ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

World Cup 2011

The Powerplay conundrum stumps Pakistan

The batting Powerplay seems to have been more advantageous to the bowlers in the World Cup, and though Pakistan's numbers in it read well, they are quite inflexible in deciding when to take it

Osman Samiuddin in Pallekele

March 13, 2011

Comments: 43 | Text size: A | A

Misbah-ul-Haq helped propel Pakistan to 277, Sri Lanka v Pakistan, World Cup, Group A, Colombo, February 26, 2011
Misbah-ul-Haq's mix of aggression and intelligence makes him best equipped to make use of the batting Powerplay for Pakistan © AFP
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Pakistan have not quite yet mastered the batting Powerplay, though their numbers in this World Cup make for impressive reading. They have only lost three wickets in batting Powerplay overs across four games, the least for any side who has taken it more than twice, and their average run-rate of 9.81 through those overs is second only to South Africa. Yet something about their usage of it hasn't looked that impressive, though in fairness, they are not the only side of whom that can be said.

That is proof enough that the ICC has got the innovation right. On evidence so far, in fact, it is difficult to know whether it is the batsmen or bowlers who have benefitted more from the batting Powerplay in this tournament.

England's stutter against India and India's own implosion against South Africa counter the Irish boost in their chase against England and AB de Villiers' canny use to spark South Africa's chase against India on Saturday.

For Pakistan it poses a unique conundrum. The very idea of it muddles the long-held and preferred batting ideology of steady, safe accumulation until the last ten overs whereupon arrives a great burst of scoring. Their current batting order, with Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq at Nos. 6, 7 and 8 is configured precisely for that purpose: Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan to build and those below them, power-hitters all, to blast. In their defence, over the years, it has worked more often than not.

There is no one ideal time to take the Powerplay, of course. It is a situational strategic tool and there is no definitive moment when it is best employed; in this World Cup only twice have sides taken it before 30 overs; twelve times it has been taken between overs 31 and 40, and the vast majority of occasions - 29 times - it has come after the 40th.

Often, two set batsmen at the crease choose not to take it early because the runs are coming anyway. Sometimes, the batsmen at the crease are not best equipped to exploit it. Often, as seen in the New Zealand-Pakistan game, the runs are not as important as is the need to see a good death bowler bowled out, as happened with Umar Gul. With Gul gone, New Zealand pillaged the last five overs.

Pakistan have chosen to, as best they can, render it insignificant, trying simply to slipstream it into their own strategy. In four World Cup games so far, on three occasions they've waited till after 42 overs to take it.

Against Kenya they took it from the 43rd over onwards; at the Premadasa against Sri Lanka from the 44th over; against Canada at the same venue from the 43rd over. The one occasion it has come before was in the loss to New Zealand, when it was taken in the 34th over.

Only against Kenya can the strategy be said to have really worked; Misbah and Umar were at the crease and well-set when they took it and they proceeded to take 71 from those five overs, losing only one wicket. Against Sri Lanka, Pakistan probably waited too long; Misbah and Younis were well-set in a match-defining partnership but chose not to take it. Only when Younis fell in the 41st over and after Umar had faced a few balls did they take it, but momentum was lost. Umar holed out and only 36 runs came from it.

The game against Canada was most revealing of Pakistan's attitude towards the Powerplay. After a top-order collapse, Misbah and Umar had rebuilt the innings with a 73-run stand. They came together in the 16th over and batted through to the 35th, yet still didn't feel comfortable in taking it. Once Umar was gone, the bottom fell out of the batting; when Afridi and Razzaq were briefly at the crease, they chose not to take it even then.

Eventually, it was left to Gul and Saeed Ajmal to take it in the 43rd and the innings ended in the same over. Against New Zealand, Razzaq and Gul were at the crease and the game was as good as gone by the time they took 48 runs from it.

Before the 40-over mark it seems Pakistan do not consider the Powerplay in any condition, even if Afridi talks publicly of it depending on the mood of the game at that moment. "I think the situation really counts for a lot," he said. "If you have wickets in hand in the 40th or 41st over then you can take a Powerplay. If the scoreboard is going well you don't need to take it early." In other words, do as you have done since the time of Imran Khan.

But more than Pakistan's power trio, Misbah is probably the key man for it, given the position he comes in at and his ability to gather momentum and then unleash it. At his best, in form, he is an intelligent limited-overs player, confident enough to play the big shots for the slog overs and smart enough to fully exploit the field with his running through the middle overs.

"We haven't used it appropriately," he said before the game against New Zealand. "But it plays a vital role, if you look at the results of some of the matches. The team who uses the Powerplay well generally wins, whether the batsmen or even the bowlers. We need to have a plan for that."

