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CricViz Analysis: Head to Heads

Ben Jones looks at the individual records between some of the players in this upcoming Ashes series.


Controversial opening batsman David Warner has faced James Anderson in 28 Test innings now – but he’s never quite worked out how to play him. 272 runs at an average of 30.22 isn’t a terrible record considering we are talking about arguably the best swing bowler of all time, but a lot of those innings took place in Australia, where the Kookaburra ball doesn’t offer as much movement. Anderson is skillful enough to exploit Warner’s weakness just outside off-stump without giving him too much width to work with – their new ball battles will be a key area of this series.


Off-spinner on off-spinner battle, this one – but it’s the Australian who’s dominated. Nathan Lyon has dismissed Moeen Ali seven times in Test cricket, at an excellent average of just 25.57. Whether it’s Lyon’s unerring accuracy, or simply the natural angle taking the ball away from the left-hander (Moeen averages 34 against the ball spinning away, 24 against the ball spinning in), but something about the Australian off-spinner gets Moeen quaking in his boots. 


In contrast to fellow Sandpaper-gater Warner, Steve Smith has dominated James Anderson. Across 20 matches – the most any two players in these teams have come up against each other – Smith has made 378 runs at a whopping average of 63.00. Very few players are able to score such substantial numbers of runs against a bowler as precise as Anderson, but the key appears to be Smith’s patience. Against the English swinger he scores at just 2.53rpo, a rate which will surprise nobody who watched their battles in the 2017/18 Ashes series, Smith seeing off spell after spell from Anderson before attacking at the other end. The task for England could be putting Smith in a situation where he has to attack Anderson, and can’t just see him off.


Another pairing of two players who’ve appeared in the last four Ashes series, Bairstow and Starc have a fairly unequal relationship. England’s wicketkeeper has scored 102 runs against Starc, at an average of just 17 – not ideal reading for England fans, considering Bairstow has been a pivotal cog in the batting order for the last four years. Starc isn’t completely certain of his place in the XI for Edgbaston, with James Pattinson perhaps sneaking in ahead of him for that first Test, but the left-armers’ case could be boosted by his past record against a key performer for England. Bairstow would undoubtedly prefer Starc not to play.


There was a crucial moment in the first Test of the last Ashes in England, when Steve Smith got a bit too aggressive against Moeen Ali – playing in his first Ashes match – and charged him, lobbing up a bizarrely easy catch to Cook at short mid-on. It turned the Test, but it also represents one of the few times Moeen has got the better of Smith; in 11 innings, he’s dismissed the Australian three times, at a vast average of 85. What’s more, Smith rattles along at a fair old pace, scoring at 4.38rpo against Moeen. England aren’t likely to pick more than one spin option, having decided the experiment with Adil Rashid was a qualified failure, and if Smith is able to get on top of Moeen regularly, England will have a problem.


Chris Woakes had a tough time in Australia during the 2017/18 series, seemingly tasked with being the enforcer within the England attack because of his extra pace. It didn’t go well, and nothing sums it up more than his record against Steve Smith. Having bowled 310 deliveries to the Australian – a stretch longer than an entire ODI innings – and has dismissed him only once. 


Given Usman Khawaja’s slight tendency to waft outside the off-stump with the appearance of absent-mindedness, it’s no surprise that Anderson has been able to get on top of the Australian almost every time they’ve crossed paths. Khawaja has scored 67 runs against Anderson, at just 1.55rpo, and has been dismissed four times at an average of just 16.75. Given that plenty of those innings have come in Australia, where Anderson is broadly denied the lateral movement he relies on, Khawaja could be in for a rough ride this summer.

Ben Jones is an analyst at CricViz.

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