In the days of instant cricket, it’s often forgotten that the first 10 overs of an innings is a period to consolidate. Keeping in mind that the likes of Sanath Jayasuriya and Adam Gilchrist have successfully challenged this notion, a few basics of the game like this one remain constant. Usually, it ensures safe passage to a decent total.
Australia scored 37 for one in 10 overs --- the lowest by either team in as many overs in the series so far --- in the fourth ODI on Monday. They didn’t eventually manage more than 250, which isn’t quite competitive on usual one-day wickets in India because they kept losing wickets at the wrong moments, but that’s a different story.
That they looked like getting more and didn’t in the absence of a number of first-choice players suggests that the Aussie plan made sense.
They certainly didn’t have enough faith in the weakened middle-order and lower middle-order and chose to preserve wickets for a late charge. There was no flaw in the plan, just that the execution wasn’t as perfect.
With Praveen Kumar and Ashish Nehra moving the new ball around from a tight line, it wasn’t easy to get after the bowling straightaway.
Shaun Marsh was partnering Shane Watson at the top of the order for the first time in this series and the need of the hour was to ensure that the long tail did not get exposed too early. So, despite the conditions for batting being far better than in New Delhi ---where the previous lowest 10-over score of 39 for one was recorded, by India --- there was no apparent sign of the urge to take advantage of the fielding restrictions. Watson, a naturally aggressive player, was more intent on settling down and there were just three boundaries in this period.
That there was merit in this plan became clear when Ricky Ponting came out to bat. The run rate went up with the shots the Aussie skipper played and Watson too hit a few to the fence. The total galloped to 73 for one after 15 overs, which showed that the start wasn’t slow but steady.
It’s a different story altogether that due to a combination of reasons this plan to think differently didn’t get Australia enough runs, but it did fetch them the desired result.