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Where are the yorkers?

Suresh Raina was bowled by a Harry Gurney yorker Getty Images

"Where are the yorkers?"

It is possible that at one moment or another on late Saturday afternoon, every spectator among the 84,336 present at the MCG asked themselves this question. When Steven Finn finally managed to land a couple towards the end of Australia's innings, those same spectators were most likely nodding and wondering why it had taken so long.

Ian Pont, the bowling coach, was apoplectic on Twitter, as he watched England's pacemen bang in short ball after short ball, most of them of the slower or cutter varieties. Amid a flurry of angry repudiations, he wrote that it was "time to stop with the clipboards and laptops ... and get in the nets and learn to bowl yorkers ... it's that simple".

But is it though?

Out in the middle, Glenn Maxwell thought there was nothing inherently wrong with forcing the batsmen to strike out for the vast square MCG boundaries. What made it easy for Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh and Brad Haddin though was England had done this often enough before and the field settings for the tactic were imprecise.

Proof of both flaws could be found in the fact that while England only conceded three sixes for the innings, a backhanded vindication of their thinking, the same bowlers leaked 38 fours. Maxwell alone struck 11, and his 66 from 40 balls was his highest international score made without a single blow beyond the boundary.

"Death bowling is very dependent on the ground you bowl at," Maxwell said. "I don't think that was necessarily a bad tactic [from England]. We just, doing our homework, knew that was going to be coming. They do that a lot to us in the death overs, slower balls hard into the wicket to get up around shoulder- and head-height, which is generally pretty hard to play, but I don't think they had the fields to match it.

"You need to have the field to match it, and the MCG with big square boundaries, it's hard to clear them. So you're taking the six out of play but we hit a lot of boundaries and we were able to pick gaps, which isn't always easy to do."

The sight of a yorker screeching under the bat and scrambling the stumps has grown less common recently, as various bowling theories are tried to counter the increasingly brazen batsmen and the hitting power of their weapons. The slower bouncer and the wide full delivery, both intended to force a stroke to a protected area of the field without giving the batsman the option of hitting to either side of the wicket, have become vogue in these latter overs.

As a fast bowler with a threatening bouncer, a well-conceived slower ball and the capacity to york a batsman with his speed, Mitchell Johnson can see the value of targeting the batsman's toes. But he also wonders at how the parameters have changed over his international career, which began in Bangladesh in 2006.

"I think there's a number of things - fielding restrictions is one of them," he said. "The way guys play now with the ramps and the reverse-ramps... and I think it becomes predictable with four out. So I think you still need to bowl the yorker, that's still part of the game. It's just trying to make it not predictable. It's definitely a lot harder but it [the yorker] still plays a huge part.

"I was watching the West Indies game against Ireland and when guys did bowl yorkers and got it right they didn't score, so it's just about not being predictable with it and that's getting harder and harder with the way the game's going. It's a huge challenge but it's just part of the game and you have to learn to adapt. That's what the game is about, it's about who can adapt the best."

A critical part of the thinking that has led to bowlers trying to deliver slow bouncers instead of fast yorkers is batsmen have become adept at using the crease, either advancing or camping back in the crease and across or away from the stumps to create scenarios for manoeuvring the ball into gaps or getting under and belting it into the stands.

As Maxwell said, "You've got to put them off somehow. They [England] bowled two really good yorkers to us at the end and they seemed to go away from that a fair bit, they tried a lot of things to try to keep us guessing, so they made it easy for us to wait for them to make a mistake. They just missed their spots and they didn't really have the fields to back it up either."

The fielding restrictions for this World Cup - only four outside the circle at any time - have also added to the pressure on bowlers. Maxwell is a spinner, but his observations about his fellow tradesmen needing to have a strong working knowledge of the batsmen they face can be applied equally to the quicks.

"You have to do your homework a bit more on certain batters," he said. "Who reverse sweeps, who goes inside out over cover. When you had five out you knew what you had to do, you had to bowl with three out on the leg and two out on the off, it was quite simple for a spinner to have his field at the start. The only decision he had to make was whether he wanted to be attacking and have a slip and a 45 [degrees behind square leg] or just the standard field. Now you have to think about it and do your homework."

As Pakistan showed the following day, it is not impossible to keep the scoring rate down in the closing overs provided they have, and stick to, a decent plan. Sohail Khan and Wahab Riaz did not limit themselves to yorkers, but bowling full and straight allowed them to concede only 21 from the final four overs. England had let slip 76 from Australia's final six.

Johnson has reasoned that bowlers should not be expected to keep the runs down in quite the same the manner they were once able to. But common sense and consistent application of fundamentals can still work more often than not.

"I think you'll find that run rates for bowlers have gone up in this game," he said. "But I still think you've got to find a way and we're doing it pretty well at the moment. It will be interesting to see when we're under pressure how we handle it - that will be the key, and if we handle it when we're under pressure then I'll be happy."