South Africa v India, 1st ODI, Durban January 12, 2011

Beating the middle-over blues

AB de Villiers and JP Duminy were not content to take singles in the middle period of the innings and made a statement by taking the Powerplay after just 27 overs

When JP Duminy joined AB de Villiers at the crease with South Africa 82 for 3 in 13.3 overs, it could easily have been time for an afternoon siesta. It's not necessarily the two batsmen at the crease who might have acted as dream catchers, but the start of a particular period in ODI cricket matches, coupled with the situation South Africa were in, that would have prompted the lullabies.

Usually the time between overs 15 and 40 of an ODI is similar to an episode of a television soap opera: you can come back after an extended break from watching and still know exactly what's going on. With South Africa three wickets down after a start that was high on ecstasy, the middle overs could well have proved to be the downer.

Hashim Amla gave South Africa an ideal start. He played a few risky shots but was also handsomely rewarded by poor bowling from India and was allowed to race to a half-century. Amla was punishing everything, using every tool at his disposal. He pulled, drove, glanced and sometimes just smashed, paying almost no attention to the shocking shots that both Graeme Smith and Colin Ingram played that led to their downfall. The start he gave South Africa was frenetic and when he got out it was a time for everyone to catch their breath and reassess.

That was when JP Duminy walked in and with not much in the way of recognised batsmen left in the line-up it was a time for caution. Duminy and de Villiers had to adopt a safe approach to ensure that South Africa did not crumble.

They could have done exactly what Jacques Kallis did in the 2007 World Cup group stage match against Australia. South Africa were chasing 378 to win the game in St Kitts and Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers gave them a blazing start, getting to 160 for 1 in the 21st over. de Villiers was run out and Smith went off with cramps and that was Kallis' cue to turn to stone. For no apparent reason, he went into defensive mode, playing the same bowlers who had been battered around the small West Indian ground with far too much watchfulness and respect. By the time he was out, South Africa were 277 for 7 and had just under seven overs left to score 101 runs. Of course, they haven't approached the middle-overs quite so passively since, but it serves as an example of how sombre that period can be.

Luckily, Duminy did not bring a middle-overs mindset to the crease with him. He understood that a small period of introspection was required and he and de Villiers spent a few overs watching and assessing. The two then began to play a cat and mouse game with the India bowlers, turning the strike quickly and easily while settling into a comfortable five-runs-per-over pattern. They would have almost been expected to carry on like that for as long as they could.

The pair were playing Harbhajan Singh particularly effectively, and in the 26th over, a statement of intent was made. de Villiers connected bat with ball so well that what looked like a mistimed shot ended up going over the straight boundary for six. In the next over, Duminy announced his authority with a six off Yuvraj Singh. Instead of simply enjoying the two big hits, South Africa carried to completion their positivity. In the next over, they took the Batting Powerplay.

de Villiers and Duminy scored 45 runs in the five Powerplay overs, taking the run-rate from 5.48 to 6.03 by the time it was over. They had managed to up the scoring rate significantly without looking as though they were stretching themselves to any great degree. They were helped by some poor bowling and fielding but that doesn't overshadow the refreshing way in which South Africa dealt with the middle overs. With two established batsmen in the middle, they didn't stash away the Powerplay for the end, instead using it when its effect could be maximised.

With de Villiers and Duminy at the crease, South Africa looked set to post a score in excess of 320. Both of them were dismissed and the total ended up falling short of 300. In the end, those 30-odd runs didn't matter at all; neither did the fact that the batsmen after Duminy all failed to impress. The approach and the attitude from the two in the middle had set the tone for an emphatic South African victory. There are still questions that need answering. David Miller has been unreliable and if Johan Botha and Wayne Parnell both fail with the bat, the tail gets too long. It means South Africa still have a soft underbelly to deal with, but if their upperbelly holds them up as it did in Durban that may not be too serious a concern.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ryo on January 14, 2011, 16:15 GMT

    @Ahmad Uetian: Maybe you don't seem to understand cricket, but EVERY batsmen slogs in the last few overs to get extra runs. The fact that Miandad was usually still around for those last few overs, after also batting in the middle overs as well, should show to you just how good he was. If you're honestly trying to convince yourself that Sehwag doesn't also slog and that Miandad didn't have the raw power to hit sixes without slogging well then that again is a bit of a joke. Carry on making non-factually correct statements though. Next you'll be telling me that Ambrose only got bounce on bouncy tracks and without bouncy tracks he was a nothing bowler... lol.

  • Coolest on January 14, 2011, 15:58 GMT

    @cricsa, you are saying that since the world cup is held in this 50 over format, it can't be changed to 40 over format... Says who?? did u just started watching cricket few days ago? don't u know that this same ODI format was once 60 overs a side not 50. It was changed to 50 by ICC, so ICC should again change it to 40 overs a side to save it from going extinct. Or even better just take the world's greatest sportsmen's advice, Sachin's advice and change it to 2 innings limited overs game. 1st innings 20 overs batting n bowling -- 2nd innings 20 overs batting n bowling = total of 40 overs a side. This will remove the toss factor + those boring 10 overs which are bowled by the part-time bowlers, since no team in the world today plays with 5 pure bowlers, not even India who does not even have genuine all-rounder in their team. No one wants to watch part-timers bowl those useless 10 overs, which kills the T.V. audiences....

