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Length and luck
A complicated, messy topic to start off the day then. We have all had the feeling Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah have had to work harder for their wickets in England than, say, Anderson, Broad, Boult, Southee and Jamieson. At lunch yesterday, we dug numbers to go with the claim. While Bumrah and Shami were getting a wicket for every 19 false responses in England, Anderson and Broad needed to induce around 10 false responses for a wicket. No fast bowler since 2014 has a worse ratio in England.
It can be attributed to two things: luck and length. Observers of sport – and practitioner, at least when speaking publicly – don’t like to acknowledge luck because it messes around with their idea of merit in sport.
Also there is logic to the idea that the fuller you bowl, the likelier you are to take the edge as opposed to beating the bat. On to length then, but we don’t have accurate data for lengths Anderson and Broad bowl in same conditions as Shami and Bumrah. However, yesterday when Bumrah and Shami got their wickets at around 10 false responses apiece, it kinda sorta checked out. Host broadcaster put out a graphic that said Shami had bowled 31% deliveries in the full zone as opposed to 19 in the World Test Championship final. Bumrah had taken it up from 26 to 35 after a wicketless return in the final.
However, what accounts for this? Kyle Jamieson, the most prolific bowler in the final, bowled the lowest percentage of deliveries in the full zone among all fast bowlers in the game.
Also the length bowlers bowl is not binary. They are also bowling to batters and to conditions. If they know a batting group is likelier to punish anything too full, you will see they will bowl a slightly shorter length. Does that say something of the England batters, who made quite a few driving errors against New Zealand too?
There is no evidence either to suggest that if you bowl fuller, nothing deliveries down the leg side will get you two wickets. It is all very complicated, and it is possible that both these assertions are correct: India bowled fuller, but were also luckier.
We will be keeping an eye on the lengths Anderson and Broad bowl today. Welcome to the Live Report on Day 2. India trail by 162 and have all their wickets in hand. The weather is fair to start off with, but there are showers forecast later in the day.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo