Lower orders and the last 10 overs

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At the start of the tournament, we highlighted a weakness of South Africa’s – the fact that their batting order “quite quickly becomes a little bit Farhaan Behardien”. This weekend, it just as quickly became a little bit Wayne Parnell. That’s a long tail.

South Africa’s best batsmen are so good it rather distracts from the fact that their batting as a whole isn’t quite so all-conquering. If you can find a way to dispatch Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers, they’re a surprisingly vulnerable side. But how exactly do you get rid of those pair? Well, in de Villiers’ own words: “You feel the pressure chasing 300 plus so you take on shots that you might not normally take on and you go for second runs you might not normally go for.”

It’s what was once known as ‘scoreboard pressure’ before that phrase came to mean little more than ‘a big score’. The two aren’t the same. Sometimes chasing 300 is easy. Sometimes chasing 250 is hard. You only really feel the pressure when you’re chasing a score that is – and we hate ourself for saying this – above par.

The slog

Chasing 300 is also a great deal easier when your best batsmen are in during the final 10 overs. This period of the game appears to have become disproportionately influential in one-day cricket since the introduction of two new balls and the changes to fielding restrictions with teams routinely scoring at 10, 12, even 15 an over.

Against Zimbabwe, South Africa made 28 in the first 10 overs of the match and 146 in the last 10. That puts a lot of emphasis on what commentators call ‘the back end of the innings’ (and which we will therefore refer to as being ‘the arse of the innings’).

In that instance, it was David Miller and JP Duminy, numbers five and number six, doing the damage. However, it wouldn’t have worked out quite the same if they’d entered that period with Wayne Parnell at the crease (Farhaan Behardien was actually number seven in that game, but you get what we’re saying). You could even argue that just one extra wicket in the first 40 overs of the game could have cost almost 100 runs.

Who else?

One of the odd things about the arse of the innings being so significant is that it is leading a lot of teams to pick five specialist bowlers, rather than relying on part-timers. This means that it’s often the number seven and number eight batsmen who are making way for out-and-out bowlers – in short, the very people who are highly likely to find themselves at the crease in the final 10 overs. This exaggerates things further.

India find themselves in a slightly odd position in that they have two strong lower order batsmen in Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin who are both spinners. If they can keep them in the team, the batsmen have a nice safety blanket. But without them, you could excuse a few jitters and it’s possible the top order might play more conservatively to ensure the right men are around for the arse of the innings.

Australia, bizarrely, have gone the opposite way to a lot of teams and picked great swathes of batsmen-who-bowl and bowlers-who-bat. Sometimes it’s just good fortune that their best bowlers are also decent batsmen (Mitchells Johnson and Starc) and that their best batsmen also bowl (Steve Smith) but they’ve also been keen to play all-rounders like James Faulkner and Mitchell Marsh. The upshot is that while their top order isn’t quite so spectacular, it never really ends, so there’ll always be someone to exploit the arse (of the innings).

And England?

England’s latest match, against Scotland, was also an arse tale (as opposed to an arse tail). In a World Cup in which a three figure score from the last 10 overs is pretty much standard, they hobbled from 130-0 after 30 overs to 303-8 in 50. Basically, they scored in 20 overs not much more than a lot of sides would have been aiming for in 10.


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  1. England can’t handle the death. Can’t death bowl, can’t death bat. Which makes a lot of sense when combined with your last piece, actually: if there’s one thing the undead can’t stand, it’s death.

  2. This whole piece is prescient and makes sense until the final paragraph.

    England’s performance against Scotland reflected a lack of confidence born of two drubbings.

    We’ll really find out about England’s deathability (or lack thereof) in tighter matches against better sides. Sri lanka on Sunday might be one such.

    1. Very true. The last paragraph’s really just a description of what happened. We were just trying to sum up the whole weekend in one post.

  3. Eng actually had 172 after 30 overs. Apologies for pedantry, but of course your point is valid – I was also very disappointed they didn’t change the batting order at all, sticking with the same procession of out-of-form players once Moeen (and hence all the impetus) had departed. The powerplay was simply dismal. Maybe the problem was that they’re all so out of form, it wouldn’t have made any difference? I can’t help but feel that Buttler should’ve been in at 4 or maybe even 3.

    Also, those Saffers clearly need to learn to fail better as a unit if they’re to rival England.

    1. Nonsense, Mike. The Saffers have the downward momentum now, which will culminate in the inevitable thrashing at the quarter-final stage. As a unit. With X-factor.