  • Mudhasir on January 14, 2011, 6:33 GMT

    Pure cricket fan will never get bored watching an ODI match.SO nobody needs to worry about the survival of this format.Dont forget cricket's biggest event that takes place every 4 years(world cup) runs in this format.

  • vikram on January 14, 2011, 3:40 GMT

    Dear Cricinfo I see that recently youll only post comments that youll want to ,none of mine have been posted for a while .I love your site but im also a very passionate Indian cricket fan and i have strong opinions and one of them is how Srikkanth clearly favors players from TN .now thats my opinion ive never expressed it in foul language and i dont know why are filtering comments so much A message forum should not be so restricted that youll only post comments that youll approve of.perhaps some of u are staunch Srikkanth supporters ,perhaps you only will allow messages praising him .please indicate to me if possible if im wrong so i dont waste my time messaging on this forum Thanks

  • Dummy4 on January 14, 2011, 1:49 GMT

    @ AndyZaltzmannsHair Read the line following that "The have to slog" Minadad too had to slog in the finishing overs to get boundaries............ It is job of opposition captain to block easy singles of such players so that they are forced to slog and slogging is always very risky for batsman bcz one miss or miss hit & you r gone just the same happened to CA Ingram. .........................Besides in finishing overs Miandad could only hit full tosses & half volies for boundaries, His all other boundaries used to be towards third man or fine leg using bowlers pace. unlike Sehwag, Richards or Tendulkar who can hit any ball to the bpundary anywhere in the ground.

  • Ruwani on January 14, 2011, 1:15 GMT

    Guys, It's useless analyzing players merely on their batting average and arguing this guy is better than this guy. There are no unbiased commentators and analyzers. WI's love to say it's Lara, It's Kallis for SAcans, Sachin for Indians and Sanga for Sri Lankans. Actually, is it the proper time to find out and praise who is the best? NO, NO, And NO. We need to wait and see more. One thing is sure for at the moment. Sachin is the most exaggerated cricketer of all time.

  • Ruwani on January 14, 2011, 0:59 GMT

    Agian these guys are arguing about the world's best batsman. Is it Kallis, Lara, Sachin or Sanga? Can someone think only about their test batting average and say " Okay guys ----- is the best batsman" ?. Sachin is not a good batsman against pacy bowlers. We saw it on numerous occasions and last test series against SA again proved that fact. Sachin's striking rate was very poor and it was boring to watch. Can you point out Sachin to your colleague and say "See, that's the world's best batsman, See how interesting he is whacking Dale Steyn" ? Absolutely no. Sachin's Success/Failure ratio is less than one against Waqar, Wasim, Aktar and Steyn and he was not impressive against these great fast bowlers. Kallis neither an attacking batsman. Lara used to whack fast bowlers like De Silva. They did not play merely on records or number of centuries. They were capable of entertaining fans all over the world.

  • Ryo on January 13, 2011, 21:13 GMT

    @Ahmad Uetian: "J.P Duminy, Prince, Minadad etc are very poor timers of cricket ball. Their shots cannot even reach boundaries." Who is this Minadad fellow? I hope you're not referring to Javed Miandad, because if you are that line is hilarious. Miandad the original ODI finisher, who played to his strength of singles and doubles, and when needed would whack you out of the park.

  • Bryan on January 13, 2011, 19:15 GMT

    Shorter games for those with shorter attention spans and seeking instant gratification. Why not just have 10 overs each way, bowling underarm (no rolling a la Chappell) most 6's wins. Then you can change the channel and go back to atching your favourite soap opera.

  • Dummy4 on January 13, 2011, 19:02 GMT

    FIELD PLACEMENTS AGAINST J.P. DUMINY WERE POOR. ..... Use common sense, For God sake JP DUMINY is not a big hitter like Viv Richards or Sehwag . So why all the fielders on boundaries when J.P. cannot at all strike the ball without slogging. He kept getting singles sefely when his shots didn't even cross the infield circle. He hit only 1 four and that too towards third man using bowlers pace.. …..Busy players like J.P Duminy, Prince, Minadad etc are very poor timers of cricket ball. Their shots cannot even reach boundaries. They only rely on bowler's pace or slogging to get boundaries... …….. So every team should always keep at least 5 men within in circle to block their singles forcing them to slog and when they slog, because of their poor timing, they continuously offer chances even within incircle. If Duminy's singles were blocked he would have been bogged down like CA Ingram and would have wasted at least 10 more deliveries and eventually would have got out slogging much earlier.

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