England get cut and the modern history of that shot

How the cut shot has changed since it's glory years.

England were cut a lot in the first session today. Remember, they chose to bowl first. They saw the green deck and then they decided that with their three new ball bowlers, they would give them a great chance.

(I would argue it was not that green).

Instead they bowled really poor. They were too short, mostly. CricViz said they were 52cm shorter than at Lord's. And remember, they were real good there. It's never fair to say a team should do the same thing on every surface, but it was hard to watch them early on and believe they were doing something right.

There were three major signs it was going to shit. Ben Stokes bowling in the first 20 overs when two days ago he said he wouldn't use himself this match.

Jack Leach bowling before lunch - and not just the last over before the break as is English tradition - but brought on to help as everyone else was struggling. And even despite the fact he is the second worst spinner in the first innings in the last few years.

But the third one is they kept getting cut. Six times, which may not seem a lot, but is actually a huge amount. It was New Zealand's largest scoring shot of the session.

That isn't normal. The flick to the leg side is usually the run scoring option in Tests, then you have the cover drive and the pull. The cut is always way back in fourth. To have it as the most productive shot in a session you sent in the opposition is about the worst thing you can do.

There was a time in cricket when the cut shot was a much larger part of the game. There were entire batters for which this shot was part of their identity.

Robin Smith was known as a cutter. It was, outside his mullet, nickname and play against Shane Warne what he was known for.

Here is a collection of his cuts shots. You can see how he almost seems to hold his bat for this shot even before the bowler comes in. And then when there is width and length, he flings himself at it like he is chopping off the head of an invading marauder.

And you can hear the sound as well. As far as shots go, it sounds more gun than cricket. In the 80s and 90s, as bowlers got faster, taller and started swinging the ball less, you could have an incredible career based on the cut shot.

Robin Smith was just one. You can throw in Gordon Greenidge, David Boon, Inzamam Ul Haq, Brian Lara and Geoff Marsh. Cutting was part of their identity as players.

There were many reasons. One was that fast bowlers weren't as accurate back then. White-ball cricket has probably changed this in part because people are now far more likely to hit a good line.

And think about this, it takes a bowler really getting it wrong to be cut. You have to be short and also wide. That is a double error. And it just doesn't happen as much now as bowlers are far better at hitting the spot.

Other things are involved here too. Bowlers used to deliver from close to the stumps, and now they come from any angle. This is a combination of bowlers going from swing to seam, DRS and the wobble ball. But that constant angle in means the cut shot is risky.

In fact, most cut shots now are probably manufactured by players who love them, rather than terrible balls. And there really aren't any tremendous modern cutters. Cheteshwar Pujara, Alastair Cook and Ross Taylor were probably it, but Pujara is the only one left in the game. As good as these players were, I am not sure any were identified with the shot like Gordon Greenidge and co were.

There is a host of players who are really more guiders of the ball. Who with some width will angle backward of point. This is probably more like the late cut than a powerful stroke like the one of the last era. Root, Williamson and Warner are probably more guiders, Brathwaite is probably another. It's not that these guys don't want to hit for power, but it's not as easy now.

There is nothing to say Jonny Bairstow, Babar Azam and Quinton de Kock couldn't be power cutters, but those rank balls don't exist as much anymore.

Travis Head might be the most identified of the younger players with this shot, and when you watch him, he almost always cuts from very close to his body. It's not that the shot has gone out of style, it's just morphed with what bowlers deliver. But there are less of them.

We don't have shot data in history, but from 2015 until 2019, it was still played to 3.5% of balls. That has dropped to under three percent in the last three years.

That doesn't sound like a lot, but it's a big drop. And I don't think it's a coincidence that it started in 2019 when the wobble ball took hold and most bowlers came wider on the crease.

So it takes some effort to bowl this many in a session, and then worse still, do it when you send the opposition in to bat. In the future, England should cut it out.