Michael Jeh September 21, 2009

Don’t leave the Powerplay so late

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
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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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Chudhary Amir on September 22, 2009, 15:51 GMT

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

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Chudhary Amir on September 22, 2009, 15:51 GMT

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

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Dunga on September 21, 2009, 14:26 GMT

    The greatest usage of the powerplay was by Graeme Smith in Albie Morkel's ODI series, where the powerplay was basically used when Boucher came out. Thus there is breathing space for one wicket, and then Albie Morkel. I think basing the powerplay around a particular batsman makes the most sense, possibly one just above the tail, maybe with a buffer of one batsman. If the batting side is only a couple of wickets down by the 35th or 37th over, then taking the powerplay then is also a good idea, giving a good 15 overs at either side of the innings to really hit out.

  • MartinAmber on September 21, 2009, 12:53 GMT

    I'm not sure I've ever heard a commentary team so unanimous about a tactical issue as the Sky men were about this one. Needless to say, they agreed with you, often and vociferously.

    The other factors you refer to suggest that a Pietersen-less England will be creamed in all three matches. They will not be acclimatised, and lack both tactical nous and the sort of enterprising batsman who can maximise opportunities.

  • Ashutosh on September 21, 2009, 10:56 GMT

    I think Dhoni uses the Power Play the best. I do not have the stats, But I can bet 90 % of the times he uses it in the 35th Over. It gives India a 15 Slog overs. Sometimes he has used it at the 15th over also. When no wickets had fallen and he wanted the faster bowlers to be on so that there wouldn't be any fast bowlers left at the death.

  • Arvind on September 21, 2009, 10:44 GMT

    It brings to mind a recent ODI between India and NZ, when the 1st 3 NZ bowlers had finished their 1st spells after about 20 overs, and Dan did not take the bowling powerplay (his main bowlers were tired obviously), but the Little Master shocked them by taking the batting powerplay then and there. Dan was forced to bowl part-timers, and Sachin and Yuvraj smashed 70-odd runs in those 5 overs, and India ended up with close to 400 runs.

  • Brian on September 21, 2009, 10:13 GMT

    I quite agree.

    It does seem that the Powerplay hurts more than it helps, but surely that is also down to the temperament of the players and the approach of the captain and coach.

    I like the idea of using the powerplay earlier to use up overs of the better bowlers. I think it would be a good result to see off 5 overs of good bowling for a return of just 5 to 6 runs per over, leaving your finishers to knock it about at the end.

    I do think that there should be less emphasis for the players on its importance and allow them to play their natural game instead of playing impossible shots just because it is the powerplay.

  • sathya on September 21, 2009, 7:07 GMT

    yeah,you are right about it.powerplay should be taken in middle overs after a good 50 run partnership when both the batsmen are settled

  • Graeme on September 21, 2009, 7:07 GMT

    YES! If only to give some soothing to thousands of fans screaming at TV screens that now is the TIME. One point though, I think you might be surprised by how effective good ODI spinners are still going to be.

  • sathya on September 21, 2009, 7:05 GMT

    yeah,you are right about it.powerplay should be taken in middle overs after a good 50 run partnership when both the batsmen are settled

  • Nishantha Dantanarayana on September 21, 2009, 6:56 GMT

    I fully endorse the views expressed by Michael on taking final batting power play so late.

    During recently concluded Compaq Cup in Sri Lanka, there had been number of such occasion where Sri Lanka just waited till until they were compelled to do so at the end of 45 overs. In most of such occasions, by that time batsmen who were batting really well between 35 to 45 overs were in the pavilion trying to force their way without using that available power play. By their failure to make a strategic decision on the final power play, Sri Lanka just gave away couple of matches including the final against India.

    My personal opinion is that the team should leave it to two batsmen at the crease between 36 to 45 overs to decided when to take the power play. If batsmen in the middle are confident and see the ball well, then that should be the best time to take it and accelerate. This way they can save their wickets for another crack at the depth overs .

  • Paul on September 21, 2009, 5:46 GMT

    Great article - I too agree that teams don't seem to have a clue when to take powerplays. The bowling one is fairly straightforward, overs 11-15, unless you're being absolutely stuffed by the openers. I'd like to see the batting powerplay taken between overs 30-40, when you've got 2 batsmen set at the crease. You can guarantee the best bowlers will be on, so you want your best batsmen to face them. With the field up, good placement will pretty much guarantee boundaries. And even if you lose a wicket, so what? The confidence the finishing batsmen will get from having a nice beefy run rate leading into the last 10 overs will be invaluable. Here's hoping we see some ingenuity at the Champions Trophy!

  • Ross on September 21, 2009, 5:30 GMT

    Fox - Captains may be best off using the PP an over or two after the fall of a particular wicket than a particular over.

