CricViz’s Phil Oliver dissects each delivery to ask how dangerous each bowler was during the first Test, at Headingley.
Just how good was England’s bowling at Headingley? Sri Lanka’s batsmen struggled in tricky conditions against a skilled attack and CricViz can measure how much more dangerous the hosts’ seamers were than their counterparts.
The BatViz model analyses ball tracking data to produce wicket and run ratings for every ball. We conduct a nearest neighbour analysis of the six Hawk-Eye categories that comprise each ball: speed, line, length, seam, swing and bounce.
This process, counting the runs and wickets associated with the 1,000 most similar deliveries in our database based on those categories, allows the measurement of wicket threat and ease of scoring.
England’s bowlers had an average wicket probability of 1.87 per cent per ball, Sri Lanka’s 1.38 per cent. The top five bowlers in this ranking were members of the home attack, led unsurprisingly by James Anderson (2.13 per cent).
The Hawk-Eye data from the first Test testifies to Anderson’s mastery of seam and swing. Of the frontline seamers, only Shaminda Eranga had a lower average speed, but the Lancastrian’s 81mph is plenty when combined with lateral movement that no other paceman in the world can match.
Eranga actually swung the ball more on average, but Anderson’s ability to move the ball both ways is crucial. Sixteen of the 25 biggest inswingers (as faced by a right-hander) were delivered by England’s talisman.
Dangerous swing bowling is partly about controlling the movement in favourable conditions and Anderson is adept at finding just the right amount. Eranga bowled 13 of the 20 biggest outswingers (to right-handers) in the match, but these were not of the right line or length to trouble the batsmen.
Anderson can famously switch between inswing and outswing with little discernible change in action, a skill that is especially useful in the context of expert seam bowling. He possessed the highest average seam movement in the match.
Applying the wicket probability ratings to each batsman, the struggles faced by the visiting batsmen become clear. Of frontline batsmen the highest average wicket probability per ball was faced by Angelo Mathews (2.08 per cent) and Dimuth Karunaratne (2.07 per cent).
That the best was kept for the two most experienced opposing batsmen says much about the efficiency of England’s bowling. Anderson’s unique combination of seam, swing and accuracy, a combination that has brought him 443 Test wickets, was too good for the tourists.