posted on 2019-06-10 12:30:19
posted by Michael Harrison
Image courtesy: CricTracker
With a few of the teams having throwback jerseys for the 2019 edition of the World Cup, many wished that the balance between bat and ball would be restored as well, in a throwback to the days gone by. In a matter of pleasant surprise, that's precisely how the week gone by has panned out in the marquee event.
Prior to the tournament, there were talks about the World Cup being yawning run fests with scores of 350-400 expected to be the norm. Some even speculated a 500-plus score being breached at some point, they still do. The second week of the tournament however, produced thoroughly engaging fares with viewers being thrilled and entertained.
Out of the nine matches that included a total washout due to rain, five were extremely competitive and four of those were games that had sub-300 scores. With the surfaces being a touch tacky and bowlers getting some purchase, batsmen had to fight their way out of tricky situations and it made for pleasant viewing.
The only close game that was a run-fest was the England-Pakistan game which saw a cumulative of close to 680 runs being scored. However, a large part of that came down to the odd-shaped dimensions at Trent Bridge, some portions that were extremely short. The surface wasn't that flat and with even dimensions, another 280-ish game was possible.
The other competitive clashes turned the clock back a bit, as the bowlers dominated proceedings a bit. Instead of flamboyant strokeplay, temperamental composure was the need of the hour and two typically flamboyant sides in Afghanistan and West Indies found out the value of that quality the hard way.
It's interesting how many power-hitters run out of ideas when they need to do the simple things. The required run rate was never an issue for both the sides but instead of working the ball around, they preferred to keep attacking and that's a tactic that can easily backfire on slightly tricky surfaces.
Lack of game awareness and smart play is probably a reason why these two sides might struggle in this World Cup. The Bangladesh-New Zealand game was probably the match of the week, as tensions mounted with the game approaching the finish line. Pressure and momentum kept shifting, to and fro, before the Kiwis finally got across the line.
To think that such a game would happen with a side producing just 244 batting first, in England, is definitely a retro tribute to ODI cricket. Yes, batsmen dominate the current era but a lot of that also has to do with the current playing conditions, pitches and even dimensions of venues.
There was a time when playing in England was truly a challenge for batsmen even in white-ball cricket. These days, it's mostly about big scores, at least in bilateral series. With the ICC undertaking pitch preparation as they should in the World Cup, we have already seen the kind of contests that we could potentially get with sporting surfaces.
Virat Kohli had said pre-tournament that he felt a lot of games in the World Cup could be decided with 280-range scores, particularly in the second half of the event. Given the way, things have started, the Indian captain seems to be bang on, in his assessment and thought process.
Make no mistake, run fests are entertaining, more so when both teams are in with a chance, like the England-Pakistan game. But if the playing surface also has a role to play, the viewing experience just becomes better. We might still the odd run fest as the England-Bangladesh game showed but one feels that these could be one-off cases.