Attack-first attitude keeps McClenaghan striking
India needed 69 more off 46 deliveries to beat New Zealand in the Napier ODI. They had six wickets remaining, and Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni had already put on 95 in just 14 overs. A couple of overs more and the duo could have run away with the game. Brendon Mccullum handed the ball to his strike bowler.
Mitchell McClenaghan delivered yet again, getting Dhoni caught behind on the hook with a sharp bouncer. Three balls later, McClenaghan had Ravindra Jadeja edging a lifter to the wicketkeeper. Facing an asking-rate of ten now, Kohli had no choice but to try and attack McClenaghan in the fast bowler's next over; he ended up placing a full toss straight into the hands of short cover.
Dhoni said that was where the game turned, and India lost a match they had seemed like winning at that point. McClenaghan ended with 4 for 68, the sixth time he had taken four or more in an ODI. He has played only 19 one-dayers, which means that almost every third match, he picks up a four-for. McClenaghan, with 47 wickets to his name, is set to become the second-fastest to 50 ODI scalps behind Ajantha Mendis, who got there in 19 matches. This ability to strike, and strike repeatedly, has given him the best strike-rate ever for bowlers who have taken at least as many wickets as he has.
McClenaghan strikes at 20.4, which puts him way ahead of number two on the list - Junaid Khan with 27.1. Only 12 bowlers on the list have a strike-rate under 30.
It is revealing to see that McClenaghan has the highest economy-rate of 5.80 among those 12. He has already developed a reputation of going all out for wickets without worrying too much about how many he concedes. His first-class average is nearly 40 compared to a List A one of 23.88, which also suggests that he is appreciably more effective with the white ball than with the red.
Before the series, Brendon McCullum had said that New Zealand would target wickets rather than trying to contain India and would not hesitate to play both McClenaghan and Adam Milne, who can also be expensive as he strives for extreme pace. While Milne was unfortunate to go off the field with a side strain in Napier, he did work up hostile speeds consistently. But it was McClenaghan who did the job for his captain once more.
"He does keep producing at key times for us and I can't stress the importance of it," McCullum said. "He is going to travel at times but as long as he is trying to perform in the manner that we have picked him for, then we are happy and he has to ride that wave because he has the handy knack of picking up wickets at key times.
"He is not always going to do that but as long as he is always trying to do that, that's the message we keep telling them. As long as he's doing the right thing in terms of attacking and trying to take the wickets for us, then we know what we are going to get when he comes in to bowl. He did it again and he is certainly proving to have a pretty good knock out."
With the new fielding restrictions allowing only four men in the deep, containment is increasingly becoming difficult for captains. Bowlers such as McClenaghan, who combine accuracy and good pace, might become even more valuable assets as sides rebuild their strategies to suit the changed regulations. Of course, they will also need more attacking captains such as McCullum to back them.
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo