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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

MAKING USE OF THE NEW BALL

England’s decimation of Sri Lanka’s top order was based on accuracy and the application of pressure. James Anderson and Stuart Broad utilised similar conditions to those faced by Sri Lanka’s opening bowlers, but they gained reward for making batsmen play more regularly.

In the opening 10 overs of England’s innings, Alex Hales and Alastair Cook were able to leave 33 balls alone. Sri Lanka’s top order played no shot at 18 deliveries in the equivalent period on day two.

The result of such accuracy was indecision outside off stump. The five Sri Lankans who batted in the opening 10 overs played and missed eight times between them, edging nine deliveries. England’s openers played five false shots (play and misses and edges combined).

Anderson and Broad’s expertise in English conditions was apparent, with the latter particularly threatening in his two-wicket burst. Every single delivery in his opening five overs were either in line with or outside of off stump. In comparison, 10 of Shaminda Eranga’s opening 30 balls were on leg stump or wider.

Whilst they bowled slightly shorter as a pair on average, Eranga and Nuwan Pradeep actually extracted slightly more lateral movement than England’s experienced opening combination.

Dusan Shanaka went on to prove that enough seam and swing can be useful at a lower pace, but a lack of speed against watchful openers was problematic for Eranga – his average speed in his first five overs was 7 mph lower than Broad’s.