England Opening Batsmen Outsmarting Australian Bowlers
Every time a batsman comes out to bat in a T20 match the broadcasters are quick to alert the viewer of all the analysis. Where does the batsman score against short balls or their strike rate against the full ball. It all makes sense from a bowler’s perspective, but can the batsman study details about the bowlers and then plan their innings?
After all, batting is reactive skill to an extent. However, in the England versus Australia match there were instances Jos Buttler and Jason Roy were dictating there plan based on strengths of the Australian bowlers.
Let’s start with Josh Hazlewood to Jason Roy. The England opener would have studied that on the majority of the cases Hazlewood’s first delivery is a standard test match length on the line of 5th stump. Roy was anticipating it, so he danced down the pitch, gave himself a bit of room and pummelled the ball over mid-wicket for a boundary. Roy knew Hazlewood had to adapt and had to change his line. Next ball, he shuffled slightly across the crease towards the off-side knowing the big Australian quick will target his stumps and turned the ball into plenty of space on the leg-side for a couple of runs. Two balls – six runs. It doesn’t sound like much, but by doing simple research, he had won that initial battle. For the rest of the over Hazlewood played the guessing game and Roy could play the reactive role.
Roy’s opening partner Jos Buttler was also always a step ahead of Mitchell Starc. Buttler had worked out the most dangerous delivery to combat against Starc is the yorker. Compared to the previous game, he opened up his stance, stayed deep in the crease and lowered his hands a touch. Buttler knew if he can handle the yorker, he can dominate Starc’s other deliveries. Early in the innings, Starc tried the yorker, but Buttler was already deep in his crease and he managed to slice it in front of point for a couple. Buttler knew he had won a small battle and now just waited patiently for Starc to bowl short or back of the length. When Starc dropped it short, Buttler pounced and dispatched him for a series of boundaries. It was brutal batting, but there was plenty of research and planning behind that knock.
Roy and Buttler have been phenomenal in the T20 World Cup. Both are using data and videos to outsmart their opponents to provide England that extra edge in batting. It is an indication of how the batsmen are staying ahead of the bowlers and England are leading the way.
With so much analysis captains and teams are getting so innovative with their field placements. The long-off fielder now stands much wider for right handed batsman against a left-arm or leg-spinner. The sweeper cover generally stood only a few meters in front of square for a spinner. Now, the sweeper is almost at cover. The slowness of the pitch also plays a role, but the modern day trend is to throw away the conventional position and invent new spots.
Against England, Aaron Finch adopted a fly slip for Jason Roy in the second over of the innings. South Africa had a man placed right behind the bowler inside the circle for Kieron Pollard and Andre Russell. The objective of having innovative fields is to force the batsman to hit in unfamiliar zones. It sounds simple enough, but modern batsmen have such a range and power that is difficult to pin point a lot of these positions.
Leg spinners such as Adam Zampa, Rashid Khan and Wanindu Hasaranga have made it a habit of bowling to a leg-side field that has three men stationed at deep square-leg, deep mid-wicket and a long-on. This means they are always willing to concede a single on the leg-side, but don’t want to give away a boundary unless a batsman is prepared to sweep ball behind square (an extremely high risk option). Not surprisingly these three spinners have been the most successful bowlers in the tournament by sticking to a plan and placing fielders in the hot spots.
As the tournament moves forward into the knockout phase expect more unconventional fields from each of the top nations.
The WBBL07 is already beyond the halfway stage. The Melbourne Renegades and Brisbane Heat look like the team to beat while the Hobart Hurricanes and Sydney Thunder need to sharp change of fortunes to press for the semi-final spot. So what is that the Renegades and Heat are doing that is making them stand out in the tournament.
It is fair to say that each team needs two reliable batters (strike-rate in excess of 110 and an average of 30 or more). All the top three teams have batters that fit these categories. Renegades have Harmanpreet Kaur and Jemimah Rodrigues. The Heat have Georgia Redmayne and Grace Harris and the Scorchers have Sophie Devine and Beth Mooney. Compared that to lower ranked teams – The Thunder and Hurricanes and both of them don’t have that consistency from there batters.
The Renegades sit pretty on the top of the WBBL ladder and large part of that is due to the batting. They have scored more runs (903) than any other team. As expect the Thunder have only managed 672 runs and hence sit at the bottom of the ladder. It once again highlights that runs are still premium in the WBBL/T20 format.
The Brisbane Heat have taken more wickets (40) than any other team, but they only have one bowler (min 60 balls) that has an economy rate of under six. On the other hand Renegades have struggled to take wickets, but boast three bowlers with an economy rate of less than six. Both the top teams have different approaches. The Heat rely on wickets to stem the flow of the runs while the Renegades focus more on reducing the runs.
Playing matches on same venue in the cold climate of Tasmania early on also seems to have an impact on batting. Scores have generally been on the lower side with only six instances of teams posting a score in excess of 160. With matches being played at more venues in different conditions in the latter half of the competition expect higher scores.