Final Overs also appear at Spin Cricket.
Ball One – The most common approach to chasing relatively small targets in a fourth innings of a first class match is to push on, play positively and not allow the bowling side to gain momentum and the morale that comes with it. While 212 is no cakewalk, it’s not the 270 or so England might have expected and might just be considered a small target. Ian Bell started like he wanted to wrap things up by the halfway mark, but he was soon disabused of the idea by Dale Steyn’s immaculate line and length. Even 50 overs cricket – perhaps the most predictable of formats – seldom reduces to a single strategy working throughout an innings. At least not with Dale Steyn in town!
Ball Two – One of coaching guru John Buchanan’s technocratic points (which did not endear him to Australia’s more instinctive players – a blond one in particular) was that dot balls were critical to success in cricket. Alastair Cook faced 17 dot balls before he got off the mark with a boundary. Of course, Cook is known for his phlegmatic approach to batting and his approach to seeing off Steyn and Tsotsobe showed that sang froid matters just as much in the ODI game as it does in Tests.
Ball Three – Without doing much more than bowling a decent line and length, the slowness of the pitch assisted Wayne Parnell and Morne Morkel to restrict Cook and Trott to just 22 runs from eight overs. Spells like that can induce twitchiness in the most experienced of batsmen. What helps to keep heart rates down for the chasing team is the Duckworth-Lewis par score displayed on both scoreboards. Even on as perfect a late summer evening as this one, it’s a useful marker for the balance of the game.
Ball Four – Big moment in the game as Ravi reviews a caught behind decision given by Kumar Dharmasena; an unusual choice given that there is just one review allowed per innings and conclusive evidence of not edging the ball is as tough to provide as it would be for any negative. Ravi, despite his excellent bowling, must fear for his place and he wouldn’t be human if he didn’t instinctively grab at a chance of salvation – no matter how wrongheaded it appears to a dispassionate observer. He might not be so sympathetically viewed by his teammates though.
Ball Five – Eoin Morgan, like Hashim Amla earlier, is playing a different game to his teammates, instantly able to time the ball on a pitch not conducive to strokeplay. Whether he is ready to return to the Test squad is open to question – what is not open to question is that he is the only England player with the magic to change games as quickly as the missing Pietersen. England need him in one-day cricket and probably need him in Test cricket too – especially on India’s slow, low turners.
Ball Six – Cricket under lights in England has its detractors and chasing can be difficult in long twilights, but as sunshine fades and electrical illumination takes over, cricket grounds gain an ethereal quality, the players standing out sharp against the shining green of the grass. Floodlighting doesn’t, as it does in football, raise the tension by compacting a stadium’s space as the sky disappears, but it does lend an aesthetic element to the game absent in the mornings and afternoons. And, to a person of my age, night cricket still feels glamorous and new!
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