CricViz Analysis: Nathan Lyon

Patrick Noone looks at how Nathan Lyon spun Australia to victory at Edgbaston.

For a spinner, the fourth innings of a Test match is something of a double-edged sword. Particularly in turning conditions, there is an expectation that the spinner will step up and win the game for the team bowling second, using conditions to their advantage and running through the opposition.

It is something of a unique, lonely pressure within cricket. Yes, all players are constantly required to contribute to their team’s chances, either through weight of runs or wickets, but it’s rare that players who perform other roles find themselves in a scenario in which they’re expected to step up and deliver the telling blow in the same way as a spinner is required to do in the fourth innings.

It’s a pressure that not all spinners are able to deal with. Often there are match situations where we all think ‘the stage is set for so-and-so’ but they’re unable to deliver. Today was not one of those occasions for Nathan Lyon.

Before this Test, Lyon’s record was a peculiar one in that he averaged more with the ball in the fourth innings of matches than any other. Only fractionally, but enough to make Lyon an anomaly among spinners worldwide; overall, spinners average 28.08 in the fourth innings in the last 20 years, compared to 41.80, 36.85 and 31.08 in innings one, two and three, respectively.

In England, Lyon was even more unusual before today. His fourth innings average on these shores was an astronomical 65.50, far higher than the overall spinners’ average of 27.22.

But on an Edgbaston pitch that was offering an average of 5.0° of turn, more than any previous match at this venue since 2006, Lyon was able to deliver the kind of performance his captain needed, taking six wickets to spin Australia to a 1-0 series lead.

Edgbaston has been a spin-friendly venue this summer. The World Cup match between New Zealand and Pakistan was memorable for the prodigious spin on offer, even for the likes of Mitchell Santner and Kane Williamson. In the County Championship, spinners have averaged 19.42 in Birmingham, the lowest of any venue in the competition.

Simply having conditions in your favour is no guarantee of success though, and Lyon has not always been able fulfil that traditional role of final innings, fifth day destroyer. Today though, Lyon was on the money right from his introduction in the 18th over, up until his double wicket strike that removed Moeen Ali and Stuart Broad, finally killing off any lingering hopes England might have had of saving the game.

Lyon landed 52% of the balls he bowled today on a good line and length, the most accurate he’s ever been on the fifth day of a Test. There was not much that Lyon did that was spectacular, but he did the basics exceptionally well. He is not a bowler with a plethora of variations to experiment with. Rather than doosras and carrom balls, it was simply high quality off-spin bowling; dragging his length back a touch to the right-handers to bring short leg into play if he could find some uneven bounce, pitching it fuller and wider to the left-handers in order to turn it away and draw the outside edge.

Of Lyon’s six victims, only Jason Roy can be said to have got himself out, rather than be got out, when he charged down the pitch and was bowled. Each of the other five fell into the traps Lyon had set – right-handers Joe Root and Joe Denly prodding to short leg, left-handers Ben Stokes, Moeen and Broad edging to slip.

The ups and downs of Lyon’s career have been well-documented, and it has not always been the case that he’s been an automatic selection, remarkable as that seems on the day he took his 350th wicket in Tests. As recently as 2016, his position in the side was under threat, but there are few who can doubt his claim to be the best red ball spinner in world cricket right now.

Confidence, that precious commodity sought by all sportspeople, is something that Lyon has in abundance right now. Confidence to know that he can be trusted to perform the dual role of holding up and end as well as taking wickets. Confidence to know that when he’s thrown the ball in the fourth innings, he can step up and win the game for Australia.

Comparisons will inevitably be made between the performances of Lyon and Moeen, a player for whom confidence is so often the difference between soaring successes and spectacular failures. Those comparisons are somewhat unfair on Moeen in the sense that Lyon is simply a better bowler and mastered his craft as an off-spinner many years prior to his opposite number.

But the gulf can rarely have been wider between the two spinners than it was across days four and five. Moeen, who toiled gamely for little reward until Joe Denly’s part-time leg-spin was preferred to him, was unable to take the wickets England desperately needed to retain the initiative in the match.

Lyon, on the other hand, stepped up and delivered what was required with confidence, skill and wickets. Steve Smith was player of the match, but Lyon was player of the day; he’ll be leading the victory song with a little more gusto than normal.

