An Impact Index analysis of The Ashes 2013/14

1st Test2nd Test3rd Test4th Test5th Test.

This doesn’t happen often. Three months back, Australia had toured England and emerged second-best by a fair margin, losing the Ashes series 0-3. In such a short time, this has been turned on its head – Australia have recaptured the urn, England have been humiliated 5-0 and batsmen have ceased to be the quintessential 21st century cricketing bullies.

What brought things to this pass? Large scale bewilderment is being vented in various ways. Were England really so bad? Were Australia really so good?

Three things stand out quite easily though.

One, the re-emergence of Mitchell Johnson.

Two, the massive setback of Jonathan Trott going home after the first Test.

And three, the contribution of Brad Haddin – the batsman.

However, each of these stories has a subtext – made clearer by Impact Index findings.

1. Mitchell Johnson – His role cannot be underestimated… but his bowling partners’ roles can be, and has been somewhat. Let’s look at some simple facts.Johnson got 37 wickets out of which 15 of them were lower-order batsmen (nos. 8-11). That’s 41%. Meanwhile, Ryan Harris got 22, out of which 7 were lower-order players (31%). Siddle got 16, out of which 3 were lower-order (18%). No doubt, Johnson’s magnificent bursts intimidated the English batting line-up early-on, but the role his two pace partners played should not be downplayed.And no, it wasn’t a simple matter of Johnson terrorising the batsmen as a strike bowler so that they became easy targets for the other bowlers.Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon actually bowled longer, uninterrupted spells than Johnson right through the series and grinded their wickets out. They all bowled better than they have in quite a while though none more than Johnson who registered an impact of an astonishing 150% more than what he accomplished in his last 3 Test series. In Harris’ case, his staying fit right through was enough whereas Siddle had a 57% increase of impact from his last 3 Test series. While there is no doubt that Johnson’s form at the top was the inspiration and the decisive factor, the overall impact was not as overwhelmingly Johnson’s, as is being assumed.All the three pacemen played their role in breaking England’s batting spine.Interestingly, it was Siddle and Harris who dismissed Pietersen thrice each in the series. Bell was dismissed thrice each by Siddle and Harris as well. It was only Cook who was Johnson’s bunny – who dismissed him 4 times.

Pertinently, even though Johnson is comfortably the highest impact bowler in the series (and the highest impact player in 3 of the 5 Tests), he did not get two 5s on the Impact scale (the maximum possible in a match) in the series – which many players have in the past when they dominate a series as an individual. Given that there were 5 Tests, this is an indication that it wasn’t just Johnson’s series.

Johnson’s performance in the 1st Test (64 & 39 not out, 4-61 and 5-42) was the highest all-round impact performance of the series and was also the highest impact performance of his Test career. Johnson had the highest Wickets Tally Impact, third-highest Economy Impact , highest Pressure-Building Impact (ability to take wickets in quick succession) and the second- highest Efficiency Impact (wickets/runs ratio) in the series (after Harris). It is awe-inspiring but he was not a solo act.

2. Jonathan Trott – Amongst all the things that put this series on notice, the most significant was England’s dependence on Jonathan Trott, who chose to leave the series after the first Test citing mental instability. Trott has been England’s highest-impact and most consistent (lowest failure rate) batsman in the last 2 years prior to the start of this Ashes series. His abilities to absorb pressure ( Pressure Impact ) and occupy the crease for a long time ( Partnership-Building Impact ) have been his most notable traits – classic qualities of a successful number 3 batsman. These were sorely missed by his team in the series.England’s makeshift No.3 batsman Joe Root emerged as the lowest impact English batsman of the series and the combined impact of all the English batsmen from the number 3 position (Ian Bell played one innings here too) in this series failed to cross an Impact of even 1 (everything below an impact of one is classified a failure) – a tell-tale sign for a team’s demise.The failure of premier English batsmen Cook, Pietersen and Bell was significant, of course, but it was also largely the result of their most solid cog being missing in action.

