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BLOG: T20 Series Analytical Preview - England v India

Following their victory over Australia in last week’s one-off T20 international, England now host India in a three match series.

Fresh from two comprehensive victories over Ireland, India arrive in England five weeks after the conclusion of the IPL and in this blog, we analyse four key tactics which could help both sides come out on top.

How should England’s left arm seamers bowl to KL Rahul?

Indian opener KL Rahul has the most powerplay runs across both teams, averaging 20.76 per innings with a career powerplay strike rate of 135.5.

During the 2018 IPL, Rahul was particularly strong when facing left arm seamers, scoring 99 runs at a strike rate of 157.1 against them, only being dismissed once.

As shown in his pitch map, we can see that he scores a high proportion of his runs when left armers bowl on a length outside off stump.  

KL Rahul T20 career pitch map facing left arm seamers
Rahul Pitch Map

England have two left arm seamers in their squad, David Willey and Sam Curran. If Willey plays, it is likely he will bowl at Rahul in the powerplay, so bowling a wicket-to-wicket line is vital to keep the scoring rate down. If he provides too much width, it is highly likely he will be punished. 

Can spin stifle England’s openers?

England’s form man is Jos Buttler, who since the start of the 2017 Big Bash has a T20 strike rate of 143. When opening the innings, this increases to 159.3.

Buttler is at his most destructive when facing seam bowling (when opening since December 2017 is strike rate is 179.3), but when facing spin his rate drops to 127.

He is also prone to being dismissed by spin, which was highlighted in the Big Bash. In his six innings he was out to spin three times, bowled on each occasion, and 70.5% of the deliveries he faced were either dot balls or singles.

Jos Buttler Big Bash 2017/18: runs/dismissals*
Jos Buttler Big Bash Dismissals

*=run out on one occasion

Given that Buttler was dismissed to leg spin twice in the Big Bash and again last week against Mitchell Swepson, India could look to open the bowling with Chahal, who bowled in the powerplay with some success in this year’s IPL.

The match-up between Chahlal and the England openers (two of his four IPL powerplay wickets were Buttler’s opening partner, Jason Roy) looks favourable, so it seems a logical plan to start an innings with his leg spin.

Yuzvendra Chahal IPL 2018: powerplay figures
Chahal Powerplay Figures

How can India get on top of England’s spinners during the middle overs?

In every international match they have played since December 2016, Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali have bowled exclusively between overs 7 and 15. Of the two, Rashid has the better economy rate at 7.61 per over.

T20 international bowling figures per innings, overs 7-15: December 2016-present
England T20 Bowling Figures

When England played India in 2017, Moeen and Rashid had a lot of success against Suresh Raina, limiting him to 39 runs off 35 balls across three matches (strike rate 111.4).

When we look at the Indian middle order’s record against spin outside of the powerplay, we can see that the most productive players against off spin and leg spin have been Kohli and Karthik, who have the best averages, strike rate and boundary run percentage.

T20 non-powerplay batting vs leg spin/off spin: December 2016-present
India Middle Over Spin Stats

During the 2018 IPL, Karthik hit 155 runs against leg spin and off spin during the competition at a strike rate of 136, being dismissed only once. Putting him in the middle order to counter attack England’s spinners could help India maintain the momentum of the innings and if he can stay in at the death, put his side in a very strong position.

Halting India’s momentum at the death

India have experience in abundance when it comes to maximising run output at the end of an innings.

The one player who stands out is MS Dhoni, who during the 2018 IPL hit 21 sixes during the death overs across 15 innings. In all T20 games since December 2016, he has averaged over 12 death runs per innings, substantially more than any other player in this series.

T20 Death Runs: December 2016-present

Death Runs

As we can see from this spray chart, Dhoni likes to take on fast seamers at the end of an innings. Most of his boundaries have been scored in front of square on the leg side – from half volleys, length and back of a length deliveries pitched outside off stump.

Dhoni T20 death spray chart vs seamers: December 2016-present

Dhoni Spray Chart

Dhoni’s approach carries extra significance because during the past 18 months, England have relied on their seamers to be economical at the end of an innings. Their most expensive bowler is Chris Jordan, who in 12 internationals has conceded 14.83 death runs.

Chris Jordan T20 international death bowling pitch map: December 2016-present


Chris Jordan Pitch Map

During the last T20 series against India, Jordan dismissed Dhoni with a slower ball and from looking at his record, it appears that this tactic can be effective against him. 

MS Dhoni T20 Death Runs: December 2016-present
Dhoni Slower Ball Stats

Whilst a slower ball needs to be used selectively to retain its element of surprise, this data would suggest that it is an underused tactic against the Indian wicketkeeper. Whilst it does carry risk, it could be a useful weapon in the England seamers armoury to limit his effectiveness at the end of an innings. 

Key Conclusions

All of the insights we have highlighted demonstrate how data can not just help teams identify the strengths of their opponents, but also how they can formulate tactics to counter them.

England’s left-arm seamers will need to show discipline with their line at the start of India’s innings to avoid giving Rahul width. When England are batting, India could be bold and turn Chahlal’s leg breaks in the powerplay, using his excellent recent record to exploit the potential weaknesses of the England openers against spin.

To stop England’s spin duo controlling the middle overs, India could select Karthik in the middle order and counter attack, prior to Dhoni’s anticipated assault at the death. Minimising Dhoni’s impact will be crucial – so good variations including effective slower balls are key.

Of course a large amount of individual skill is required to execute various strategies successfully, but players can now enter the field fully equipped with plans to expose the weaknesses of their opponents.

Posted by Andy Cooper at 00:00
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