England v Australia, 2nd Test, Edgbaston, 2nd day August 5, 2005

The virtues of discipline

The key to England's success on the second day was the length their bowlers bowled

Yesterday, Australia had made the mistake of bowling too many short balls, and England had taken full toll, scoring 95 from 39 such deliveries. Today, England's fast bowlers learnt from that and bowled a length that was far more suited to a pitch that, while quicker than on the first day, was still a fairly slow surface. Steve Harmison set the trend, regularly pitching it up with the new ball, and the rest of the bowlers followed suit. When they erred, it was on the fuller side: on a pitch like this one, that was a much better option. Only 25 out of the 310 balls they bowled were short, that's only 8%, while for Australia the corresponding figure was almost 12%.

What was particularly admirable was the manner in which Adam Gilchrist was contained - he only managed 49 from 69 balls, and was forced to play out 39 dot balls. The key, once again, was the length: of the 41 balls that the fast bowlers sent down, 34 pitched on a good length while seven were full balls. Normally so quick to latch to short balls, he hardly got any opportunity to play the pull today. It meant he couldn't pile on the runs with the tail, and England ended up with a first-innings lead which could make all the difference in this match.

Harmison ended with rather unflattering figures of none for 48 from 11 overs, but that was hardly a true reflection of how he bowled. In fact, of the 68 balls he bowled, 16 were potentially wicket-taking ones - that's23.52%. Simon Jones came in next with 20.62%, while for Andrew Flintoff, who ended up with figures of 3 for 52, that number was a much lower 14.89% - another example of the fact that the bowler with the best figures isn't necessarily the one who has bowled the best.