3. Brad Haddin – David Warner scored more runs than Haddin but the wicket-keeper batsman had a higher batting impact (the highest by a batsman in the series). This was due to the quality of runs Haddin scored. And that was solely due to a quality Haddin displayed repeatedly in the series – absorbing pressure.Despite the repetitive failure of their top-order in the series, Australia were able to post competitive scores right through because of him – all in the first innings. Scoring his fifties from 100-5 (1st Test), 143-5 (3rd Test), 112-5 (4th Test) and 97-5 (5th Test). Haddin had a huge Pressure Impact in the series (the highest amongst all batsmen) – it was a very significant factor – further proof that the absorption of pressure is something all strong sides have to go through at some point or the other to be successful.Moreover, Haddin actually did this through his natural counter-attacking style which also made him register a considerable Strike Rate Impact (a rarity in Test cricket).In fact, during previous tours to England and India, Australia had dearly missed a batsman who could handle pressure in the second-half of their batting line-up. Haddin filled that role this time with a remarkable consistency – he never failed with the bat and his failure rate of 0% put him above all other batsmen in this series. His ability to bat with the tail is also borne out by his exceptional Partnership-Building Impact (second-highest in the series, marginally after Rogers) which is again a rarity for a batsman batting at no.7 in Test cricket.Interestingly, despite glimpses of Haddin’s ability to absorb pressure before, he has been outstanding in this regard only in T20Is as the Australian with the second-highest Pressure Impact in that format (after David Hussey).

These were the three main stories of this Ashes series. The complete story is here:

ashes-australia

ashes-england

Highest Impact Players of the Series: Mitchell Johnson, Brad Haddin, Ryan Harris, Ben Stokes and Stuart Broad

Highest Impact Batsmen of the Series: Brad Haddin, David Warner, Chris Rogers, Michael Clarke and Shane Watson

Highest Impact Bowlers of the Series: Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris, Stuart Broad, Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon

Highest Pressure Impact Batsmen of the Series: Brad Haddin, Ben Stokes, Ian Bell, Steven Smith and Michael Carberry

Chris Rogers eventually emerged as the third-highest impact batsman of the series but he had the lowest Batting Impact amongst all the Australian top/middle-order batsmen when the series was still open (in the first three matches of the series). He switched on as a batsman only when the pressure of the series result had already taken care of itself. Either that tells us of his inability to force the matter when really required or as Chris Rogers himself admitted, it may be due to the absence of Graeme Swann in the England bowling attack (Swann had earlier dismissed Rogers 7 times in Test cricket). Rogers eventually registered the highest impact batting performance of the series when he made 61 and 116 not out, the latter in a 4th innings chase in the 4th Test match at Melbourne. The highest batting impact performance when the series was still ‘open’ came from Brad Haddin in the 1st Test match at Gabba where he scored 94 & 53, the first one being a high Pressure Impact innings.

Australia’s bowling stranglehold over the English batsmen in the series is evident from the fact that all the three highest Economy Impact bowlers (Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle and Mitchell Johnson) in the series were from Australia and that all the Australian bowlers managed to register an Economy Impact as compared to only two bowlers from England (Stuart Broad and James Anderson).

With his 19 wicket haul in the series, Nathan Lyon marked his place as Australia’s number one spinner in their current Test setup. In fact, since Shane Warne’s retirement Nathan Lyon has emerged as the highest impact Australian spinner amongst all the spinning options that they have tried out and the fourth-highest impact Australian bowler in the mentioned time-frame after Harris, Hilfenhaus and Johnson.

England’s only bright spot in the series was the performance of Ben Stokes who made his debut in this series. He was the only English player to register an all-round impact in the series (Both Batting and Bowling Impact over 1) and more importantly showed his ability to play under considerable pressure (he was England’s highest Pressure Impact batsman).

Michael Carberry had a bizarre series for England, he crossed 40 four times in the series and twice crossed 30 but failed to go on and score a big innings. He got the starts but was unable to build on it, a fact which is borne out by his New Ball Impact (ability to hold off the new ball) which was the joint-highest of the series along with David Warner. In spite of him being unable to influence the English batting fortunes in the series, he should be given at least one more shot at the top of the order for his ability to absorb pressure and to see-off the new ball. It will be interesting to see whether the English selectors back him or not.

Highest Batting Impact performance of the series: Chris Rogers (61 & 116, 4th Test)

Highest Bowling Impact performance of the series: Ryan Harris (3-36 and 5-25, 5th Test)

Players who failed in this series: Joe Root, George Bailey, Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen and Matt Prior