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by Dummy4 on (March 15, 2011, 7:59 GMT)

@maddy20: Yes we are worried about losing to nz by 110 runs, but not by being bowled out for 185 against canada, because our bowlers managed to save us and frankly, not every bowling attack can do it, canada or no canada. Not to mention the pressure of defending a paltry total. As for nz, it was solely kamran's fault. The batsmen should have known better than to collapse just because the concentrated carnage had made 300 feel like 370. The bowlers were not party to the blame in that case. When you create a monster by dropping a jittery man twice or thrice, no bowler can escape the results. Umar gul and afridi were merely lucky their quota of overs had ended.

Posted by Babar on (March 15, 2011, 6:35 GMT)

Dear Mohamed Akhil, I really pray for Pak india Quarterfinal in India. Then you will see which team is better. Mark my words pakistan will knockout india any stage these two team will meet. No offence!

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 15, 2011, 0:40 GMT)

Never send umber akmal at power play, this guy is not a hitter, if u really wan a send A massive hitter then send razzaq king of sixes.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 14, 2011, 16:00 GMT)

I'd love to read more about how other teams have used the power-play. If it were me, I'd try to be proactive. In the past, the middle overs from 20-35 (even with wickets in hand) have tended to be building time. But with set, sensible batsmen, a power-play can disrupt the plan of the fielding team.

This is the period that often favors all-rounders and spinners. If by taking it you can pounce on bowlers ill-suited to the powerplay or change the strategy of the captain of the fielding team, I think you've done your job. To me, the idea, as indicated in the article shouldn't simply be to score runs but to set up your chase. Instead of going crazy in the final 10 overs and losing wickets a la India against SA, it could be utilized to force the fielding team on the defense and then dictate play.

Personally, unless you've got 3 hitters like Pakistan, taking the powerplay in the final 10 overs when (providing you've got wkts in hand) you'll be going for it regardless, seems redundant.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 14, 2011, 14:47 GMT)

to mr shamshir hussain, saying good about your team is ok , but dnt compare with your team with team india ok you are no where in front indian team, ifyou want to know which is better team come and play qaurter final matches in india against india then u will to know who is better, u have never beaten india in world cup matches u know tht........ let c how far u will go ok.....

Posted by Shahid on (March 14, 2011, 14:36 GMT)

@ Sachin_is_da_Best: Pakistan's bowling was much better, is much better and will be much better than India's all-time best bowlers. Bowlers like Nehra, Munaf, wouldn't earn a place even in associate teams. Look at Pakistan, they have a good senior: Akhtar, a in between experienced: Gu, Young talent: Junaid Khan. And they have 3 great spinners" Afridi, Ajmal , Abdur Rehman. So what are you talking about weak bowling? PS sachin (his name doesn't deserve being capitalized) is NOT the best. Imran Khan is.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 14, 2011, 13:56 GMT)

Well i personally recon Afridi or/and Umarl Akmal should be batting at the power-play overs.Thus Umar Akmal and Afridi should open, which i don't see happening, or the power play should be taken when both or one of them is at the crease.Considering the fact that both of them are flamboyant and fearless players, the reason why there is every chance them miss-hitting it over the in-field. Part-time bowlers bowling or the best batsmen batting at the middle-overs is not really a logical reason NOT to take the power play in the middle-overs.At a given day a good-batsmen may struggle ,similarly a part-time bowler can be un-playable.But at any given day Afridi and Umar Akmal will quite definitely play their shots.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 14, 2011, 13:07 GMT)

I agree with the writer.We are not using it inteligently.More then one occassion we did not take it inspite of wickets in hand.Misbah can use the power play effectively.So we should not wait for the arrival of Umar,Shahid and Razzaq.They are sloggers so they can have big hit in closing overs.Our tail enders are capable but they are not playing to their potential.Hit can be any where over the slip,Fine leg,over the cover and through slip..But our batsmen are aiming towards long on,long off and midwicket only.

Posted by V.L on (March 14, 2011, 12:25 GMT)

@Shamshir Hussain So you are not really worried about getting bowled out for 185 against Canada and losing by 110 runs to NZ then?

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 14, 2011, 9:57 GMT)

Drop umer akmal but if afridi loves him so much then atleast not send him at batting power play.

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Osman SamiuddinClose
Osman Samiuddin Osman spent the first half of his life pretending he discovered reverse swing with a tennis ball half-covered with electrical tape. The second half of his life was spent trying, and failing, to find spiritual fulfillment in the world of Pakistani advertising and marketing. The third half of his life will be devoted to convincing people that he did discover reverse swing. And occasionally writing about cricket. And learning mathematics.

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