Cricket

A bowling show to savour, and the Pujara difference


INDIA TOUR OF AUSTRALIA, 2018-19

Jasprit Bumrah finished the Test series with 21 wickets © AFP

71 years. 31 series. 98 Tests. 292 players. 29 captains.

The list of Asian legends who tried in vain to win a rubber in Australia includes the likes of Hanif Mohammed, Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Wasim Akram, Sachin Tendulkar and Kumar Sangakkara. After all these men, Virat Kohli and his Indian side have found a way through to become the first ones to do so.

Kohli’s eagerness to put together a potent pace attack eventually led him to living his obsession of wanting to win a Test series away from home. Indian batsmen out-batting the home team’s inexperienced batting lineup might not have come as a big surprise to many but the way Indian seamers out-bowled the Aussie pace trio wasn’t something many people saw coming.

India’s tours Down Under

Season Tests Bat Avg 100s Bowl Avg 5-fers Avg Diff
1947/48 5 18.50 5 51.06 0 -32.56
1967/68 4 26.30 1 39.37 4 -13.07
1977/78 5 32.12 4 27.70 7 4.42
1980/81 3 25.03 2 35.04 3 -10.01
1985/86 3 58.50 4 31.53 2 26.97
1991/92 5 24.20 4 34.86 3 -10.66
1999/00 3 19.82 2 49.80 0 -29.98
2003/04 4 47.22 6 47.70 5 -0.48
2007/08 4 30.24 4 40.78 1 -10.54
2011/12 4 22.18 1 51.11 1 -28.93
2014/15 4 36.69 7 52.70 1 -16.01
2018/19 4 32.72 5 25.00 3 7.72

Bumrah leads India’s attack from the front

Jasprit Bumrah led the wicket charts with 21 scalps at an average of 17.00 and importantly he struck once every 7.5 overs. Australia’s lower order put on stubborn resistance each time they were up against it and it was invariably Bumrah who broke through. Mohammed Shami complemented Bumrah well with 16 wickets at 26.18 and bowled with far more control than with the Dukes ball in England last year.

Ishant Sharma picked 11 wickets from the first three Tests at 23.81, a big step-up for him bearing in mind he averaged 62.15 in his ten previous Tests in Australia. India’s pace bowling unit collectively averaged 23.54 for their 50 wickets and had a strike rate of 52.0.

Bumrah had the wood over all of Australian batsmen barring Usman Khawaja, who was the only one not to be dismissed by him in the entire series (30-plus balls faced off Bumrah). Bumrah was the one who often ended Cummins’s rearguard acts with the tail dismissing him four times in 73 balls. To put in perspective, Cummins faced 373 balls from other bowlers getting out thrice. Bumrah managed to snare Tim Paine and Shaun Marsh thrice each while Marcus Harris, Aaron Finch and Peter Handscomb fell to Bumrah twice each.

For the home team, Pat Cummins bowled his heart out and was the pick of the bowlers, taking 14 wickets at an average of 27.78. Cummins had a big hand in keeping Kohli quiet, compared to his normal standards getting him thrice in the series. Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood were way short of their best and was negated rather comfortably by India’s batsmen.

Nathan Lyon started the series well, picked eight wickets each in Adelaide and Perth but his fortunes sunk in the second half. Lyon shouldered the bulk of Australia’s spin workload, bowling 242.1 overs – 85 overs more than any other bowler in the series – while India’s load was more equitably distributed between R Ashwin (86.5), Ravindra Jadeja (89), Kuldeep Yadav (31.5) and Hanuma Vihari (35.0).

Pace & spin comparison in the series

Team Overs Wkts Avg SR ER 5-fers Best
India – pace 433.5 50 23.54 52.0 2.71 2 6/33
Australia – pace 463.0 40 32.27 69.4 2.78 1 6/27
Team Overs Wkts Avg SR ER 5-fers Best
India – spin 251.4 20 28.65 75.5 2.27 1 5/99
Australia – spin 268.1 21 36.09 76.6 2.82 2 6/122

Australian batsmen struggle to grind it out

While the series witnessed many-an-exciting spell, the same was not true of the batting on display. The tracks barring the one in Sydney weren’t conducive for stroke play and batsmen had to work hard for the runs. The run rate of the series read 2.79 which happens to be the lowest ever in a series played in Australia in this century.

