damp Edgbaston to those which Australia prospered in at Lord’s and James Anderson duly delivered a seam bowling masterclass.

The Lancastrian’s 6/47 helped bowl out Australia for 136 inside 37 overs, a collapse which saw the tourists’ starting win probability of 31.9% reduce to 11.7% at the change of innings. Anderson’s lateral movement proved too difficult for Australia to deal with, but their shot selection played a major part in their slump.

The analysis of Hawkeye data for each delivery reveals how the Australian top order got caught in two minds when dealing with Anderson’s movement. As well as producing the average wicket probability and run total for each ball based on similar deliveries in the CricViz database, BatViz can analyse the type of shots played (see below table).

Anderson delivered 88 balls in Australia’s first innings. Of these, 10 had an attacking shot percentage between 40% and 49% – based on the similar delivery evaluation, these type of balls are typically attacked somewhere between 40% to 49% of the time.

All four of Anderson’s top order wickets – David Warner, Adam Voges, Mitchell Marsh and Peter Nevill – fell in this range. Warner (playing defensively too late), Voges (withdrawing his bat to leave too late) and Nevill (no shot) paid the price for tentativeness; Marsh (flat-footed drive away from body) ill-advisedly took the attacking option.

BatsmanShot typeDismissalLeave %Attacking %
WarnerDefensiveLBW3.745.3
VogesNo shotCaught31.344.9
MarshDriveCaught38.748.9
NevillNo shotBowled3.441.1

The type of deliveries Warner and Nevill received were clearly ones to play at. BatViz takes into account the speed, line, length and deviation when picking out similar deliveries and these two balls that were on the stumps were left alone just 3.7% and 3.4% of the time respectively.

This highlights the seeds of doubts that Anderson can plant in a batsman’s mind, despite the lack of extreme pace. Warner’s wicket was 82mph, Nevill’s 83.6mph. His day one wicket burst against a confused batting line-up was the crucial factor in England’s victory, a template that was followed emphatically at Trent Bridge by Stuart Broad’s opening salvo.