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Is limited-overs cricket too batsman friendly?

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A decade ago, a team scoring 400 in an ODI was unheard of. Now, it seems if the team batting second are chasing anything under 300 they are expected to win comfortably. While a score of 350 used to see a team home nine times out of ten, the team chasing will now fancy their chances. Is this the natural progression of the game or has it gone too far?

Back in 2006, South Africa chased down Australia’s score for 434-4 by scoring 438-9. At the time, this was something of an anomaly. The pitch was perfect for batting and the boundaries were small. Jacques Kallis joked that for Australia were a few runs short of par. As a one off, the match was extraordinary. However, is it really as exciting to watch if you expect it to happen?

T20 cricket has had an impact on the other forms of the game. Big hitting players like Aaron Finch and Alex Hales have been bought up playing the shortest format of the game and have been able to transfer skills such as the switch-hit or Dil-scoop to the longer formats. This has added to the game and the modern batsman has more shots in their armoury than ever before. There is nothing wrong with this. Batsmen being creative and using delicate, inventive shots is a joy to watch.

While a reverse-sweep shows a batsmen has out-thought a bowler in order to score runs, can the same really be said if he top edges the ball over the wicket-keeper for six? The size of bats in cricket is starting to become a problem. Whereas in previous eras a six-hitting shot would have to be perfectly timed, edges and mistimed shots now race to boundary with the fielding team seemingly powerless to stop the flow of boundaries. The size of the boundaries are also a problem. It now seems as easy to hit a six as it is to hit a four as they have been bought in closer and closer to encourage batsmen to play big shots.

The bowlers now have two new balls per innings. While this does go some way to making things easier for the bowlers, the power-play gives batsmen a far greater advantage. 15 of the 50 overs of a match are now power-play overs, meaning captains and bowlers are even more powerless to stop the flow of runs. Even the canniest of captain will struggle to set a field than can stop a batsman in full flow and there is an air of inevitability that a settled batsmen will score fluently throughout these periods of the game.

There is no doubt that watching big-hitting batsmen is entertaining. However, if cricket is supposed to be an even match between bat and ball, the rules must be tinkered with in order to ensure bowlers are able to influence the game as batsmen do. A score of 350 plus should be achievable, but not the norm. When the ICC meets to discuss changes to power-plays later this year, they should keep in mind one of the best matches of this year’s world cup, a low scoring group game between New Zealand and Australia.

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