Rufus Bullough analyses the decisive spell of the day.
England’s man of the match, week, month and year has done it again. He has once again been the spearhead that has led England to their first Test match victory of the Silverwood era. Throughout this contest Stokes shone in all three disciplines, which considering his current form and pedigree, can hardly be a surprise to anyone who knows anything about the current state of English Cricket.
A blistering third innings knock of 74 from 47 took control of the game away from South Africa and helped to amass an unlikely fourth innings target of 438. Stokes then equalled a world record in the fourth innings, by taking 5 outfield catches including an excellent effort in the slips, diving low to his right, to remove set debutant batsman Pieter Malan for 84, who’s stubborn resistance had been a source of much frustration for captain Joe Root.
But the period of play that will live long in the memory of England fans was his final spell of bowling, deep in the heart of the final session of the match. It ignited a Test match that was meandering towards an anticlimactic five-day draw. In his fourth spell of the day Stokes charged in like a man possessed and bowled 28 balls at searing pace which turned the game on its head with spell figures of 4.4-3-1-3.
During this spell, Stokes bowled at an average speed of 85.57mph, which is the 11th fastest average speed in a Day 5, 3rd session spell by any England bowler. He induced 28.5% false shots from the batsman, which was the highest percentage of any spell (of two overs or more) by a seam bowler in the entirety of the test match. Stokes was also managing to successfully make the ball reverse swing during this passage, a goal which has dominated news headlines at Newlands in recent years. He recorded an average swing value of 0.897°, which was the highest of any spell bowled by Stokes in the match.
As this table shows, the Stokes spell drew a false shot more regularly than any other in the match.
Stokes’ method of slightly leaning away as he delivers gave him the widest release point of any seam bowler in this match. This creates an angle where right-handed batsman have to play at the majority of balls delivered that pitch outside the off stump. In this game 61.2% of balls delivered to right handers by Stokes were played at, the highest percentage of any of England’s right arm seamers. When coupled with Stokes uncanny ability to then reverse the ball away late, at high pace, he becomes a formidable opponent for Test batsman of any ability. The South African lower order never stood a chance against bowling of such quality.
Rufus Bullough is an analyst at CricViz.