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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It is noticeable how Rashid does not employ the googly early. This could be because he wants to find his rhythm with his leg-break before moving onto variations. Trying and failing to land an accurate googly releases pressure and for Rashid, bowling in the middle overs, maintaining pressure is imperative. In both matches Rashid spins his early leg-breaks hard and far.
Examining patterns of deliveries is interesting. Googlies are generally followed by big-turning leg-breaks, except in the case of his 45th delivery in the first match, which seems to be a top-spinner or slider. In the second ODI, his first wicket came from the 41st delivery which was immediately preceded by a delivery which went straight on. His second wicket came from the 43rd delivery, which this time was preceded by a googly. Only once has he bowled consecutive googlies but in both matches he ended his spell with one.
The limits of analysis such as this is that while our data allows us to look inside the mind of a bowler, only by actually talking to Rashid can we truly understand what his thought processes and strategies are.
This analysis has been based on a small sample size but it has demonstrated Rashid’s growing mastery of his art. If he can maintain this form deeper into the series then we may be able to say with confidence that his game has indeed reached a new level.