Patrick Noone is an analyst at CricViz.


CricViz Analysis: Matthew Wade’s century

Patrick Noone looks at how Matthew Wade showed England he’s more than just Australia’s mongrel spirit animal.

Matthew Wade’s latest crack at Test cricket has already been more successful than his previous one. Back in 2016, Wade was one of the beneficiaries of the selectorial carnage that followed Australia being bowled out for 85 by South Africa in Hobart. Incumbent wicketkeeper Peter Nevill was dropped, and Wade was given the gloves, with selector Trevor Hohns not ruling out that one of the reasons for Wade’s callup being to add ‘mongrel’ to a team that was perceived as having a soft centre.

Back then, Wade’s inclusion made little sense from a cricketing point of view. He was averaging 28.25 in the Sheffield Shield, the second lowest of all the regular wicketkeepers in the competition. Modest returns for a batsman of his ability, who already had two Test hundreds to his name from his earlier spell in the Test team in 2012 and 2013, but apparently enough to reclaim the gloves at the highest level.

Wade’s return to the fold lasted ten matches, during which he scored 263 runs in 16 innings. A half century on a tricky pitch in a losing cause in Dharamsala was the highlight, but after three successive single figure scores in Bangladesh, Wade was quietly cast aside in favour of Tim Paine for the 2017-18 Ashes.

Since then, Paine’s ascension to the role of Test captain meant that the door appeared closed to Wade regaining his spot as wicketkeeper batsman, at least for the time being. The only route back to the Test side for Wade was to play as a specialist batsman. Mongrel or not, what he needed were runs.

Largely free of the gloves in the 2018-19 Sheffield Shield season – he kept wicket in just three of Tasmania’s ten matches – Wade had by far his most prolific season against the red ball, plundering 1021 runs, surpassing his next highest tally in a domestic First Class season by 344 runs.

Only Marcus Harris made more runs than him last season, and he was already in the Australia team during their home summer. Wade was the next cab off the rank, the one banging the door down and probably a few more clichés besides. From being picked for spurious, non-cricket reasons, Wade is back in the big time after making a case with the bat that simply couldn’t be ignored any longer.

His innings today began in ominous fashion, from an England point of view. An over-pitched delivery from Joe Denly was driven disdainfully to the cover boundary, the first of 41 balls he would play in that region, the first of seven fours he would lace to the fence in that area of the field. It will have helped to settle any nerves that might have been there after he missed out in the first innings, perhaps provided a sense that yes, he did belong on this stage.

It might seem a strange thing to say about an innings that literally started with a boundary, but Wade’s was a measured century in which he moved through the gears, attacking more and more as it progressed until he resorted to all-out attack in the latter third of his knock. His wicket only fell as a result of him looking to kick on some more; an aggressive lofted pull shot that couldn’t quite clear the man at deep backward square leg.

Sure, with Australia 205-4 and already 115 runs ahead, it was a nice time to come to the crease, but Wade’s contribution dealt England an almighty blow. When he came in to bat, England’s WinViz was still 50%; by the time he was dismissed, it was just 2%.

Steve Smith will rightly take most of the headlines for another astonishing century, his second of the match on his return to the side, but Wade proved himself a more than reliable lieutenant to both his former and his current captain. It was across the course of his partnerships of 126 with Smith and 76 with Paine that England’s thoughts turned from thinking it was a game they could still win to a game that had to try and not lose.

It’s unwise to predict how long Wade’s latest stint in the Test team will last. Even with this hundred under his belt, there is no guarantee that he will be in possession of that Baggy Green for a prolonged period – just ask Joe Burns. There have been a few decisions made by the Australian selectors that have raised a few eyebrows recently, but Wade has done all he can to justify a proper run in the side, both back home in domestic cricket and now in his maiden appearance in an Ashes Test.

The irony is that the attitude Wade demonstrated today is far more valuable to Australia than the fighting spirit, to put it kindly, that was required by earlier regimes. Wade has shown he can add more than just ‘mongrel’ to this Australian setup. Today he demonstrated great temperament, a sharp reading of the match situation and no shortage of skill to help propel Australia towards a Test match win, one cover drive at a time.

