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.
|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.
|Bowler||Innings||Balls||Wickets||Average||Econ rate||Ave x ER/6|
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.
|Team||Bat ave||Run rate||Bowl ave||Econ rate||Ave diff||ER diff|
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||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|
|New Zealand||48||1558||32.45||5.71||3/ 10|
|West Indies||41||1174||30.10||5.19||1/ 7|
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo