Welcome to The Data Day, our rolling cricket stats blog for 2021-22. Here, we use data to try and make sense of what just happened and why. And when we can’t, we ask our models what they think.
New Zealand 329 & 326 / England 360 & 296-3
England win by seven wickets
Context is important. England came into this series with one win from 17 Tests. But as Jonny Bairstow launched Michael Bracewell over mid-wicket for the match-winning six to complete a 3-0 whitewash against the reigning World Test champions, that horrible record was well and truly in the rear view mirror.
279, 299, 296 all chased in supreme style. It’s a record: no team has chased 250+ three times in a series and England have just done it at a canter. To put their performance at Headingley into perspective: New Zealand took 222.5 overs to score their 657 runs in this match – England needed just 121.2 overs to overcome that total.
Ollie Pope was undone by a beauty from Tim Southee, but that was the only highlight on an otherwise dour day for New Zealand, as Jonny Bairstow continued his imperious form, battering a 44-ball 71. His fifty (off just 30 balls) is the second-fastest in England Test match history.
In total, it took just over an hour for the hosts to knock off the required 113 runs.
Scoring runs quickly has been the big theme for England’s batting across the last three games. Of the top 10 scoring batters in the series, the top four for strike rate were Bairstow (120.1), Stokes (82.6), Root (74.2) and Pope (60.3).
New Zealand duo Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell can hold their heads high after both putting in a magnificent series with the bat. Mitchell plundered 538 runs across the three matches, the most runs for a New Zealander against England in a single men’s Test series in history.
Along with Blundell, the pair of them scored over 50% of all of New Zealand’s runs this series.
Bairstow’s 394 runs at a strike rate of 120.1 is genuinely unique. No one in Test history has scored as many runs as that in a single series at a quicker scoring rate.
In an attack that was put to the sword, Trent Boult was a class apart from the tourists. The left-arm quick took a series-leading 16 wickets at 28.9. His devastating opening spell in the first innings of this game was exceptional.
Matthew Potts proving himself on the Test stage has been a huge boon for England. The debutant took 14 wickets at a brilliant average of 23.3. Only the timeless James Anderson picked up his wickets at a better average.
He was exceptionally economical too. Only Colin de Grandhomme’s spell at Lord’s – who avoided most of the carnage that came in the following two Tests as he missed them through injury – bowled at a tighter rate (2.3) than Potts’ 2.6 economy rate.
No visiting bowler managed to control England’s ability to score quickly. Of all bowlers in this series, the top six for the most expensive economy were all Black Caps players, with Bracewell taking particular punishment. His 5-285 across the series came at the price of a run-a-ball.
The Bazball revolution is truly underway.
Days Three & Four
New Zealand 329 & 326 / England 360 & 183-2
As has been customary in this enthralling series, this weekend’s action saw the game rattle along at a frantic pace.
Saturday saw the culmination of England’s remarkable turnaround from 55-6 to 360, as they added a further 96 runs in just 18 overs.
In a jubilant morning session, the only disappointment was Jamie Overton falling just three runs short of a Test century, chasing a full out-swinger from Trent Boult. Three more runs would’ve seen him become the first England player to make a century on debut batting at No. 8 or lower. It says a lot about the quirks of cricket that Overton will feel more pain about the three runs he didn’t score then the pleasure he’ll get about the 97 he did.
Bairstow added 32 to his overnight score of 130, reaching the 150 landmark off just 144 balls, the second-fastest in England’s Test history. But it was Broad who played the starring role with the bat, thrashing an enterprising 42 from 36 balls, his highest Test match score since a 62 against the West Indies over two years ago. His contribution propelled England to a valuable 31-run lead.
Saturday ended with New Zealand’s key pairing of Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell back in crisis-response mode, after the Black Caps had fallen from 125-1 at tea to 168-5 at stumps. Overton had removed Tom Latham for a well-made 76, before Matthew Potts got his favourite scalp, that of Kane Williamson. That’s three times in four innings that the youngster has removed the Kiwi skipper this series.
And so to Sunday, with the New Zealand lead at 137 runs. Mitchell and Blundell continued their recovery job, a constant scourge on England’s bowling attack. By the time the tireless Potts removed Mitchell LBW for 56, the duo had added 113 for the sixth wicket, taking their total partnership runs across this series to a staggering 724. Not only is that the highest tally of any New Zealand pair in Test history, but it’s also the highest combined partnership runs for any duo (fifth wicket +).