Patrick Noone is an analyst at CricViz.


CricViz Analyis: Moeen Ali

Patrick Noone looks at England’s mercurial all-rounder, whose batting reached a new low at Edgbaston on Day three.

Moeen Ali’s batting is falling off a cliff. If it hasn’t already fallen as far as it possibly can fall, it can’t have much further to go.

Today’s innings was his fourth duck from the eight innings he’s batted in 2019, a wretched run during which he’s also lost his place in the ODI team after going 29 innings without a half century.

Today’s dismissal felt like a nadir had been reached, a depth hitherto not plumbed by even the most languid, mercurial of batsmen. Being bowled while leaving the ball is not that uncommon – there have been 202 such dismissals since 2006, when information of that nature was first recorded. That’s roughly 7% of all the bowled dismissals in that time; a small amount, but not a negligible one.

Moeen isn’t even the first to be memorably bowled without offering a shot in an Ashes Test. Think of Shane Warne to Andrew Strauss at Edgbaston, or of Simon Jones to Michael Clarke at Old Trafford. But on each of those occasions, the batsman was dismissed by a truly exceptional piece of bowling; so much so that the latter example is remembered as much for the delivery itself as Mark Nicholas’ unguarded exclamation of ‘That. Is. Very. Good!’ as Clarke’s off-stump went cart-wheeling off behind him.

But today, Moeen wasn’t dismissed by a ball that was ‘Very. Good.’ It was a regulation ball from Nathan Lyon that pitched in line with off-stump, straightened a fraction, but not enough to not clatter into it as Moeen played for more turn than there was. Having faced the two previous balls from Lyon that were much straighter, pitching on an almost identical spot, Moeen thought the wider delivery would turn away from his stumps and wrongly thought it safe to leave.

According to our Expected Wickets model, the ball from Lyon had a 1.53% chance of taking a wicket, based on historical tracking data that takes into account drift, length and turn to assess the likelihood of any given ball taking a wicket. A ball with an xW figure of 1.53% chance is not a bad ball, but it neither remarkable nor exceptional.

Lyon bowled 264 balls in England’s innings, 110 of them had a higher chance of taking a wicket than the one that Moeen fatefully let go. The wicket ball was in the upper midtable of Lyon’s deliveries; a Leicester City of a ball – solid, competent and capable of causing the odd problem, but not at a level to consistently challenge the very best.

For Moeen to misjudge it so spectacularly was indicative of a batsman in the worst form of his life, of a scrambled mind unable to organise a technique that is so free-flowing and thrilling to watch when all the working parts are in order.

This is a batsman whose first Test hundred was a 281-ball vigil that took England to the brink of saving a Test. This is also a batsman who scored 102 from 57 balls in an ODI less than two years ago. He has shown that he can bat in several different ways and with great success, but there is no doubt now that this is his most prolonged period of poor form with the willow.

Moeen’s career has always been a peculiar tale. Called up in 2014 to replace Graeme Swann as England’s premier spinner, despite resolutely being a batsman who bowled, rather than the other way around. Since then, he has slowly metamorphosised into a bowling all-rounder; a maverick lower order batsman who might ‘come off’ rather than a frontline batsman in the team through weight of runs. While with the ball, he’s proven himself capable of bowling out even the very best players of spin, particularly in home conditions.

The oddity about Moeen’s travails with the bat are that he has rarely been so confident with ball in hand as he is now. You can tell when Moeen is at his best from the energy in his delivery stride. That extra bit of oomph allows him to put more action on the ball and more revs lead to more drift. In 2017, his most successful home summer, Moeen found, on average, 2.5° of drift. It led to him taking 30 wickets in seven matches, including a hat-trick to win the Test against South Africa at The Oval.

In two Tests so far this summer, Moeen has found 2.2° of drift and he looks back to something close to his best after his Antipodean ordeals in 2017-18. Today he was admittedly expensive, but still picked up the wicket of Cameron Bancroft and bowled a reasonable line and length throughout his nine overs; no long hops, no full tosses, just dependable off-spin bowling.

