Ben Stokes or Sunil Narine?

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2 minute read

Ben Stokes played a handy innings yesterday.

With his team, Rising Pune Supergiant, chasing Gujarat Lions’ 161, Stokes made 103 not out, batting at five.

Cricinfo said that Stokes “owned the MCA Stadium” – although their use of the past tense implies that he’s since sold it or perhaps had it confiscated.

What people want?

This knock would, on the face of it, seem to be what the IPL is all about: big name players making big scores in dramatic fashion. Yet to us, it’s almost the least interesting thing about the competition.

Throw enough decent players together and ask them to play enough T20 cricket, and you’re going to get a few head-turning innings. Without remotely wishing to diminish what was clearly a magnificent example from Stokes, this sort of thing seems almost inevitable. It’s how the competition’s set up.

We find the shadier corners far more interesting; the areas where well-paid coaches are ferreting around trying to eke out an advantage. Because while Stokes won a match for his team, his only other batting contribution of note has been a fifty in a losing cause.

So what else has been happening?

So far this IPL, the storyline that’s had us most intrigued has been that of Sunil Narine the opening batsman.

This is interesting for a kick-off because statistically speaking Narine isn’t any kind of batsman whatsoever. He has never made a fifty in any of the major formats – not even in domestic one-day cricket.

He is, in essence, a pinch hitter.

Narine’s team, the Kolkata Knight Riders, started the tournament with the relentlessly straight-hitting Chris Lynn, a man who’d scythed through the Big Bash League scoring at 177 runs per 100 balls and averaging 154.

Lynn started the IPL in similar style, making 93 not out off 41 balls in his first match and 32 off 24 in his second. Then he got injured.

Cometh the hour, cometh the spin bowler

Lynn was the fifth-highest run-scorer at the Big Bash. His replacement was the fifth-highest wicket-taker in the same competition.

What’s most interesting is that the move has sort of worked. It certainly hasn’t been a failure. Narine still doesn’t have a fifty to his name, but he made 42 off 17 in one match and 34 off 17 in another.

These are handy starts. They give his team-mates time and the risk is low as the loss of Narine is, on the face of it, not the greatest blow to a team’s chances.

Narine doesn’t hang about and this is handy because – odd though it sounds – the first six overs of a T20 innings do typically feature a surprising amount of about-hanging. Even those openers who are big-hitting by reputation will often play themselves in and this is something of a wasted opportunity considering the number of boundary fielders during the first Powerplay.

In conclusion

In a T20 game, a couple of extra boundaries in the first Powerplay could easily prove the difference between victory and defeat. At the same time, a whirlwind innings from one of the world’s greatest players could be the fat man bombing your lilo, trampolining you out of the water.

Who knows which kind of match the next one is going to be. Teams kind of have to bear both in mind.


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  1. Parthiv Patel is the batsman I love to hate in a T20 match. Scores well in power plays by playing lofted shots and not so much after that. Atleast he knows when to get out so that the pinch hitters down the order can win the match for his team. (witness the tied match of GL vs MI. GL’s fate was sealed the moment Parthiv got out. & PP got out in the nick of time so that the Pandyas & Pollards could swing the match towards MI)

    1. Making the most of your resources, isn’t it? Have him chip fours for five or six overs and then discard himself in favour of someone better suited to the new field settings.

      Wickets aren’t particularly valuable, but it’s tough to find batsmen who can approach an innings with that fact in mind.

  2. Thank you for yet again expressing my thoughts. My husband , a lawyer , also liked it but had to notice that it was Christian who hit the final 6…

  3. There is one other way to look at it.

    Part of the reason for the opening powerplay is to try and force attacking tactics from the fielding side. Players that can weather this before then batting like it doesn’t matter how fields are placed can be equally valuable. This is why slow(er) starters such as Hales and Gayle are not necessarily wasting the team’s time at the top of the order. It can be a risk but one that pays off massively if they get a good score.

    1. Point is that they can still play themselves in a bit, but maybe at the point at which the field spreads rather than when there are gaps to be exploited.

      It’s a balancing act, but it seems like Kolkata Knight Riders are happy with a disposable opener coming in ahead of otherwise superior batsmen.

  4. Scoring at 177 runs a ball? There must have been loads of overthrows…

    1. King Cricket is a graduate of the Diane Abbot school of numeric analysis.

      Of course he meant 177 balls per run.

      1. Ged a most distinguished alumnus of the School of Spelling Diane Abbott’s name as Diane Abbot.

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