Pacing the innings

At 67/2 in 10.2 overs, with the required run-rate climbing to nearly 10 an over, Melbourne Renegades finished the match off in the next 44 balls. At that exact moment, the captain McDonald was on 11 runs of 19 balls. Of the next 18 balls he faced, he creamed an astounding 49 runs. The partnership with Hodge was the game breaker

 

In the years to come, this innings might be shown as a model for ‘Pacing the innings’. McDonald did what five batsmen before him, couldn’t. He converted the start he got into a big innings. Henriques was close to doing it. He was stopped in his tracks by the accurate bowling. McDonald, on the other hand took time in settling in and once in, he didn’t allow the momentum to shift

 

He might not be able to repeat the feat on a regular basis but the innings today showed what a finisher means to the team. On April 2nd this year, India lifted the World cup and Yuvraj Singh was awarded the Most Valuable Player award. Nobody grudged the honour on him. It is the finishers that need to get themselves set before launching a final assault in the slog overs

 

Gone are the days when openers used to set base and try to carry on till the end (Adelaide Strikers might not agree with this argument) and the number 5 and 6 batsmen would be out, going for the quick runs. The word finisher or ‘pacing the innings’ came about because of the exploits of Michael Bevan. There were innumerable instances of him styling the play based on the situation of the game

 

After the retirement of Bevan, Hussey took over the mantle. Like Bevan, Hussey specialises in the playing according to the situation. It is not just in limited overs that pacing the innings is important. It is as important in Test cricket too. In the recently concluded Test at Melbourne, Ponting and Hussey paced their innings very well

In Tests pacing an innings is all about seeing out phases. Weathering a rough spell, counter-attacking, protecting the partner from a troublesome bowler are all attributes of pacing the innings. In the second innings, coming in at 27/4, Hussey got a gift on the leg stump to get off the pair. He got off the King pair and punished Indians for the mistake. In the company of Ponting, he counter attacked the bowlers and got the runs at a fair clip. When Ponting and Haddin were dismissed, Hussey changed the game-plan and started concentrating on conserving his wicket. With Hussey at one end, the confidence of Pattinson bloomed and he was the man attacking the bowlers, even after Hussey’s dismissal

In the same Test in the second innings, Sachin Tendulkar got off to an imperious start and was certain in everything he did. There were a couple of inside edges, when he was trying to let the ball go. He did not let these blemishes affect the positive frame of mind he was in. What affected him, though, were the dismissals of Dravid and Laxman. That is where the confidence in your partner comes in. Chapelli who was commenting at the time put Tendulkar’s dismissal down to anxiousness. He said that Tendulkar felt the strain of both run-scoring and holding up one end. This, in turn bottled the run rate and led to Tendulkar’s dismissal

 

One innings cannot demystify the thought process of the batsman. Tendulkar played a gem of an innings in the company of Azhar at Cape Town in 1996-97 tour to South Africa. That was an instance where he trusted his partners instincts. He would do well to do the same in this series. Who knows trusting his partners instincts might even lead him to the vaunted hundred

Coming back to today’s match, McDonald trusted his own instincts as much as he had the trust in Hodge’s. The confidence seemed to rub off on Hodge as he also went for his strokes and helped Renegades climb to the fourth spot

The next time you notice a player trying to get in, regardless of the format, accept that he might take off at a later time. Till then lets keep raising a toast for the finishers in limited overs format and the pace setters in longer version of the game

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