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Sunday, January 30, 2011

The timing of the Batting PowerPlay

I dont think any of the international teams have conquered the PowerPlay situation in ODIs, especially the batting PowerPlay. The Bowling PowerPlay mostly is completed from the 10th to 15th over of any innings unless there is a batsman who is taking the bowling to sword. The batting version is the one that is very dicey most of the times. Let us take the latest India-South Africa ODI series as an example and see how the teams used this PowerPlay in each ODI, starting from the first one.

  1. South Africa took the PP at Kingsmead in Overs 27.1 - 32.0 scoring 45 runs without losing any wicket. AB De Viliers and JP Duminy were at the crease and they used this effectively. In the Indian innings, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina were repairing the innings after 5 wickets had fallen for less than a hundred - they tried to take a leaf out of the opposition and take the PP during the overs 29.1 - 34.0. Alas, three wickets were lost for  23 runs that quickly brought the Indian tail to the fore. The Indian response was as well as done by the end of this phase.
  2. At the Wanderers, India were going good, placed at 169-4 when they took the PP at Overs 41.1 - 46.0. One thought that this was a good time chosen by MSD. Once again, the team lost 4 wickets for 14 runs and the tail was exposed. But in the second innings of the match, the Proteas would go one up on the Indians by taking a PP when one was not required. The team was coasting to a win in a canter when Greame Smith opted to finish the match early. He took the PP in Overs 31.1 - 36.0 losing 3 wickets for 20 runs. This time it was the tail of South Africa that was targeted by the Indians successfully. 
  3.  At Capetown, India took advantage of the PP taken by the Proteas. They took 4 wickets for 25 runs during the Overs 44.1 - 49.0. Once again, from a healthy situation of 200 for 4 they were all out in the last over for 220. In reply, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan were forced with no other option but take the PP during Overs 42.1 - 47.0. 27 runs scored for the wicket of Zaheer meant that the target was reduced to less than a dozen once finished.
  4. South Africa regained their PowerPlay touch at Port Elizabeth. Their batsmen were ready for the final assault and took the PP during the last 5 overs of the innings - 45 runs for 1 wicket was the final figures from the PowerPlay. Because of rains and reduction in overs, the Indians could not take their 3rd PowerPlay when their turn came.
  5.  At Centurion, the Proteas batted first again. Rains once again reduced the PowerPlay to 4 overs only - taken during Overs 41.1 - 44.0 - not much use, they scored 20 runs losing 1 wicket. The Indians took their PowerPlay when Yusuf Pathan was in his full flight - Overs 34.1 - 38.0. He utilized the first over, smashing Tsotsobe all over the ground but was dismissed the very next over. A total of 34 runs were scored for the loss of Pathan.
Why do batting teams falter during their turn of the PowerPlay? Is there increased expectations on the batsman to score runs at a rate of 10 per over? Looks like that is definitely the planning of most teams. They feel that if they can take the PowerPlay when batsmen are settled at the crease and wickets to follow, they can maximize the overs then and the final 10 overs also. Thus, they tend to throw caution to the wind and take risks. This tends to backfire mostly with the bowling team taking crucial breakthroughs. 

Another strategy is to take it after 34 overs when the mandatory ball-change happens. The ball is harder and the batsmen can take advantage of the five overs. It is just not the timing of these five overs that is breaking everyones head but the strategy to adopt is crucial. This is the trend in all ODI series so far. 

I feel that the bowling team is at an advantage during this phase. Mostly, these days, field placings are defensive with fielders standing outside the 30-yard circle saving the singles. The batsmen can easily milk the bowling by taking singles and twos. This PowerPlay forces the captain to field players inside the circle and put pressure on the batsmen. Singles are no longer easy and batsmen are forced to take more risks.

Whoever has the right strategy in place by the time the World Cup starts, they will be the ones to benefit the most. What do you think is the right strategy to adopt?

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