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Asia Cup | Takeaways: The Ambati Rayudu punt and Hong Kong openers’ time under the sun

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Asia Cup | Takeaways: The Ambati Rayudu punt and Hong Kong openers’ time under the sun

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Bastab K Parida

09/19/2018

After a Shikhar Dhawan special, Hong Kong put forward a brave show, but India somehow squeezed through to secure their place in the Super Four alongside Pakistan. And in the game, Ambati Rayudu's promotion reaped rich dividends which can potentially solve their No. 4 conundrum, once and for all.

Batting Rayudu at No.3 - a good tactical punt by Team India

India’s top-order has been on a roll since last few years and the batting triumvirate of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli is probably the best in the world at the moment in 50-over cricket. Their ability to dictate the pace of the match is superb and in the absence of Virat Kohli, India needed someone to play the supporting cast to the opening duo. And Ambati Rayudu stepped in. Before shedding more lights on it, let me bring some statistics to the table. The Hyderabad batsman has scored 629 runs for India at an average of 78.62 at No.3 from 12 innings, which is truly commendable. 

His numbers at other positions being - 286 runs from 10 innings at No. 4, 188 runs from 8 innings at No.5 and that point to the fact he is better off in the top-order. Also, most of the runs that he scored for Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League also came as an opener and it was in the best interest of the team that he batted at No.3. In the last two years, as was seen in the IPL and the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, the Hyderabad batsman has showcased that he has improved his game against pace in addition to his competence against spin, which today helped him big-time. 

Against Kinchit Shah, who wrecked havoc in the middle-order, Rayudu played his part to perfection and his assortment of innovative, yet orthodox shots resulted in a fine half-century on a wicket where the ball was not really coming on to the bat. He ended up scoring 60 off 70 balls, an innings that would have infused some confidence on his comeback. But, moreover, it may give the team management a confidence boost to think Rayudu as a long-term No. 4 for the team once Kohli makes a comeback. 

The archaic Indian batting - a problem needs an immediate solution

Indian batsmen’s approach to playing 50-over format is basically built on partnership-building rather than going gung-ho in the middle. Start steady and then build the innings during the middle overs and then try to carry enough momentum and wickets for a late-order surge for a decent ODI total. However, this formulaic batting display has a chink attached to it. With the pitch trying to satiate the six-loving crowds, the concept of a safe score is no more a valid proposition. 

To India’s credit, they have three top-order batsmen who were as good as any limited-overs batsmen of the generation and have the ability to blow any bowlers reputations to smithereens. While India has been successful in getting a good start to their batting, they failed to carry the same momentum in between 15th to 35th overs thanks to India’s middle-order fragilities and that was well on the show today. 

India attacked 26% of their deliveries in the first five overs of their innings, and played no false shots today. Rohit Sharma got off the blocks quicker than Dhawan and his timing was mostly on point. When he got into the zone, he was done in by Ehsan Khan, who floated an off-break that didn't turn as much as expected and took Rohit's leading edge to go straight to mid-off. Although Rayudu and Dhawan managed to take India to a comfortable position, they couldn’t build on the momentum and as a result, their scoring rate in the last five overs was 5.8 RPO- only once in their last 31 ODI innings have they scored slower in the last five overs for innings where they've batted the entire 50 overs. Winning is fine but to sustain it for a longer period, a radical formulation is needed considering cricket’s instant changes in moods and for that, a radical change in 50-over format is necessary.

Well Played, Hong Kong

It was a terrific day of cricket. After not letting the Indians seize the momentum in the last 10 overs of their innings, it was all down to Hong Kong batsmen to do something special tonight and boy, did they just make a statement? Openers Nizakat Khan and Anshuman Rath played a calculative brand of cricket in the beginning and reduced their urge to go for a kill from the word go. While they played 35% of attacking shots in the first 20 overs, they played 55% of attacking shots in the next 12 overs they stayed at the crease together. It showed a different aspect of their batting as they mostly wanted to navigate through the middle-over and tried finding a sustainable partnership to keep Hong Kong afloat.

While the Khan-Rath partnership was a commendable one, their bowlers were also good on their day as compared to their Indian counterparts. While Hong Kong pacer extracted 0.73° swing and 0.64° of seam movement, Indian pacers managed to find 0.63° of swing and a considerably less 0.36° of seam movement. The wicket was a placid one and one that needed them to be more cautious against spinners, but thanks to the two-paced nature of the wicket, the pair struck in and scored as many runs as they did today. It took a Kuldeep Yadav magic to end the partnership to bring India back in the game, but the way Hong Kong played, it was a feel-good story for sure. 

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