Gotta ground your bat!
Ritchie Benaud used a simple mantra, when talking about ODI batting – “use up all your overs”.
His reasoning was simple; if you had guys at the crease, you had some chance to either make a defendable total or chase down runs. He put it quite succinctly on more than one occasion “you can’t get runs if all your batsmen are in the pavilion”.
The first five games of the World Cup have thrown up some numbers that would have horrified Benaud.
To date, only England and Bangladesh batted their full 50 overs in making a defendable total and only South Africa batted its full quota in a fruitless chase. These same three sides all scored the only totals over 300 to date.
Other teams have made the following scores
South Africa – 207 off 39.5 overs – batting second
Pakistan – 105 off 21.4 overs – batting first
Sri Lanka – 136 off 29.2 overs – batting first
Afghanistan – 207 off 38.2 overs – batting first
Teams are obviously trying to get flying starts to their innings and that’s the modern way of batting, especially on the small grounds in England, with the ODI fielding restrictions in place.
That approach makes sense of a side is 0 for 60 or 70 off 10 overs, but what happens of a team is 3 for 50? There doesn’t appear to be any batting re-evaluation if a team loses a few quick wickets, as happened in all of the innings mentioned above.
In years gone by, sides would have drawn into their shells, put away the big shots (unless there was zero risk) and chased runs through singles and twos, building a series of partnerships – but above all, making sure they batted for 50 overs.
Nowadays, all sides seem to keep playing their shots, regardless of the circumstances. Very good teams like England and India can get away with this, simply because of the quality players they have, in very deep batting lineups. Still though, even the best sides like these can have batting collapses as England did on occasion in Sri Lanka and the West Indies.
Other sides, including Australia and New Zealand, may have to resort to old fashioned batting tactics, if quick wickets are lost at the top of the order. Australia in particular has the type of player to rebuild an innings in Steve Smith or Usman Khawaja and Kane Williamson’s perfectly capable of doing the same for the Kiwis.
Kersi Meher-Homji has penned three pieces so far about World Cup cliffhangers and all have a similar thread; side one bats its overs and side two does likewise. In other words, both teams are a chance to win the game because they’ve played for nearly 100 overs.
Just look at what Australia achieved against South Africa twice in 1999 by batting out their 50 overs. That desire to score as many runs as possible in the allotted overs was the difference in our winning the World Cup that year.
There’s no shame in building a score, rather than thrashing a small total. By all means go hard from ball one and keep the foot down if conditions allow that, but if wickets fall quickly, side’s shouldn’t be scared to accumulate until the innings demands a different approach but above all, bat out their overs.
The ODI game’s designed to last 50 overs each side and teams need to remember that, otherwise we’re going to see more one sided games like that between Sri Lanka & New Zealand, which didn’t last 50 overs across two innings!