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  • The Numbers Game

Starting with a bang

S Rajesh
February 11, 2011
Chris Gayle is the only batsman to score more than 75 runs during the first Powerplay in ODIs - he scored 78 against England in Barbados in March 2009 © AFP
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Three weeks back, this column had looked at team performances with bat and ball in the last ten overs of ODIs over the last two years. This time, the focus shifts to the first ten overs. It's potentially a period when the fate of a match could be decided: the mandatory field restrictions give the batsmen the license to attack almost recklessly, but at the same time it also gives the bowlers an opportunity to exploit this to their advantage. With most ODIs being played on flat tracks which offer little to fast bowlers, the opening slot has become the best position to bat in ODIs, and the first Powerplay gives the batting team the chance to take the initiative, and control the tempo of the rest of the innings.

The last couple of years have generally been a good time for opening batsmen in ODIs, but the batsman who has exploited these opportunities better than anyone else is South Africa's Hashim Amla. He has played 32 ODI innings during this period - each of them at the top of the order - and has been dismissed in the first ten overs only 11 times, a stat that is a good illustration of the excellent form he has been in a format that was supposed to be unsuitable for him. One of the best examples of his ability to utilise the first ten overs came in the match against Pakistan in Dubai last November: from 31 balls he scored 48 runs, with eight fours and a six. That's the most he has scored in the first ten, though he was also splendid against India in Durban on the way to a 36-ball 50, scoring 42 off 29 during the first Powerplay. Overall, he averages almost 71 runs per dismissal, at very nearly a run a ball, during the first ten overs. That's an outstanding combination of the ability to score quickly, and to do so over a long period of time in a manner that is relatively risk-free.

Virender Sehwag's methods are more audacious, which explains why he has been dismissed within the first ten overs 18 times in 31 innings. Sehwag falls cheaply more often, but he also more destructive, scoring at a run-rate of more than seven per over in the first ten. Twice within a week he has reached his half-century within the mandatory Powerplay: against New Zealand in Wellington en route to a 36-ball 54, and in Hamilton five days later when he made an unbeaten 125 off 74 balls.

Eight other batsmen have touched 50 within the first Powerplay, but only one has gone past 60, and gone past it by a significant margin: against England in Barbados, Gayle hammered 80 off 43 balls, of which 76 came in 41 during the first ten overs. Admittedly he took much of the strike during this period, but few other batsmen could have made it count like he did. The second-best in the first Powerplay is Tamim Iqbal's 58 off 39 against India in early 2010.

Best ODI batsmen in the first ten overs (Qual: 500 runs scored)
Batsman Innings Runs Balls Dismissals Average Runs per over 4s/ 6s Ave x RR/6
Hashim Amla 32 780 795 11 70.90 5.88 110/ 5 69.48
Virender Sehwag 31 772 642 18 42.88 7.21 125/ 12 51.53
Tillakaratne Dilshan 41 1041 964 22 47.31 6.47 179/ 7 51.02
Chris Gayle 33 761 685 17 44.76 6.66 87/ 32 49.68
Shane Watson 51 1073 1238 21 51.09 5.20 141/ 15 44.28
Graeme Smith 29 585 689 13 45.00 5.09 79/ 4 38.18
Gautam Gambhir 35 577 632 14 41.21 5.47 75/ 2 37.57
Andrew Strauss 42 839 1044 18 46.61 4.82 116/ 8 37.44
Upul Tharanga 35 583 801 12 48.58 4.36 82/ 4 35.30
Martin Guptill 37 612 715 16 38.25 5.13 81/ 13 32.70


Among bowlers who've sent down at least 500 deliveries during the first Powerplay, Lonwabo Tsotsobe has the best economy rate, along with Mashrafe Mortaza of Bangladesh, though Mortaza's numbers are boosted by the number of matches he played against less than top-class opponents. Tsotsobe, though, did superbly against the Indians last season, though he too was helped by the fact that India were missing some of their top batsmen during the ODIs. Twice in that series - in Durban and Port Elizabeth - he bowled five overs in the first Powerplay and went at less than four runs per over.

