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350 is the new 250!

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Scoring reaches a new and challenging dimension at the ICC CWC15

It seems like general perceptions are being challenged and standard conventions are being reconsidered at the Cricket World Cup 2015. The first thought among pundits of the game was that the faster bowlers would come into play from very early on in most games, with tracks offering some bounce and movement in the first few overs. Batsman would have it difficult and their techniques would be tested. 250 or thereabouts was a par score in most venues.

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Each of these thoughts has been sent packing! 350 is the new 250 in ICC WC 2015 and that has come as a pleasant surprise for many. Bowlers have been flayed all over and even the likes of Mitchell Johnson and Lasith Malinga, men with lethal Yorkers in their armoury, have not been spared. Ruthless bullies like Glen Maxwell, Brendon McCullum and AB De Villiers are rewriting the 50 overs batting coaching manual and thanks to them, a run a ball century is starting to seem too slow and pedestrian. The usual script of the 50 over format is being regularly rewritten and spectators are having a 350 is the new 250! Scoring reaches a new and challenging dimension at the ICC CWC15 ball, enjoying the run feast.

Take the Australia-Sri Lanka game, for example. When Malinga picked up Dave Warner early on with a beautiful slower delivery, none watching would have had an inkling about what was to follow. Australia was going at under five an over in the first 25. All of a sudden Smith and Clarke decided to step up a gear. From 15 in 28, Clarke raced to a run a ball 68, and in doing so laid many demons about his form and fitness to rest. Smith on the other hand, attacked the Sri Lankan spinners with panache and confidence. When Clarke was finally dismissed, the run rate was touching 5.5. Many like me believed that with Maxwell and Watson to follow they would push it up to 6 or 6.5 with some lusty hitting towards the end of the innings.

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We had not taken into account a Maxwell classic. Eventually Australia ended up with 7.5 runs an over! Staggering, but true.

.Sri Lanka too, was not to be bogged down. Dilshan set the early pace and Sangakkara was the enforcer. At no
point did the rate dip to less than 6 runs an over at the SC.

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This match, interestingly, is par for ICC WC 2015. South Africa has twice scored 400, India has twice got past 300, and NZ have scored runs at will. Each of the contenders has gone past 300 more than once, setting a new benchmark for 50 over batting.

So what is the secret? How is it that big runs have suddenly turned a norm in WC 2015? Why is it that bowlers, except the odd exception like Mitchell Starc and Mohammed Shami, are finding it impossible to contain, leave alone pick wickets? Three things come to mind. First, and perhaps most important, are the tracks being played on. Most, if not all, have been relatively batsmen friendly. Except the one used at the WACA for the India-West Indies game and the one used at Seddon Park for the NZ-Australia match, all tracks have been true with moderate to low bounce. These have allowed the batsmen to go through their shots without thinking too much of the rising delivery or the seam movement. Second, the field restrictions have played a major part in pushing the scores up. With one extra fielder inside the circle for the whole innings, batsmen have the liberty to go over the top or even pick their pot. Coupled with relatively small square boundaries in places like Adelaide or Seddon Park, where boundaries are 60 or less meters, it has been raining boundaries and sixes. Also, the batting powerplay has often seen eamsscoring at near 10 runs an over. Scoring rates of close to five have been jacked up to six or even seven by the time the powerplay finishes, and thereafter the last few see runs flowing from the bat, especially with wickets in hand. Finally, the influence of T20 cricket can never be discounted. New innovations like the reverse scoop for four or six patented by Maxwell for example, is a T20 contribution to the 50 over contest. The more cricketers who play T20 cricket and leagues like the IPL and the Big Bash, the more their repertoire of strokes will get enhanced, making it that much more difficult for bowlers in 50 over tournaments.

In such a scenario one must pick out a few men – Mitch Starc and Mohammed Shami, and also Tim Southee and Trent Boult. They have punched above their weight and the impact of their performances are showing in their teams standings in the World Cup. New Zealand and India are undefeated and Australia have already qualified as the second team from Pool A. Can these men keep delivering? Or will they, in the next few games, fall prey to what is clearly now a batsman’s monopoly? We need to wait for a couple more weeks to know the answer.

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