A look into England’s seam bowling options after a lack of second innings variety was on show in the 4th Test – data analysis

England have suffered a couple of tough defeats against India in the ongoing Test series due to overall inconsistent performance with both bat and ball. England have struggled in the past few months with the bat with only Joe Root scoring the bulk of the runs, but their seam bowlers have also underperformed which has resulted in poor overall performance.

England seamers do perform well in the first innings of the Test match with the pitch being rock solid which has assisted the seamers. But in the second innings with the pitch tearing and the bowlers not fresh, they have leaked runs, not taken wickets, and have given opposition teams to capitalize on the situation. The limited resources of seam bowling options have also hampered English bowling as most of them are similar and do not provide diversity.

1st innings vs 2nd innings

Let’s examine the differences in the number of wickets taken by English pace bowlers who were the priority seam bowlers for England in the past few years in the first innings compared with the second innings.

A limited range of seam bowling options hurt England's performance in the second innings A look into England’s seam bowling options

A limited range of seam bowling options hurt England's performance in the second innings A look into England’s seam bowling options

Great quality bowlers like Anderson and Broad have struggled in the second innings and have not been able to pick up 20 wickets in a match on most occasions which has resulted in either draw or a defeat for England. James Anderson the greatest seam bowler of all time has been vulnerable in the second innings. According to CricViz, James Anderson’s bowling average in the last three home summers in the second innings has been an awful 114.33. Not only Anderson but superior bowlers like Archer and Curran who have been on the Test team for the last few years have a difference of 6 and 15 wickets respectively when compared between the 1st and the 2nd innings.

There might be many reasons for the same such as the similarity of bowlers like Anderson, Curran, etc who are swing bowlers and batsmen adapt to the similarity and take advantage of the same after having a look in the 1st half of the game. English conditions play a huge role when it comes to seam bowling and if it’s not overcast then these bowlers have zero impact on the game especially in the second innings as the pitch continues to harden and becomes easier to bat on.

England lacks variety and they are predictable when played together. Few English bowlers have similar attributes and when they play together the bowling attack looks mediocre. But they have a good bench strength with at least two bowlers having the same attributes and features. We have segregated the seam bowling options based on their strengths and features and have found out the best seam bowling alternatives for England based on stats.

Sam Curran vs Chris Woakes – who is the swing master?

Despite the fact that both Sam Curran and Chris Woakes can swing the ball, Curran provides more variation because he is left-handed, whereas Woakes, along with swinging the ball, can also hit the deck, which creates wicket-taking opportunities.

A limited range of seam bowling options hurt England's performance in the second innings A look into England’s seam bowling options

As the numbers suggest Chris Woakes has proved to be a better bowler than Curran. Woakes is a lot more experienced than Curran and has a better average and strike rate as compared to Curran. Chris Woakes can move the ball both ways, unlike Curran who tends to bowl into the right-handers more.

Chris Woakes can swing the new as well as the old ball and when it comes to accuracy, he is the most accurate bowler in the English camp. Curran on the other hand is more effective only with the new ball and tends to bowl on the pads more giving batsmen a chance to score runs. Chris Woakes can be a better option than Curran and has the upper hand when it comes to starting a match in or outside England.

Mark Wood or Jofra Archer – The battle for speed

Mark Wood and Jofra Archer provide pace to this English bowling attack. Both these bowlers hit the deck hard and generate the pace and movement of the pitch. Jofra can bowl the hard length and has a lethal bouncer whereas Wood comes steaming into the batsman and bowls with sheer pace. Both Jofra and Wood can take wickets and depend on the pitch for movement of the ball.

A limited range of seam bowling options hurt England's performance in the second innings A look into England’s seam bowling options

Their averages and strike rates are similar, but Archer has impressed everybody during his short career. On the other hand, if Wood does not get enough swing and help from the pitch his deliveries come on to the bat, and is relatively easier for the batsman to play their shots. Archer can surprise the batsman with his bouncer and can also bowl that deadly yorker with accuracy. Archer is more likely to make the starting XI, even though Wood can be used in his place if needed.

Robinson or Overton?

Robinson has been a find and has been a wicket-taker for the English in the past twelve months. On the other hand, Overton is more of a bowling allrounder and doesn’t possess the qualities of a pure seam bowler like Robinson. Robinson is a proper seam and swing bowler and has a habit of picking up wickets regularly. The stats also suggest that Robinson is the better bowler between the two English players.

A limited range of seam bowling options hurt England's performance in the second innings A look into England’s seam bowling options

Robinson has an astonishing average of 19.6 and a decent strike rate of 44.6 which makes him a more than useful bowler and fits him quite nicely in this English bowling attack. He has the ability to pick up wickets with both the new and the old ball and can also bowl long spells. But if Ben Stokes and all the other seam bowlers are available, he might not be a part of the playing XI at first.

Stuart Broad and James Anderson – Partnership:

In the current England vs India series, England’s seam bowling attack has looked a little flat, but they are missing a lot of quality fast bowlers, such as Stuart Broad.

Stuart Broad is the second most prolific fast bowler behind Jimmy Anderson. Broad uses the pitch effectively and releases the ball from a great height. He troubled the batsmen with his length and release points of the ball.

Stuart Broad is also effective in the second innings when the pitch flattens as he can cut the ball which results in getting wickets caught by the keeper or the slip cordon. The duo of James Anderson and Stuart Broad has taken 1089 test wickets and prove to be very effective when they play together. Anderson provides with swing and takes wicket upfront and then Broad with his ability to bowl accurately cleans the middle order and the tail-enders. They both are different and provide variety to this English bowling attack.

Conclusion

England should press all their quicks into action at some point in time and rotate according to various factors like weather conditions, pitch, etc.

They should avoid playing the same kinds of bowlers and should go in with their best bowlers like Woakes, Archer, Robinson, Broad, and Anderson.

Four of these five bowlers can feature in the XI depending on the conditions since they all possess different kinds of abilities. Also, others can be kept in the squad in case of injuries or to rest the main fast bowlers.

If Ben Stokes is available, he will come straight into the side replacing Robinson or Woakes as he provides stability to the side. England has a variety of swing, seam, and extra pace bowlers in their squad. Therefore, they have a lot of options and variety when it comes to seam bowlers in their squad and should focus on team selection and choose their seam bowlers accordingly.