Saturday, 27 November, 2021

Tigers’ match-up obsession

Match-up seems to be the buzzword in T20 cricket since the last T20 World Cup but that hardly paid a dividend for Bangladesh skipper Mahmudullah against Sri Lanka during his side’s opening Super 12 match of the ongoing meet.

In recent times, T20 evolved in many ways, courtesy to the Indian Premier League, where franchises are obsessed with match-ups on the back of the data provided by their analysts and the trend is followed by international cricketing nations as well.

The primary objective of match-ups is to turn the ball away from the batsman and the logic behind it is quite simple as it seems turning the ball away from the bat makes it harder for batsmen to hit boundaries over the leg side because you are taking the ball away from their hitting arc.

Sri Lanka were having two left-handers - Charith Asalanka and Bhanuka Rajapaksa - in the wicket when Mahmudullah introduced him in the 12th over of their innings and got away by giving five runs.

The idea to bring him was quite simple, Mahmudullah wanted to keep his premier spinner Shakib Al Hasan waiting for a breakthrough as that would help him have a go against right-handed Dasun Shanaka. 

It was a brave decision to say the least and keeping one side of the boundary that was comparatively short getting away only with five runs was surely noteworthy.

Mahmudullah decided to introduce Afif Hossain in the next over on the back of match-up formula and it almost clicked as though Rajapaksa targeted the inexperienced off-spinner lofting his first ball inside-out over extra cover for six and two balls later, he mistimed a sweep towards the long boundary before Liton Das dropped a simple catch at deep backward square.

Afif gave away 15 runs but at that point Mahmudullah could rely on his main three bowlers to bowl the remaining seven overs but he decided otherwise and brought him back for the second over that cost him 16 runs and in the process, Sri Lanka got back the momentum on their side.

It doesn’t imply match-ups are ineffective as analysts spend hours analyzing opponents weaknesses and chalking out plans to exploit it and more often than not is pays a dividend but the question remains can part-timers be used to complete match-up or to be precise whether off-spin was the right option for Asalanka and Rajapaksa.

Considering the boundary dimensions and the flow of the game it seemed batsmen could capitalize regardless of the direction and turn and if that was the case it was something more than righty/lefty and in-spin and out-spin at that point of the game.

Tigers skipper Mahmudullah surely knew by now in these circumstances regular bowlers were used instead of part-timers when he could complete the last seven overs with regular bowlers.

Bangladesh’s first T20 captain Shahriar Nafees echoed the same sentiment but added that there is nothing wrong with match-ups as it is the go-to formula for today’s generation.

“Match-up is a very common thing and it might click one day and it might not click on another day but there is no point blaming someone for taking that route,” said Nafees.

“What I feel is that the idea was not wrong as one side of the ground was small because everything would have changed if a wicket had fallen because Shakib would have come immediately, in that case, seeing a right-handed batsman.

“Mahmudullah might have felt that if the batsmen wanted to hit the off-spinner over cover it would be difficult and it would be the same if he wanted to hit him over the leg side.

 “But what I feel is that if Mahmudullah and Afif had bowled one over apiece and brought back the regular bowlers it would have been good.

“Probably he has learnt his lesson now but having said that I fully back him for taking such a decision (going for match-ups) because unless you try something you won’t learn,” he concluded.