Test cricket is a game that takes time to unfold, yet finds itself analysed by the impatient who look for more meaning in things that turn out to be trivial, and fail to see the importance of things that initially appear not to matter. It was ever thus.
Look at the back pages of Friday’s papers and see Stuart Broad hailed a hero. See Saturday’s and he’s a mere footnote.
What cricket does lend itself to is trends. Lots of individual incidents (oh, loads of them) allow patterns to develop over time, and those patterns can be interpreted in various ways. I’m going to stick my neck out here and illustrate a trend I noticed over the last couple of days. I don’t know the legality of the imagery I intend to use so here’s my disclaimer to that end.
A million thanks to ESPN Cricinfo for their wagon wheels, which I shamelessly screenshotted for this post. The site should be your first port of call for anything cricket, particularly with things that are going on live. I can’t recommend them highly enough and won’t just link here, but also to the source of images when I get to them – believe me, I couldn’t do this without them, and I hope they don’t hate on me for it.
The trend I want to illustrate is in the approach to dealing with spinners in the Ashes tests, and I’ve got four wagon wheels that illustrate what I mean. I thought Graeme Swann would have a bigger impact on the summer series between England and Australia than he did, whereas I thought England would deal a little better with spin than they have done since then.
The first I’ve got is the singles Australia took off Swann during the first innings of the Trent Bridge test (the first of the summer).
I took singles because they’re the shots that rotate the strike – the ones that relieve the pressure that spinners are there to build up.
There’s not a vast amount of evidence or form to draw from that particular wagon wheel, but if you look at the same graph for the second innings, there’s a definite spread, confirmation of a right angle starting a little backward of square.
Compare that with the first innings at Brisbane, and you see a vast difference. Australia’s batsmen show a great deal of restraint and the angle that was 90˚ is drawn at around half that size from yesterday’s innings. That in and of itself isn’t demonstration of anything other than that fact in isolation, but if Australia’s batting order is deliberately forcing themselves to limit their strokes against Swann (and scoring runs in one specific area) it would indicate there’s a joint approach to playing the England man – and one that, given his lack of effectiveness against the familiar adversary, seems to be working.
In short, it will be interesting to see if that continues into other innings when the variables begin to even out across the series; it certainly developed over the course of the summer – that angle of runs being scored narrowed and narrowed.
Interesting too, if this is something that Graeme Hick’s influence is being felt so early into his time with the Aussies.
Hick was a decent player of spin in his time, and while (particularly Michael Clarke) Australia’s batsmen aren’t particularly weak in this area, negating one of England’s most dangerous weapons will always come in handy.
Incidentally, another thing to look out for is the Australian captain himself. His major input in the double-series to date is a 187 at Old Trafford. His wagon wheel is completely different. I would be intrigued to see if he fits in with the apparent schema