Duckworth-Lewis in T20 leads to bizarre results

cricket blogs for Yahoo Cricket Columns

The two ‘rain’ games at the IPL created huge suspense before the results were out, courtesy Messrs Duckworth & Lewis. The games were a total lottery. The very nature of limited-overs cricket is in its unpredictability. But when the weather intervenes to reduce the overs further from the already severely limited 20, the results cane be quite bizarre.

While the match at the Kotla could have easily gone the other way had there been no interruption to the flow of the Sehwag innings, the Delhi Daredevils captain did not show sufficient understanding of the complex D&L laws to help his team’s cause.

He was too naive tactically to give his side the best chance of sealing a semi-final slot.

While Twenty-20 cricket is relatively new, the variables that captains have to take into account in D&L situations are old. For a player who has been around the national team for more than seven years and who has led the country in ODIs and in a Test match, the Delhiite did not reveal the tactical nous needed to crack the situation.

The first principle is the D&L favours the teams that lose less wickets, or ‘resources’ as the scientists call them. When the Delhi Dardevils’ innings resumed after the rain delay, it was important that wickets be preserved in which event the D&L target would rise even further. The Delhi team threw away wickets in looking to hit the cover off the ball. The skipper alone was not guilty on this count.

Sehwag kept his wicket intact but it did not appear he had shaped any strategy for his colleagues to help tackle complex D&L mathematics. The greater tragedy was the one over he bowled at quite the wrong time in the Punjab Kings XI chase. A minimum of five overs were needed for a result, which demanded a fielding team strategy for those five overs by which the opposition would be pushed behind the target score.

By bowling the fourth over, when the fielding restrictions were very much in place, that too with a hard ball, Sehwag simply gave the game away. He was profligate to the extent of helping his opponents past the target score by the end of the ‘result’ over, which meant the chasers had to keep pace with the asking rate rather than go hell for leather.

It is nice to put up your hand as skipper to bowl one of the more crucial overs but somewhat foolhardy to do it when your team is on top after taking out three top order batsmen and the opponents are on the run. By pushing the new ball through flat, Sehwag simply set it up nicely for the batsmen.

Of course, had Jayawardene not hit what became the last ball of the match for six, Punjab would still have lost. Once D&L applies, there can be no tie since the total of the team batting first will be reduced to a number plus a fraction and the chasers would have to score the target score plus one run to win.

The South Africans were not aware of this part of the rule, which is why they lost a match in the 2003 World Cup to Sri Lanka and stood eliminated from the knockout when Mark Boucher defended the last ball and declined a single.

It seemed amazing then that an international team with a dozen or so manning the support team could goof up like that.

A dot ball instead of six would have given the match to Delhi but the way they had played in the last few overs to the finish, they had given themselves every chance to lose. When arguing with the umpires, the Delhi skipper took out the large D&L sheets. He may have caught up with the mathematics there but he had had no plan to exploit the match situation to his team’s advantage.

The Chennai Super Kings were really fortunate that they were ahead of the target score plus a few when the interruption came in the match at the Eden Gardens. Ganguly would probably be cursing his fielders for allowing the match to slip from the grasp while also affecting the team’s chances of taking one of the four slots.

It was quite by chance that the Super Kings came away winners. But at least they showed some understanding of the complexities involved when Duckworth & Lewis come into the picture.