Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Trends talk: Teams batting first undone by conservative approach at the top. Despite the teams picking batting heavy XIs in the ongoing T20 WC, the approach has been conservative
Despite the teams picking batting heavy XIs in the ongoing T20 WC, the approach has been conservative
In every big T20 tournament, one can spot trends and patterns on various facets of the game. One such pattern in the ongoing T20 WC is the way some of the teams have fielded playing XIs with a batting heavy approach at the expense of bowling.
We have seen some teams veering away from their bowler-heavy strategy (a bowling all-rounder at #7) during the build-up to the tournament to a more batting-heavy approach (a batting all-rounder at #7) in the World Cup. The tournament was initially supposed to take place in Australia and later in India before finally the UAE turned out to be the venue. Now that could be a key reason with regard to teams preferring an extra bowler in the build-up to the tournament, in the backdrop of the expected batting-friendly conditions in Australia and India. But with the conditions on offer varying vastly in the UAE, and the second half of IPL 2021 giving a glimpse of what could be in store for the World Cup, it probably forced teams in believing that they needed extra batting depth on these tracks which are slower in nature and coupled with big boundaries in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Batting > bowling
Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand have disposed one of their bowling all-rounders or a specialist bowler and have gone in with an additional batter/ batting all-rounder. Ashton Agar was Australia's leading wicket-taker in T20Is in the last two years, but they decided to leave him out and go in with both Steven Smith and Mitchell Marsh in their two games thus far. South Africa, meanwhile, have left out Lungi Ngidi, preferring all-rounder Dwaine Pretorius instead. New Zealand, for a long time, used Mitchell Santner at #7 in their five-pronged attack, but with Lockie Ferguson pulling out injured at the last minute, they replaced him with Daryll Mitchell. With their leading all-rounder(s) absent, both England (Ben Stokes & Sam Curran) and West Indies (Fabian Allen) have also opted for a batting-heavy approach with the fifth bowler's quota being shared by lesser bowlers.
With teams picking batting heavy XIs, what has been startling is the fact that teams haven't been as attacking as they probably should have in the backdrop of the cushion available in the form of an extra batter if they lose wickets upfront. This has been particularly evident for teams batting first, with a batsman dropping anchor and unable to tee off in the death overs. In most of the matches so far in the Super 12, we have seen a top order player trying to bat through the innings rather conservatively and unable to press the accelerator pedal in the death overs, resulting in teams finishing with under par totals. Goes without saying, in all the six instances listed below, the chasing side won.
Anchors and their middling impact
Another interesting aspect is the fact that sides batting first haven't often attacked the fifth bowler in order to to disrupt the opposition captain's plans. Glenn Maxwell bowled his four overs for 24 runs, picking up a wicket against South Africa. As a result of Maxwell's tidy spell, Australia didn't have to use either Mitchell Marsh or Marcus Stoinis. West Indies let Aiden Markram and Pretorius bowl five overs between them with figures of 3/39 in their clash against South Africa. Moeen Ali and Liam Livingstone between them have bowled ten overs in England's first two games, picking six wickets and conceding at just five runs per over.
Defensive batting strategies by teams – playing it out conservatively when the field is up and not attacking opposition's weaker bowlers – have resulted in teams batting first ending with under par totals. In the Super 12 phase so far, nine of the 10 games have been won by the side chasing. The average first innings total in the eight defeats has been only 129. Teams batting first that aim for a par score often end up getting below par totals. In the UAE leg of the IPL 2021, chasing teams won 21 of the 31 matches with all three venues favouring chasing teams. What is significant is the fact that the average totals in wins are considerably higher than the average first innings totals at each of these venues.
Batting first vs Chasing in the IPL 2021 UAE leg
Maximize the Powerplay
The big takeaway from the UAE leg of the IPL 2021 was the fact that how crucial it was to maximize the Powerplay overs when the ball is new, the pitch is fresh and the field is up. A wicket cost 38.88 runs in the Powerplay which dropped off significantly down to 25.08 in the middle overs and 16.31 at the death. Only 19.8% of the total wickets fell in the Powerplay – less than half of the number of wickets that fell in the other two phases – 41.8% in the middle overs and 38.3% in the death overs. But the most staggering fact is that 38.8% of boundaries hit in the second half of the IPL came in the first six overs compared to 35.6% in the middle overs and 25.6% in the death overs. Teams which scored more runs in the Powerplay ended up victors in as many as 23 of the 31 matches in the UAE leg.
Breaking it further down, the first half of the IPL 2021 in India witnessed boundary figures of 17.5% which is about the norm for franchise T20 tournaments. But in the UAE leg, it fell to 14.7 and the dip was significantly higher in the middle and death overs than it was in the Powerplay. Boundary rates in the Powerplay fell by 1.1% while in middle and death overs the impact was much more significant – 3.3% and 4.2% respectively. In the T20 WC, the figures have come down further with just 14.4% boundaries in the first six overs. The scoring rate in the Powerplay is the lowest of the three phases so far in the Super 12 (6.62), capsulising the point that teams have gone more conservative even after having the insurance policy of an extra batter in the case of a top order collapse.
In their clash against Pakistan in Sharjah, New Zealand's approach captured this perfectly. They tagged Martin Guptill with Daryll Mitchell at the top. Despite opening with a hitter, alongside their talisman to maximize the Powerplay, New Zealand batted rather sedately scoring only 42 runs off six overs with only one of those overs going for over 10 runs. Mitchell, who was promoted to take risks, scored only 27 runs off the 20 balls he faced. New Zealand hit only 15 boundaries in the entire innings and set a below par target which was chased down rather comfortably in the end by Pakistan.
The one team that has got their approach spot on has been Sri Lanka. Against Bangladesh, albeit it was a run chase with the luxury of knowing the target, they attacked in the Powerplay hitting 54/1. The duo also went after Bangladesh's part timers – Mahmudullah and Afif Hossain – hitting them for 36 runs in three overs in a game-changing passage. In their next Super 12 clash against Australia, they emulated the approach, scoring 53/1 in the first six and smashing 51 off the four overs from Maxwell and Stoinis.
In a summer that has seen extremely sluggish approaches from most batting teams, there is an incentive for teams that could adopt a more cavalier style to their batting. A tournament like the T20 WC is one where even fine margins could be decisive from winning the trophy or returning empty-handed. As the famous saying goes – to win without risk is to triumph without glory.