Saturday, 5 November 2011

Tactics watch: Tail end pinch hitting from Zimbabwe

During their impressive if ultimately unsuccessful run chase against New Zealand, Zimbabwe used an odd tactic, the No. 11 promoted to pinch hit at No.8. When the sixth wicket, of Regis Chakabva fell, Zimbabwe were on 303, with still another 63 runs needed to win.

The job of getting these runs (or holding out for the draw) fell to the last recognised batsman Malcom Waller, along with the tail of Price, Jarvis, Mpofu, and Ncube. So, in an interesting piece of lateral thinking, Ncube was promoted up the order. His job seemed to be twofold, slog some quick runs and more unusually farm the strike from a specialist batsman.

The thinking behind the decision seems to have been a combination of not trusting Ncube's defensive technique if he had to bat for the draw at No.11, and the idea that if his slogging came off they could push for the win. In addition, Ncube going for the quick runs meant that Waller could concentrate on preserving his wicket and batting through to the end to preserve a draw if wickets fell at the other end.

In reality, the ploy threatened to come off but ultimately failed. Ncube looked dangerous when he was in, heaving Vettori for a huge six over mid-wicket and bunting a couple of useful twos. This quick scoring (14 off 13 balls) briefly vindicated the decision, but his lack of defensive technique was exposed when he was clean bowled by Doug Bracewell.

After he got out, the rest of the tail end meekly subsided, and the match finished as a contest when Waller was LBW to Vettori. Full credit to Zimbabwe for trying, but most of the time gambles like that don't come off.

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