Simon Hughes: Two new balls changes England tactics
The Analyst explains the effect of two new balls, and how Ian Bell stepped up as a one-day batsman
The fact that two new balls are now being used in one-day games puts more of an emphasis on specialist players, which is one reason England selected four seam bowlers. As in Test cricket, you need good opening batsmen to nullify the new ball and good opening bowlers to utilise it.
England’s blueprint for one-day cricket is to focus on the new-ball pair with both bat and ball and make sure they are high-quality performers.
Picking five bowlers won’t always work, but England are thinking ahead to the World Cup of 2015 which will be in New Zealand and Australia. It’s likely that the pitches will give assistance to fast bowlers armed with two new balls. For batsmen, it will be testing early on.
England have stuck with four specialist bowlers in Tests, but there’s one obvious reason why they have picked five bowlers in ODIs, which is that five bowlers all must bowl 10 overs. As a result, you are much better off with five good ones. The danger is that if you rely on a part-timer to bowl 10 overs, you have a potential weak link who can be targeted.
Conversely, you are only batting 50 overs so you should only need six specialist batsmen, including the keeper, especially if you have one or two bowlers who can bat a bit.
Ian Bell played a wonderful innings. I’ve always thought he would be a fantastic limited-overs player, but one-day cricket is so hard to nail.
It’s not like Test cricket. It has various parameters and restrictions and trying to conform to them can colour your game a bit. You tend to play in a style which fits in with the format. Bell has tried to do this and has had trouble being himself.
But Alastair Cook led the way by showing that you can be yourself in one-day cricket, and succeed. You just have to be a bit more positive and show some intent. But you can actually play a normal game, which is what Bell did. Apart from one lofted drive for six, he didn’t play any shots he wouldn’t use in a Test match. There were lovely little drives and cuts, and so on.
What probably also helped Bell was having two new balls, one at each end, because of the new ICC regulations. It means that the ball comes on to the bat nicely and it is still hard and bouncy after 40 overs. Effectively you’re batting against a ball at either end which is only 20 overs old. So you can play your normal game and not have to improvise.