CRICKET 21

20
Sep 18
After CWC 2015a3
2012 - Till CWC 20153a
1
Sep 18

CAN THE “TREVO”LUTION END WITH A FIRST WORLD CUP FOR ENGLAND?

England and India played a very evenly contested ODI series in the recent past. India having won the first match, could not sustain the intensity of this experienced English team and lost the series 2-1. (Should we say England were the favourites and they ought to win after seeing the table below!)

These two teams have got the better win % in ODIs among all the teams with England topping the chart quite comfortably.

After having an ordinary WC 2015, there have been many changes that have taken place within the England team / management which can be attributed to this success. Trevor Bayliss replaced Peter Moores as the England coach. Trevor’s success with T20 franchisees (Sydney sixers and Kolkata Knight Riders), taking Sri Lanka to CWC 2k11 final during his stint were achievements noteworthy.

Under his regime, England have made measured steps to achieve the pinnacle they have never reached and aspire to set the record straight. Aggressive batting at all times, batting depth, great strike power of the batters, confidence to chase any total, stability of players and usage of more slow bowling are some of the factors that have really contributed to this success.

1. Strike power across power plays

England has been a revelation in terms of strike power over the last couple of years. The intensity and aggression shown by the batsmen is a treat to watch. The average RR for England is 6.16 (more than run a ball) which is really an astonishing number given that the next best run rate is for Australia which is almost 8% lower than England.

Breaking this down further, England have been adopting a very aggressive approach in the PP overs since CWC 2015. One may argue that with the presence of Jason Roy / Alex Hales / Bairstow in the top, this is no-brainer. However, to do it consistently (RR of 5.53 during Power play 1) is no mean an easy achievement. They have maintained this run rate during chase as well, which speaks something special about the English top order.

Interestingly, the momentum is carried forward by the English batsmen even during the 2nd power play. Their batsmen hitting at almost 100% strike rate during this long phase consistently (RR being 5.83) is quite phenomenal

Astonishingly, the impact is further intensified during Power Play 3 as well with a RR of 8.35 and most of the other countries are way behind England in this aspect. Power play 3 has been a real issue for England during Moores days and clearly Bayliss has found a solution with a strong lower middle order (The analysis for that is provided later in the report).

2) Piling up large totals

English batsmen have a penchant to score large total and have piled up huge scores over the last couple of years. England have registered four of the top 5 ODI scores (481,444,438,408 and 399) recorded from April 2015. This speaks volumes about their batting ability
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England have scored 300 and more runs more than 32 times during this period and the next team has achieved only half the number of times. Truly an astonishing record.

Looking at this record while chasing targets, England have got a whopping 55% success in chasing 300+ scores during CWC, while the next team would be South Africa which has got 29% success. Bayliss has been instrumental in instilling the confidence in the team that they can chase any total on any day at any venue.

3) Centuries scored by English batsmen

There has been 41 centuries by English batsmen in this format since CWC 2015 , the highest across any team , with India coming close in second position. While Top 3 batters in England team have contributed to around 70% of the centuries compared to India 88%. This shows the middle order strength of the English team and why they are not overly dependent on their top 3 only to get runs. From the batsmen perspective, this helps the top 3 players to play with more freedom and achieve success. Compare it to what pressure the top 3 batters of India go through to get them to a decent score. This would speak volumes of the England batting depth in this format.

Hundreds – Since CWC 2015

4) Strike rates of individual batsmen

We further analyse the strike rates of the batsmen across the world in this format and it is no surprise 5 out of the top 10 batsmen with min of 1500 runs after CWC 2015 come from England. These 5 batsmen have also scored 26 out of the 41 hundreds that was highlighted earlier.

Best SR in ODIs – After CWC 2015 – Min 1500 Runs

5) Contribution of lower order to the team

Let us review the contribution from the lower order 6/7/8 across the various teams. Here again, you would find that the lower middle order of England have the excellent strike rate. There is no letting go of the momentum created by the top order and this has augured very well for England over the last few years. The lower order middle consisting of Butler, Moeen Ali, Woakes and Curran are good batsmen with a very healthy average as well and this has helped them post large scores while setting targets and also chase targets easily.