The prized wicket of Mitchell was richly deserved for Potts, who has arguably been England’s most threatening bowler in this game. In New Zealand’s second innings, he induced opposition batters into playing a false shot with 22.6% of his deliveries, a higher rate than any of his compatriots.
Despite picking up just the solitary wicket in the first innings, his 21.1% false shot rate was also higher than any other English bowler in that innings
Potts ends his debut Test series with 14 wickets – only Trent Boult has picked up more currently. His economy rate of 2.6 is also the lowest of any player to have played in two or more matches.
Someone who also offered a great deal of control – while threatening both sides of the bat with his variation – was Jack Leach. His 5-66 in this innings was his best in a single innings, and his 10-166 in the match is also his best showing. Leach’s line and length was consistent, the left-armer forcing batsman to defend 55% of his deliveries, by far and away the highest rate of any bowler in this match so far.
The gritty Blundell was left 88 not out, taking his average for the series to 76.6. Together with Mitchell, the pair of them have scored over 50% of all of New Zealand’s run this series.
A target of 296 to win would’ve seemed far out of reach just a few short weeks ago. Indeed, it would be England’s seventh-highest successful run chase.
But based on the ease with which England have chased down two high targets in the last two games, they’ll consider this target well within reach. They’re at the right place to do it, as well. Of the highest successful run chases in England in men’s Test history, four of the top five have come at Headingley.
The chase started with two moments of magic from Kane Williamson. The first a lightning-quick pick up and throw to run out Alex Lees, the second positioning himself at a catching extra cover to scoop up a Crawley loose drive against Bracewell. But Ollie Pope and Joe Root have looked at ease at the crease, capitalising on Bracewell’s lack of control over his length. They are on 132 unbeaten together and England look on the cusp of whitewashing this series 3-0.
Our Live Win Probability certainly thinks they’ll do so:
New Zealand 329 / England 264-6
A remarkable 209 stand for England’s seventh wicket between debutant Jamie Overton and Jonny Bairstow completely turned today’s play on its head. That partnership, coming of just 223 balls, is by far England’s highest seventh-wicket partnership at Headingley, smashing the previous best of 98 shared between Graham Gooch and Derek Pringle in 1991 and Michael Vaughan and Graeme Hick in 2000.
Bairstow led the charge, smashing back-to-back centuries for the first time in his career. It was his 10th Test Hundred overall, and it came in rapid time. The Yorkshire man now has over 5,000 Test runs and is only the 24th England player to surpass that figure in men’s cricket.
Our Score Predictor has him going on to score 165 tomorrow, as he’ll look to propel England into the lead.
Overton, on 89* overnight, has the highest score of an English Test debutant batting at No. 8 or below. It truly was an insane evening session.
Earlier in the day at 55-6, England looked in dire straits. A devastating opening spell by Trent Boult ripped the heart out of England’s top order, dismissing the host’s top three consecutively with full, swinging deliveries.
It had already been an eventful morning’s session, with New Zealand adding 100 to their overnight score for the loss of three further wickets. Again, England had troubles cleaning up the tail, with Southee making an enterprising 33, who added 60 with Mitchell.
Their life was made easier though by England’s curious decision to bowl short. Despite having a very new ball, England opened up with Overton and a tactic to bowl short and aggressively. It was an odd approach, particularly given the threat that Stuart Broad and Matthew Potts had shown by bowling a more conventional length. Over 61% of Overton’s balls in the first innings were either back of a length or shorter, and that predicable length enable Southee to swipe hard to score.
Compare that to the lengths of New Zealand trio Wagner (in his first spell), Southee and Boult who bowled 92%, 87% and 77% of their balls on a full length. Southee and Boult obviously play a different role than Overton, but Wagner – often used as a short-ball specialist – clearly used the conditions to pitch the ball up, with great success.
Boult’s unplayable opening salvo was supported ably by Southee and Wagner. The former got the dangerman Joe Root, before Wagner dismissed Stokes and Foakes. Stokes’ dismissal, a mis-timed waft caught at mid-off, raised eyebrows at the time. Coming in at 21-4, Stokes showed no signs of battening down the hatches, attacking from the word go, launching Southee down the ground for six off his third ball.
