How the 438 game changed cricket

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

BOETA Dippenaar faced seven balls and scored a solitary single in the 438 match. How did he change the game?

“I should have been man-of-the-match,” Dippenaar said. “If I had faced another over we would never have won.”

Jokes aside, the game is vastly changed from that mad day at the Wanderers 10 years ago. Here’s how:

1. 400 is not what it used to be

Teams totalled 360 or more 10 times in the 2 348 ODIs played before the 438 game. In the 1 389 ODIs played since 360 has been reached 49 times. Seventeen times that figure has soared to and beyond 400.

“It was like Roger Bannister breaking the barrier for running a mile in under four minutes,” Dippenaar said. It was so far from what was normal that it almost seemed unreal.”

2. Bowlers are children of lesser gods

“Cricket has become tougher for bowlers since then because what Is doable by batsmen has changed,” Dippenaar said.

“We used to see seven or eight runs an over causing major warning lights to go off. These days if a team gets down to the last three overs and they need 30 runs they feel they have a better than average chance of knocking it off. The boundaries have shifted.”

3. Death bowling is dead

When last have you seen a bowler send down more than one yorker in an over, nevermind six on the bounce? And why do they insist that to do so would make them predictable?

Tell that to a certain woolly-headed Sri Lankan who bowled as if he was aiming a low-slung shotgun at his quarry.

“Lasith Malinga was able to consistently get the ball into the blockhole,” Dippenaar said. “It seems as if no bowler playing today is prepared to add that string to their bow. I’m not convinced bowlers want to do the hard work to be able to do that.”

4. More experts in the field

Trust the suits to see the 438 game as an opportunity to squeeze even more runs from 50 overs by fiddling the fielding restrictions.

“Batsmen have changed the game with all the sweeping and reverse sweeping against fast bowlers,” Dippenaar said. “That’s happened because, towards the end of the innings, either third man or fine leg could not be put on the fence. To even things up an additional fielder could be put outside the 30-metre circle.”

5. Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Who? Who? Who?

Before the 438 game SA had won just one of the dozen bilateral series the sides had contested across both formats. Australia? Seven. In the 15 rubbers they have contested since, the gap has narrowed to 8-5 in the Aussies’ favour. 

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