Strike Rate of 6/7/8 – After CWC 2015

6) Team composition and Stability

Bayliss – Morgan combination have reposed lots of faith in the personnel playing for England in this format. They have had a combination of experienced and youngsters part of the team and have worked out as a cohesive unit since CWC 2015. The below data highlights the above point on the stability within the team and the confidence that has been placed on these individuals

7) Using spinners in One day matches

One of the clear strategies introduced by Morgan – Bayliss combination over the last few years is to use spinners more as part of their bowling armoury (Avg overs bowled by spinners increased from 12.2 overs in a 50 over match to 17 overs post CWC 2015) . Primarily the burden of bowling spin has fallen on Adil Rashid / Moeen Ali during this period. This spin duo, have gone for more runs, but they have also taken more wickets during this period as the below table suggests. They have moved away from being Conservatist in their approach and have become aggressors. England have accepted this risk as part of their overall plan.

England Spinners

With the batting prowess having proven successfully over the last few ears, Trevor – Morgan combination have raised the hopes of lifting the World cup for the first time ever. However, the fact remains whether the English team can shed away their choker tag in World cup tournaments given their past abysmal record. They currently rank 7th in terms of their win percentage in World cup.

Given the fact that CWC 19 is being played in England, there be could added pressure on the hosts. The strong batting line-up could have some off-days and the local crowd sincerely hope that history does not repeat itself for them in CWC.

19
Aug 18

Roaring at Home but Purring Away?

In the last 10 years (since 2008), India have played 3 series in Australia, and Australia have won all three, and comprehensively. India won just 1 one of the 12 Tests played in these 3 series (Australia won 8 and there were 3 draws). In the same period, Australia toured India 4 times, and lost all 4 series, again very comprehensively, with Australia winning just 1 of the 14 Tests played (India won 10 and there were 3 draws).
In the same 10 year period, England played 2 series against Pakistan in UAE (Pakistan’s designated home) and lost both with a 0-5 win-loss record, while Pakistan played 3 series in England, won none of them and had 4-7 win-loss record (admittedly respectful, but still not in a winning cause).

In the same 10 year period, Sri Lanka toured New Zealand twice, lost both series, with a 0-4 win-loss record, while New Zealand also toured Sri Lanka twice, won neither series, and finished with a 1-3 win-loss record.
There is a perception that modern day Test cricket has become a win-at-home-and-lose-away game. The above examples bear out this assertion, but this piece will delve into whether there is a larger trend (by looking at results in the last 10 years, since 2008), and if yes, whether this trend is a significant deviation from the past. We will also look at which teams have been the most and least dominant both home and away.
Testing the hypothesis
Let us first look at the home and away records of Test teams (excluding Zimbabwe and Bangladesh) since January 2008.

Table 1: Home Record of Test Nations since January 2008

Table 2: Away Record of Test Nations since January 2008

It is clear from Tables 1 and 2 that that every team, except West Indies, loses less than 30% of Tests when playing at home, and every team, again with the exception of West Indies, wins at least 50% of Tests (Sri Lanka is at 49%). However, the away records are the inverse for all teams, except South Africa, losing more than 40% of Tests on tour and winning less than 30%.
This record is even more exaggerated if we dive deeper into the above numbers to only look at the record of these teams in alien conditions. We will get a better picture of the inability of teams to adapt to alien conditions if we look at the records of non-Asian teams in Asia and that of Asian teams in the Australia, South Africa, England and New Zealand.

Table 3: Records of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in Tests in England, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand since January 2008

 

    Table 4: Records of England, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand in India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan (including UAE) since January 2008

Tables 3 and 4 perfectly illustrate the inability of teams to adjust to difficult conditions. As per Table 3, when the major Asian teams play in Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand, in conditions that are the most alien to them and therefore the most challenging, they only win about 17% of Tests and lose more than 60% of Tests. As per Table 4, the numbers are almost perfectly inverted when they host these teams, winning more than 60% of Tests and losing only 15%. Same teams, same players, just different conditions.

