Sunday, 21 December 2008

2008, the year of the run-chase

The normal dogma about fourth innings chases is that below 200 and the batsmen should rule; above 250 and the bowlers should prevail. 320 and above is not gettable. However, the last few months have seen:

South Africa make 283-5 against England at Edgbaston in August
New Zealand make 317-7 against Bangladesh at Chittagong in October
India make 387-4 against England at Chennai last week
South Africa make 414-4 against Australia in Perth today

The last two are the largest run chases in India and Australia respectively and both were completed with ease. Why would this be? To state the obvious - there are three obvious contributors here: the batters, the bowlers and the pitches...

There seems little doubt that Test match pitches have become better for batsmen over the last year or two. The result is that a 5th day pitch now holds few demons. There is little uneven bounce and although they do take spin there are few ‘real turners’. This makes it much easier to score runs on the 4th and 5th days and I am not sure if cricket is the better for it. Big run chases are exciting but they should also be a rarity.

Big run chases need big players and the four listed above had them in abundance. Graeme Smith played probably the best two innings of his career at Edgbaston and Perth (108). AB de Villiers also played superbly today (106*). Tendulkar made an unbeaten century in Chennai with Sehwag making 83 and Yuvraj 85* -- three quality innings there. Daniel Vettori carried the New Zealand run chase against Bangladesh, he promoted himself to number four and his force-of-will prevailed.

One thing all four run chases have in common is that none featured a quality wrist spinner and this may be the biggest factor in the victories. There were spinners playing: England had Panesar at Edgbaston (33-3-91-2). Panesar also played at Chennai (27-4-105-0) with Swann (28.3-2-103-2). Krejza played in Perth (24-2-102-0). In none of those three matches did the spinners threaten. Surely an attack that featured one of Warne, Muralitharan, Mushtaq or Kumble would not have been so ineffective...


Mahesh said...

Hmm, is it to do with pitches alone? I am not quite sure on that one Rob.The quality of spin bowling has been poor in 2008.

Having said that, specialist bowlers are getting out of fashion. Especially spin bowling, which is a worrying trend. I reckon, if we introduce more test matches in proportion with ODI's and Twenty20's things will get even.

I have to ask, when was the last time England had a *consistent* spin bowler? Pringle maybe?

Danny Hesford said...

Perhaps batsmens attitudes towards chasing large totals have changed in the last couple of years. Where as they would just "shut up shop" when chasing 300 plus, now they go for the win from ball one.

Also, I can't recall Derek Pringle bowling spin?? Our last consistent spinner....Panesar? His record suggests so and he won't be the first spinner to come away from India without success. Just ask Shane Warne.

Rob said...

Pringle? You have been eating too many posh crisps Mahesh. Pringle was a medium pacer (and a crap one at that).

As you say Danny the batsmen seem to go for their shots more in big run chases and the ones recently have all had batsmen at the start playing shots.