After Jack Leach’s 92 as nightwatchman against Ireland, there were calls in some quarters for Moeen to be left out of the XI for this Test in favour of the Somerset man. Leach is a fine bowler who would not have let England down and, in hindsight, might have been useful in the first innings given Steve Smith’s relatively weak record against left-arm spin (he ‘only’ averages 35).

But to suggest that Moeen is not worth his place in the side on bowling alone would be wrong. He averages 29.76 against left-handers in Tests and Australia have four left-handers in their top six. Leach might be the better option to Smith, but Moeen is the better option to just about everyone else, even Bancroft, the only other right-hander in Australia’s top order.

With the game delicately poised and the tourists on the cusp of batting themselves into a good position on a fourth day pitch, Moeen’s role tomorrow will be a big one. He missed out in eye-catching style with the bat, but you wouldn’t bet against him having the last laugh with the ball.

Patrick Noone is an analyst at CricViz.


CricViz Analysis: Unlucky Australia lack Starc’s spark

Patrick Noone looks at what Australia were lacking on a day of ‘what might have beens’ for the tourists

The selection of Australia’s bowling attack was the subject of much scrutiny before the Ashes began. Pat Cummins, the number one bowler in the world according to the ICC rankings, was always going to play. As was Nathan Lyon as the sole spinner. That left Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson and Peter Siddle essentially vying for two spots, assuming they opted for the six batsmen/four bowler balance that is their norm.

Hazlewood missed out on Australia’s World Cup squad, in part so he would remain fresh for this series. Starc is the fastest active bowler in the world and is coming off the back of a second successive World Cup as leading wicket-taker. Yet neither was picked, as Pattinson and Siddle got the nod.

At face value, the decisions to pick the Victorian pair looked like emotional ones, though each for different reasons. For Siddle, it was a case of returning to the safety of what they knew. A bowler who is tried and tested, a veteran of five previous Ashes series and a regular tormentor of England batsmen in years gone by.

While Pattinson, undoubted talent that he is, the adage of a player becoming better when he’s not in the team is certainly applicable to him. There was excitement in the potential, of what Pattinson could do if given a run of games free of the injuries that have blighted his career before now.

Of course, there are other reasons that strengthen the selection case of both seamers. Pattinson has played county cricket for Nottinghamshire, Siddle for Essex; they are accustomed to English conditions and to bowling with the Duke’s ball, to a level that Hazlewood and Starc are not.

However, despite all of that, when Rory Burns and Joe Root were batting along serenely for 42.4 overs either side of lunch, you couldn’t help but feel Starc’s absence and wonder if Australia were guilty of over-thinking their selection by leaving out two of their three premier seamers.

Edgbaston is a ground where runs have historically come easiest in the second innings. Since 2006, runs have come at an average of 34.93 per wicket in that period, significantly higher than the other three innings.  

Those numbers suggest the pitch gets easier to bat on and according to PitchViz, our model that assesses the difficulty of batting based on ball tracking data, that was certainly the case in this Test. On day two, there was less swing on offer and the pitch was a touch slower than it had been on day one.

The differences might appear marginal, but they were enough to blunt an Australian attack that suddenly looked quite samey. Three right-arm quicks, all with an average speed between 132 and 137kph, breaking their backs to extract life out of a flattening pitch; there was more than a whiff of England’s most recent tour Down Under.

And that’s largely the pertinent point. On that 2017-18 tour, England rarely bowled badly; Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad and James Anderson didn’t become bad bowlers despite their struggles and despite the eventual series score-line. The same was true today of Australia’s trio.

Siddle bowled with characteristic full-blooded enthusiasm and no small amount of skill or accuracy. Overall, 44% of the balls he bowled were on both a good line and length, the joint highest of any seamer in this Test, along with Chris Woakes.

Pattinson reached 145kph, quicker than he managed in previous innings on English soil, six years and several injuries ago. He drew a false shot from 35% of the balls he bowled, comfortably the most of any seamer in the match. Yesterday, Stuart Broad’s equivalent figure was 25% on his way to a five-wicket haul.

Cummins, while guilty of being a touch too short throughout the day, still bowled more than half of his balls on a good line and picked up the key wicket of Jos Buttler before he could inflict any serious damage.