Is this a deviation from the past?
It is clear from Tables 1, 2, 3 and 4 is that teams have in the last 10 years been dominant at home but poor travelers. However, this recent hullaballoo about modern day Test cricket being a win-at-home-and-lose-away game would not be justified if conditions have always dictated the result. For this analysis, let us look beyond the last 10 years, i.e. the period immediately preceding 2008.

Table 5: Away Record of Test Nations for the period 2001 to 2007

Table 5 clearly shows us that there has been a shift even if we compare the last 10 years to the earlier part of this century. Australia, England, India, Pakistan and New Zealand have been losing much more away from home since 2008. Sri Lanka and West Indies have arguably made marginal improvements, which leaves South Africa as the only Test nation to really buck the trend post 2008.

During the 2001-2007 period there were many iconic away successes such as Australia winning series in India (2004), England (2001) and South Africa (2002 and 2006), India winning in England (2007), England winning in Sri Lanka (2001) and South Africa (2004), South Africa winning in Pakistan (2007), to name a few. Such successes have been few and far between during the last decade. In this context, and in the interest of full disclosure, a rivalry that goes against the grain is the one between Australia and South Africa. Since 2008, Australia have toured South Africa with success, 4 times, losing just once (2018) and winning twice (2009 and 2014), while South Africa have also toured Australia with success, 3 times, and winning all 3 times (in 2008-09, 2012-13 and 2016-17).

In a nutshell, the Australia-South Africa rivalry notwithstanding, teams have overall, inarguably been worse in Tests away from home in the last 10 years.

The best and worst travelers
A champion touring team that shines through from all of the above is South Africa. While all the other sides have been losing more than 40% of Tests on tour, South Africa have been losing only 27.5% of their away Tests. Even more creditable is that they have actually been winning 41.2% of away Tests while all the other teams have been winning less than 30% of the their away Tests. Nothing underlines South Africa accomplishment more than their 15-away-series unbeaten streak till 2015, which started in 2007.

Table 6: South Africa’s unbeaten streak in away Test series between 2007 and 2015

As part of this almost unbelievable streak during a 10-year period when other teams across the world were struggling away from home, South Africa won away series against England, Australia, Pakistan (both in Pakistan and the UAE), Bangladesh, West Indies, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe. The only country where they were unable to win was India, where they drew 2 series in 2008 and 2010. This incredible run also eventually ended in India, when they were beaten 3-0 in 2015.
Like South Africa, whose away record is head and shoulders above the rest of the world, India’s home record in this period has been special. As we see from Table 1, India is the only team to lose less than 10% of home Tests since 2008. While their win percentage (65.5%) at home is not too different from that of Australia (64.9%), Australia have lost twice as many Tests at home compared to India.

Another unfortunate fact that stares us in the face from all of the above analysis is West Indies’ decline as a Test nation. Despite winning two World T20s since 2008 (in 2012 and 2016), they have by far the poorest win percentage in home Tests (30.6%), and unfortunately, their win percentage in away Tests (13.3%) is more than twice as bad as their already poor home record. West Indies’ loss percentage in away Tests (57.8%) is identical to that of New Zealand (57.8%), but New Zealand’s do win more (22.2%).

In summary, the best Team at home is India, and the best tourists are South Africa. West Indies are not only the worst team at home, but also the worst team away, with New Zealand being only marginally better tourists.
This piece does not attempt to carry out a qualitative analysis of the reasons behind the teams’ deteriorating performance away from home. Whatever the reason, whether underprepared pitches, excessive influence of the T20 format or reducing focus on defensive batting technique, there is undoubtedly an issue that needs to be addressed if the popularity of the Test format is to be preserved.

