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Running hot: Why one-day cricket isn't all about power

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Running between the wickets is an acquired skill that many people still under-appreciate. With modern bats and standardised grounds, the one-day international game has been taken over by Twenty20 thoughts.

T20 cricket is all about power and launching it and let's see what happens. Well, in ODI cricket you can't get away with this all the time and you need to think your way through an innings as Steve Smith and George Bailey did in Perth this week.  May I say a big thank you to Smith and Bailey for bringing back some "old-school" tactics in their match-winning partnership to beat the Indians.

Bailey came to the crease when the Australians were in trouble at 2-21, knowing that he hadn't made an ODI century in 30 innings, and his international career was on the line. Ok, George had some luck early when he gloved the first one he faced but India doesn't trust the DRS system and paid the penalty.

It's amazing how a little bit of luck can change a batsman's thinking. That early reprieve was all Bailey needed. Bailey's knock was interesting tactically. Initially, Bailey tried to smash everything but quality shots were going straight to fieldsmen. 

Then, after a long chat with his skipper, they decided to "run them off their legs". Gee, they didn't disappoint us and it seemed M.S. Dhoni and his teammates had no way of stopping them. It simply looked like an exhibition on how easily you can hit good balls for one.

Their majestic partnership of 241 runs was off just 203 balls with 102 singles, 14 twos, three threes, 17 boundaries and four sixes. Their performance showed to me how fit they were. Running quick singles puts so much strain on your body. Have you noticed how many injuries there have been in the Big Bash this year? I have seen pulled calves, hamstrings, sore hips and groins all over the place. 


Smith and Bailey's tactics were simple. Drop the ball at our feet and run. Let's just play the ball late, hit holes and out-run them. 

As their wonderful partnership progressed, It was just filled with old-school techniques. There were loud and positive calls. Between each over, there was positive reinforcement in each other's calls and understanding of where the easy singles were to be made. 

As their confidence in each other's calls grew, their placement of the ball became untouchable for the Indian fieldsmen. Their running was breathtaking, as if it were the good old game of "tippity run". Not everyone is a great judge of pinching a single.

When they ran a hard two, they took their time to get back to their crease so their heart rate would come down. This tactic is so important to help batsmen make better decisions when they face the next ball. It's also so important to change the tempo and control of the game to suit you and to maintain momentum. 

I also loved the way Bailey and Smith were backing up close to the stumps at the bowlers' end when the spinners were on. The reason for this is simple. When a batsman backs up close to the stumps at the non-striker's end, he immediately is in the bowler's fielding space. Bowlers' fielding areas are reduced dramatically because the batsman simply get in their way when fielding drives that are hit down the ground. Bowlers hate it, I loved it. 

Another little tip is when backing up at the non-striker's end, try to keep "side on" as much as possible. When the situation arises, when you to quickly need to turn and get back to your crease, it's easier to turn from a side-on position than being in a front-and-square position. Many batsmen have no spikes in the heels of their boots and slip when in a square-on position when trying to turn and get back. 

I loved the way that Smith and Bailey ran in straight lines. It's amazing how many batsmen run so far off the pitch, with turns that would make the Queen Mary feel proud. Batsmen must understand that when turning, they first must understand what distance that makes them comfortable to make a quick "in and out" of the crease to make the second run easier and without much risk. 

Another lesson many batsmen can learn is to understand how to turn properly when running a two. It's quite simple to work out when you look at a pitch and, more specifically, the bowlers' markings for the danger area. These markings were perfect for me to place my left foot down, then slide my bat in and out of the crease with my hand on the ground adding stability for a solid turn. Many players still don't understand how much ground they need to time their turning when coming back for a two. 

I was so impressed by Bailey's attitude of "running the first one hard" to put pressure on the fielding team. Bailey must have done this 20 times with no success hunting for an easy two, but was justly rewarded when he was on 98. Bailey hit a ball in the deep to the Indian ODI debutant Barinder Sran. Sran paid the penalty of watching the batsman and not the ball, misfielded it and allowed Bailey to came back for an easy second run to bring up his richly deserved 100. This was lost to many in the crowd and the media, but not by me, George. I thought hard work does pay off.

After the day's play, I got the chance to congratulate Bailey on his hundred. I really enjoyed the physicality and the fitness that was required for both Smith and Bailey in such a huge run chase. Bailey's response was: "I am so buggered! I have never felt so tired after a game. We only hit 25 boundaries in the chase!"

If there ever was a template for any team to understand how to chase down 300-plus totals, then get the vision of this partnership. Casing large totals can be so emotionally and physically draining. There have been 57 times in Australia where teams have tried to chase down 300-plus totals and yet only six have been successful. The main reason many teams fail in huge run chases is that they take the soft option, the mentality of "let's just smash it and see if we get lucky" .

Bailey and Smith took the harder option to "run them off their legs" and they did it on their ear. Fans quickly forget ODI matches compared to Test matches, but I won't forget this one and the efforts of Smith and Bailey. Aggression is not only just smashing it, it's also about putting pressure on the opposition fielding team looking for quick ones and twos. Once the opposition are thinking what you are up to, then you have half won the game. Pick out their worst fielder and embarrass him. Let him know you are after him. 

I thought their partnership was simply the best exhibition of running between the wickets I have seen.