On another day, any of the three seamers could have had far more joy than they did. On another day, one of the 30 balls edged by Rory Burns would have gone to hand. On another day, Burns is correctly given out LBW on 21 to Lyon and the seamers have an end opened up that they can bowl to and put pressure on England.

But sometimes you have days like this in Test cricket. England had plenty two and a half years ago, and the calls then were for more variety – some extra pace or perhaps a left-arm option. In Starc, Australia have a bowler who ticks both boxes and whose skillset is ideally suited to make breakthroughs on days like today.

The beauty of a bowler like Starc is that he takes the pitch out of the equation. Yes, he’s frightening to face when there is some juice in the wicket, but he’s no less threatening when the pitch is lifeless. The three innings in which Starc has bowled on the slowest pitches he’s ever encountered, he finished with five wickets twice and four wickets once. In Sri Lanka in 2016, he took six wickets on a pitch with a pace rating of 4.5, not dissimilar to the one at Edgbaston for this Test.

Australia still have time to fight their way back into the Test. They still lead England by 17 runs and will surely have more luck with the ball tomorrow than they did today. Siddle or Pattinson might yet bowl a match-winning spell in the fourth innings and even if not, the former has already kept them in the game with the bat.

The selections have not been without merit or logic and could yet prove to be a masterstroke. But until then, today was a stark reminder of what Australia lack without Mitchell.

Patrick Noone is an analyst at CricViz.


CricViz Analysis: Broad’s opening spell

It was Steve Smith’s day as the Ashes got underway at Edgbaston, but not before Stuart Broad showed a glimpse of what might have been for England.

It seems remarkable to think that there were some calls for Stuart Broad to be dropped for this Test match. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, of course, but even allowing for that, this is Broad’s stage. It always has been.

The first morning of an Ashes series with a fervently partisan home crowd barracking for him is where Broad belongs, the kind of situation he’s thrived in before and made some of the most stunning contributions of his career. Today was no different.

It’s become a familiar refrain in recent years that Broad does not bowl full enough at the start of the innings. There have been countless occasions when he has been accused of ‘wasting’ the new ball by bowling too short. Often that criticism has been fair, other times it has not – there is the strong counter-argument that a guy with over 400 Test wickets to his name must have some idea of what length to bowl.

The narrative has nonetheless persisted, but Broad will have silenced a few of those naysayers today. His average length with the new ball spell was 5.6m from the batsman’s stumps, fuller than he’s been since the first innings of the 2014 Sydney Test and the third fullest opening spell of his career.

Coincidentally, that innings was also the last time he dismissed David Warner in a Test match, having subsequently bowled in 16 innings across three series without taking the wicket of Australia’s returning opener.

Broad should have had his man with his very first ball, but Aleem Dar committed the first of several umpiring mistakes when he failed to spot an inside edge as Warner tried to work to leg. It was the second fullest ball Broad bowled all day – the only one fuller was the very next ball and a tone was immediately set that put England in the driving seat in the early exchanges.

A form of justice prevailed in Broad’s second over when Warner was wrongly given out LBW, even though replays showed the ball was missing leg-stump. A raucous Edgbaston crowd erupted with its first almighty roar of the day, leaving their feelings towards the Australian opener in little doubt and Broad’s Ashes were underway.

However, it wasn’t just about the length that Broad was bowling that caused Australia problems. His average speed during his first six overs was 138.92kph, quicker than he’s been with the new ball in a home Test since 2014. The last time he was as quick as this during an opening spell, Alastair Cook was still England’s ODI captain, Gary Ballance was scoring 156 in a Test match and Steve Smith only had four Test hundreds to his name.

Yet it was perhaps ironic while Broad was fuller and quicker than he’s been for a while, that his next wicket would come from one of the slowest, shortest balls of the spell. At 135.76kph, it was the fourth slowest ball Broad bowled, but that’s still quicker than his average speed since the start of 2018 (134.88kph). Cameron Bancroft went fishing outside his off-stump and Broad, lifted once against by the Edgbaston roar, wheeled away in celebration.

