International Cricket Betting: Murali's slog and Umar Gul's death-bowling
Andrew Hughes watched in disbelief as Muralitharan slogged Sri Lanka to victory from the unlikeliest of positions in the final few overs against Bangladesh on Friday and considers the best way of "bowling at the death". Whichever way it is, Umar Gul does it to perfection...
In last week's final of the Tri-nations tournament in Mirpur, Bangladesh could have been momentous. Instead, it was merely extraordinary. Chasing a paltry 153, the Sri Lankans had stumbled to 6-5 and then 114-8 with renowned rabbit Muralitheran striding to the wicket in the middle of over 44. It looked odds-on that Bangladesh were about to justify their presence at the highest table of world cricket with their first ever international trophy. Then the unthinkable. Murali swung, swung and swung again and broke Bangladeshi hearts. The beaming hero of Lankan cricket took his team home with balls to spare. How did it happen?
Rubel the Rube
Most of the steaming pile of blame must be heaped at the feet of 19 year old Rubel Hossain. Handed the ball at the start of the 46th over, with Murali at the crease, he fired in an assortment of long hops, half volleys and good length balls. Murali, like any self-respecting tail ender, cleared his left leg out the way and gave it the old heave-ho. Off Hossain's first over, he smashed 20 runs, including a straight six that came down with a light dusting of snow on it. Incredibly, Hossain was given another go. Murali, by now warming to his task, belted a lusty maximum over midwicket and top edged a four over the keeper's head. It was all over.
You didn't want to do it like that...
Like dating, flower arranging and open heart surgery, bowling at the end of one day matches takes practice. Unfortunately, it appeared that poor Rubel let the occasion get the better of him. For a start, he paid Murali the enormous compliment of treating him like a proper batsman, pitching on a good length at a decent speed. Sadly it was wasted on the great double-jointed one. He had one shot in mind and Rubel fed it time and again, by giving him the chance to get under the ball and bowling everything at the same pace. To make it even easier, he kept drifting towards middle and leg, right into the arc of Murali's flailing blade.
Into the Valley of Death
The golden rule of bowling at the death, particularly to the more rustic batsman is to pitch it up, right up. Yorkers, yorkers and more yorkers are required. It is virtually impossible for any batsman to get elevation on a fast ball pitching by their toes. If combined with reverse swing, these toe-crushing deliveries are unplayable. And invariably the place to pitch them is on the bottom of off stump. With Murali backing away to leg, he would only have been able to squirt the ball into the offside. Mixing up the odd slower ball would also have completely foxed the slogger.
But like most of his teammates, Rubel Hossain is very young. It was probably asking too much of a rookie in his second one day international to bring his side home. And as if bowlers don't have it hard enough in limited overs cricket, the new batting Powerplay heaps even more pressure on them. Batting captains can now nominate five overs during which there can be no more than three fielders outside the 30 yard circle. Invariably, it is the last five overs that are chosen. In such circumstances, if you haven't got someone like Andrew Flintoff or Umar Gul in your team, you are going to struggle. Their ability to fire in the yorkers at the death is one of the most important and valuable skills in cricket. Rubel Hossain would do well to watch them.
Hopefully, the young Bangladeshi will have the chance to watch Umar Gul pretty soon. The underrated Pakistani seamer will at last have a chance to display his skills on the international stage once more as his country finally get to entertain visitors. It hasn't been for the want of trying, indeed the table has been laid for sometime but their guests keep cancelling. Sri Lanka, buoyed by their great escape in Mirpur will be optimistic whilst the hosts are desperate for some cricket so a classic encounter is on the cards. Despite their rustiness, the home side are fairly strong favourites and are likely to be around [1.75] for the second one day game in Karachi on Wednesday with the visitors in the region of [2.2]