England brush aside India without sweeps

Notes from day one of the fourth Test at Ranchi

England brush aside India without sweeps
Joe Root is pretty handy against India

England won the toss and their reward was Zak Crawley almost getting hit in the face off the front foot. England took full advantage of Akash Deep’s back heel and a Dharmasena close not out against Duckett to get 50 runs really quick.

But then it was the debutant’s turn to get it right, and push England right back. It was a fascinating session because both teams looked like they were pushing for a knockout in the first minute of round one. When Bairstow was set up by Ashwin, and the ball ran along the ground to Stokes, there was a feeling of if England already got a few runs.

After the break, England batted a little more like that. It was another session where both teams seemed happy, India that England wasn’t scoring quick while they raced through their overs, and England that they didn’t lose a wicket.

Joe Root didn’t sweep, reverse or even try and flay the ball around with a dance move. Someone screamed into a void of nothingness, "Was Bazball dead?"

But the last session went to England as well. India took the two wickets, but seemed a little unsure of themselves when the reverse didn’t work. After racing towards the 80 over mark, we saw new ball avoidance from them. WinViz has England at 29%, but if this wicket continues to deteriorate, this is a very good score, because India will feel like they need to get 100 more than it. I feel Joe Root is trying to make as many runs as possible so he doesn’t have to bowl, which was always England’s best plan with him. 

Ashwin, sweeps and Joe Root’s avoidance (JK)

Bairstow gets a ball outside off stump from Ashwin, gets down on one knee, and slog sweeps it away for six. Ashwin was over the wicket, and Bairstow had a free swing to this ball. The key thing here to note is that Ashwin was over the wicket. As the ball was being retrieved, he moved around. 

This cost him a boundary, because next over when he landed a ball around off stump it was too easy for Bairstow to cut it through the open offside field. But Ashwin stayed around, landed one on leg stump, and it was given out on review. 

This is what makes Ashwin so hard to sweep. He has two things in his favour, his height, and his angles. All he did to Bairstow was given himself a chance if he missed one. He knew Bairstow would sweep. Because he always sweeps. 

He has the tenth most runs from sweeps in the last decade, which while he has played a lot of cricket, he is not based in Asia. Of course, Root is the most, and not even by a little. 

Also, he isn’t bad at it, his average is bang average compared to top six players in the world, which is pretty good for someone who plays it as much as him. But also in this case, it was clear it would be him or Ashwin. And because of that, he picked one too full. 

You can see that this ball is very close to him. That is because I think he planned to sweep early, and the ball wasn’t right. 

Picture Credit - BCCI TV

You can see the difference between the ball when you look at Duckett, who gets down further (though at his height, he has too.) Bairstow is cramped because of his choice. 

Picture Credit - BCCI TV

What is interesting is that as we said before, if Bairstow is a sweeper, then Root is the most prolific sweeper in Tests. He’s got over 10% of his career runs in Tests playing this shot, despite not playing as many sweeps as players from Asia could. 

And I wouldn’t want to make this a Sachin-didn’t-play-the-cover-drive-at-the-SCG thing. But Root did play differently than he normally would. I don’t think it was about what happened last time and the reverse scoop had a big impact. I think he realised with the ball soft it was the best way to bat, and that he didn’t need the sweep. 

It wasn’t just about him putting the broom away, you can see that he also played the spinners based on line. Usually he would score more when the ball is straight through the sweep. But instead he waited for any width and that is where his runs came. 

Generally, he would be scoring a lot more on the leg side. This was not something we generally see from him.

Picture Credit - JioCinema

It's worth noting how much in control he was - although this was from when he was batting in the 80s. CricViz told me England were at 25% false shots in the first session. It was a masterful innings where he thought about his batting and used the conditions in his favour.

He used his backfoot, and his ability to hit the ball to both the off-side and leg-side based on the line of the ball was excellent.

Picture Credit - JioCinema

At the start, Root was not trying to put the pressure back on the Indian bowlers and was trying to get into his innings. You have to factor in that Bumrah was not playing, but that does not take anything away from the actual innings.

Picture Credit - JioCinema

He's played against India a lot, and he's a very good player of spin. So 3 of his hundreds have been in India and 7 in England.

Akash Deep's debut (SAK)

We know how coming around the wicket changes thing, and his natural ball should be unplayable to left-handers. His front-arm is not ideal, but that does allow him to skid the ball more and brings the stumps in playing. He was accurate, and it seemed like he could skid the ball around the top of off stump quite regularly.

He seems like a bowler who would get a lot more LBWs/bowled because of the front-arm. This is something you would expect from a bowler who has bowled a lot in Asia. The sideways movement was part of it, but it seemed like he was on to the batters just that little bit quicker.

He was hitting a consistent length throughout the day. His stock ball felt like a good length delivery with his angle and the wobble ball hitting around the top of middle and off. I thought his overall accuracy was pretty good to right-handers as well as left-handers.

Picture Credit - JioCinema
Picture Credit - JioCinema

Siraj prefers the old ball in India, and the new ball outside Asia (SAK)

India had the leg side field set up for Siraj. I think Foakes is at his absolute best when he's playing past mid-on. It would be interesting to see how often he's gotten out in that mid-wicket region. His hands twisted, and the ball reversing also played a part.

Picture Credit - JioCinema

He has not been able to keep any pressure on England with the new ball in the series, but he keeps getting better when he's using the older ball.

He is not a swing bowler, so you won't expect him to swing it a lot early on. He was reversing it later, but not quite hooping it around either.

You should not be that expensive with the new ball, and most of those runs early on have come in this series.

Is there still a reason to give Siraj the new ball in this series? Maybe for 2 overs, but we know Crawley particularly does not like to face spin early on.

Outside Asia he is fantastic with the new ball. You have a player with very notable strengths and weaknesses. And when you switch them around by locations, the weaknesses and strengths sometimes turn around, which is what we have noticed with Crawley.

The Ben Foakes 30 odd (JK)

Ben Foakes is an excellent scorer of the "Ben Foakes 30-odd". What wicket-keepers in the past like Mark Boucher, Ian Healy and Jack Russell were good at was getting pesky 30s, handy 40s, and 20s where they batted time.

Foakes looks like a better batter than all of the ones I mentioned. As a number 7, he holds his own, but as a wicket-keeper he's not quite making enough runs as compared to his peers.

The concerning thing is that he gets himself in but struggles to cash in after doing the hard work. Part of this is because he is a bit slower. He thinks a bit differently to say a Matt Prior, who thought of getting to 30 or 40 quickly because he thought there would be a ball with his name written on it.