Field restrictions are in place during the 20 Power Play overs Captains have been predictable in how they use Power Play overs
Chennai: A major momentum shift in the pulse-pounding Super Eight World Cup face-off between Sri Lanka and England arrived soon after the mid-way mark of the English innings.
Sri Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardene, innovative and inventive, used the third Power Play only in the 30th over, when he had spin from one end. This was a calculated gamble.
Field restrictions are in place during the 20 Power Play overs of an innings. The first 10 overs are compulsorily Power Play overs, where a side is allowed only two fielders outside the 30-yard circle. It is also mandatory for a captain to station two men in catching positions in this period.
The next two sets of Power Play overs, blocks of five overs each, are flexible since a captain can use them at any stage of the innings. In these overs too, only two fielders are allowed outside the circle, but the side need not have two men in catching positions.
Element of risk
Batting sides attempt to exploit these overs, where there is little protection for the fielding team in the deep. Of course, a captain with foresight need not take the second or third batch of Power Play overs if he is confident of dismissing a side inside 40 or 45 overs. There is an element of risk involved in this tactic.
Back to Jayawardene. The Sri Lankan skipper had delayed taking the third Power Play in Antigua, for two reasons.
Firstly, the free-stroking Kevin Pietersen might have used the pace of a harder, newer ball to pierce the infield.
Secondly, the batsmen usually struggle to force the pace against an older, softer ball on a brown pitch where the ball grips. Jayawardene was spot on.
Here was a skipper who was not willing to play the pattern; getting rid of the 20 Power Play overs straightaway as most skippers do.
Actually, Jayawardene saw an opportunity in the third group of Power Plays. Off-spinning wizard Muttiah Muralitharan was introduced only after the 20-over mark. And it was not until the 30th over that the third Power Play overs began. The field was in, and the bait, laid for Pietersen.
Three off-spinners from Muralitharan were followed by a doosra. Pietersen, attempting to clip over the in-field on the leg-side, got a leading edge. Muralitharan pounced on the return catch. Had Pietersen stayed, England might have cantered home.
In fact, Jayawardene took the final Power Play, as late as in the 45th over against South Africa in that dramatic Super Eight clash in Georgetown.
The speedy Lasith Malinga almost provided Sri Lanka an improbable victory with telling reverse swing. The field was in at the `death' and Andrew Hall fell trying to chip Malinga over the off-side field.
Generally, captains have been predictable in how they look at the Power Play overs. There is a strong viewpoint, to break the monotony that the skippers should not be allowed to take the third Power Play before the 25th over. The ICC has to decide.
In the summer of 2005, the ICC added the Power Plays and the Super Substitute rule to ODI cricket. Only the Power Plays stayed, but it takes a clever captain see it as more than a defensive option.