Fatigue is cumulative – so bowl Moeen Ali

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Sorry that we keep harping on about that period of play when England got caught in fast-medium purgatory, but it really was when the game got away from England. A number of factors conspired to create the horror. As well as poor bowling and limp captaincy, tiredness played a part. Anderson and Broad, in particular, looked shattered and Liam Plunkett lacked that tiny bit of extra pace which is essentially the sole reason he’s in the side.

Was it a fitness thing?

Not really. Everyone has their limits.

England were bowling last Monday, pushing for a win in the first Test – an intense effort – and then they were bowling again on the Friday at the start of the second Test. By Sunday, they were tired. By Monday, they were spent. Back-to-back Tests are tough and this is why it’s so important to field five bowlers to share the workload.

Only the workload isn’t currently shared. If it’s the new ball, Cook looks to Broad and Anderson. If he’s pushing for a win, he looks to Broad and Anderson. If he desperately needs to break a partnership, he looks to Broad and Anderson. Plan B is to use Jordan and Plunkett and if that doesn’t work, it’s back to Broad and Anderson.

Fatigue is cumulative and Cook steadily invested throughout this series. Day four at Headingley was when it all came back to haunt him.

Spin bowling is a little less physical than fast bowling, so spinners can tolerate greater workloads. That’s really useful and yet how much has Moeen Ali bowled in comparison to the quicks?

Moeen Ali’s bowling workload

Here’s how many overs Moeen Ali bowled versus the seam bowler who bowled the least in each innings over the course of this series.

  • First innings at Lord’s: 16 overs versus Chris Jordan’s 27.4
  • Second innings at Lord’s: 12 overs versus Liam Plunkett’s 16
  • First innings at Headingley: 3 overs versus Stuart Broad’s 15
  • Second innings at Headingley: 21 overs versus James Andersons’s 25.5

It’s also worth noting that the last one is totally misleading. Moeen may have bowled 21 overs in the end, but this was only because the quick bowlers were spent. His second over came when Broad already had 16 overs under his belt and his 11th over was the 110th of the innings – even though he had 2-32 at that point.

If Alastair Cook doesn’t trust Moeen Ali’s bowling, either give him a spinner he does trust, or slap him across the chops and tell him to belt up.


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  1. I am not sure not giving Ali a few more overs is a big fault. Anderson, on average, bowled less than 25 overs per inning – hardly qualifies as a fatigue inducing workload. And the fast bowlers bowled pretty damn well too. It is inevitable, in the course of a series, that the opposition is going to get a few big scores. England’s fault was the collapse in the second inning – they should have gone in with the belief that they could win this (350 in more than 100 overs is not unreasonable). A few more overs from Moeen would not have helped if your entire top order fails.

    1. He’d bowled 68 overs in a week. That is a significant workload. And don’t underestimate the impact of bowling for a win. We suspect he went pretty deep in that first Test, didn’t recover and then pretty much came to a standstill by the second innings of the second Test.

  2. “If Alastair Cook doesn’t trust Moeen Ali’s bowling, either give him a spinner he does trust, or slap him across the chops and tell him to belt up.”

    Or get a new captain.

    Am I going on about this too much?

    1. It recalls the quote that “it all came down to two balls” like the rest is happenstance and entirely out of Cook’s control.

      Well, seems like it is.

  3. England should take a lesson from the West Indians, who are playing with a tail five long. No chance of the bowlers getting tired! Unless they’re all out in fifty overs and they have to troop back on…

    1. Bring in Stokes and Woakes for Ballance and Robson. 6 medium pacers should be enough to stop them getting tired.

      Bring back Collingwood as captain and to bowl some dibblydobblers, and Borthwick in for Bell to share the spin responsibilities with Ali and Root.

      Eckersley has FC wickets too, so he can keep.

  4. I actually think that fatigue is exponential rather then cumulative. I don’t really understand maths so may be using those terms wrong.

    But when I have fallen apart in marathons it happens very quickly and the descent is very very rapid.

    1. The cause might be cumulative, whereas the effect is sudden and dramatic. That is observed in many endurance problems.

      A fair chunk of randomness is seemingly involved too. Throughout the world the military do research into human reactions to extreme physical conditions…altitude, heat, cold, endurance effort…trying but failing to draw conclusions about who can endure what for how long…

      In cricket, it boils down to common sense. Freddie lacked that common sense when he bowled himself into the ground (e.g. at Lord’s against those pesky Lankans) and probably shortened his career through one mindless lunge for captaincy glory.

      Ali Cook has shown similarly (although hopefully less damaging) absence of common sense in the recent series. His ludicrously delayed use of Moeen Ali on Day 4 at Leeds being the most obvious example. Jimmy and Broad looked broken by the end of the match and I’ll be surprised if both are fit for selection against India at Trent Bridge.

    2. Arguably, another mistake was winning the toss and bowling. Another day with their feet up would have helped the bowlers (or maybe, going off his own form, Cook thought it wouldn’t be that long) and it seems odd to choose to bat last against a team which ordinarily relies heavily on spin.

    3. I can understand Captain Cook wanting to bowl first at Headingley, as there’s always a good chance of the Lankans getting blown away a seam-friendly wicket — get both openers out cheaply, then watch as Mahela nicks one behind early on, bringing in the walking wicket that is Thirimanne…and suddenly SL could be 60/4 well before lunch. I’d have put money on that happening if, as usual, the Tests had taken place before the OD series.

      In my eyes, much of Mahela and Sanga’s success this tour has been down to Karunaratne and Silva weathering the new ball. They may not have scored big, but they did their jobs.

      Anyway, the toss would have been a tough call. In hindsight, the wrong one. Would have been a good toss for Cook to lose.

    4. It would also have made sense if Headingley were still a seamer, but it ain’t really.

      Bang on about Sri Lanka’s openers. Sometimes just enough is just enough.

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