Stokes hit a boundary every 4.3 balls in this cameo, the highest rate of any player in the match so far. He attacked 53.8% of his balls, with only Southee attacking more (min 10 balls faced). It was a style that ignored the perilous position England were in, and his tame dismissal went against traditional Test match thinking. But that’s clearly the way England are going to play. And anyone who witnessed the partnership between Bairstow and Overton, as well as the approach in the two run chases in the two previous Test, would attest that it’s an all-or-nothing approach. Cheap dismissals are part of the deal.
Earlier in the day, Matthew Potts finally got his deserved wicket, breaking the stubborn Blundell and Mitchell partnership. The pair put on 120 together, to go with 50 and 195 at Lord’s, and 236 and 45 at Trent Bridge:
Consistency in the cordon was again a problem for England, with Mitchell dropped by a flying Foakes, diving across Root at first slip, and Bracewell dropped by Bairstow at third.
Broad got his customary left-handed wicket, that of Bracewell, before Leach wrapped up the tail, claiming his maiden five-wicket haul in Test match cricket.
But that was not before Mitchell had once again put England to the sword. With another hundred here, he now has 474 runs in the series and the most runs for a New Zealander against England in a single men’s Test series in history.
New Zealand’s final score of 329 was 15 runs higher than our predictor model had them at the start of their innings, but the fact that at 83-4, the predictor had them getting just 201, suggests that England did let them off the hook slightly.
When Overton strode to the crease with England at 55-6, our win predictor had New Zealand 86% favourites to win. That has completely swung now.
Now it’s anyone’s game, and, somehow, England could even build a lead tomorrow. What a game, what a sport.
New Zealand 225-5
It’s one year to the day that New Zealand lifted the World Test Championship trophy. Since then, their form has stuttered, with the Black Caps winning just two of the eight Tests they’ve played since. In some ways, today’s play encapsulated that recent form – simultaneously showing promise while also being slightly out of form.
After winning the toss and electing to bat on a flat wicket under blue skies, New Zealand ended Day One on 225-5. Much of that was down to England’s superb bowling, though, the team bowled consistently and skilfully as a cohort.
Stuart Broad started proceedings off in standard affair, rampaging in from around the wicket and causing the left-handed Tom Latham all sorts of problems. Latham survived just six deliveries before a ball from Broad angled into him before straightening and catching the edge. Joe Root did the rest at first slip.
Broad just loves bowling to left-handers. Since 2019, when he started bowling the majority of his deliveries to left-handed batters from around the wicket, Broad’s average to them is extraordinary, particularly at home. Over that time frame, Broad averages just 16.8 against lefties at home, compared to 25.6 against right-handers.
Jack Leach, back at the hallowed venue of his famous 1*, was chucked the ball early from skipper Ben Stokes. It proved an excellent choice, with Leach’s first ball trapping Will Young LBW.
From there, there was barely a moment that Leach wasn’t twirling away. In total, he bowled 28 overs, including a 23-over mammoth spell each side of the tea break. In fact, he bowled so much that he became the first spinner to bowl 25 overs in the first 80 overs of a Leeds Test since Tony Lock in 1961.
The spinner’s second wicket of the day was one of the most bizarre you’ll ever see:
Henry Nicholls had grafted so hard, had managed to grind his way to 19 from 99 balls, and then that happens. Daryl Mitchell is in such good form that he’s even middling deliveries he’s not on strike for.
At 83-4 and then 123-5, it was Mitchell, together with Tom Blundell who once again had to wrestle back momentum for New Zealand. Both are in sparkling form, and their fifth-wicket partnership is currently worth 100 runs. In fact, the pair have now made 600 runs together over this Test series. That’s the third-most in a single series in Test history for a partnership of the fifth wicket or further down.
Mitchell, the thorn in England’s, was offered a huge reprieve on 8 when England failed to review an LBW shout. Stokes has been very frugal with his reviews in these previous two games, and been effective with that strategy, but this was his – and England’s – first significant error.
It looks like Mitchell will punish England, too. Our Score Predictor has the Black Caps man going on to make a big 128 in the first innings here.
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