India v Australia, 2nd Test, Bengaluru, 4th day March 7, 2017

Did India's pace unit outperform Australia's?

While India's spinners took a six-for each, the stats suggest it was their fast bowlers who made the difference on a jigsaw-puzzle pitch in Bengaluru

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Two wickets in two balls and Mitchell Starc had woken everyone up to the fact of his tall, fast and left-armed existence. Full, straight, swinging. Ajinkya Rahane was gone, Karun Nair was gone, and a Test match that had tossed and turned like an insomniac had, after a period of light and uneasy slumber, jolted awake once again.

Then, from the other end, Josh Hazlewood. One ball just back of a length, spitting up unexpectedly. Another a little fuller, though not quite drive-able, arrowing into off stump, helped along by a near-absence of bounce. Cheteshwar Pujara was gone, R Ashwin was gone, and India had plummeted from 238 for 4 to 246 for 8.

Starc and Hazlewood were supposed to do just this, attack the stumps and run through India's second innings on the Chinnaswamy Stadium's jigsaw-puzzle pitch. Given the state of the surface, given Australia's 87-run first-innings lead, Starc and Hazlewood were supposed to be Australia's match-winners.

This burst of wickets, though, had come when India had erased their first-innings deficit and stretched their lead past 150. On this surface, that was too late. Steven Smith, Australia's captain, conceded as much in his post-match press conference.

Hazlewood, Starc and Mitchell Marsh took nine wickets in Bengaluru, conceding 228 runs at 3.21 per over. India's two fast bowlers, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav, took five wickets and conceded 163 runs at 2.47 per over.

Australia's seamers bowled 71 overs across two innings. Had they been as economical as Ishant and Umesh, they would have conceded 175 runs, approximately. That's 53 less than they actually did. Australia lost by 75 runs.

Very rarely have India's pacers outperformed their opponent's pace attack at home © AFP

To put it simply, India's quicks outperformed Australia's by a significant margin. A significant and surprising margin.

This wasn't the first time an Indian fast-bowling attack had outperformed a higher-rated opponent in recent times. But most of the previous occasions either came overseas, on green pitches that helped them enough to overcome deficiencies in pace or accuracy, or in dry home conditions in which they complemented the spinners' efforts with short, sharp bursts of reverse-swing bowling.

This was different. The square and outfield were so lush as to rule out reverse, and the new ball barely swung either. The bounce was low, and while that meant a greater opportunity for bowled and lbw chances, it also meant edges wouldn't carry too often. They had to bowl with discipline, over extended spells - Ishant and Umesh both bowled more overs than Ravindra Jadeja in Australia's first innings - and provide a wicket threat by attacking the stumps.

They did all of this. And they did all of this better than Australia's quicks.

Fast bowlers in Bengaluru Test
Bowling team Legal balls Length/SG Full/FT On stumps Down leg
 India  396  302  43  99  30
 Australia  426  295  72  139  55

According to ESPNcricinfo's ball-by-ball data, 76.26% of the legal deliveries sent down by India's fast bowlers landed on either a good length or just short of a good length, while Australia's quicks only managed to do this 69.25% of the time. Australia's pacers erred on the full side too often - 16.90% of their deliveries were either tagged "full" or "full toss", while the corresponding figure for India's quicks was 10.86%.

While Starc, Hazlewood and Marsh actually bowled a line targeting the stumps more often (32.63%) than Ishant and Umesh did (25.00%), they also drifted down the leg side more frequently (12.91% compared to 7.57%). This, coupled with their tendency to overpitch, meant they conceded 41.66% of their runs square or behind square on the leg side, while Ishant and Umesh conceded 35.58% of their runs in that arc.

In time, the Bengaluru scorecard could become a slightly misleading document. The only fast bowler to take a five-for in the Test match was an Australian, Hazlewood. Umesh took three wickets across the two innings and Ishant only two. India's two spinners took a six-for each. This will come to look like another Indian home win engineered by their spinners. That, though, wasn't half the story.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • shripadk on March 9, 2017, 7:12 GMT

    Sorry CRICFAN1794064967 , But pace is needed to beat batsman even on this pitch. The LBW and caught behind that Umesh and Ishant got were as much due to pace as due to variable bounce. If same ball had come at 120-130kph from Bhuvi, Smith would have had extra time to get his bat down. It is because of the pace of Umesh, he was beaten. You cant replace either of the 2 current bowlers with Bhuvi on such wickets unless Shami is fit. Shami comes straight back in place of Ishant. But Umesh is currently bowling as good as any bowler on the planet. He was very unlucky against England with so many missed chanced off his bowling. He is the most improved and deadly pacer in the world this year. Indian fielders need to support him better.

  • on March 9, 2017, 5:32 GMT

    Ofcoure. Degraded less known Indian pacers did well than hyped super stars. But its a burning truth for them!

  • Vilander on March 8, 2017, 16:11 GMT

    Just want Shami back in for 3rd 4th test it would be geneuin fun to seem him have a go at the Aussie batsmen. Then again if its a slow low pitch there wont be any need for it.

  • dues on March 8, 2017, 13:51 GMT

    @CRICFAN69846845.Umesh,Ash,Jaddu,starc,hezlewood,lyon,keefe trouble more opposite batsmen. you see Ishant trouble more as he bowled maximum balls. But also when michell marsh ball he also trouble Pujara but he get too less overs. .according to this Cook look better than bradman cook make more runs. 2)btw Troblinh never give win.wickets give. Did you here indid win by 88 Or 25 Troubles?

  • woody3 on March 8, 2017, 12:34 GMT

    Reason non Indians rate the Indian spin as a huge threat and are blah re the pace bowling is Ashwin and Jadeja are rated 1 and 2 as test bowlers with the impartial rating system. Shami (21), Sharma (23) and Yadav (29 not 63, different Jadav) simply do not compare as a threat. This is not bias its a simple, unbiased statistical analysis. Stokes and Woakes play for England as all rounders and are as good as pure bowlers (20 and 22) as the Indian seamers, Broad and Anderson far superior. It is not pace bowling, or batting that makes India so tough to beat in India, its having the two best bowlers in the world, who also are the two best by a country mile on Indian pitches.

  • nils691 on March 8, 2017, 12:33 GMT

    I think umesh right now the most dangerous bowler in the world.He got the line & length on different sort of wickets.His reverse swing, inswingers & outswingers with pace are lethal weapons.

  • AndySaywell on March 8, 2017, 12:32 GMT

    YES it Did. Spinners done excellent, but, was started by Ishant n Umesh. unlike starc had been kept begging.

  • cricfan1794064967 on March 8, 2017, 11:54 GMT

    time have come to pick bhuvi, on ds wickets. He is capable of bowlin.. 135+ and can swing the ball both ways and on Bangalore pitch, his bowl wud have moved and stayed lower favouring team India but they are going with veteran bowler who is no more effective...

  • dues on March 8, 2017, 9:56 GMT

    @AUMKARWAYKAR.It is not that Breaking of stump is required.But it tells quality of Bowler. It is like Virats marvelous elegant flick or Jayawardhanes Late cu.

  • cricfan69846845 on March 8, 2017, 8:29 GMT

    statistics might not give you the complete picture , I don't know why people criticize Ishant so much , his spell really troubled the batsmen

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