    For example, if Cam White comes in at 5, give him two overs and then call for the PP. This could the 15th over or the 30th. It certainly shouldn't be later than the 40th though.

  • Gyan on September 21, 2009, 4:38 GMT

    Well the recent usage of batting powerplays left me dumbfounded.... To use it in the last 10 overs where runs are scored anyway is a serious waste of the powerplays... it sud b uwsed in d 25-40 phase wer d going is dull and slow!!!

    And wat confounds me even mor is dat der r usually 15 support staff travelling wid d team all d time... why can't even 1 see wats right n wats wrong???

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  • Gyan on September 21, 2009, 4:38 GMT

    Well the recent usage of batting powerplays left me dumbfounded.... To use it in the last 10 overs where runs are scored anyway is a serious waste of the powerplays... it sud b uwsed in d 25-40 phase wer d going is dull and slow!!!

    And wat confounds me even mor is dat der r usually 15 support staff travelling wid d team all d time... why can't even 1 see wats right n wats wrong???

  • Ross on September 21, 2009, 5:30 GMT

    Fox - Captains may be best off using the PP an over or two after the fall of a particular wicket than a particular over.

    For example, if Cam White comes in at 5, give him two overs and then call for the PP. This could the 15th over or the 30th. It certainly shouldn't be later than the 40th though.

  • Paul on September 21, 2009, 5:46 GMT

    Great article - I too agree that teams don't seem to have a clue when to take powerplays. The bowling one is fairly straightforward, overs 11-15, unless you're being absolutely stuffed by the openers. I'd like to see the batting powerplay taken between overs 30-40, when you've got 2 batsmen set at the crease. You can guarantee the best bowlers will be on, so you want your best batsmen to face them. With the field up, good placement will pretty much guarantee boundaries. And even if you lose a wicket, so what? The confidence the finishing batsmen will get from having a nice beefy run rate leading into the last 10 overs will be invaluable. Here's hoping we see some ingenuity at the Champions Trophy!

  • Nishantha Dantanarayana on September 21, 2009, 6:56 GMT

    I fully endorse the views expressed by Michael on taking final batting power play so late.

    During recently concluded Compaq Cup in Sri Lanka, there had been number of such occasion where Sri Lanka just waited till until they were compelled to do so at the end of 45 overs. In most of such occasions, by that time batsmen who were batting really well between 35 to 45 overs were in the pavilion trying to force their way without using that available power play. By their failure to make a strategic decision on the final power play, Sri Lanka just gave away couple of matches including the final against India.

    My personal opinion is that the team should leave it to two batsmen at the crease between 36 to 45 overs to decided when to take the power play. If batsmen in the middle are confident and see the ball well, then that should be the best time to take it and accelerate. This way they can save their wickets for another crack at the depth overs .

  • sathya on September 21, 2009, 7:05 GMT

    yeah,you are right about it.powerplay should be taken in middle overs after a good 50 run partnership when both the batsmen are settled

  • Graeme on September 21, 2009, 7:07 GMT

    YES! If only to give some soothing to thousands of fans screaming at TV screens that now is the TIME. One point though, I think you might be surprised by how effective good ODI spinners are still going to be.

  • sathya on September 21, 2009, 7:07 GMT

    yeah,you are right about it.powerplay should be taken in middle overs after a good 50 run partnership when both the batsmen are settled

  • Brian on September 21, 2009, 10:13 GMT

    I quite agree.

    It does seem that the Powerplay hurts more than it helps, but surely that is also down to the temperament of the players and the approach of the captain and coach.

    I like the idea of using the powerplay earlier to use up overs of the better bowlers. I think it would be a good result to see off 5 overs of good bowling for a return of just 5 to 6 runs per over, leaving your finishers to knock it about at the end.

    I do think that there should be less emphasis for the players on its importance and allow them to play their natural game instead of playing impossible shots just because it is the powerplay.

  • Arvind on September 21, 2009, 10:44 GMT

    It brings to mind a recent ODI between India and NZ, when the 1st 3 NZ bowlers had finished their 1st spells after about 20 overs, and Dan did not take the bowling powerplay (his main bowlers were tired obviously), but the Little Master shocked them by taking the batting powerplay then and there. Dan was forced to bowl part-timers, and Sachin and Yuvraj smashed 70-odd runs in those 5 overs, and India ended up with close to 400 runs.

  • Ashutosh on September 21, 2009, 10:56 GMT

    I think Dhoni uses the Power Play the best. I do not have the stats, But I can bet 90 % of the times he uses it in the 35th Over. It gives India a 15 Slog overs. Sometimes he has used it at the 15th over also. When no wickets had fallen and he wanted the faster bowlers to be on so that there wouldn't be any fast bowlers left at the death.