England's Ben Stokes could not defend 19 runs in ICC World T20 2016 vs West Indies    Getty Images
England’s Ben Stokes could not defend 19 runs in the final over of ICC World T20I 2016 final vs West Indies Getty Images

2090 runs, six 300-plus scores, four hundreds, eleven fifties, and two 200-run stands are evidence to the fact that it was dreadful for the bowlers, in the three-match ODI series between India and England. Regardless, the crowd was happy, the broadcasters happier, and the respective boards happiest, for the matches went down to the wire. But, the huge profit came at the cost of bowlers being smashed to pulp.

2090 runs, six 300-plus scores, and 45 wickets in three matches are evidence to the fact that the bowlers actually did well. Then, what went wrong?

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How could the batsmen amass so many runs? Were the tracks so batsman-friendly? Don’t the curators feel for the bowlers? Are the grounds so small? Is 350 the new 300? What is a safe score to defend? FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: India vs England, 1st T20I at Kanpur

Example 1

Ben Stokes takes the pace off the bowl to outfox Hardik Pandya. India are chasing down 322, with half the side back in the pavilion. Therefore, Pandya has no option but to throw his bat. He plays an ugly heave.

By the time the ball makes a connection with the bat, he has already swung the upper part of the body on the leg-side, completely losing control over the shot. But when it connects, it takes the outside edge and goes soaring over third-man.

Stokes is in a shock. How on earth does a slower ball fly off the outside edge over the boundary line? And it is Kolkata’s Eden Gardens, one of the biggest cricket grounds.

Either Pandya middled the edge (how do you do that?) or his bat-swing was outrageous. That did not matter. It eventually went down as a six in the scorecard.

First, Stokes succeeded in outfoxing Pandya. Second, his effort went in vain, for it resulted in a six.

Example 2

Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowls 46th over to a well-set Ben Stokes. He bowls an off-cutter. Stokes spanks it over wide long-on. He follows it up with a deadly yorker, resulting in a dot ball. He bowls another yorker, but Stokes dances down the track and converts it into a full-toss and gets another boundary. He bowls another yorker, resulting in a dot ball. Two more yorkers to end the over, but Stokes churns out 4 runs off them.

Bhuvneshwar gave away 14 runs in what was a well-bowled over. An over that had five yorkers and a slower ball leaked 14 runs.

Example 3

Jasprit Bumrah comes in to bowl the 47th over. He starts with a bouncer; Woakes completely misses it. He then bowls a length-ball; Woakes thick-edges it to third-man and runs two. He yorks Woakes, but the batsman manages to play it past point and get 2. He bowls two more yokers, conceding 3 runs. And to end the over, he bowls a bouncer.

All in all, only 7 runs come off the over, which saw 3 yorkers, 2 bouncers, and a length-ball.

What did Bumrah do differently than Bhuvneshwar?

Bumrah mixed his length, unlike Bhuvneshwar. Bumrah read batsman’s foot work, unlike Bhuvneshwar. Bumrah did not let the batsman predict his game plan, unlike Bhuvneshwar.

Now to the other side of the story.

How do batsmen practice batting in death overs?

These days we see batsman hitting sixes during the practice sessions at the ground. Some of them eye only one part of ground the part that is smaller and easier to clear, so that it becomes even easier to execute their plans in the death overs.

And they have variety of bats for that. They use the lighter ones to free their arms and heavier ones to play the conventional strokes. Some, like David Warner, use the same heavy bat throughout the innings.

Then they hit the gym and strengthen their forearms. In short, they have multiple ways to attain success.

How do bowlers practice?

Bowlers practice bowling length-balls for first spells and yorkers for death overs. Or, bowl in the areas the opposition batsmen have trouble playing. The team strategists do help them like they do with batsmen.

On the other hand, like batsmen use different bats, bowlers do not have that much liberty. They use the ball of the same dimension throughout the match. If the ball loses its shape, the umpires change it right away.

They, too, hit the gym, but their major strength lies in their shoulders, meaning gaining muscles will not significantly help them attain success.

What is death-bowling?

Keeping a lid on the runs in the final overs and giving away minimum runs (ideally below 6 RPO) is death-bowling.

What do bowlers do in death-bowling?

They either bowl yorkers, leaving no time and room for the batsman to open his arms something Sri Lanka’s Lasith Malinga is reputed for. He aims at the toes of the batsman. Besides, only few can master the art of bowling in the block holes.

If not yorkers, they bowl bouncers. Some even dare to hit the length.

All in all, they try to contain the onslaught.

And what do batsmen do with death-bowling?

The modern-day batsmen, however, have found a way to tackle toe-crushing yorkers. If the batsman is AB de Villiers, he scoops it over the wicketkeeper or fine-leg on one knee. If the batsman is MS Dhoni, he uses the depth of the crease and helicopters it into the stands. If the batsman is Rohit Sharma, he makes it look like a full-toss and lofts its over the sight screen. If the batsman is Virat Kohli, he flicks it on the on-side. In short, batsmen know how to tackle a well-directed yorker.

If bowled in length area, batsmen target the deep mid-wicket region. If bowled short, they either scythe it behind the wicket or pull it on the leg-side.

These are well-known skills that modern-day batsmen use. Then again, what wrong do bowlers do?

Last example

At Kolkata, India needed 16 off the last over. At the crease was Kedar Jadhav, India’s new finisher. Eoin Morgan gave the last over to Chris Woakes.

49.1 – Woakes bowls full and wide. Jadhav eases it over deep extra-cover for six.

49.2 – Woakes bowls a little further. Jadhav goes back deep into his crease and gets another four to deep extra-cover boundary.

49.3 – Woakes sees Jadhav’s footwork and bowls full and wide, but does not give Jadhav enough room to play a similar shot. No run.

49.4 – Woakes hits the repeat button. Jadhav plays and misses. No run. India need 6 off 2.

49.5 – Jadhav shuffles. Woakes follows him and bowls even wider. Jadhav holes out at deep extra-cover. OUT! India need 6 off 1

50.00 – Full and wide. No run. Play and a miss. England win.

What did Woakes do here?

Woakes may not have bowled a toe-crushing yorker, but he kept his eyes on batsman’s footwork and bowled accordingly. And more importantly, he bowled according to the field. To put things into perspective, the first two boundaries Jadhav hit were top class, and there was little Woakes could have done. However, he altered his line instead and kept Jadhav’s rampage by bay, meaning he read his footwork.

Woakes and Bhuvneshwar have straight-arm action, while Bumrah’s is a slingshot one. All three are deadly accurate, but bore different results in the death overs.

Having a tinge grass on a track in the death overs does not shift the fortunes towards the bowlers. They will be taken to the cleaners no matter what. There will be outside edges, off away-swingers, flying past the short third-man. The change-in-pace deliveries will be sent into the orbit. It is not the nature of the track that decides the fate of a bowler. It is not the accuracy that decides the fate of the bowler but his approach does.

After all, approach matters more than accuracy. Reading the batsmen’s footwork matters more than accuracy. Bowling according to the field matters more than accuracy. And that is a bowler’s life in death overs.