The Duckworth-Lewis-Stern Method is widely considered to favour the chasing team. That seemed to be the case on Sunday as well, during the first One-Day International between India and Australia in Chennai.
A two-hour rain delay after India posted 281 for 7 from 50 overs saw Australia’s target being revised to 164 from 21 overs. It might not have been wrong to think the equation favoured the visitor, especially in the era of Twenty20 cricket, but Australia only managed 137 for 9. The reason, according to Steve Smith, was the crucial difference between T20s and rain-curtailed ODIs – one new ball from either end.
“It was never going to be easy chasing 160 with two new balls,” Smith said after the game. “It was sort of a good new-ball wicket to bowl with. We could have perhaps played things a little bit differently and tried to take a little bit more time upfront. It’s always hard in 20 overs to judge that. We weren’t good enough tonight.
“I think 160 with one new ball would have made things a lot easier. As we saw through the whole game, it was a new-ball wicket. We took three wickets with the new ball and they found it quite hard. It was the same for us. When you are playing 20 overs, you don't have a great deal of time to make things up when you need eight an over basically from ball one. It was difficult in that aspect. Perhaps we could have been a little bit more defensive at the start, tried to keep wickets in hand and go harder later,” he said, adding that he’d have preferred a 50-over innings.
Smith’s explanation, however, did not find buyers in the Indian camp. Speaking to reporters after spinning India to victory, Yuzvendra Chahal pointed to the field restrictions and added that the new balls made stroke-play easier.
“The 21-over game was a plus-point for Australia because the rules were not according to T20,” he explained. “The extra fielder was always inside the circle. If they had won the game, they would have said it (two new balls) was a plus-point for them. Because in T20s, if there is a new ball from both ends, then it is good for the batsmen. There was something in the wicket, so we too had an advantage.
“But our minus-point was that we had to bowl ten overs with each new ball. So we've bowled well. Whether it is a new ball or an old ball, our bowlers bowled well. We got a good start with the way our pacers bowled. We managed to keep the pressure on them from the start and didn't give them a chance to come into the game.”
A big reason for that was Chahal himself. The leg-spinner picked up 3 for 30 from his five overs, including the crucial wicket of Glenn Maxwell after the batsman had raced to 39 off 18 balls. Maxwell had just taken Kuldeep Yadav for 22 runs in the previous over and seemed in the mood, but perished to some wily bowling from Chahal. The leg-spinner tempted Maxwell with a loopy ball but bowled it wide of off-stump, and lured the batsman into dragging it to long-on.
“I've bowled a lot to Maxwell in IPL, so I was confident,” Chahal said. “My plus-point is that, Kuldeep's ball comes into the (right-hand) batsman, and mine goes out. Virat (Kohli) and MS (Dhoni) told me to bowl the one that turns and keep checking his feet. My idea was to bowl a little wide to him. From there, if he hits a good shot, then it is fine. My idea was to bowl outside off-stump and keep mixing it up.
“There was turn on the wicket. If you want to dismiss a batsman like him, you have to do it with spin,” he went on. “Our plan was to attack him, but change our line. We kept bowling wide outside off-stump, so if he had to hit, he would have to hit from the off-side, because he is quite strong on the leg-side.”
According to Chahal, the first plan for Kuldeep and himself, irrespective of the situation, was to go for wickets.
“If he bowls first, he tells me where the ball is turning from. When I bowl first, I tell him the same,” he said. “We discuss how a batsman can be dismissed. Since both are wrist spinners, we go for wickets at the start. You win matches by picking wickets, not by playing safe.”
It helps Chahal that he has an understanding captain in Kohli, who backs the bowler’s plan.
“Wrist spinners are mostly attacking and when your captain is also attacking, you get more freedom to attack more,” he said. “You can try that extra bit harder. But sometimes we also have to take a step back. If a batsman is attacking, it's not like you keep flighting the ball and keep getting hit for sixes. Then you change your plans accordingly.”