Australian batsmen went past fifty eight times in the series without ever going past the score of 79. It was the first instance of none of their batsmen making a century in a home series of four or more matches and never before any of the batsmen from a team failed to go past 80 in a home series.

Australia’s top seven averaged 26.71 in the series which is the lowest for them in a home series since 1984/85 when they managed an average of 25.65 against Clive Lloyd’s mighty West Indies. On the other hand, India’s top seven averaged 40.17 in the series and managed to reach three-figures five out of the 13 times they went past fifty in the series.

Lowest avg in a home series for Australia since 1900 (3-plus Tests)

Against Season Tests Runs Avg 100s HS
Eng 1978/79 6 1857 23.51 4 129
WI 1984/85 5 1616 25.65 2 173
Eng 1954/55 5 1594 26.13 2 162
Eng 1901/02 5 1691 26.42 0 99
Ind 2018/19 4 1309 26.71 0 79

Pujara – the standout batsmen of the series

Cheteshwar Pujara turned out to be the difference between the sides. He faced 1258 balls – 574 more than the next most – and topped the runs chart with 521, scoring three of the five hundreds in the series. He faced an average of 180 balls between dismissals and was key in negating the new Kookaburra, especially considering Indian openers’ brief stints in the middle. He was equally effective against Lyon, falling to the off spinner just twice, both well after making sizeable contributions (73 in Adelaide & 193 in Sydney).

Pujara aggregated 100-plus runs against each of Lyon, Starc and Hazlewood and had a dismissal rate (balls per dismissal) of more than 200 deliveries each against all three of them. Only Cummins managed to put a lid on Pujara’s scoring – conceding 63 runs off 243 deliveries and dismissing him in each innings in Melbourne.

Pujara vs Australia bowlers

Bowler Runs Balls Dis SR BpD
N Lyon 188 406 2 46.31 203.00
M Starc 118 217 1 54.38 217.00
J Hazlewood 102 284 1 35.92 284.00
P Cummins 63 243 2 25.93 121.50

India’s middle order dwarf Australia’s

In a series where run making was generally difficult, India stitched together many-a-useful partnerships at the top and middle order. They managed an average partnership upwards of 35 for each of the wickets from third to seventh where as Australia managed it only for the fifth wicket (40.57). In all, India had four hundred-plus stands to Australia’s solitary one, 112 by Finch and Harris for the first wicket in Perth. Incidentally, Australia went on to win that Test. India averaged most for the fourth wicket – 58.28 – with Pujara and Kohli putting up a century and four half-century partnerships out of the five times they batted together.

Australian openers averaged 43.85 for the opening stand which is the only wicket where they pipped India in the top seven partnerships. In the absence of Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and R Ashwin for the bulk of the series, India’s lower order cut a sorry figure, often being prone to collapses. India averaged 8.07 for the last three wickets in comparison to Australia’s 18.33, but a misfiring top order made it a mountain too hard to climb for the Australian tail.

How the partnerships stack up

Wkt# Ind – Avg Ind – 100s Ind – 50s Aus – Avg Aus – 100s Aus – 50s
1 21.42 0 1 43.85 1 1
2 34.14 1 1 25.57 0 1
3 58.28 1 3 16.85 0 0
4 37.85 0 2 28.00 0 1
5 46.71 1 2 40.57 0 2
6 46.85 0 2 15.00 0 0
7 47.00 1 1 34.14 0 2
8 6.20 0 0 19.57 0 0
9 16.50 0 0 19.71 0 0
10 2.00 0 0 15.71 0 0

India had their chances in both South Africa and England which they failed to capitalize on, but did exceedingly well to grab onto the one thrown their way in Australia, to bring a favourable end to their overseas cycle of 2018-19.

© Cricbuzz

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