A superb performance of deliberately average bowling from both sides confirmed that the relatively low scores could not take away from the glory of the India-South Africa series ensuring in the process that cricket remained the winner.
The rank unadulterated failure of the Indian bowlers in turning the recent home series against New Zealand into a batathon (including lack of long-hops bowled to Jamie How, Ravichandran Ashwin’s inability to live up to the selectors’ expectations of being toothless, despite New Zealand bolstering their batting lineup with the considerable prowess of Martin Guptill) has now been atoned for in the South Africa series. The two bowling units, well aware that their batsmen could not resist throwing away their wickets on friendly pitches, have tactically reduced the quality of their produce. They ensured that they at the very least cut out dangerous seam and swing movement, before reducing their respective speeds and stopping short of dishing out utter trash.
The epitome of the mastery of the two units over well-intentioned average bowling came in the second ODI at Cape Town, brilliantly making up for the batsmen’s indulgence in picking the fielders, by toning down their deliveries to straight, harmless medium-pace offerings and ensuring that the batsmen’s appalling lack of quality would not be the only thing to be remembered. Then when the batsmen looked around sheepishly as fielders plucked their offerings, they made sure the lack of venom and quality in the deliveries that brought about their dismissals did not go unnoticed in the process deflecting heavy criticism away from some of the batsmen.
For their part, the batsmen will be delighted that having underperformed with such determined persistence, they were able to prove that ultimately ODI cricket is still a batsman’s game. A few of them did show good form and would be hoping that they will be shown the same consideration by the bowlers in the future when the inevitable law of averages catches up with them.
The bowlers from England and Australia are also averaging out spectacularly. England in particular will be happy at allowing Australia to wriggle out of jail in Hobart while Australia would be content in the knowledge that despite winning in Melbourne so convincingly their bowlers allowed the opposition to reach a highly respectable 290. A couple of low scoring games at this stage would likely have proven fatal for the success of the World Cup.
Australia have been preparing for average bowling throughout the Ashes series avoiding the IMC (involuntary momentum carry) that organizers of ODI cricket fear. (It was an admirably consistent performance throughout the series akin to Ram Gopal Verma dishing out flop movies or Roger Federer winning Grand Slam titles.)
Mitchell Johnson’s throat infection also bodes very well for the hosts. He should not be able to come up with one of those inexplicable great destructive spells of bowling by happenstance.
New Zealand bowling out Pakistan for 120-odd in Wellington (described as “not a good advertisement for cricket” by Daniel Vettori) should not detract from their expertly executed average bowling efforts in their 11-match losing streak that preceded this game, whilst their opponents will be overjoyed that they resisted any hint of temptation of taking the bait and returning the Kiwis’ favor. Indeed, their only worry would be whether their bowlers inadvertently make the return in the next game against the game plan.
Sri Lanka and West Indies should be relatively certain that their bowling units wont defer from mediocre harmless averageness in the forthcoming series given the nature of the wickets in the island nation, whilst Bangladesh will be hoping that their whitewashing of New Zealand had little to do with any special exploits of their own men with the ball. All in all, cricket is still a batsman’s game.