SUPER OVER #1: No League For Young Men
By Hunter G Meredith
Every promotional campaign for a fresh Big Bash season is heavy on bigger hits, brighter fireworks, and younger stars but each season we are reminded that T20 cricket is a veteran's game and the BBL|09 opener was no different.
By now you will have rewatched the Kayo mini, shared Daniel Sams' moon ball as a meme and checked your Supercoach scores - so we'll skip the recap, instead here's our takeaways from the Summer of Cricket's first (men's) bash...
1st Delivery: Old Dog Teaches Young Pup New Tricks
When Callum Ferguson came to the crease in the third over, the Thunder's score was 1/24. He calmly played out two dot balls to start his innings. Two overs later and Thunder are 3/38. Ferguson has only hit one boundary so far, a classical off-drive. He doesn't hit another until he takes Mark Steketee for 12 runs off the 9th over. It isn't until the 13th over that he hits his first six. With just three boundary shots however Ferguson helps put on 63 runs in 7 overs.
The Thunder then lose two wickets in two balls but instead of being the moment that the Thunder lose the match, it's basically the point where they win it.
Ferguson realises that as the set batsman he needs to bat through - and he does. First, he resets and collects the singles on offer. Then he accelerates, cashing in on a boundary ball per over until the final two overs where he explodes taking 20 runs off the 8 balls he faces.
Ferguson entered the game in third over and only had only hit two boundaries by the half way mark of the innings - but he finished the innings 73no (6x 4s / 3x 6s / 165.91SR - third highest SR for the match) and more importantly helped the Thunder set an above average Gabba total of 172.
Compare this to how the Heat approached their chase.
Needing to score at a touch under nine an over (or a team strike rate of 143.33) Tom Banton went ballistic in the first over taking Daniel Sams for 17 runs (team SR 283.33) but then was dismissed in the second over trying to take on the long boundary when a single or double would have done. Max Bryant did the same. As did Sam Heazlett and Matthew Renshaw. Every time a Heat batsman hit a six, instead of seeing it as an "over won" (if you consider that 9 runs scored in an over is a "win" for the chasing team in this situation), they saw it as a sign of being set and as a need, or permission, to go harder.
This philosophy isn't surprising given that the Heat's coach is Darren Lehmann, who's previous public analysis on overcoming batting slumps was to "just hit the ball harder" but when this young Heat side found themselves at 3/40 they already had seen the blueprint for success. Instead of replicating it, they ignored Ferguson's path and by doing so left behind home ground points as well.
2nd Delivery: Proving A Point, Or Proving THE Point
Just prior to the BBL|09 opener, Australia announced it's ODI squad for its upcoming tour of India, and even though they made the World Cup Semi Finals there was a large amount of turnover including Usman Khawaja, despite the top order bat having made 1085 ODI runs @ 49.31 and 383 ODI run @ 76.60 in India in 2019.
And while most followers of cricket don't offer overseas bilateral ODIs series a second thought, it's safe to guess that Khawaja would have been annoyed by his omission. And he certainly batted like it.
Dot-4-4-Dot*-Dot-LB-Dot-4-4-1-4-1-Out... (and what that sequence doesn't show was how sweetly Khawaja was hitting the ball.)
His 13 ball innings, however entertaining, both proved his point and proved the point of the selectors. Everyone knows that at his best Usman Khawaja is a captivating batsman capable of plundering bulk runs. Everyone also knows that he's basically capable of getting out on any ball he faces.
This innings was just another example of his paradox.
3rd Delivery: Can We Review That Please?
Well, the short answer is no. As to why the Heat weren't allowed to review Khawaja's blatantly out LBW decision, that's a little more obtuse. Every elite form of the game has DRS, the broadcasters love to sell it to sponsors and 99% of the time it allows for the right decision to be obtained.
But when asked by AAP if DRS would be coming to the BBL, Cricket Australia chief executive Kevin Roberts' response was a short "no" followed by this summarised explanation:
Financial and logistical constraints, particularly at part-time and regional BBL venues, are prohibitive factors that CA will consider when reviewing the DRS situation. Roberts stressed the governing body's focus was on more pressing matters, such as monitoring teams' use of the strategic time-out and the effect it has on the flow of matches.
It's important to note, that "pace of play" isn't one of the main reasons for not having DRS. After all, the umpires spent what seemed like an eternity trying to work out if a Nathan McAndrew had stood on the boundary foam when catching the ball or not. If we have time for that, *(not to mention the "tactical time outs" - more on that later)* then we have time for DRS.
As per usual it seems that "money talks" and with TV broadcasters looking to cut corners and costs, it most likely that they said no to guaranteeing "full coverage" at regional grounds.
To that end I'd like to make sure the broadcasters can't have it both ways.
