Friday, March 16, 2007

Taking the Middle Road

The World Cup has finally begun and teams would be looking to score points over each other at every possible stage of a game. All teams have either the muscle upfront or the firepower at the end, some have both. But these brute forces would be of no use without the stealth in the middle overs. Click here a look at how teams have fared* in the period when the field was spread out and before the slog overs** since the beginning of 2006***.

South Africa have usurped the number 1 position from Australia, and part of the reason could be their dominance of sides during the middle overs. The Proteas are the most prolific team in the middle overs, scoring at a rate of 4.91 runs an over, while averaging 41.24 during this period.

Unfortunately for their opposition, they haven't returned the favour when they're bowling. They are the most miserly of all teams when it comes bowling in these overs, conceding just 4.02 runs an over. What's more, they have the best bowling average too, with each wicket costing just 22.59 runs, a record Glenn McGrath would be proud of!

Australia have scored their runs pretty quickly too, they're third on the list with a run rate 4.87. They also have the best average of the bunch, scoring 47.78 runs for every wicket they lost.

But their bowling has been quite indifferent. In fact, Australia have the worst economy rate of all bowling attacks at 4.97 runs an over, 3 of the biggest successful run chases and another close shave of 342 spoiling their figures considerably. The one silver lining is they have picked wickets regularly during this period: they have the second best average at 32.69.

Sri Lanka have maintained the tempo set by the openers by scoring at 4.91 runs an over, although their average at 35.16 is a bit on the lower side. But their slow bowlers have kept it tight by conceding just 4.68 runs an over and with Muralitharan in the attack they've managed a commendable average of 34.94 runs a wicket.

India had a great start to 2006 with series wins against Pakistan and England. But they had a horrid run thereafter, before they brought Ganguly back and moved Tendulkar to the middle order. Their scoring rate has fluctuated with their fortunes, before finally stabilising at 4.81 runs an over. They also have the third best average at 40.38 runs per wicket.

But with the middle overs being the least inopportune time to bowl their part-timers and the opposition looking to take ones and twos against an average fielding side, they have conceded 4.71 runs an over and taken 80 wickets in 34 games at 41 runs apiece.

New Zealand have been struggling with their top order and it has meant that their middle order has had to consolidate the innings before increasing the run rate. They have managed a reasonable run rate of 4.81 runs an over, while their bowlers have kept the opposition in check by conceding just 34.53 runs per wickets at 4.68 runs an over.

The West Indian batting has been as fickle as the English weather, and their record
shows the positives and negatives cancelling each other out. They have scored their runs at an average 4.68 runs an over.

While their ploy to strangle opposition batsmen with the ostensible off-breaks of Gayle and Samuels has seen them concede just 4.48 runs an over, the lack of wicket taking bowlers means they concede these runs at 48.52 runs a wicket.

Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf have carried the Pakistan batting in the middle overs for quite some time. But with the Pakistan captain not enjoying the form from 2005 and Yousuf not being as prolific as he is in test matches, it has been left to the likes of Abdul Razzaq and Shoaib Malik to go for the big shots in the slog overs. This is reflected in their record, with Pakistan scoring at a mere 4.21 runs an over during the middle overs.

Their bowlers have also struggled, with Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif either being out injured or banned for a lot of games and Umar Gul missing a few games due to injury too. This has seen Pakistan concede 4.94 runs an over and taking just 33 wickets in 22 games at 56.42 runs apiece.

England have just 7 wins in 23 games during this period and it is no surprise when you consider they are the slowest batting side and the costliest bowling unit for almost forty percent of the match. They have managed a run rate of just 4.17 runs an over while losing 78 wickets at 27.24 apiece in just 23 games.

Their bowlers haven't compensated for the shortcomings of their batsmen, going at 4.95 runs an over and picking up a wicket for almost every 43 runs.

* Rows denote Runs scored/Overs faced/Wickets lost/Scoring rate/Batting average. Columns denote Runs conceded/Overs bowled/Wickets taken/Econ. rate/Bowling average.

The period comprises all non Power Play overs before the 40th over of an innings.

*** Only matches which were at least 45-overs a side and yielded a result.

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