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How Burns and Root countered Southee, Jamieson, Wagner

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The threat that New Zealand pose for India going into the World Test Championship final was on display in the Lord’s Test against England. 

The New Zealand seam attack of Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson, Neil Wagner and Colin de Grandhomme generated the second-most swing that any side has managed in England since 2006. 

India may also want to look at how England opener Rory Burns and captain Joe Root attempted to tackle that movement.

Basically, Southee and Co outdid stalwarts James Anderson and Stuart Broad and the rest of the English attack in their own conditions. It was a potent display of what India will likely be up against next week in Southampton.

Now Southee is an acknowledged master of swing, especially away from the right-hander. But there was no release for England from the other end too, even in the absence of New Zealand’s other swing exponent Trent Boult.

Jamieson has already made a mark since the impressive start to his career last year at home against India. His height (6’8”) makes for a high point of release and can make even good length balls bounce more.

At Lord’s, there was barely any seam movement, but Jamieson was able to get the most for any bowler on either side, introducing another variable for the England batsmen to counter.

As if that wasn’t enough, Wagner went on to combine both seam and swing. The left-armer is known more for his stamina and ability to keep attacking batsmen with the short ball. But here he was at Lord’s pitching it up, and luring even the in-form Burns to his fall in the England second innings with movement in the air and off the pitch.

Burns made 132 in the first innings, with no other England batsman making more than 42. According to CricViz, Burns’ average interception point against pace was 2.03 metres from the stumps, the most in any of his Test innings of 30 balls or more. Further, Root’s average interception point was 2.08 metres, the third-highest ever for the England skipper, who made 42 and 40 at Lord’s.

Now, Burns does not have a big forward stride, and Root is arguably one of the finest back-foot players ever. But these two were willing to get out of their comfort zones and bat outside their crease in a bid to counter the movement New Zealand were generating.

Virat Kohli had done so as well on the 2018 England tour and combined with his largely disciplined leaving, it had brought him nearly 600 runs across the five Tests.

Burns’ wagon wheel was also revealing of the approach of not going after bowlers in England and instead letting the bowlers come to you. Sixty-nine of Burns’ 132 came in the ‘V’ square on the leg side, relatively easy pickings off the pads.

Remarkably, he scored just six runs in the classical ‘V’ down the ground, and none of them at all through mid-off, suggesting that he was restraining himself from pushing away from the body. It was commendable discipline from the England opener, and something India may want to emulate in the WTC final.

Written by: Abhishek Purohit

Featured Image: AFP/ David Gray

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