      What’s quite exciting is that it’s still very possible that England will play them at that stage now, since England might (it’s possible) come third in their Group and SA should now come second. Should be a very one-sided match, but depending on any asphyxiation that may or may not happen.

    2. Saffers don’t get knocked out of world cups merely by being beaten. They construct weird, convoluted ways of getting eliminated, such as:
      * bizarre rain rules that adversely affect them;
      * going out on a tie against a side they should ahve beaten in an earlier round;
      * going out on a tie by not understanding the slightly less bizarre rain rules that were put in place to avoid the Saffer adverse affcet but which as also too complicated for the Saffer skipper to understand – i.e. Duckworth Lewis par is a tie, add one if you want to win.

      It should be something of that ilk, Balladeer, not a mere QF defeat.

  4. I’m in South Africa as we speak. This is good, because it enables me to get a saffer perspective on the World Cup, and because it isn’t sleeting. But it is bad, because there are no St Helens fans here for me to talk to. I feel I am missing an opportunity to point out that results like yesterday’s are inevitable if you can only win the league by cheating. Still, at least they’ll be happy to have lost the previous worst score record and the worst margin record by combining them into one.

    1. Wait a second, you can afford travel? Aren’t you a mathematician, and hence poor by construction? What are you doing going around acting like you’re Ged?

    2. I’m not a mathematician, that’s just Ged’s fantasy. I’m here on business, doing business with business people on behalf of the business people who own the business I work for.

    3. I don’t fantasise about you Bert. I really don’t. I’ve tried, but nothing…

      Anyway, are you in the rarefied atmosphere of the Highveld? That’s the sort of detail KC readers need from you, Bert. Not obfuscation about your mathematical credentials.

  5. India have arsed up their arse in the last two games but have managed to win quite comfortably… Maybe a good torso and a decent face can make up for the lack of a good arse.

    Cricket always helped me make those important life decisions.

    1. If the first 10 overs are the face, the middle 30 overs the torso and the last 10 the arse, what do we do with our legs?

  6. So England should pick 11 batsmen, and play it like two Twenty20 games, aim for something like 500, and try to hold the opposition to that with all the bowling coming from part timers?

    1. To be unexpectedly fair to England, they also appear very rarely on the receiving end in that list of high scores.

      Big numbers are foreign.

  7. What is it with Bell? So smooth and classy one day, so Cook on another day. Once teams post a deep backward point for Moeen …. I’m thankful the ECB spent so much time and money planning for this.

  8. – SA have uncontrollable downward momentum.
    – Aus have not taken any positives from their victories.
    – NZ (B Mac and T Southee in particular) have exhausted their quota or runs/wickets and hence are no longer “due”
    – India have peaked too early.
    – WI are so concerned about early peaking that they will certainly peak late (maybe in the IPL)

    All this facts mean ENG are the hot favorites now.

    1. Brendon McCallum spent the first 10 years of his career carefully husbanding his due while maintaining his place in the side via cunning ruses like wicketkeeping and playing for New Zealand. I’d say he still has a fair torrent of “Overdue” left to burst forth before he has to work through his stocks of “due”. Then he’ll be due to retire to the IPL/BBL (etc).

    2. There’s a chance that his “overdue” might have been used up what with all those runs he scored in 2014. Though, it must be said, he was wise to not waste any of those runs on scores between 50 and 190, instead choosing to save his runs for the truly meaningful innings of 200+ or thereabouts.

      That said, he hasn’t scored an ODI century in a good while so chances are he’s still a bit overdue in this format.

  9. Gayleforce has now definitely peaked and used up all his dues in the one innings – he’s even talking about himself in the third person:

    “This is the first time ever in my career that so many people wanted me to score runs and the messages keep coming in on Twitter, it’s the first time I’ve ever seen so many people wanting Chris Gayle to perform.”

    Chris Gayle.

    1. Top Vaughnian use of the “third person self-reference” there by Chris Gayle.

      Ged Ladd takes great pride in spotting such things.

    2. My concern is that he was out to an ugly slog to a fielder. One can only imagine how many more runs he could have scored had he calmly played the ball on its merits and defended it back to the bowler.

    3. Indeed, if ever there was a time for patient consolidation, it’s the last ball of the innings. England wouldn’t’ve have made this same mistake – Ballance, Bell or Root would’ve blocked the arse off that ball.

  10. By the way, if anyone’s wondering why we ain’t writ owt, it’s because our laptop’s bust.

    1. But you ‘ave writ owt, KC. Albeit merely a one sentence comment.

      Your subjects deserve and indeed demand better excuses than this.

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