Australia news August 14, 2010

Players not convinced by split innings

Cricket Australia could be sorely disappointed if it hopes its new split-innings format will eliminate the slow-moving middle overs from one-dayers. The concept was trialled in England's county second XI competition this year and it often resulted in a cautious brand of "handbrake" batting at the end of the first innings and the start of the second.

Cricket Australia's format will give teams only 10 wickets across the entire match, so the first innings could be a grind as the top order builds a platform without losing too many batsmen. The Victoria legspinner Bryce McGain has been playing with Essex this month and said the feedback he received from the men involved in the county trial was that momentum was difficult to generate.

"The tactics that they used here - and I spoke to quite a number of guys who experienced it - was that they really wound back those last four or five overs because they didn't want to lose a wicket," McGain told Cricinfo. "Then when you went back in, the batsmen had to get back in so it took four or five overs to get things started again.

"The experience that the English players had was that when you're building momentum it actually put a handbrake on. It will be interesting to see how it pans out. Maybe the Australians will do it tactically a little bit different, but it will certainly make it interesting."

The Australian board is adamant that moving to a split-innings 45-over format was prompted by feedback from the public, but the players remain unconvinced about the changes. The Australian Cricketers' Association said 78% of its surveyed members were against the idea, and there have been mixed responses in the Twitter-sphere.

Graham Manou, who took part in a split-innings practice match this week, wrote on his Twitter page: "Well I'm certainly going to need some convincing that the split 40 over games are good cricket and more importantly spectators."

One of Australia's most successful one-day bowlers in recent history, Nathan Bracken, tweeted: "Not a massive fan of it. Could make some games very boring if a team gets a bad start."

But it was not all negative reaction from the players. Aaron Finch, the young Victorian batsman who established himself as a strong limited-overs cricketer last summer, wrote that the format was "Something new and exciting for both fans and players! Can't wait".

One of the major sticking points for Australia's ODI players is the decision to implement the new format a few months before a 50-over World Cup. Australia's World Cup squad will be announced in December, before the seven-match one-day series against England, meaning that fringe players have virtually no chance to press their claims in the regular format.

During the planning stages, Michael Hussey was a vocal critic of the move and last month he questioned Cricket Australia's timing. After the Lord's Test against Pakistan, the Australian squad was briefed by James Sutherland on some of the possible changes, which were at that stage unconfirmed.

"We've got to be a little bit careful," Hussey said in July after the briefing. "We've got to make sure we try and get as many players prepared for the 50-over World Cup as we can. I'm not sure the timing is great. There's a lot of young guys out there that would see themselves as a chance of making the World Cup squad and they probably need as much exposure to 50-over cricket as possible."

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments