September 21, 2009

Michael Jeh

Don’t leave the Powerplay so late

Michael Jeh



When it comes to the vexed issue of the batting Powerplay, I’m convinced that the strategists will soon have enough historical data to crunch some meaningful numbers. As more ODI games are played under the new rules, there will be more data available and clear patterns will start to emerge.

Thus far, the batting Powerplay has been anything but! It has often been the Achilles heel for the batting team - poorly executed, poorly timed and the catalyst for a collapse. One of the problems with it has been this dual sense of fear (what if we lose wickets?) combined with the burden of self-expectation (the Powerplay is a powerful weapon that we MUST save for that match-winning moment). Instead of viewing it as another tactic in the batting arsenal, it’s almost viewed as Devil and Saviour in the one incarnation, thereby giving it that real Jekyll & Hyde quality that confuses clear thinking.

The final ODI at Durham between Australia and England was the last straw in a series that defined itself for a complete waste of this weapon. The sight of Australia taking the Powerplay with Ben Hilfenhaus at the crease, nine wickets down and in the 44th over, was the final nail in the coffin of abysmal tactics by both teams throughout the series. England were particularly dim-witted in their use of the Powerplay throughout the series, arguably amongst the worst examples of getting it wrong that you can possibly imagine.

The Champions Trophy in South Africa will show a different side to this tactic though. I’m convinced that it will indeed be an advantage for the batting team in this tournament. Why do I say that?

To begin with, I think teams will now crunch the data and start to realise that it’s probably wasted if you leave it too late in the innings. The last 10 overs tends to bring with it a flood of runs anyway so why waste the Powerplay then? Connected with this theory, if you can force the fielding side to use their ‘death bowlers’ in the middle of the innings to protect the Powerplay, that leaves even more scope to cash in at the end.

On South African pitches with bounce and carry, to say nothing of the effects of altitude, scoring rates will tend to be higher than during September in England or on the slow, dusty pitches in the Middle East for example (when Australia played Pakistan). These conditions will lend themselves to batsmen being able to clear the boundaries because the extra bounce opens up more of the field. On slow pitches, it is difficult to get under the ball and open up the full 360 degree radius of the outfield. We’ll see a lot more shots square of the wicket in the Champions Trophy when it comes times to push the accelerator. Players like Dilshan, Duminy, De Villiers and Dhoni (and many more that I simply can’t mention) who don’t need to rely on going straight down the ground will revel in these conditions during Powerplay overs.

The pitches at Centurion and Johannesburg will be more suited to the quicker bowlers, thereby removing the choking threat of spin bowling in the middle of the innings. Small boundaries, hard pitches and balls flying further at altitude will reduce the stranglehold that spinners had on the game in the World Twenty20 for example. Fast bowlers who get their yorkers wrong will pay the price in these conditions, especially against batsmen adept at staying deep in the crease or flicking to fine leg. Extra pace and bounce will help established batsmen to plunder the late overs.

Most importantly, I think teams will do the math and realise that a Powerplay taken too late is a Powerplay wasted. I think we’ll see a lot more teams taking the option in the 30-40 over period, perhaps even in the 15-20 over range (if they get off to a great start) and then cashing in at the end against the lesser bowlers, even with the field spread. If the ball’s not turning or holding up and you’ve used your ‘finishers’ like Gul, Malinga, Lee, Parnell and the like earlier in the innings to stem the Powerplay bloodbath, you’ll be left with medium pacers or spinners at the end. I’m predicting some late carnage!

I’m looking forward to seeing the evolution of the Powerplay and to see if anyone’s really learnt anything from the recent past. If they haven’t, what’s the point of all those complicated software systems and statsgurus? It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the bleeding obvious – don’t leave the Powerplay so bloody late!!!!

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane

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Posted by Ema on (July 31, 2012, 20:42 GMT)

Okay, Uncle J .you've had me in a tizz after our conversation Twitter. I've thoghut about it and ..this is what I wrote in my Holding Willey post-match piece: Call me deluded, but I don’t subscribe to the idea that South Africa choked. The most commonly used argument against that notion is that “they really should have won it when they were 124-4. Really. Should they? Who decides that? Considering England found themselves in a similar position (114-4) only to be skittled out for under 180 how can you say that South Africa ‘really should have won’ on a deteriorating pitch? Can you not then say that England really should have posted a bigger total? My thoghuts stand, and I'd have felt the same if it were Sri Lanka. I think the difference today was a key partnership. Trott and Bopara were magnificent and I think South Africa were taking by surprised by Strauss' erratic and somewhat odd bowling decisions. They were outplayed because there was nobody in the batting line up to take the game by the balls. Some of it is inexperience, some of it could be arrogance. They thoghut they had it in the bag and instead of building partnerships they played dumb shots and made stupid decisions and had their arses handed to them.That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Posted by raveen on (October 4, 2009, 14:50 GMT)

I also agree about taking the batting PowerPlay earlier. But the bowling PowerPlay could be used more effectively also. Why take it after 10 overs with the openers coasting at 60 for no loss? Instead, employ it after taking wickets in the middle overs. New batsmen will have difficulty finding singles with the field up, and they will take time to settle before hitting boundaries. In any case, they cannot hit freely because after losing wickets they will need to stay at the crease.

Posted by ganesh on (September 24, 2009, 15:07 GMT)

Michael, are you in any way related to Dimi Mascarenhas? You look similar, and are both originally from Sri Lanka.

Posted by Asif Rathod on (September 23, 2009, 11:00 GMT)

It's very important to take power play at the right time. Most of the teams taking their power play at 45th over and many times not enough batting left to make use of power plays. In my opinion 40th over is the best time to take power play. At this point of time in game, one should start to accelerate the scoring rate. And after 45th over players are free to play big shots anyway. So, Keep in mind 40th over is the best time to take batting powerplay.

Posted by Chudhary Amir on (September 22, 2009, 15:51 GMT)

i think its very good article.i completely agree with this.

Posted by Vikram Maingi on (September 22, 2009, 8:08 GMT)

If the team is batting second and the Required RPO is well within control then there is no need of taking the Power Play in advance and it could be left for the end. For the teams batting first, this could be taken for pressing a paddle on the run rate provided both the batsmen and well settles and capable of hitting over the top. Ideal scenario for this is between overs 25 and 40. This is no point in leaving it for the last five and one might end up losing best of hitters before taking the batting power-play.

Posted by Stu on (September 22, 2009, 7:20 GMT)

Very good article. I completely agree that it's pointless to take the power play past the 40-over mark. The last ten overs have always been the time to accelerate the run rate - long before power plays were befuddling captains the world over.

I think you can make a case for taking the powerplay at around the 25-over mark; given the old maxim that you double your score after 30 overs, why not put some runs on the board before you get into the last 15 or 20 overs?

Posted by Steve on (September 21, 2009, 17:55 GMT)

I agree with others that batting powerplays should be taken when there are two batsmen set, somewhere between 30 and 40 overs. But what happens when the bowling side is constantly on top and taking wickets? Except perhaps for a good early partnership, England rarely has two batsmen set. So I think it is fine to criticise England's batting but criticising their use of the powerplay is missing the point.

Posted by D Newsam on (September 21, 2009, 17:07 GMT)

I cannot understand how the pundits on the TV can clearly see the reason for taking the PP earlier or at another strategic time yet the captains are evidently unable to recognise this situation. One side or the other has to be wrong. I think the TV pundits have got it right more often than the captains. Wake up and use what should be a major advantage to the batting side.

Posted by Rob K on (September 21, 2009, 15:45 GMT)

Absolutely agree with all the comments. I think that around 35 overs is the perfect time to start - it gives five overs to get batsmen into the zone for the last 10. It is quite astonishingly how poorly England and Australia utilised it, but I don't think either of these two sides will contest the trophy. Other sides seem to have a much more positive attitude, rather than this fear that is so evident in England's play. Positive sides will take the Powerplay positively, not as a last resort.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Jeh
Born in Colombo, educated at Oxford and now living in Brisbane, Michael Jeh (Fox) is a cricket lover with a global perspective on the game. An Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, he is a Playing Member of the MCC and still plays grade cricket. Michael now works closely with elite athletes, and is passionate about youth intervention programmes. He still chases his boyhood dream of running a wildlife safari operation called Barefoot in Africa.

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