As the weather becomes warmer and more pleasant as the months move forward into May and June and July, cricket welcomes a usually pleasant time period for its fans: the English summer. Typically, the English summer involves a series of test matches across the British Isles but this summer is set to be a bit different. Ten teams, from the end of May into June, will face each other head on in England during the Cricket World Cup.
One-Day (ODI) cricket can be just as enjoyable as the usual and traditional test cricket at times, especially when it’s a World Cup year. What makes both formats enjoyable, at times, more than T20 Cricket, is the extended time period, which allows for exciting, dramatic and contemplative battles between bat and ball. Having more overs and a longer amount of time to play with allows a competition to be more fair and not one-sided, and even when the tables turn, a match is not won until the last moment.
However, unlike test cricket where the battle between bat and ball typically remains fair, in ODI Cricket, as of late, matches have been turning massively in favor of the batsmen. Especially in this year’s World Cup host: England.
With English pitches growing less grass and becoming flatter, the stereotype of English conditions being a fast bowler’s paradise has been dusted away in the last few years. Teams’ totals in England within the last few years prove this. In international cricket, England have boasted two 400+ totals, threatening 500, when they first put up 444-3 against Pakistan in 2016 and 481-6 against Australia two years later (both at Trent Bridge in Nottingham). In this domestic season alone, Nottinghamshire already has two 400+ scores at Trent Bridge: 433-7 against Leicestershire and 417-7 against Lancashire.
Outside of Trent Bridge, warmer English summers are leading to higher scores as well. In the second ODI between England and Pakistan at the The Rose Bowl in Southampton, both teams scored a total of 734 runs scored. Jos Buttler achieved the second-fastest ODI century with his 110(55)* in England’s 373-3. In response, Pakistan’s batting came very close to silencing England with the visitors finishing at 361-7, courtesy of scores of 138 from opener Fakhar Zaman and twin scores of 51 by Babar Azam and Asif Ali. In the following ODI at the Ageas Bowl in Bristol, Pakistan set England a large target of 359 after Imam Ul-Haq’s 151(131) and yet another half-century from Ali. However, even that proved to be too little of a score as England chased it down with five overs to spare.
Now, of course Pakistan could’ve bowled better in those matches and the fielding was honestly dismal at times, but there are some aspects of ODI cricket which one can’t help but wonder why they exist. If certain things about the limited-overs format could be changed, matches would all of a sudden seem more fair and balanced, especially when English conditions will only continue to favor batsmen more and more this summer.
Kookaburra vs Dukes
A decade ago, it was standard for international matches to use a ball made by the Kookaburra company. However, after England experimented with the Dukes ball at the start of the decade, other teams followed suit, including the West Indies and South Africa. What’s common between these three sides? Wickets which favor seam bowlers. The grass levels on the pitches in these three countries tend to be more than other places in the world, such as India or Australia, creating movement on the ball when a bowler bowls his or her delivery.
Being handcrafted and having a more upright seam, the Dukes ball has become the preferred one by faster bowlers within the last few years. Unlike the Kookaburra, which will generally only swing for about 20-25 overs, the Dukes can last much longer, keeping the batsmen on their toes throughout the game. For this very reason, the England and Wales Cricket Board made the switch from using the Kookaburra to the Dukes ball for home test matches.
But why not also use the Dukes ball in ODIs as well? The challenge of more and longer swing from the bowlers will make batting a bit more difficult, especially in English conditions right now, where it’s too easy.
Reverse swing has now become a rarity in limited-overs cricket. And there’s an obvious reason behind this.
As the ball becomes older and more used, if one side of the ball is more roughed up than the other, bowlers can use this to their advantage to get reverse swing. Basically, the difference in the two sides of the ball changes how the ball travels through the air. What reverse swing does is that the direction of the ball after it has bounced will be the opposite from the direction is traveled after releasing the delivery.
But in ODI cricket, the white ball doesn’t become old and used enough. Within 50 overs, a ball should normally be able to reverse swing, but the funny thing is that in ODI cricket, two balls are used, not one. The balls are switched after each over. I suppose this was to preserve the state of the ball, but it’s come at a major cost: quality reverse swing bowling.
You won’t find someone who bowls like Wasim Akram or Waqar Younis in One-Day cricket anymore because modern bowlers can’t use an older ball to their advantage. Give Mohammad Amir a ball 30 overs old and just sit back and watch him dare the batsmen.
Why is this necessary? It’s already difficult for eleven men to cover 360° of area to prevent boundaries from being scored easily, why is their job being made even harder? Rather than restricting teams’ bowling plans, allow teams to set the field which they find best, that way they can combat the batting team as best as possible. Especially at a point in the game where it becomes easy to take singles, being allowed to have more fielders close-up to the pitch would be more exciting. Just like test cricket, I’d say get rid of the fielding restrictions which bowling sides are forced to have in One-Day cricket.
In order to keep cricket exciting and engaging, there needs to be balance between the bat and the ball. When conditions seem to favor the batsmen as of late, of course certain things need to be changed to level the playing field again. Some aspects in One-Day cricket implemented by the ICC just don’t seem to make sense and in fact just end up hurting the fielding side. Imagine if limited-overs cricket once again can see bowlers like Akram or Younis or Anil Kumble. Imagine how much more competitive matches would be if both sides had to work hard to achieve scores of two-fifty plus or three-hundred plus. Cricket has always been defined as a contest between bat and ball, strength and mind. But unless some obvious obstacles aren’t addressed, the game seems to become a contest between bat and scorecard.