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Opinion

Big Bash timeouts will remain a work in progress for a while yet

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Expert
20th December, 2019
10

The first uses of the Big Bash League’s latest ‘innovation’ haven’t amounted to much as yet, and it’s clear on the first few outings that teams are going to take a little while to work out how to use them.

Up front, let’s call them for what they are.

The BBL’s new ‘Tactical Timeout’ is nothing more than a chance for Channel Seven to play an extra couple of ads. Cricket Australia have borrowed the idea from the Indian Premier League, for which we can be thankful that they aren’t being and can’t be called for mid-over.

Yet.

Let’s all just agree not to rule anything out, okay?

The Tactical Timeout – let’s give it the acronym treatment, the ‘TTO’ – is called by the batting team, and is available to them anywhere between overs seven to 13. The batting team also has to give one over’s notice that they want to use their TTO at the end of that over, the umpires then give the fielding side – and the TV producers – a signal to say it’s coming, so that the respective team coaches can be ready to come onto the field.

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Also – TV producers: get your extra ads ready.

Fortunately, Fox Cricket being my preferred source means I’ve not been subjected to said ads and, to their credit, Fox are actually doing a good job talking around the timeouts, thinking about the scenarios and how teams can improve their situation from there, even getting mobile cameras right out on the ground as batting and fielding teams have 90-second meetings.

Being able to speak to the batting team’s coach as they walk off the field is the next best thing to the on-field meetings being mic’d up, which I’m sure Fox will push for before the season is out.

Because if Seven can get extra ads, then surely Fox can stick a boom mic in the bowling team’s huddle, knowing that they’re about to speak with the batting team’s coach. Turn the gimmick into something that actually adds to the broadcast.

That all said, when Fox took the Seven feed for both games on Friday, they found themselves back in the studio talking through the time-out period – because, of course, the Seven commentators were (I’d expect) hoeing into party pies for ninety seconds.

It’s been interesting to see how teams have been using them to date. The only thing we know for sure is the teams are still very much tinkering themselves. There probably won’t be a wrong or right way to use the TTOs, but there’s no doubt teams are still trying to work out the best way.

On Tuesday night, the Sydney Thunder called the TTO at the first opportunity, at the end of the seventh over when they were in a bit of trouble at 3/53. Their coach Shane Bond told Megan Barnard on Fox Cricket, “Oh look, it’s a good wicket with a hint of spin. Obviously, three down. But we’re looking for 165 with a big finish to push a bit more.”

They went on to make 6/172 – adding 3/119 from the remaining 13 overs as Callum Ferguson went big, delivering exactly the finish they were looking for.

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Alex Ross of the Thunder celebrates scoring a half century

Callum Ferguson batted the Thunder to victory. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Come Brisbane’s turn, they also took the TTO straight away after seven overs, coincidentally on the same 3/53 score the Thunder were at the same point.

Barnard asked Heat coach Darren Lehmann what the advice was to his team, who were trying to fight back from losing three wickets in three overs. “Stay in,” the former Australian boss laughed, rather awkwardly.

“No, obviously start a partnership; it’s a bit like (Alex) ‘Rossy’ and ‘Ferg’ for the Thunder. Keep it going for five or six overs and then reassess. You can score so quickly at the back end, you’ve just got to get players in, and then away you go.”

Lehmann went on to praise the Thunder for getting out of a similar hole to the Heat and going on to post 172, suggesting that if they could do it, then “it’s our turn.”

But, interestingly, while both of Bond’s assistant coaches and the next couple of bats all came onto the field for the Thunder TTO, for Brisbane, it was just Lehmann talking to the not out bats in Matt Renshaw and Sam Heazlett.

The TTO worked a treat for the Thunder, but the Heat were bowled out for 143 in 19.2 overs. Ferguson post-match said of the TTO, “We feel like it can be a real momentum shifter.”

On Wednesday night, the Sydney Sixers had their run-chase in so much control that they didn’t call for the TTO until the end of the 12th over and then just used it as a drinks break, effectively. They were 1/108 at the time, and knocked off the remaining 29 runs in three overs.

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But on Friday in Alice Springs against Hobart, the Sixers took the TTO at 5/59 at the end of the ninth over, desperately trying to stem the bleeding from what was the start of a 7/13 collapse. They then immediately lost two wickets in successive balls, and a third two balls later. At 8/61, only Jordan Silk some lower-order tail-wagging salvaged some respectability and avoided record low scores. They were still bowled out for 104.

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So it’s still very much trial and error for the Tactical Timeout and it’s fair to say, on a sample size of just five games, that some teams are getting more use out it than others.

I do get much of the criticism of it and, at the time of announcement, I also thought it was a bit naff as far as ideas go.

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But like ‘Zing’ bails, I think there can be a genuine use for this particular gimmick, particularly if it’s a new way of bringing the viewing audience in on what’s happening out in the middle.