Three to Win
The recent England tour of South Africa culminated in a wonderful three-match T20I series during which we saw two final delivery results.
To the casual viewer, it was a couple of pieces of fantastic entertainment. To the cricket thinker, these games were examples of the culmination of hours of practice, planning and execution of skills and tactics under intense scrutiny and pressure.
What we saw off the final ball of the second T20I on Valentine’s Day in Durban with Tom Curran bowling to Bjorn Fortuin defending three to win was two players approaching a moment in a game with a positive planned outcome in mind.
In planning an outcome, the players are able to picture a positive outcome, seeing in their mind what they wanted to happen, and crucially what they believed would happen. Whatever the player sees, and whatever they plan the outcome to be it will always be a positive one for themselves and will involve their personal strengths. Without planning an outcome and therefore taking on the accompanying positive mental approach, the odds will be stacked against you and ‘luck’ will not be on your side.
Tom Curran and Eoin Morgan will have talked before the delivery and may have factored in previous knowledge of Fortuin, taking into account what they believed his strengths and therefore his go to skills might be in that particular situation. The pair will also have considered what Curran’s best and most reliable delivery would be in that situation. Morgan and Curran will have known the likely places Fortuin will have been able to hit the ball should it be (or maybe that is ‘when it is’) delivered as desired. With this knowledge, the pair could set the field accordingly, reducing the chances of the runs being conceded.
On the other side, in the South Africa camp, Fortuin will have been considering what delivery he was likely to face. Combined with his understanding of his own game and limitations, he will have come to a decision in his mind where he was most likely to hit the ball for the necessary runs and settled on his own positive outcome.
In this case, the delivery of choice was a slower ball, with the shot of choice being a Misbah style scoop-ramp targeting the fine leg boundary. The lack of pace did not allow Fortuin to get the necessary timing, elevation or distance to clear Adil Rashid fielding on the circle at short fine leg. Incidentally, Rashid was also likely to be fully aware of the likely outcome of the delivery and as a result was anticipating the ball coming in his direction. Further evidence of other players knowing what delivery was coming was demonstrated by Jos Buttler as wicket keeper, standing far less than the full distance back to ensure a single could not be taken as a bye should the batter miss the ball. The catch was taken, and the game was won by England.
The level of planning a preparation ahead of that delivery, and the concentration in treating that delivery as the main event of the game demonstrated how little is left to chance, particularly in the shorter form of the game. Yes, the odds were probably in the bowlers favour, with Fortuin coming in to face his first ball with three required to win facing one of the best death bowlers in the world, but with a positive mental plan based on your strengths and with communication between bowler and captain and captain and fielders, If everyone is playing to and believing in a plan, the outcome is likely to be the one you envisage.
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