Thursday, April 05, 2007

new power play tactics?

what a game! "too close for comfort... great cricket”. mahela jayawardene's words sums up the sri lanka vs england match from a sri lankan point of view. both english batsmen and sri lankan bowlers kept their nerves till the end to give everyone a great game of cricket. to use the usual but correct cliché, we were glued to the tv.

michael vaughan was right when he said his team can be proud of themselves. though i am glad we got them, i am not so sure whether mahela was right when he said we 'deserved' the two points. one point each would have been 'fair'. but we got them and like an inside edge that misses the stumps and runs away for four, it is the result that matters in the end.

england performed above their reputation, our batsmen below theirs. exception perhaps is jayawardene (it's great and one less worry for sri lanka that he is now back in the runs) but even he got out at the wrong time. there is no doubt that unlike in '96 this time our strength lies not in batting but in bowling. (imo we have the best bowling attack in the world cup).

game also showed what a real cricket loving crowd, untroubled by nauseating agendas of outsiders, can do to lift the game of both sides, even when crowd is biased towards one side. let us hope for more of the same in the rest of the tournament.

points table
this match again showed that only actual securing of at least 5 wins (or 10 points) will ensure a semi final berth. we only have 6 points after this match. we must get 4 more or two wins. we are almost certain of 2 points from ireland match, so we must win at least one of the matches against new zealand and australia, hopefully both. yes there is a chance we can go through even if we lose both, and end up with 8 points. our net run rate, now at +1.55, is so good that it will take big loses to bring it down below +1 before the ireland match, at which we can probably push it up again. to push it below zero before our final super 8 match, we have to lose by 300 runs cumulatively (or its equivalent in case we bat first or rain delay) in the other two. but frankly that is not the way we should go to semifinals, if we hope to win the world cup.

power play
to finally come to the supposed subject of this post, everyone must have noticed the new power play tactics used by mahela in the last 3 games. this is something new and imaginative.

before this the usual ploy was to use the power plays consecutively when the opposing team's scoring was at manageable levels. it took a hard trashing from opposing batsmen to get the captains to change power play order. if the run rate was under control and wickets have fallen it was never changed. in other words captains did their best to get them out of the way with least damage.

sri lanka is definitely not doing that. both west indies and england were below par at the end of 15 overs. any other captain would have used the third one right away in similar situation. but mahela delayed the third power play and used his secondary spinners (sanath, dilshan, and arnold). he then used the power play in the overs ranging in twenties or early thirties. power play was delayed in south african game as well. it was actually used in that match in overs 44-49, malinga got his 4 in 4 in a power play. but since it was a very low scoring game and scoring rate had to be controlled early on, it was, though unusual, predictable, as far as that game is concerned. not so with others. in west indies game some commentators said it was because of the threat of rain, but there was no rain and spinners continued after the 20th over. there was certainly no such reason for england game.

no. it is clear this was a deliberate tactic separate from particular circumstances of the game.

with what intent then?
as far as i can speculate, it may be an attempt to unbalance the opposing batsman's pacing of innings. batsmen in that situation would not know what to do. ( change gears and mentality, take risks and target the secondary spinners for boundaries, score singles, keep his wicket till reintroduction of power play, uncertainty about what is the reasonable score at end of 20 overs with no power play but with 'lesser' bowlers operating, etc. ) .

another reason may be to preserve the sri lankan bowling options as long as possible. since one of the aims of fielding side is to keep the run rate low, if batsmen do not go after secondary spinners, introduced in place of power play, in a major way, we have used our resources in the most efficient way possible.

if successful, when the power play is reintroduced, we will have our best bowlers with full complement of overs, low economy rates to the credit of secondary bowlers, and opposing batsmen having to change gears in a hurry in the middle of the innings. not bad at all.

of course success here partly depends on other team's unpreparedness to this tactic. no doubt by now others have noticed and worked out their plans on how to handle the situation. it will be interesting if this happens in australian match.

so far this was used when the opposing side was chasing. will mahela use it when bowling first? and what about delaying the second power play as well?


Anonymous said...

Great game! I watched the last overs. I missed the power plays. It will be interesting to learn what cricket pundits are saying about this.

Deane AKA ~CC~ said...

yeah, i think ranjith Fernando made the point abt the power play as well.

whats great abt the current outfit is whatever the score, you'd back the boys to make a match out of it, where as we were so much batting-dependant until, well quite recently.