February 7, 2010

Duleep Trophy, 2009-10

Why the second new ball is key

Aakash Chopra

"Most centuries scored in this edition of the Duleep trophy have come from the middle-order batsmen which include as many as three double centuries in just four matches" © Cricinfo Ltd

The fast bowlers had made early inroads and the opposition seemed to be on the mat. The batting was in pieces when the middle and the lower middle-order geared up and pulled their team back into the match. Just when they seemed to be cruising, the bowling side came back with a couple of crucial breakthroughs, giving their team the leeway to perhaps steer the game. More often than not, such a spin-off comes up around the 80th over just when the fielding side decides to take the second new ball.

Subsequently, it is this new ball that decides the face of the scorecard for the team batting first, for the wickets taken by it is what seals the innings. What happens in successive innings’ can undoubtedly be presumed.

This is the story of a typical Duleep Trophy game.

Chances are that one may have failed to spot the striking parallels between most Duleep Trophy matches, barring the last innings of the recently concluded final where West Zone made history.

So what is it about the second new ball that makes it so pivotal? Well, it is the ball itself – the Kookaburra instead of the regular SG Test.

The new Kookaburra ball moves appreciably both in the air and off the surface and hence accounts for few early wickets. Perhaps a smart way to deal with this inevitable evil is to pitch the ball slightly fuller (to allow the ball to swing more) and make the batsman play maximum number of deliveries. Since the quality of bowlers at this level is pretty decent, they don’t take time to adjust to the new requirements. On the other hand, batsmen are required to tweak their feet movement substantially along with assessing the line of the ball. This adjustment is a tad difficult than the one expected from the bowlers. And thus the batsmen invariably succumb.

Now you would think that scoring tons in such a situation is quite a task, perhaps reason enough to credit the middle and lower middle-order batsmen for their rescue act. But hang on; let me give you an insight in to how things pan out in the middle. The moment this red Kookaburra loses its shine and seam (which gets embedded in the surface), the ball ceases to perform its tricks. This results in making the quicker bowlers ineffective and batting considerably easier. Just to make matters easier for the batsmen and worse for the bowling side, most of our spinners don’t know how to use the Kookaburra effectively. Finger spinners are not used to putting extra spin on the ball (because they can get away with putting less spin on the SG Test ball) and there aren’t too many wrist spinners around in any case. I am reminded of VVS Laxman’s assessment of a dearth of quality spinners in India which gets reiterated in India’s premier domestic tournament.

What spreads out on the pitch thereafter is predictable. While the batting side waits for the Kookaburra to lose its sheen, the bowling line-up hangs in to get hold of the new ball. A quick check tells me that most centuries scored in this edition of the Duleep trophy have come from the middle-order batsmen which include as many as three double centuries in just four matches. Only two openers scored centuries but on a fourth-day wicket which obviously doesn’t help the quick bowlers much.

So it may not be a bad idea to read the scorecards and performances keeping these dynamics in mind.


Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Anonymous on (February 11, 2010, 6:11 GMT)

My test team 1. G.Gambhir 2. V.Sehwag 3. SR Tendulker 4. M.vijay 5. Dinesh Karthik 6. MS Dhoni 7. Suresh Raina 8. Harbhajan Singh 9. Amit Mishra 10. Jaheer Khan 11. S Sreesanth

My Oneday Team. for 3 one day against SA

1. V.Sehwag 2. G.Gambhir 3. SR Tendulkar 4. Yuvraj Singh 5. Suresh Raina 6. MS Dhoni 7. Yusuf Pathan 8. R.Jadeja 9. Dinesh karthik 10.Harbhajan Singh 11. Jaheer khan 12. Ashis Nehra 13. Irfan Pathan 14. Manish Panday. 15. Virat kohli 16. S. Badrinath 17. Abhishek Nayar

After analyzing Duleep trophy & Ranji trophy matches i am sending my team. I am a common man who can analyze. Why KSrikanth does not able to understand

Posted by Vishal Bulbule, Solapur 8087551058 on (February 9, 2010, 11:09 GMT)

Often second new bowl is the key only because of set batsman gets totally new bowl with new seam movements and many other factors related with air flowing on the ground. Often second new bowl is taken in the situation where 5 or 6 wicket fall. One or two then set batsman get out because of the new ball and the tail gets exposed and it becomes worst for the batting side as non regular batsman come and bat and throw their wicket due to their inability to handle cricket ball and again a new one. It is very simple akash. What would u say on the 6 quick dismissals of Indian Batting in the first innings against south africa. It was really a very very poor batting exibition by the Indians. Presently I am browsing live score of the match and India have lost their all wickets in the second innings and South Africa have won the match by an innings and six runs on day four only. Gambhir and Vijay Murli's faliure and Hashim Amla's innings were the major factors.

Posted by NGD on (February 9, 2010, 10:42 GMT)

You still have to score 200 runs, don't you? You already admit that the quality of bowlers at this level is 'pretty decent'.

Posted by Siddharth Chauhan on (February 9, 2010, 3:44 GMT)

Akash, overall good report as always - big fan. But successive century/double ton came from Kaif on early fall of wickets (at no. 3) with 8 balls bowled; the ball was new. So give him credit; and moreover, the guy got overlooked for Saha. That must hurt. I agree other tons came lower down the order like Nayar and Yousuf.

Posted by ramesh on (February 8, 2010, 18:04 GMT)

as they would say ... 'elementary my dear watson'

Posted by Jason on (February 8, 2010, 13:58 GMT)

Good job. You did not even mention what a wonderful Duleep Trophy final just transpired, choosing to speak about the balls. Next time, at least give you fellow domestic players credit and mention successes of other teams.

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Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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