Prior to this World Cup, there were plenty of pundits forecasting the tournament would descend into an orgy of run-scoring, with bowlers reduced to cannon-fodder.
Their worst fears appear to have been realised with 14 scores of 300 and over already and the group stage not yet complete.
The record for most 300-plus totals in a single World Cup has been broken in each of the last three editions —- 2003 (nine), 2007 (16) and 2011 (17) — and 2015 is heading the same way.
Yet hope for long-suffering bowlers arrived in the unlikeliest of settings.
Before Saturday’s clash between co-hosts New Zealand and Australia in Auckland, there was much speculation about the damage the power-hitters on both sides might do given Eden Park’s short straight boundaries.
But the result was a low-scoring thriller, with just 303 runs made in total, as New Zealand clung on to win the match of the tournament so far by just one wicket.
It was a case of ‘back to the future’ as conventional swing bowling from New Zealand’s Trent Boult (five for 27) and Australia’s Mitchell Starc (six for 28), admittedly both something of a rarity given they are left-arm quicks, proved too much for batsmen used to hitting through the line of straight deliveries.
New Zealand prevailed after making 152 for nine in reply to Australia’s 151 all out, with the bowlers on both sides well-supported by attacking fields.
Significantly, New Zealand’s Daniel Vettori — whose brand of orthodox left-arm spin has been overshadowed by an emphasis on ‘mystery’ tweakers, played a key role in slowing Australia’s run-rate with two for 41 in 10 overs.
– ‘Defend new ball’ –
Australia captain Michael Clarke labelled his side’s batting as “horrendous” and said they needed to revisit some old-fashioned basics.
“I think sometimes in T20 cricket and one-day cricket you can get caught up working on the power side of your game,” said Clarke.
“I don’t think we have had too many training sessions where we have worked on the start of our game and actually defending the brand new ball or the swinging ball and that’s an area we can focus on because I think you face conditions like that all around the world, not just here in New Zealand.
“The ball is going to swing and we have some work to do with the bat.”
England’s two recent matches in Wellington highlighted the difference between what can happen when the ball swings — and when it doesn’t.
Against New Zealand, they were shot out for just 123 as right-arm seamer Tim Southee, getting the ball to move in the air, took seven for 33.
Yet on Sunday, with James Anderson and Stuart Broad rarely getting the ball to deviate, England were unable to defend a target of 310 as Sri Lanka eased to a nine-wicket win on the back of hundreds by Lahiru Thirmanne (139 not out) and Kumar Sangakkara (117 not out).
There remains a feeling that, with bigger bats, increased fielding restrictions and two new balls, one-day cricket has become unfairly weighted against bowlers.
South Africa batting great Barry Richards, speaking before the New Zealand-Australia match, suggested bowlers be allowed to rub the ball in the dirt, something banned under current rules, in one-day games to gain reverse-swing.
Richards, who in his 1970s globetrotting heyday used a relatively light bat by modern standards, also called for weight restrictions to the blades wielded by such heavy-hitters as West Indies opener Chris Gayle, who smashed a World Cup record 215 against Zimbabwe on February 24.
“The pressing of cricket bats has to be controlled and the thickness in their edges. Maybe there can also be a designated sweet-spot area for bats,” Richards told the Sydney Daily Telegraph.
“Ours used to be about the size of a 50 cent piece but now they are much bigger…These are just a few of my ideas, because batsmen have it too easy,” said Richards.
Those who faced Boult and Starc last weekend might disagree.
This article was written by Julian Guyer from Agence France Presse and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.