How bad can a fifth bowler be?

Posted by
< 1 minute read

This appears to be South Africa’s thinking after picking only four proper bowlers. It should present a vulnerability, but when you then make 408, you find you have a certain amount of breathing space – perhaps even enough that you could field Jade Dernbach and still harbour reasonable hopes of victory.

AB de Villiers’ 66-ball 162 is only the latest ‘whaaat?’ innings of this World Cup. They’ve all been striking efforts, but we suspect the novelty will wear off. A lot of matches seem to be less about how many a team can score and more about to what extent they can cash in.

It’s not the same thing. The computer game analogy is being used a lot of late but it’s apposite here. This World Cup is being played on ‘novice’ with teams looking to hit ever more humungous scores. It’s not a true challenge. It’s just doing as much damage as possible when the going’s easy.

We’ve not had too many close contests in the tournament and a lot of games have been all but decided when one team has ‘gone big’. It almost seems to be the case that if a batsman gets going in the last 10 overs, there’s nothing that can be done and the match is basically over.

Hopefully we’ll get some matches where both sides cash in and we can have a little bit of tension for once. While big innings are a feature, competition is the bedrock on which sport is built.


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


Why risk it when it's so easy to sign up?


  1. Run inflation is reaching Zimbabwean/Weimarian proportions.

    Is the Windies’ death bowling even worse than England’s? Holder’s last two overs went for 64, there is little room for improvement there at least in terms of what the batsmen could achieve.

    Still we demand MOAR runs.

    PS. glad to see Jade Douchebach is as popular here as elsewhere…

  2. Shenwari’s innings the other day was the best of the tournament, for my money.

    A thought: if one-day cricket is meant to be akin to fast-forwarding to the final day of a compelling test match, wouldn’t it be better if games were played on raging turners with indiscriminate variation in bounce?

    1. We’ve been thinking about this recently. The more administrators seem keen to turn the one-day game into 100 overs of Twenty20, the more it becomes a pale imitation of the shortest format.

      There’s a case for saying the one-day international should go the other way – that its niche is as something akin to a Test match but which takes place over just one day.

      So rather than going to 40 overs, as the ECB ‘discussion document’ suggests, it should go to 60 without any sort of fielding restrictions and on more challenging pitches.

      It’ll never happen, but you see what we’re saying.

    2. I think single innings matches would result in an awful lot of draws. But I think it might be interesting.

      I’d dump powerplays and all that guff, get rid of the ludicrous fielding restrictions, properly regulate bats and field dimensions, and allow bowlers to bowl 25% of an innings, minimum (or have no limitation – can’t get the spinner away? Tough shit, he’s staying on this end the rest of the game).

    3. The banning batsmen from facing more than 50 balls is interesting because why should it only be the bowlers who are restricted?

  3. I watched the match briefly when WI just opened their inning and Gayle fell. Mostly we were just discussing about how meaningless scores have become in ODIs. Nothing new there, of course. Well written article that captures my thoughts exactly.

  4. My Dad used to say they should revert to 60 overs. And I used to scoff at him, citing the dead middle overs of ODIs.

    His point was that a team could recover from 23 for 4 and post a decent score, that the game has room to fluctuate. I agree with him now.

    Make boundaries the real boundary of the ground; release the restrictions; play every match on a “fourth day” wicket.

    What’s really annoying is that everyone – and I mean EVERYONE – knows that the most compelling games are when 210 all out plays 211 for 9 with two balls left.

    Why don’t they just produce pitches that do that?

    1. Fully agree with all you say, even if they just do the fourth day pitch for odi games, with an occasional fifth – or juicy first day pitch, that would be enough to keep me interested in one day cricket.

  5. I love the idea of South Africa taking back Jade Dernbach for shits and giggles. As much as I have wanted him to succeed over the last few years, he strikes me as the sort of player you would get if you shoved Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad and Mitchell Johnson into Seth Brundle’s teleporter and flicked the switch.

    In fact, part of me wonders if there is a label under his armpit marked “Copyright David Cronenberg”.

  6. AB comes along and instead of just acknowledging his genius everyone looks for ways to say it is because of various factors e.g. the bats, the boundaries, etc etc.
    I would just revert back to the original rules when 50 over cricket first got started except for that stupid rain rule. Keep the current one.
    And no flat pitches!

  7. As if to mock the many wise words on this thread, along comes a 150-odd plays 150-odd humdinger between the trans-Tazzy teams.

    I got up in time to catch the last five balls of the match, which would alone have been worth the price of a ticket, had I needed a ticket.

    I agree that the ODI format needs a major overhaul – to some extent a reversion to previous less-formulaic restrictions.

    I’m not convinced about returning to 60 overs per innings. I used to get into trouble with my mum and dad for watching too much telly when those long matches were on. Perhaps I should be over that now, but I’m not. Given the number of matches the teams play these days and the way they play, 8 or 9 hours of actual play is a long day.

    One tweak I would make to the current format (face it, major changes take years and years in cricket) would be to get rid of the powerplay and fielding restrictions at the back end of the innings. The two white balls is a good idea, but if the batting side gets through the first 30-35 overs relatively unscathed, the batsmen do not need any additional help from the fielding restrictions. It might actually allow the fielding captains the leeway to use their imaginations and come up with plans to take wickets and/or restrict runs late in the innings.

    Totally agree with Janes’ plea against the flat wickets. Cricket is at its best when it is a contest, both between the two teams and between bat and ball. If either of those elements of contest is missing, the match is largely diminished.

Comments are closed.