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Match Analysis

This is the way: Going around the wicket to take buckets of wickets

The India vs Australia series has seen a massive switch in the angle of attack for spinners (although it may only be temporary)

R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja take the field, India vs Australia, 3rd Test, Indore, 3rd day, March 3, 2023

R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have been bowling around the wicket to keep the stumps in play  •  BCCI

If you're old enough to have watched cricket since the 90s (or from even earlier), a fundamental change you may have observed is how much more bowling there now is from around the wicket. Left-arm orthodox spinners always used that angle to right-hand batters, but it took other bowlers longer to catch up to the potential of that angle against the opposite-hand batter.
The introduction of the DRS speeded up the rise in offspinners going around the wicket to left-hand batters. Muthiah Muralidaran and Harbhajan Singh were late adopters, while Graeme Swann and R Ashwin used it as their default option as soon as they arrived in Test cricket. More recently, right-arm fast bowlers have been bowling a significantly bigger chunk of their overs to left-hand batters from around the wicket, as this piece notes.
Over the last month, the spinners bowling in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy have written a new chapter in this tale. They've bowled predominantly from around the wicket not just to the opposite-hand batter but to the same-hand batter as well. Ashwin, Nathan Lyon and Todd Murphy have bowled around the wicket to right-handers almost as a rule, as have Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel and Matt Kuhnemann to left-handers.
The last time the Border-Gavaskar Trophy was played in India, six years ago, fingerspinners went around the wicket for only 20% of their balls against same-hand batters. In the first three Tests of the ongoing series, that figure has shot up to 73%.
Lyon, Ashwin and Jadeja played both series. All three have been enthusiastic converts to this new method.
It's not as if there's been a gradual shift over time. The last three series played in India before this one featured traditional distributions of over- and around-the-wicket bowling to same-hand batters.
Why has this happened? The short answer, quite simply, is the pitches. There has been sharp and early turn, to varying degrees, in all three Tests so far, but the pitches in Nagpur, Delhi and Indore haven't offered a great deal of bounce. There has been uneven bounce in all three Tests, but the most dangerous ball has been the one shooting towards the batter's shin rather than the one jumping at his gloves.
This has heightened the need to keep the stumps in play and target bowled and lbw rather than slip and bat-pad catches. This, first of all, has meant that the ball turning into the batter has been a bigger threat than the one turning away. Steven Smith noted this after the Indore Test.
"Traditionally coming here, the usual match-ups is kind of the ball spinning away from the bat, so it's been a bit of an anomaly," he said. "Particularly Delhi, I think it was a lot of low bounce [that] got quite a few of the wickets. It brings the ball spinning back into the batter a lot more [into play] than if the bounce was consistent.
"And guys have been exploiting that. I think most of the offspinners have been bowling around the wicket to right-handers the whole time [rather than] coming around the wicket for a change-up, so it's been challenging, no doubt about it, but it's also been good fun."
You can turn the ball into a batter and hit the stumps from over the wicket too. But from around the wicket on a turning track, you can pitch the ball in line with the stumps, turn it, and still hit the stumps. And if you bowl from fairly close to the stumps, even the one that goes with the angle can pitch inside the line of leg stump and finish within the stumps.
There's the extra benefit of natural variation threatening the outside edge to slip, but on low-bounce pitches with less carry, the biggest advantage of this angle is to ensure that the ball is in line with the stumps through nearly its entire journey towards the batter. It greatly improves your chances of getting lbws.
Lyon alluded to this after picking up 8 for 64 in the second innings in Indore.
"Coming around the wicket, I know a lot of people see it as quite negative, but I see it as the total opposite," he said. "I think coming around the wicket is extremely attacking. You bring in more modes of dismissal. Times have changed in cricket when guys bowled over the stumps and [were] still get able to get guys in line and miss that occasional ball. But by you coming around the wicket with big spin it brings in more modes of dismissal. I see it as very attacking."
Times have changed, because techniques have evolved. Lyon occasionally went over the wicket to Cheteshwar Pujara during that second innings in Indore, and each time he did so, Pujara moved his guard to off stump. By standing on off stump, he was minimising the risk of lbw by giving himself every chance to get his pad outside the line of off stump either while defending on the front foot or stepping out.
And to hit the stumps from over the wicket, you'll need to pitch the ball wider outside off stump, which only offers the batter width if you miss your length slightly. During his innings of 59, Pujara scored 16 off 19 balls when Lyon bowled over the wicket, and 13 off 41 when he went around the wicket.
This only reflected the wider disparity between the two angles through the series.
In this series, around the wicket to the same-hand-batter has been a markedly better angle for taking wickets and keeping the runs down. It wasn't the case the last time Australia toured India - around the wicket to the same-hand batter was less of a wicket threat while being marginally more economical (average 49.00 and economy rate of 2.96) than over the wicket (27.00 and 3.10). In that series, which was played on relatively flatter pitches with truer bounce, around the wicket played only an occasional and largely defensive role.
For that reason, this latest chapter in the history of around the wicket may not herald a widespread shift. You'll probably see fingerspinners use this mode of attack whenever there's a Test match on a big-turning, low-bouncing pitch, but expect them to revert to traditional methods at most other times.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo