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After a lengthy hiatus, I return like the the fabled Phoenix to smote Tigers "performance myths" in a Watto-reminiscent fashion. Break down of how our batting fared and why, and why Shane made like Barry Bonds in ODI #2.
Return of the Armchair All-Rounder: Match Analysis, BD vs Aus ODI #2
I'm back! Having watched every ball of this ODI and most of Bangladesh's games I wanted to give my two anas and look at why we got clobbered yesterday.
People have talked to death about Imrul Kayes' horrible ball-hogging. The irony is that this is nothing new. Imrul has always struggled to play angles and rotate strike. If there's width he'll thrash and he seems to have shelved the compulsive hooking/pulling of his. Other than that his game is/has always been built on circumspection in the face of good bowling (his ODI strike rate of 64% is close to his List A one of 70%). And he does not get noticed as much because he is in the slip stream of his partner (Imrul & Tamim Partnerships) And that last part bears repeating. Good bowling. Not Sreesanth bowling all over the place on a shirt-front - which has been Imrul's most/only explosive performance to date.
What the Aussie pacers, and Lee in particular did well yesterday was bowl wicket to wicket, giving no room and they bowled FAST. For good measure they also varied their lengths wonderfully. Imrul looked what he was - outclassed. And when he did get balls in his preferred areas he kept finding the fielder.
The "growth" of Tamim Iqbal: after & before
About Fatty McFatty aka Tamim Iqbal Khan, well he is a pinch-hitter ainnit? Watto pulled off the kind of blinder our slip fielders dream off and that was that.
Nafees did the best he could till he gave it away by the lack of taking a big stride out to meet Steve's ordinary tweakers. His body language was better, he was positive in his footwork, and once he got past his initial slashing-at-balls-outside-off phase, shot selection in general was decent. I have always liked him and he maybe playing himself back into the #3 or even opening slot.
Rokibul's out for nothing was a blessing in disguise. In present form and mindset he does NOT belong in a club side, let alone the Tigers. Such a high back-lift and yet he is consistently late on his strokes. Playing from his crease with no intent to meet the ball. Poor bat-speed. Lack of a follow-through. He is just negativeness personified! Surely Alok or Shubagoto gets a game in his place on the final ODI?
Shakib got out to the best ball bowled by a spinner over both innings. Drifted away, dipped and ripped through the gate to take bails. Happens and no need to castigate the batter there. Would Shakib have batted more positively today? Guess we'll never know.
Mushfiqur & Riyadh played the kind of innings that is their "natural game". They had the impending collapse as grounds for "playing themselves in" and then attempting to "accelerate". They do not have a power-game and so the best one can hope from these two is that they scamper the singles and twos and hits the odd cheeky boundary or two. Mushfiqur basically played himself back to form. Initially he was finding the fielders with regularity, as he has been wont to of late. But, for once he did not get out cheaply and eventually was able to find the gaps. He was also lucky to come in and face just the spinners - he is shaky against pacers early. One needs that little bit of luck to turn the tide.
Two minor quibbles about this partnership - Mushfiqur should have requested a runner. We missed out on some twos because of his cramps. Second - the bat seems to turn in their hand whenever they try to come down the wicket and hit down. Combination of footwork not being good enough so that they are _beside_ the ball when making contact and not having more control of their top-hand. These are coachable aspects.
Some macro points: #1 All the batters also need to get better at taking pace of their strokes to long-on and long-off. Which leades me to point #2. Overall our batters continued to show their lack of fitness by not regularly running the first one hard and thereby creating the opportunity for the 2nd run.
In contrast, the Aussie fielding and athleticism was wonderful to watch. Old man Hussey sprinting to stop a near boundary and firing a throw in. Lee running like a mad man all over their place; these guys are well past 30! And their bowling was sooo consistent. Even their weak links such as Xavi bowled wicket to wicket lines. Very few long-hops. Lots of variations of pace. Consistently on around off and mid stump. These guys are playing with a chip on their shoulder after getting bounced from the World Cup. They've done their homework for these pitches and fielding is backing up some outstanding execution of bowling plans.
Our total was 40-50 short of what that pitch and opponent's class demanded but given our batting capabilities and the Aussie excellence I really can not expect more if a Tamim or Shakib (our only two explosive players) do not fire.
Obviously Shane Watson is the story here. But for a twist, I will begin by focusing first on the one bowler who did not suffer as much carnage - Shakib. What did he do that he didn't get a double digit bowling economy (in fact it was 5 RPO off 7 overs including during PowerPlays).
Avoiding bowling at Watto at his rampage. Possibly, but he bowled in the PowerPlays with a new ball and was still not tonked as much as the other bowlers. So that is a red herring. Even if he hid himself later, that does not take away from what he did in the 7 overs.
He didn't bowl too many down leg side. It is a pity this series does not offer Hawk-eye (tm) charts but Shakib really bowled only 3-4 deliveries on leg side and a couple of them because the batter had moved onside to create room for himself. His lines were very good.
Varied his pace. This was big. Ala Vettori, he really mixed up his pace and did not just fire darts (Razzak) or throw up loopy ones (Shubho).
Varied his length but erred on the fuller side. That is typical Shakib anyway - in fact in the recent past he was guilty of bowling too full - but he bowled the ball just slightly fuller then good length and that combined with the variation of pace prevented Watto from being able to consistently tee up and execute on his slog sweeps and straightish, horizontal bat forehands.
When he got hold of a batsman not named Watto he kept him on strike by bowling to his field. Witness the maiden against Punter. Every ball different, every ball matching what the batsman was trying to do and fielders in the right place.
The Aussies went with their typical strategy of playing out the opponents' one class bowlers (see stats of Vettori and Murali compared to the rest of their team-mates against the 'Roos). But given that Shakib did get tonked on the few occasions when he erred, this one is likely a red-herring as well.
Now compare that to rest of the spinners:
Bowling length deliveries. Lots.
Bowling on leg stump. Loads!
Bowling long hops. More than any international bowler should.
Shane Watson with his scimitar
Full credit to Shane for treating them disdainfully and having the power and intent to dispatch them but this tripe shouldn't have been bowled in the first place! Shakib did hint at it during the post-match, on-field interview - he mentioned that when the ball was new and not stopping ("holding" was the term he used), "we did not bowl at the right areas". The right areas in this case would have been a fuller length, on off (or on the 4th stump if Watto was moving offside) so that the skidders would have a chance to cramp him for room. And to compound things, all of these were bowled at more or less the same pace. Again, I do not have Hawk-Eye (tm) to double-check but there was no great variation from Shubho or Razzak until their final over or two. By then Watto was in the zone and even when they bowled a decent one, he was smoking them.
Anyway, it is not the spinners that I hold the most culpable. It's the pacers. In any attack, your "fast bowlers" set the tone. If they are accurate, hostile, parsimonious and penetrative, the spinners can thrive. Our man Shafiul - who seems to wilt whenever there is a biffer of the mode of a Shewag or Shane at the receiving end, started bowling wide and giving Watto room to free his arm, then over compensated by bowling leggish and then over compensated by bowling full. Pathetic. You see such stuff in school cricket! His partner Rubel could not land two balls on the same spot. When your captain does/can not have the faith that you will intimidate the opponents enforcers, then what hope can the spinners have. One of the big reasons for the Banglawash of the Kiwis was that the pacers were consistently taking care of Macca and Rider - the Kiwi biffers. In these days of powerful bats and baseball infused slugging, without early domination of hitters, spinners will have a tough time.
As for fielding - we didn't dive often quickly enough a few times and displayed horrible lack of anticipation on the two dropped catches. Razzak had the opportunity to do those neat tricks where you palm the ball up and then come back inside the rope to complete the catch. Something like this:
But who am I kidding. Razzak could advertise for Geritrol with his fielding "abilities". Otherwise actually the fielding was ok. Not much fielding to do when the ball is in the galleries! As or Rokibul's drop - is he not supposed to be in our R.A.B? Perhaps his poor batting is impacting his typically competent fielding.
Final verdict: an Okay essay with the bat given the quality of the bowling and fielding we faced and an acceptable one with the limited attacking batsmanship we have. When defending, we did not set the right tone and let an outstanding player utilize our lack of quality to quickly put us under the kind of cosh from which we, as a cricketing nation, have never been able to recover (Macca's 28 ball 80 in the 3rd ODI in 2007, England's 391 for 4 in 2005, etc.)
On a different note:
A word about our soon to be former head coach, Jamie: We always argue about his negativity (quite possibly true) and his inability to get the team to take advantage of PowerPlays but is it really his fault? Kudos to Holden (Yet another Sid thread) for unearthing this: CI Article on Watson in 2007 WC
So Jamie converted Watson into the boundary hitting machine he is today, and that too for the PP overs. Clearly the fact that we have no one in our side who can do it is more one of skillacq and skillapp issue and not teaching/coaching; Jamies protestations indicate as much too. Add to that we do not have hulks of a batsmen. Our tallest batters, Junaid & Riyadh are of the "min-min" type and reluctant to use their god-given power.
Oh well c'est la vie. Hoping the upwards trajectory continues in ODI #3.
About the author(s): Razab Q. Chowdhury feels particularly adept at being an armchair critic
based on his past history of playing school cricket and dispatching a slew of
West Indian cricketers while at college. He deigns to grace our forum as RazabQ and is a forum moderator.