1st Test, Day 4: Influence of Trevor Bayliss has already been felt in the field
Fielding. A very general word for a very specific set of skills. Through their new coach Trevor Bayliss, England are beginning to really interpret those various skills and significantly improve them. His input was decisive in England’s outstanding victory in Cardiff.
The most obvious turning point in the match was when England were 43-3 in their first innings and Brad Haddin droped Joe Root on nought. The physical and mental impact of such a miss is huge. The bowler – Mitchell Starc – feels demoralized, the batsman is uplifted. Root took 11 off Starc’s next over and eventually made 134. England’s winning margin was 169.
But even more importantly England held all (but one) of their catches. Sixteen of Australia’s 20 wickets were caught. That is a superb success ratio, and not one you would have expected after their error-prone performance against New Zealand. At least ten chances were spurned in those two tests.
Bayliss vowed to turn this weakness around. A fine cover fielder himself, he places great emphasis on positioning and anticipation and really understanding different fielding positions. He encourages players to focus precisely on what the role of a certain position is – be it first slip or mid-off – what kind of catches you might expect there and to practice appropriately. Fielding, he believes, is a mindset.
One of his key tasks was to identify England’s best slip cordon. After rigorous practice morning and evening on England’s pre-series camp in Spain, he had the answers: Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Root. Crucially he got them to stand wider – and further apart (they had been sometimes hesitant before because they were too close together) – but at a steeper angle, meaning third slip (Root) was often perilously close to the bat. But at least more catches carry this way.
England took superb catches throughout the match. Cook began it with a diving stunner to dismiss David Warner on Thursday, and took other awkward chances at short mid-wicket. Jimmy Anderson snaffled a firm drive from Adam Voges and Moeen Ali pocketed a skimming caught and bowled from Michael Clarke. Root was sharp at third slip and Bell pouched two at second. All the slips looked more confident having been given Bayliss’s pre-match seal of approval.
If he can help England achieve similar infallibility at Lord’s – because of its slope, one of the most difficult catching grounds in the world – he will already have earned his honorary English citizenship.