Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Tom Latham shows the value of simplicity

It was Bill Shankly who said “Football is a simple game complicated by idiots.” Like all truisms, there’s more to it than that, and if you substituted football for cricket you’d get blank stares from some. Surely cricket is complicated in and of itself, they’d say.
Perhaps if you reverse the polarity of the phrase (to butcher a reference), it makes more sense for cricket. Cricket is a complicated game, made simple by geniuses. Tom Latham is hardly a genius, but other than David Warner, he’s the only batsman from outside the subcontinent to score a hundred in the UAE this year.

The method looked simple. Rahat Ali threatened, but mostly just created pressure, which Latham resisted. It was the three spinners, Zulfiqar Babar, Yasir Shah, and Mohammad Hafeez who looked to be the danger. But Latham had a plan. If it was full and straight, he’d stretch forward and defend. If it was off the stumps, he’d sweep, and if it was a bad ball he’d put it away. Apart from the occasional drive down the ground, that was it.

Shah went round the wicket, but found that pitching every ball outside off stump invited the sweep. Zulfiqar found Latham immune to his variations, and Hafeez tried to lure him into indiscretion, as he did Neesham, but found the opener steadfast.

He brought up his century with a shimmy down the wicket and punch of the ball down the ground for four. It took a fantastic ball to get rid of him, Rahat Ali reverse swinging a yorker into him to trap him LBW. Rahat set it up fantastically, swinging a couple away before a third darted back in to catch him plumb on the foot.

Rahat Ali was the other big performer on the day. 4-22 off 17 overs might just be the maximum he could have possibly squeezed out of the day. Like Latham, he kept it simple, that setup to get rid of the day’s centurion was the archetypal three-card trick. Southee succeeded in the most bit of incompetent bit of batting, edging a swinging ball once to be dropped, then in almost identical fashion the next ball to be caught.

When the ball wasn’t reverse swinging, all he had to do against them was to create pressure, forcing the lapses the like of which saw off both Williamson and Anderson, both chopping on to their stumps. Remarkably, before lunch he hadn’t conceded a run off the bat, the only blot on his figures a no ball from the previous evening.

With Latham and Rahat simplicity won the day. But for the rest of the New Zealand batsmen that simplicity was hard to come by. Turns out making something look simple can be quite complicated.

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