Trent Bridge has been a high scoring venue in limited overs cricket of late—earlier this season the average score across six domestic innings was 380—but even given the ground’s recent history few people could have envisaged the carnage that unfolded in the first innings of this match.
It took just 19 balls of this match, after which Pakistan were 2 for 3, for England to have established a position of dominance from which it was extremely unlikely Pakistan would recover.
The average first innings score in the five most recent ODIs at the Rose Bowl before England v Pakistan on Wednesday was 310 and the average winning first innings score in ODIs at the Rose Bowl is 289.
It’s hard to know right now if England are truly on the cusp of surfing a wave in one-day cricket, but there has certainly been something of a revival since their pitiful displays in the last World Cup 18 months ago.
In all, they have won 13 one-day internationals since then and lost nine. They have won series against New Zealand, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and lost narrowly to Australia and South Africa.
The evidence suggests the batting is in excellent shape at the moment. In that time, England have posted grand totals of 408, 399, 365, 355 and 350 – five of their seven best totals ever. Even allowing for some flat wickets and the modern trend for a par score to be so much higher than in previous times, this is a remarkable feat. However the bowling has not always been so good.
Against Pakistan, in the five-match series that begins on Wednesday, England are likely to start as fairly strong favourites thanks to their batting might, but this would be a good time for them to have a strong series with the ball.
In South Africa in February, England did not generally excel in the bowling stakes, though they led 2-0 with three to play and at Centurion set a faltering side, who had just lost the Test series, 319 to win.
Let’s examine what happened from that point. David Willey and Reece Topley, both currently injured, failed to strike with the new ball, allowing Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla to get away with a fast start. But it was what ensued subsequently that really hurt England. Ben Stokes, Chris Jordan and Moeen Ali – all in the squad for the upcoming series – failed to stem the flow or take wickets in the overs that followed. Only Adil Rashid, who returned an exemplary 1-45 from his 10 overs, emerged with credit.
The CricViz database records that Stokes, in returning 0-54 from 8.2 overs, attempted just three slower balls and found no discernible swing or seam. The lack of movement was not his fault – this was a flat wicket and he did not have use of the new ball – but should he have been trying more slower balls? Chris Jordan bowled seven slower balls in his 1-54 from seven overs. South Africa scored just two runs from Jordan’s slower deliveries suggesting it was a tactic worth pursuing, but Jordan bowled only one per over, Stokes less than one every two overs.
As for the spinners, whereas Adil Rashid created a degree of uncertainty by bowling seven googlies in his 10 overs, every single delivery sent down by Moeen Ali was an off-break. Little wonder, perhaps, that he went for 30 more runs than Rashid.
The stats show also that Moeen had a bad shift at the office with his lengths that evening: six short-pitched balls and three full tosses, one at beamer height. As for the seamers, Stokes only got one attempted yorker on the spot, three others ending up as half volleys, two as full tosses. Jordan got two in the spot, but bowled three full tosses and seven half-volleys in all. When Jordan dropped short he was punished, with 27 runs coming off 16 balls.
As for the bowlers’ lines, Jordan bowled the vast majority of his balls outside off or down the leg side. On the 11 occasions he bowled at the stumps, South Africa scored just four runs. Stokes bowled significantly straighter, while Rashid – as you would expect from a decent leg-spinner – bowled all but five balls on a line between middle stump and outside off. Moeen’s default line, outside off stump, was easily milked – 47 runs coming from the 32 balls he bowled there.
Let’s fast forward to the mid-summer home ODI series and the only game England game close to losing against Sri Lanka, which ended in a fascinating tie at Trent Bridge.
On this occasion, Sri Lanka batted first and hit 286-9. It should have been a winning score when England then collapsed to 82-6 – that was until Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes had other ideas. In the Sri Lanka innings, 40 of the 50 overs were sent down by bowlers picked for the series that starts on Wednesday. They produced some varied results. Rashid took no wickets but his 10 overs cost just 36 runs, against batsmen who play spin particularly well. Ali was again much more expensive, taking 1-69. Liam Plunkett returned 2-67 and Woakes 2-56.
Ali again produced barely any variety, with 58/60 off-breaks and 55/60 missing off-stump. His lengths were an improvement on the Centurion ODI – nothing short, no full tosses – but he sent down 11 half-volleys which cost 21 runs.
The most expensive seamer on the day, Plunkett, had a problem with his lengths – a beamer, four full tosses and eight half volleys among his bag. His line was OK, but movement was hard to obtain – the one leg cutter he produced was hit for four in any event.
Woakes produced a little more movement, with five off cutters, and his lengths were better than Plunkett’s. However his economy rate would have surely been even better had he not bowled 20 balls on leg stump or down leg which produced 24 runs in all.
Why was Rashid so hard to score off? His line was excellent; by now he had added the top spinner to his armoury (so was bowling three different deliveries) and 77% of his balls were at that ideal spinner’s length just short of a half-volley.
In terms of overall stats, Rashid now has the foundations of what could become be a very good ODI career. He has played in all 10 of England’s ODIs this calendar year, picking up 11 wickets from 10 matches at an economy of 5.03. Ali’s record over the same period is six wickets from eight matches at an economy rate of 5.75. You would have to worry that having been treated to some pretty rough treatment at the hands of Pakistan’s spinners in the Tests that England might be tempted to overlook Ali at the start of the ODIs.
If they want a second spinner, then Liam Dawson, who enjoyed a fine T20 international debut in July, might be a better option.
