Thursday, March 08, 2007

Playing it slow

England have announced another ex post facto change of tactics. Instead of promoting a pinch-hitter to take advantage of the early fielding restrictions, they will “build a foundation”. Angus Fraser states:

“The plan is for England to make up for a slow start by scoring heavily in the final 15 overs of each innings. It is hoped the tactic allows them to consistently post scores of 260-270, totals that will ensure they are competitive in every match.”

Weirdly, this puts a lot of pressure for the bowlers to perform well. As others* have pointed out, the days of an “unchasable score” seems to be over. This means that the bowlers must (and there is not derogating this) must contain or skittle the batsman. Achieving containment is extremely difficult given the quality of current international slogging, and taking wickets depends on the penetration of the bowlers. However, considering last summer’s performance, I doubt Sajid Mahmood, Liam Plunkett, James Anderson et al. are capable of defending scores below thee-hundred.

Saying that, the approach is a practical and realistic acknowledgement of England’s modest boundary-spanking resources. Thus, we must make the most of Kevin Pieterson and Andrew Flintoff by giving them a licence to slog towards the end of the innings. As always, we can only hope for the best with the bowlers.

Anyway, is this really a conservative return to old-fashioned one-day play? Well, consider this: if Adam Gilchrist gets out swinging the bat, there’s plenty of talent below him to recover the innings and put on a decent score through nudging ones and twos. But, what happens when England lose their upper-order cheaply? The sloggers are exposed and, if they lose their wickets, an imperfect start turns into a disastrous end.

Arguably, the insurance of consequence-free early hitting provides a greater buffer to a side wanting to “play it safe”; obtaining quickly the comfort of runs. Whereas nurdling singles can only succeed if executed over a long duration, and with wickets in hand. Pinning our hopes on preserving wickets might undermine confidence further, and place more pressure on the lower order to “catch up”. Digging ourselves further into a hole of negativity. Which is something I generally approve of.

So, accepting reality might be another ECB cock-up. Who knows? So, we’ll see how it goes with England. But at least Michael Vaughan has implemented some strategy to proceedings.

* The link feature appears to be broken on blogger. Here's the article I wanted to link to:

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