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How Ashley Giles had the Australians in a spin
August 12, 2005
Just ten days back, question-marks were being raised about the utility of Ashley Giles in the side: including him in the XI is akin to playing with a ten-member team, reckoned Dave Houghton. He's unlikely to feel that way after watching Giles nail three of Australia's top four in a performance that even overshadowed what Shane Warne had achieved in England's first innings.
The key to Giles's spells was the length he bowled. "Length is mandatory, line is optional," Erapalli Prasanna, the former Indian offspinner, had once remarked. Giles followed that formula, keeping an impeccable length, landing 96 of his 126 deliveries on a good length. On a pitch offering him turn from the rough, that length meant that the batsmen could never be sure about whether to go forward, back, or go down the wicket.
Giles also benefited from the Australians' tendency to use their feet and advance down the track in an attempt to attack him. The graphic below shows the contrast between how the Australian and England batsmen played the two leading spinners of the opposition teams. Australia's batsmen stepped out to Giles 30 times - Adam Gilchrist led the way with 10 - while England only tried that trick seven times against Warne. On many occasions in the past, such an adventurous approach has worked well for Australia; today, though, they were unable to dominate him - those sashays down the pitch only fetched them, on average, slightly more than one run per stroke. Giles, meanwhile, relished the opportunity to bowl at batsmen who gave him a chance, and by the end of the day, there was no question about who had come out on top.
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