As for the seamers, they are also a unit in flux. Mark Wood has not played an ODI in almost a year but his raw speed, seen to fine effect on Twenty20 finals day last Saturday, will surely be called upon. England’s lack of variety elsewhere – made all the more acute by the absence of the left-armer Topley alongside Willey who can swing a white ball – is a potential weakness. It has been demonstrated in this piece that Stokes, Woakes, Plunkett and Jordan – as right-arm seamers who don’t move the ball a huge amount and who all bowl speeds in the mid 80s – can struggle to be an effective unit. And that problem only exacerbates itself when they miss their yorkers, bowl too short or slide the ball down the leg side.
It sure has been fun to watch England bat of late in white ball cricket – when Jos Buttler and Jason Roy are in full cry few teams can live with them – but sometimes the pyrotechnics of the batsmen have masked the imperfections of the bowlers. Against a Pakistan side invigorated by squaring the Test series in the final match of that rubber, England might need all 11 players to pull their weight.
Chris Woakes is having a summer to remember in the England Test side. Since returning to the team for the second Test against Sri Lanka at Chester-le-Street, the Warwickshire all-rounder has scored 221 runs at an average of 55.25 and taken a remarkable 26 wickets at just 13.84.
His previous Test appearance before his renaissance was a chastening experience in Centurion. Posting match figures of 1-144 and making little impact with the bat as England went down to a 280-run defeat against South Africa, Woakes appeared to be running out of chances to convert his undoubted talent into significant contributions at the highest level.
So what has changed? His pace, for one. Often seen in the early part of his international career as something of a military medium pacer that batsmen found relatively easy to deal with, a couple of extra clicks on the speed gun appear to have been crucial in increasing the threat that Woakes poses with the ball.
During the second innings of that Centurion Test, Woakes was bowling at an average speed of 81.93mph with his quickest delivery clocking in at 86.9mph. Since his return to the side in Durham, that has been upped to 83.48mph and he has even broken the 90mph barrier on two occasions this summer. He has consistently been the quickest of England’s seamers and has also picked up that happy knack of taking a wicket in the first over of a new spell.
On six separate occasions, Woakes has struck immediately after being brought into the attack this summer; and it would have been seven had it not been for Jonny Bairstow dropping Sri Lanka’s Dimuth Karunaratne at Lord’s. For a captain, it is such a key weapon to have a bowler in your ranks whom you know to have this uncanny ability. Andrew Strauss had it with Graeme Swann and now Alastair Cook has it with Woakes.
Woakes has also made subtle adjustments on the crease to alter his angle of delivery. Blessed with a natural bowling action – Shaun Pollock even went so far in the winter as to describe it as “too good, perhaps too predictable, so that the batsman knows what is coming” – Woakes needed to find a way to add variety to his bowling. He has achieved that by moving wide of the crease on occasion and it has brought him reward, most notably at Lord’s with the dismissal of Asad Shafiq in Pakistan’s second innings. The wider angle of delivery cramped the right-hander for room so that he could only divert the ball onto the stumps via the inside edge.
It is testament to Woakes’ improvement as an all-rounder that England have been able to deal with Ben Stokes’ injury problems with minimal fuss. A little over a year ago, during the 2015 series against New Zealand, Stokes was smashing the fastest hundred at Lord’s before taking the key wickets of Kane Williamson and Brendon McCullum in successive balls during the visitors’ run chase.
At that stage, at what felt like the start of England’s brave new era that Stokes is such a key part of, an injury to him would have been deemed catastrophic to the balance of the side with both bat and ball. That is not to say that Stokes is not still seen as a talented and integral part of this England side, merely that his absence was not so keenly felt as once might have been feared; and that is all down to Woakes seizing his opportunity with both hands when it came along.
While Woakes’ bowling feats have been more eye catching, his steady improvement with the bat has been equally impressive. A well compiled 66 at number 8 against Sri Lanka at Lord’s hinted that he was getting the hang of batting in Test cricket before his 58 at Old Trafford formed part of a 103-run partnership with Joe Root and helped England to their highest total for five years.
That innings against Pakistan might one day be looked upon as a breakthrough knock for Woakes – batting at 6, nominally as a nightwatchman, his strike rate of 55.76 meant that the visiting bowlers were unable to attack his end as they might have been tempted to with Root batting so serenely at the other end. Pakistan bowled shorter to him than to any other batsman who faced 20 balls or more, but Woakes was particularly strong square of the wicket, with 19 of his 28 scoring shots coming through cover and midwicket including four of his eight boundaries.
With Stokes once again ruled out for the third Test at Edgbaston, Woakes might get another opportunity to bat higher up the order, depending on who the selectors decide to bring into the side. It is perhaps too early to say exactly where his future lies in this flexible, multi-faceted England side, but it is certainly a nice problem to have at this stage.
England v Pakistan, Second Test, Day Four Analysis
England 589 for 8 dec and 173 for 1 dec (Cook 76*, Root 71*) beat Pakistan 198 and 234 (Hafeez 41, Anderson 3-41, Woakes 3-41) by 330 runs
England v Pakistan, Second Test, Day Three Analysis
England 589 for 8 dec and 98 for 1 (Cook 49*) lead Pakistan 198 (Misbah 52, Woakes 4-67) by 489 runs
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
England v Pakistan, Second Test, Day One Analysis
England 314 for 4 (Root 141*, Cook 105) v Pakistan
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.
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