At that stage, Australia were 17-2 and it looked as though ‘Edgbaston 2019’ would be added to ‘The Oval 2009, Chester-le-Street 2013, Trent Bridge 2015’ in the list of Broad’s memorable Ashes demolition jobs. However, Bancroft’s wicket meant that Steve Smith came to the crease to a cacophony of boos and played one of the all-time great innings to blunt Broad’s charge.

While wickets fell around Smith, the former captain remained resolute and Broad’s performance came to embody England’s day as a whole; full of verve in the early stages before becoming gradually more sluggish, shorter of ideas and inspiration as Smith ground them down. With each spell he bowled, Broad’s speed fell as his economy rate rose.

In Broad’s defence, he caused more problems than the rest of England’s attack, drawing a false shot from 19% of the balls he bowled to Smith during his Herculean effort with the bat. He would eventually end the pain for England, bowling Smith for 144 and thus dismissing him for the seventh time in Tests, more than any other bowler. Scant consolation after Smith had stolen the limelight, perhaps, but it was a pleasing way for Broad to bookend the day – drawing first blood in the morning, having the final word in the evening.

When Broad has time to reflect, he might well appreciate the neat parallel of what Smith achieved today. Back in 2013, it was he who took to the field on the first day of an Ashes series as the visiting player in the crosshairs of a partisan home crowd. Having stood his ground at Trent Bridge after edging to slip in the home series that preceded England’s tour Down Under, Broad was public enemy number one in the eyes of the Brisbane faithful as the teams locked horns again.

With the boos and abuse ringing in his ears, Broad responded that day with five wickets, including all of Australia’s top four batsmen. He kept his side in the game they would otherwise have been out of, much as Smith did for Australia today in the face of relentless heckling from the increasingly vocal Hollies Stand. Broad will hope the parallels continue, the outcome of this series is the reverse of that ill-fated 2013-14 tour and he has the last laugh. But whatever happens over the course of the rest of this Test, the 33-year-old medium pacer has given Australia a timely reminder that his days of defining Ashes battles are far from over.

Patrick Noone is an analyst at CricViz.


Analysing Australia ahead of the 2017-18 Ashes

Australia pulled off an impressive victory within three days against India in Pune, their first win in India since 2004.  This comes off the back of a middling home season where they lost 2-1 to South Africa but recovered to beat Pakistan 3-0. CricViz looks ahead to what England might expect later this year in the 2017-18 Ashes

General overview

Australia lost the first two Tests of the season to South Africa with their worst performance occurring in Hobart, losing by an innings-and-80 runs.  They then won the day-night contest in Adelaide before sweeping aside Pakistan.  The chart below shows the scores and the number of wickets they lost in each of their 11 innings.

The blue bars (indicating victories) show that they generally racked up big scores in the first innings and either scored quick runs before declaring or chased down small targets in the second innings.

Driving these performances were Australia’s top order, three of whom scored at least 500 runs over the six matches.  The table below shows their top ten run-scorers.

Newcomers Peter Handscomb and Matt Renshaw have adapted to Test cricket quickly, scoring three hundreds and three fifties between them. This includes a Renshaw 184 against Pakistan in Sydney.

Australia’s attack was spearheaded by their opening bowling duo of Hazelwood and Starc, picking up 60 wickets between them, and adequately supported by Nathan Lyon’s offspin (17 wickets).  We will take a closer look at what made them so successful later in the piece.

The dependable Steve Smith

Firstly, let’s take a look at Australia’s captain and top run-scorer this season, Steve Smith, who scored two hundreds and three fifties from 11 innings.  The beehive plot below shows where he scored his 653 runs.

From first glance there isn’t much we can say.  Perhaps he puts away a lot of full or wide balls to the boundary and picks up singles from balls closer to the stumps.  We can filter this further to see how he performed against particular bowlers and types of bowlers.

Smith faced a lot of Yasir Shah so it’s not surprising that he scored the most runs and was dismissed by him most often.

The heat map above shows the distribution of deliveries faced by Smith from Yasir with his dismissals in red.  He favoured a good length just outside off-stump, shown by the dark green regions.  Smith pounced on anything marginally short or full.

The blue balls show Smith’s boundaries many of which are just above the dark green areas.  The pitch map below also illustrates how Smith punished Yasir for bowling too short or too full.

