England beat SA in low-scoring World Cup thriller

The most exciting Test cricket is usually played with ball dominating bat, where surviving a delivery gets a clap and a single a great cheer. Why shouldn’t that be true of ODIs as well? The case is well made in this excellent article.

England v South Africa, Group B, World Cup 2011, Chennai
A pitch of which a Test match would be proud
Firdose Moonda at Chennai
March 6, 2011
The Chennai pitch was dry, crusty and rough, as unwelcoming for batsmen as a cold, sniping wind on a frosty day

With three men around the bat, Graeme Swann turning it square on a crumbling pitch and two lower-middle order batsmen fighting to survive, it could have been the final, deciding session of a Test match. A sight so pleasing to a cricket connoisseur’s eye is not often on show in one-day cricket. It’s the format for flat pitches and high run-chases, where the batsmen’s fluency and the bowler’s accuracy are usually the two elements of competition.

It’s rare that there is, in the space and time that a one-day match allows, an innings can be built from the ground up as a batsman is tested against bowlers baying for blood on a pitch that is offering something for them to bait with. It’s rare that those who use spin, not merely slower bowling on helpful tracks, and reverse swing to trap their prey are able to show the beauty of their trade in those 100 overs that make up the ODI. Rare things are always valuable, but just how valuable is only apparent when they are on display.

The Chennai pitch was the stage for such a performance. It was dry, crusty and rough, as unwelcoming for batsmen as a cold, sniping wind on a frosty day. There would be turn – that was evident from ball one when Robin Peterson, whose ability to spin the ball is often laughed at in his home country – did just that. There would be reverse swing, as James Anderson, searching for redemption after the totals England conceded in their first three matches, showed with such aplomb. What there wouldn’t be were easy runs and that meant a low-scoring tussle, which produced a set of skills that don’t often have to be on display in this format.

[The pitch] kept the intrigue of captaincy alive as bowlers were rotated quickly and it produced a thriller which tested areas of the game that are not usually up for scrutiny in such a match. As Strauss put it, these kind of pitches, “sometimes make for good, entertaining cricket.”


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