Posts

SOUTH AFRICA V ENGLAND 3RD TEST ANALYSIS

The scene on the third afternoon at Johannesburg was a familiar one. Stuart Broad was on a roll and the opposition had no answer. The knees were pumping and the face was ruddy, an irresistible force who made wickets rather than runs seem inevitable.

They were, too. Broad took five wickets for one run in 36 balls just after lunch, single-handedly reducing the hosts from 23-0 to 35-5. Another hot streak, another Test won for his team. But how did Broad decimate the hosts? What changed from the first innings?

Being fully fit helped, Broad having struggled with illness on the first day. He lacked zip and was evidently frustrated in not being able to take advantage of helpful conditions. This was reflected by an average speed of 81.9 mph, which increased to 84.9 mph in South Africa’s second innings.

However, his accuracy also improved greatly. All of his 73 balls on day three were either outside off stump or in line with off stump. Nothing on the pads or on the hips for batsmen to work into the legside, unlike in the hosts’ first innings, when 23.3% of his deliveries were on middle or leg stump or down the legside.

Bowling too short is a regular criticism of England’s bowlers and Broad certainly improved where he had initially erred – 74% of his balls on day three were on a good length, up from 37.6% in the Proteas’ first innings.

Faster, more accurate and with greater seam movement – his average deviation off the pitch increased from 0.74 degrees to 0.94 – Broad expertly combined the ingredients that make him so hard to handle.

Broad knows the value in finding the ideal length but has in the past discussed his tendency to ‘float’ the ball too full in trying to draw batsmen forward. There were no freebies as the home side subsided at the Bullring, the ball spitting off a decent length with just the right amount of lateral movement.

Stuart Broad, 3rd Test v South Africa1st innings2nd innings
Balls on a good length (%)36.674
Balls on / outside off stump (%)76.7100
Average speed (mph)81.984.9
Average length (metres from stumps)7.746.99
Stumps (% to hit)7.465.48
Average swing (degrees)1.110.95
Average seam (degrees)0.740.92

There was more swing for Broad in South Africa’s first innings, but excessive deviation in the air is not always a major advantage. James Anderson (1.84 degrees average swing) regularly hooped the ball past the outside edge, whilst Broad (0.95 degrees) did enough to bring keeper and slips into play more frequently.

This is what Broad does so well. He identifies helpful conditions and harnesses them superbly, rising to the occasion when he smells blood. His line and length becomes unerring, the batsmen hustled by optimum bounce and lateral movement.

Memories of Trent Bridge were stirred by this latest Broad salvo and it is worth noting that England produced more seam movement in their surge to victory at the Wanderers. South Africa faced an average deviation off the pitch of 0.92 degrees on day three, Australia 0.7 degrees in their 60 all out.

Broad is the session-changer who breaks a partnership and gets on a roll when the game is drifting. He can create something out of nothing when the pitch is flat, but it is just as important to deliver when conditions are helpful and wickets expected. Broad delivers them in abundance, the enforcer turned demolisher.

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.