One of the best performances - in terms of economy rates - by a bowlers in a Powerplay overs came from Abdul Razzaq against New Zealand less than two weeks ago, when he gave away a mere 13 runs in five overs and picked up a wicket too. He finished with figures of 1 for 16 from seven, and helped Pakistan to a comfortable win.

Best ODI bowlers in the first ten overs since Jan 2009 (Qual: 500 balls bowled)
Bowler Innings Balls Wickets Average Econ rate Ave x ER/6
Lonwabo Tsotsobe 19 516 14 24.78 4.03 16.64
Mashrafe Mortaza 21 528 13 27.30 4.03 18.34
Nuwan Kulasekara 41 1164 31 27.38 4.37 19.94
Doug Bollinger 31 677 20 26.15 4.63 20.18
Thilan Thushara 22 522 15 27.93 4.81 22.39
Praveen Kumar 32 870 19 34.47 4.51 25.91
James Anderson 36 912 19 35.89 4.48 26.80
Kyle Mills 38 1032 23 34.82 4.65 26.99
Mitchell Johnson 43 618 14 34.78 4.72 27.36
Ashish Nehra 43 929 24 33.66 5.21 29.23


And now for the team analyses, which tells the team which best utilises the overs at the start with both bat and ball. South Africa and Sri Lanka are the ones who seem to do this better than any other side. South Africa's brilliance with the bat - thanks largely to Amla - is also complemented with their strong bowling performances, as both Tsotsobe and Dale Steyn concede less than 4.40 runs per over in the first Powerplay (though Steyn only averages 46 runs per wicket compared to Tsotsobe's 24.78). The net result is that South Africa usually manage to get an edge over their opponents during the early stages of the game with both bat and ball.

Sri Lanka do superbly too, thanks to the excellent opening combination of Tillakaratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga, who average 51.20 for the first wicket with five century and as many half-century partnerships in 25 innings.

Australia and England are the two other sides who have begun pretty well, but India's bowling pulls down their strong batting stats. Their batting run-rate of 5.41 runs per over compares favourably with the rest of the teams, but with the ball they've been unable to stem the flow of runs in the early overs, going at 5.37 runs per over. With Praveen Kumar ruled out of the competition, the onus for India will be on Zaheer Khan and Sreesanth.

Teams with bat and ball in first ten overs of ODIs since Jan 2009
Team Bat ave Run rate Bowl ave Econ rate Ave diff ER diff
South Africa 56.42 5.49 35.98 4.70 20.44 0.79
Sri Lanka 43.95 5.68 30.08 4.93 13.87 0.75
Australia 39.54 4.73 30.50 4.67 9.04 0.06
Bangladesh 33.56 4.81 28.74 4.93 4.82 -0.12
England 41.66 5.07 38.32 4.91 3.34 0.16
New Zealand 30.10 4.95 34.50 4.85 -4.40 0.10
India 36.94 5.41 43.11 5.37 -6.17 0.04
West Indies 31.17 4.77 42.63 5.07 -11.46 -0.30
Zimbabwe 27.04 4.39 42.46 4.99 -15.42 -0.60
Pakistan 28.93 4.19 46.51 5.30 -17.58 -1.11


The table below lists the eam-wise stats for the opening combinations of each side. Sri Lanka and South Africa are clearly way ahead, thanks to the Dilshan-Tharanga and Amla-Grame Smith combinations. Over the next month and more, these pairs and many others will get opportunities to make a name for themselves in the 2011 World Cup. (Click here for the full list of opening pairs in the first Powerplay in ODIs since January 2009.)

Team-wise opening partnership stats in ODIs since Jan 2009
Team Innings Runs Ave stand Run rate 50/ 100 p'ships
Sri Lanka 51 2633 51.62 6.21 8/ 14
South Africa 40 1656 42.46 5.70 3/ 11
England 46 1800 39.13 5.41 4/ 9
India 60 2189 37.10 5.78 3/ 13
Australia 71 2630 37.04 5.02 7/ 14
Pakistan 44 1425 33.13 4.67 2/ 10
New Zealand 48 1558 32.45 5.71 3/ 10
West Indies 41 1174 30.10 5.19 1/ 7
Zimbabwe 47 1402 29.82 4.53 4/ 7
Bangladesh 47 1367 29.71 5.25 1/ 7

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo

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