I recently played in an afternoon declaration club cricket game where the scores were:
• Team A: 237-5 (50 overs)
• Team B: 170-6 (50 overs)
I'm sure you have played in games with similar scores, and were similarly fed up by the end of the match.
So what went wrong?
You might say that Team B's bowlers were just not good enough to roll a half decent batting side over.
You would be right, but you could hardly blame them. The ball was not swinging in the air, or moving off the pitch for spinner or seamer.
The bowlers were decent club level players but all would admit they couldn't get past decent batsmen set on defence.
You could argue that the captain of the team batting second was to blame.
He decided he was not going to go for the runs and set out to bat through the innings.
But put yourself in his position.
He had been chasing leather for nearly 3 hours. He might have a little go; but why would any captain commit suicide when the draw is on offer?
Some will. Most won't.
Which means the fault lay with the captain of the team batting first.
237 was just too big a total unless the bowling attack was much better than the batsmen.
The captain effectively handed control of the game to the opposition by letting them decide whether to go for it or not.
What should have happened was this:
Show the donkey the carrot
Instead of waiting until half time (50 overs) and giving the choice to the opposition captain, the declaration should have given no option; he has to go for the runs.
The match was 100 overs long, meaning a declaration could have come at after:
• 44 overs (target 174 in 56)
• 45 overs (target 184 in 55)
• 46 overs (target 190 in 54)
• 47 overs (target 198 in 53)
Most captains batting second would back their team to score those runs in the time available.
Which means they go for it.
Which means they are playing shots and so more likely to get out.
But isn't this a risk that can backfire dramatically?
Not as much as it seems. It may seem easy to score 184 in 55 overs, but someone still has to put an innings together against bowlers who are trying extra hard because they know a draw has been removed from the options.
The stats don’t lie
Unless you are a brave captain or know from experience that this works, you may well doubt this idea.
So I decided to prove it.
I looked back at my club team’s scores batting second in the last 2 years to see if this was an unrealistic declaration.
In 21 games where the opposition batted second only 2 of them saw a score over 184. Neither of those games resulted in a win.
And even more dramatically, the average score batting second in that time is 118.
(150 was only passed 5 times).
When you know that, suddenly 200 seems too many, let alone 237.
But even with those figures in mind, you are right to feel a slight fear at the prospect of such a tempting declaration.
You need to follow it up with some precision tactics.
Keep them in the game
Whether the target is 174, 190 or 238, the aim is to do two things:
• Keep wickets falling
• Keep the opposition in the game so they keep going for the runs
Clearly it's much easier to do both if the target is low, but in either case attack is the best option.
Is there any need for a third man or fine leg?
Yes there will be gaps in the field and you will no doubt leak boundaries, however you can afford to give them away for an early wicket or two even if you only have 173.
If you have 237 on the board you can afford to give a lot away. In fact, you could consider feeding a few runs to get the batsmen thinking the target is not as tricky as it seems.
Keep juggling your bowlers and field settings by keeping an eye on the overs, wickets and runs required.
You are aiming to get 5 or 6 wickets before the last 20 overs,
The opposition should need about 80 runs to win in the last 20.
As long as wickets are falling regularly enough and the target stays within sight then you are in control of the game.
You are more likely to win and less likely to draw.
You may lose the odd game thanks to a good innings but at least you have risked winning in order to lose. Mostly, you will win.
More importantly for the game, you will never draw.
And that keeps it fun.
by David Hinchliffe, PitchVision Academy
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