1
Aug 18

England's Strategy vs Kohli and the Indian Captain's Response

Kohli’s performance in the current test series would depend upon few factors:

  • His changed stance would help him to play better on the off side than in the previous series
  • Persistence of the English bowlers to bowl outside his off stump and test his patience
  • His vulnerability to in-swinging deliveries
  • Curbing his instinct to dominate the spinners

 

  1. Change in Stance

To his credit, since his last tour of England in 2014, Kohli has made specific corrections to his technique especially for playing the ball which is bowled outside his off stump and that should augur well for him against England.  The below images illustrate the change in his stance between then and now.

He is more upright in his stance & better positioned with his back lift to face the ball when the bowler is gathering up to bowl the delivery (The image on the left pertains to the England series in 2014 and the image on the right pertains to the recent SA series in 2017/18).  This gives him more time to watch the ball and decide on the shot to play. This is apparent in the image below.  He is more balanced and well forward to meet the ball better than before.  He can watch the ball under his eye and play with the middle of the bat in the latter stance, compared to the former, where the ball is taking the edge and going to the slips.

The frames below clearly highlight how his changed stance and balance is helping him meet the ball right below his eye with the middle of the bat to execute the Kohlisque Cover drive that we pay money to see often.

B) Line and Length deliveries outside off stump in the first 30 deliveries bowled to Kohli

Kohli’s downfall has been more of a mental aspect and he has been caught fishing outside off stump to wide deliveries on numerous occasions and England bowlers have particularly been very disciplined in the past and have persisted with bowling outside off stump testing his patience. They have hardly bowled anything straight on stumps as he is very good off his legs or bowled full to get driven very easily.

In 2014, English bowlers had bowled close to 85% of the first 30 deliveries that he faced in any innings off stump and further away (beehive on the left in the below figure), with only 15% of the deliveries bowled to him on the legs or so as seen in the below beehive.  Kohli in his natural instinct to dominate the bowlers at the start of the innings, has succumbed to this plan.

Reflecting a similar analysis (beehive on the right in the below figure) during the recent tour of South Africa, clearly the South African bowlers gave away 10% more deliveries on the stumps / on side and Kohli has been smart enough to score runs of them.  Having scored runs of the bowlers, he is more comfortable leaving the balls outside the off stump which reduces his risk of getting out.

English bowlers in the current series will make sure that they don’t get close to Kohli in terms of both Line and length so that they can be driven easily.  While Broad and Anderson have the experience to remain patient, Kohli would be hoping that the pace bowlers following them would give him more balls to play on the on side.

C) Vulnerability of Kohli to in-swingers when mixed with out-swingers

In the recent series in South Africa, Philander worked out Kohli smartly in a two over spell with a series of out swingers (Kohli leaving them alone deliveries in the left of the picture below) and in swingers (Kohli playing similar shot in the right of picture below). Philander ultimately trapped him leg before wicket (3rd image below) with an in-swinger which came in sharply. Kohli in his usual exuberance of being aggressive and sensing an opportunity to score, made an error to play across the line and was trapped in front. In the current English bowlers, Anderson can reproduce the magic that Philander created and Kohli needs to watch out for such a trap that would get laid for him.

D) Kohli’s itchiness to wristwork and dominate the spinners

England’s Adil Rashid / Moeen Ali would be keen to replicate the success they had against Kohli in the recently concluded ODI series. It is not that they took heap of wickets, but the mode of dismissals that should enthuse them.  Kohli in the recent past, including the recently concluded IPL, tried to play his favourite wristy flick / on drive and have completely missed the ball to be bowled or trapped in front of the wicket to the spinners.  In all the dismissals shown below, his feet and body weight have moved towards the off, and he is trying to manufacture a shot on the onside to deliveries which are closer to his off stump and this had led to his downfall.  Kohli needs to curb this instinct given that Rashid and Moeen would be more nervous bowling to him in the longer format and have a point or two to prove in their selection. Once Kohli plays straight, it would be very hard for any spinner to dislodge him.