David the Destructive

Warner also enjoyed a prolific season scoring nearly 600 runs at a remarkable strike-rate of 93.

Warner targeted the spinners more than the seamers, scoring at a strike rate of 113.  The heat map below shows how he scored his boundaries against spinners.  Deliveries wide of off-stump and fractionally short were, more often than not, cut to the boundary.   

In contrast, the heat map below shows the distribution of dot balls for Warner.  Spinners who bowled closer to middle and leg stump with a more consistent length generally kept Warner quiet.

Against seamers it’s a similar story with Warner dispatching deliveries wide of off stump of any length, shown in the heat map below.

A seam bowler’s best bet to restricting Warner to dot balls is to bowl back of a length on off-stump as the heat map below shows.  There isn’t really an obvious pattern in his wickets (shown in red) which suggests his dismissals come about from a lack of concentration or simply one hit too many.

Starc and Hazlewood

Australia’s opening pair put in a big shift for their side, between them bowling more than half the total overs in their six home Tests.  The heat maps below show how they bowled to both right and left-handers with their wickets in red.

They both bowled quite consistently slightly back-of-a-length just outside off-stump.  They did however get many of their wickets from fuller and straighter deliveries indicating that they used movement in the air and off the pitch pretty effectively.

The histogram below illustrates how much Starc and Hazlewood swung the ball.  Negative values of swing, measured in degrees, indicate that the ball swung away from the right-hander and swung in to the left-hander and vice versa.  Starc mostly favoured outswing (to right-hand batsman), while Hazlewood employed inswing the majority of the time.  However, the distributions overlapped suggesting both bowlers had a number of deliveries that swung in both directions.  It’s notable how similar the distributions are in terms of height and width – both bowlers had similar plans in terms of how often they bowl their stock delivery compared to their variations.

We can take a look at how much Starc and Hazlewood swung the new ball and when it got older.

The graph above shows the absolute value of the swing (how much it swung regardless of direction) during a particular over.  A moving average of six overs is taken to dampen out the fluctuations.  Both bowlers swung the new ball, the magnitude of which steadily declined until the 10th over.  Hazelwood is generally a bigger swinger of the ball up until the 30th over, when Starc starts to visibly make use of reverse-swing between the 30th and 50th over.  Hazlewood swings the ball most prodigiously with a 70 to 80 overs old ball, although it should be noted that he only bowled two overs in this period.  When the second new ball is taken after 80 overs, a similar trend is seen as with the first new ball.

Additionally, Starc and Hazlewood extract pretty much the same assistance from movement off the pitch.  The histogram below illustrates this where, as before, negative values indicate movement away from the right-hander etc.  The opening pair marginally favour seam movement away from the right-hander but are more than capable of bringing it back in or away from left-handed batsmen.

Nathan Lyon

We can take a quick look at a similar plot that shows how much spin Nathan Lyon gets.

Lyon has quite a broad distribution indicating that he varies the amount of revolutions he imparts on the ball, as well as being a consequence of the different pitches he bowled on.  There is a slight bump at 0 degrees – his quicker and flatter delivery which he bowls about 5% of the time.

The beehive plot below shows Lyon’s release points when bowling.  Over the wicket, he is fairly consistent bowling quite wide of the crease.  When going around the wicket, he varies his release point a bit more, bowling from quite close to the wicket to very wide of the crease.

Ground analysis

Finally, we can also take a look at which grounds are most conducive to swing and spin bowling.

The table above shows the average swing, seam and spin in degrees at each of the grounds that hosted a Test this season.  England will be playing in all these grounds apart from Hobart.  The most swing-friendly ground was Perth although it was also the least seam-friendly and spin-friendly ground.  Brisbane offered the most spin of all the grounds.

The graph above shows distributions for Perth and Adelaide, the grounds with the highest and lowest average swing.  It is evident the Perth has a shorter and wider distribution indicating a large range of inswingers and outswingers.  Adelaide has a narrow range centred around 0 degrees, although there is a slight bump towards fairly big outswingers.  This data coupled with knowledge about how much a ball swings when it is a certain number of overs old can be exploited by England when choosing how many seamers to play and when to bowl them.

Imran Khan is a contributor to CricViz and the @cricketsavant