Hotspot, Hawkeye, Schnicko etc. all provide for a richer TV product, so broadcasters are willing to eat those costs, or more likely reap the benefits of the previous costs of installation. But if they aren't willing to guarantee full DRS service to BBL|09, they shouldn't be able to show it during the broadcasts. All it does is create a furore that would be solved if the broadcasters and CA could come to an amicable agreement... but we shouldn't hold our breathe for that.
4th Delivery: Efficiency Now Trumps Entertainment
The Heat's run chase was what the brains-trust that came up with T20 cricket would have imagined it to be. *Big hitting. Lots of wickets. Action galore!* But when you have limited resources - 10 wickets and 120 balls - efficiency will eventually trump entertainment (if you're interested in winning.)
While CA might see the BBL as an entertainment product, the players, coaches and auxiliary staff are in it to win it (and their next lucrative contract.) Match-ups are poured over, pacing charts created, "if-this-then-that" flow charts drafted. Callum Ferguson and the Sydney Thunder did not put on the most "entertaining" (for a non-cricket purists) innings possible, but the wonder was in the craftsmanship of the rebuild, and there were a fair few maximums late for good measure.
The more mature the BBL becomes as a league, the more "elite" it will be come and with that comes the teams desire to win over their desire to entertain. Sure, teams can do both but as we sure last night the Globetrotters will rarely beat a Pro-Ball Team in a game of "playing for keeps."
The larger question is where does that leave T20 cricket? It's rapidly becoming just a truncated version of One-Day Cricket where the formula is: openers having a dip early, the "good foundation" vs. "mini-collapse" fort in the innings happening immediately after the powerplay with the batting teams responding in turn, who then have a bash in the final overs if there are resources remaining.
Baseball seems to be T20's North Star, it's progression beacon (and potentially it's gateway into a new market) but at the end of the day cricket isn't baseball. Baseball's nine reset innings (with the only limit being 3 outs per team per innings) have allowed it's "progression" (depending on who you ask) to the "Three True Outcomes" - home runs, strike outs and walks - to occur. T20 cricket will never (de)evolve to the "Two True Outcomes of T20" - boundaries and wickets - for as long as white ball cricket remains to be x number deliveries and ten wickets each.
Whether it's 300, 120 or 100 - the management of the "Three Known Resources" - runs required, wickets in hand and balls remaining - will mean that T20 cricket is always just short One Day Cricket (or vice versa).
5th Delivery: Will These Timeouts Ever Be Tactical?
Off the cuff, if a batting side can only take a tactical timeout between the 7th and 13th overs of their innings and the timeout can only occur at the end of an over, I can only really see it being taken at two points.
It's either taken at the end of the 7th over after a powerplay collapse (like both teams did yesterday) or it's taken at the end of the 13th over to help reset the batting team before their push for a big total.
Perhaps you take it if, like last night, multiple wickets are lost in an over to breakup the fielding sides momentum but it's all much of a muchness and feels lot more like a forced longer TV break (like the 2 minute warning in NFL) than a legitimate tactical asset... as Matthew Renshaw eluded to last night.
6th Delivery: Personality Over (Having A) Point
I understand that the Big Bash is meant to be "fun" and it probably targets a different cricket audience... but is it meant to stupid or slapstick?
Fox Cricket pride themselves on their various graphics and "labs" to take their viewers deeper into the game. So what was Andrew Symonds doing last night with his pieces of printer paper, a biro and (poor) mental arithmetic. Well, you can see for yourself here.
Am I bitter that another "personality" has gotten a gig over a potentially more insightful or analytical commentator/analyst/presenter. Well, of course, I'm a cricket nuffie writing a blog - but it's the cricket nuffies who are most likely to pay for Kayo and Fox Cricket subscriptions.
So yes, have fun - but let's save the slapstick for "The Nightwatchmen" or "The Back Page".
Crep Check: I love Test Cricket and Two-Day Club Cricket, but I also LOVE shoes and T20 cricket is my one outlet for flamboyant cricket wheels.
Take being said... Chris Green, what are you doing?! The idea behind his green kicks is awesome. They're a statement piece, but you've got to get Puma to colour match them. Or offset them to your uniform (playing conditions permitting) with a contradictory colours. Fluro yellow or deep purple would have been a better choice than these "almost the right green" wheels...
La Casquette Jaune : "And Chris Froome has taking the virtual lead mid stage and now is going to the soigneur's car for a jersey change..."
Even avid followers of the Tour de France will have never heard the above quote, because it has never happened. You get "Le Maillot Jaune" at the end of the stage, during some hastily fumbled through drinks break. Give the "leading runs / wickets" award some cachet, otherwise Ferguson won't be the only one feeling like a "knobby."
Hunter G Meredith is the Editor of Sporting Chance Magazine and will be writing regularly about the Australian "Summer of Cricket" as well as tweeting about it (@HunterGMeredith) incessantly...