ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features
India v South Africa, Group B, World Cup 2011, Nagpur
A tale of two batting Powerplays
The game was decided in two five-over phases in each innings
Firdose Moonda in Nagpur
March 12, 2011
It could be a moment that decides a match, sometimes a collection of moments, whether they follow in sequence or not. This time, it was two five-over long phases that made the difference - the two batting Powerplays that undid India and redid South Africa and in the end conspired to produce the result.
The batting Powerplay has proved a puzzle for most teams, not knowing whether to take it when the going is good and they have a chance at acceleration or when they are being bogged down and need to find a way out. South Africa used it in a situation similar to the latter, when they needed to wrestle the match away. It was at the start of the 37th over of their chase and the difference between runs required and balls remaining was 40, and the required rate was almost nine runs to the over.
To allow the chase to get further away from them would have left too much ground to be made up later on. Even though India had just run Jacques Kallis out and the pendulum and swung back in their favour, South Africa decided it was time to tussle for the advantage. It required careful calculation but they judged it well, after analysing their own batting and the bowling options that India had left at their disposal.
The middle order after JP Duminy is relatively untested, with Faf du Plessis, Morne van Wyk, Johan Botha and Robin Peterson only playing a role in the disastrous chase in Chennai last Sunday. de Villiers and Duminy were the last experienced pair and Graeme Smith decided they would be best placed to take advantage of the fact that Zaheer Khan was almost bowled out . "We had discussed it tactically and we knew that Zaheer had been their best bowler in the Powerplays. After he bowled his two in the middle, we thought it was a good time to take it and it worked out well," Smith said.
Zaheer was used for two of the Powerplay overs but South Africa still managed to score 52 runs for the loss of just de Villiers in that period. They brought the required rate down to eight by the end of the 41st over. It was a combination of luck, with de Villiers inside-edging for four in the first over, and aggressive intent, with Duminy, new at the crease, but aware of what he needed to do and able to pick the lines and lengths fluently.
When the Poweplay ended, Duminy had to escort the lower middle order through to the end. He ended up perishing in the cause but du Plessis and Botha were able to handle it on their own. It's likely they wouldn't have been able to if it wasn't for the work done in the Powerplay. It's also unlikely that the chase would have been on if it wasn't for damage South Africa's bowlers did during the India's batting Powerplay.
India were cruising on 253 for 1, Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir were both comfortable and starting to build a mountain for South Africa to climb. In anticipation of that Everest, India were determined to get to the summit as quickly as possible and decided to use the Powerplay as their cable car to the top. "Often in Powerplays, you look to get a par-plus score," MS Dhoni said. He explained that India were hoping to add some bonus runs in that period, especially because they had wickets in hand, and it ended up having the opposite effect. "You look for those extra 25-30 runs and then you end up 40 runs short."
India's desperation in the Powerplay was evident, with Gambhir's urgency to return for a second run off the second ball Dale Steyn bowled; it would have had Tendulkar run out if there was a direct hit. He managed back-to-back boundaries off Morne Morkel but when Tendulkar attempted the same, he was dismissed. Steyn used the slower ball well and Kallis the full ball - each time they asked a question of the India batsmen, the answer was one of them holing out. Yusuf Pathan and Yuvraj Singh gave their wickets away and in total India's Powerplay resulted in a score of 30 for 4.
That was all part of their grander collapse, 29 for 9, with five of those wickets going Steyn's way. The domino effect started with what happened in the Powerplay and instead of India aiming to regroup after that, they persisted in their pursuit of glory and crashed. "The Powerplay was the turning point," Dhoni admitted.
What may get overlooked is why India wanted to lash out in the Powerplay the way they did. They had been frustrated from after the first drinks break, because of a special spell by recalled offspinner Botha. With the score on 137 for 1 after 16 overs, the situation could so easily have got out of hand and the bushfire India had started could have burnt the entire forest down.
It was time for Botha, the senior spinner, the man who has been credited with being able to steer a cricket match in the direction he wants it to go, and he got into the driver's seat immediately. He should have had a wicket in his first over when Virender Sehwag was dropped by van Wyk. In the 15-over period where he bowled with Peterson, du Plessis, Steyn and Kallis at the other end, 66 runs were conceded.
It was a deliberate effort by Smith to create the situation where Botha could do that. "I didn't want to expose the two frontline spinners in the Powerplay because I wanted him [Botha] to control the middle overs. He bowled well in that period for us when we were getting taken to the cleaners." Botha did not feature in the Powerplays, but his performance around them was enough to script what would happen in that five-over phase where South Africa won the game.
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