So what's a safe total in ODIs these days? The Australians will state that even 376 is inadequate, after a rousing match against Sri Lanka at the Sydney Cricket Ground. True, they won by 64 runs, a hefty enough margin, but who would have bet against the Lankans winning the match when Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathew were going great guns?
Unfortunately for Lanka, Chandimal pulled a hamstring just when it appeared that the bowling would wilt. He walked off the field retired hurt, and the match veered irretrievably Australia's way. A few more overs of him in the middle could have possibly made for a different script.
Mahela Jayawardene's needless run-out also contributed to some extent to the defeat. It was rank bad error of judgment by a senior pro when there was really no need for sharp singles. But Chandimal's dismissal hurt the most.
He was in such blazing form that he not only helped his side recover from the double blow of Jayawardene and the remarkable Sangakkara who scored his third successive ton, but looked like he might finish off the much well before 50 overs had been bowled.
Chandimal's half century came off only 22 deliveries, and it seemed then that he might upstage Glen Maxwell who had hit a blasted a rousing 51-ball century to take Australia to their imposing total. But fate dealt him and Sri Lanka a cruel blow.
The result of the match was important to the extent that it determined which team would finish in the top two of Pool A. Otherwise both Australia and Sri Lanka were assured of a place in the quarter-finals even before taking the field.
A whopping 688 were scored in the day. The intrepidity of the run chase and the derring-do in strokeplay became the compelling story. It also raises the question: is there a limit to the number of runs that can be scored in an innings these days?
Since dot balls are anathema in T20, the newer breed of batsmen are growing up in an environment where improvisation is not merely desirable, but imperative.
South Africa have already notched up two scores in excess of 400, one of them against the West Indies, which has a fairly good bowling attack. India, in the three innings they have batted first and played out 50 overs have made more than 300. Sri Lanka, before Sunday's game, had chased down 300-plus losing only one wicket!
Better bats, stronger players and fast outfields have obviously contributed to this run-mayhem, and this has been discussed at length. But the biggest change has come from the newfound uninhibitedness of batsmen in the T20 era.
It's almost as if the shortest format has helped batsmen shrug off their compunctions about technique and risk-taking. Since dot balls are anathema in T20, the newer breed of batsmen are growing up in an environment where improvisation is not merely desirable, but imperative.
This has compelled a change in mindset of players from an earlier era too, for example AB de Villiers and Kumar Sangakkara to name two who have evolved their game brilliantly to fit any format. But while these are exceptional talents, T20 power hitters have also supplanted themselves in the ODI format.
Ten or twelve years back, batsmen like Maxwell and Chandimal would have been reprimanded by coaches for hitting the ball in the air even in ODIs, perhaps even lost their places. The construct of the 50-over format demanded some circumspection, some 'settling in', with the big hitting coming in the slog or death overs.
That thought process is now passé. The two batting power plays and the new field restrictions have decreased the risk quotient to a big extent, but it is the mental approach of batsmen, backed by greater physical strength, which marks the ODI out as a different game from the one which was played 2-3 decades back.
Where scores of 250 at one time were considered defendable, nowadays teams target that many runs in 25-30 overs if too many wickets have not been lost in the first 20. Unless the pitch and conditions are so heavily loaded in favour of bowlers, big scoring matches have become the norm rather than the exception.
So then, what's the 'new' safe score? Go figure!Suggest a correction