A look at the new batting powerplay and the benefits it gives to the cricket world.
The Twenty20 format of “rock n roll” cricket has revolutionized the game. Entertainment. Entertainment. Entertainment. We want to be sitting on the edge of our seats, biting away at our non existent finger nails and then -BANG! fireworks. We’ve come to expect every pulsating encounter the new game can throw at us. This has to be a good thing. Concurrently however, Twenty20, with the advent of the IPL, has seen astronomical- almost silly- amounts of money flow into the game. see below . . .
Previously it was down to the 50 over form of the game to provide the entertainment factor for those too impatient for the longer grind of test cricket. Whilst many thought twenty20 would cause a slump in Test Cricket it appears that Test Cricket is still very much in sync with the traditional cricket fan’s heartbeat. After all, Tests are a true test of a side’s steel and resolve.
It is no surprise that the rise of Twenty20 cricket has coincided with the perceived demise of One Day Internationals. Some may argue Twenty20s give you everything that ODIs do and more. More boundaries, more fireworks and less fuss over a much shorter time period. Maybe we can kiss those stale, languid middle overs of one day cricket goodbye once and for all.
The ICC recognises some of the shortcomings of one day cricket, especially since the rise of Twenty20, and tries to keep the game interesting by having powerplays. Prior to 2005, the only fielding restriction was that only 2 fielders were allowed outside the 30 yard circle for the first 15 overs. In 2005 the bowling powerplay was introduced. The first 10 overs were subject to a limit of 2 men outside the circle similar to before. Then there are two blocks of 5 overs chosen at the bowling captain’s discression in which there are only 2 men (later 3 in 2008) allowed out in the deep.
This rule very much favoured the batting side. But at the same time the fact the bowling captain got to decide when the powerplays were taken meant that he could easily conduct damage limitation if his bowlers were on target. Say the batting side were struggling and could not beat the infield for the opening 10 overs he would simply bowl the two five over spells right off the back meaning the rest of the innings there would be no fielding restrictions. Whilst this helped the batting side it certainly did not put an end to those mind numbing middle 20-40 overs.
In October 2008 the ICC found and introduced an innovation that looks set to rejuvenate the 50 over game and put it in its rightful place punching in the same weight category as the big hitting Twenty20 format. Cricket has always been a batsman’s game and the batting powerplay looks set to swing the balance even further in the batsman’s direction to critical acclaim. Just like the bowling powerplay only 2 men are allowed outside the circle for the first 10 overs. However only one five over powerplay is now chosen by the bowling side with the other being decided by the batting team at their own desire.
Batsmen having a few tricks up their sleeves means that the dull middle overs in 50 over cricket might just be a thing of the past. Sides can use the powerplays in new and exciting ways. In the current ODI series in Australia South Africa have favoured saving the powerplay to the end and then with wickets in hand starting their attack.
What do the players think of the new powerplay?
Players’ Insights on New Batting Powerplay
“When I have the bat in my hand I think it’s the greatest rule in the game. When I have the ball in my hand I think it’s the worst rule in the game.” Jacques Kallis told the 9 Network.
“We try to keep wickets in hand and then give them the license in the later overs.” Johan Botha revealing the current SA tactics in the current ODI series in Australia.
“I love the new powerplay, it makes it easier for us bowlers”. Nathan Bracken ironically tells the 9 Network.
50 over cricket with the ICC finding the an innovation as exciting as they have looks set to mean it faces a bright future. If you think about it the 50 over format has facets that mean it offers so much that Twenty20 doesn’t. Not everybody is such a huge fan of Twenty20. Twenty20 really comes down to luck. If a batsman comes off then great, the game is won. But it can be argued that the skill of batsman and bowlers is largely secondary to the manufactured excitement of seeing a ball going into or over the fence. In 50 overs the skill of the players cannot just be a flash in the pan and the outcome rests so heavily on prolonged high level performance and strategy of the teams.
After an embarrasing slip-up last week the ICC are getting some things right. Top work for the great batting powerplay innovation! The 50 over format should remain as exciting and important as it always has been.
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