Why Do Teams Collapse In Finals

Melbourne Cricket Club and Carlton Cricket Club both would have entered their respective 1st XI semi finals matches of Victorian Premier Cricket today full of confidence after authoritative victories in the first round last weekend.

Both won the toss and elected to bat first. Conditions were fine and with strong batting line ups, expectations of a solid day at the crease would have been high.

For the purpose of this post we will focus on the information gleaned from the Melbourne v Richmond match. Melbourne had to forfeit home ground advantage due to the F1 Grand Prix event that removes the magnificent Albert Ground from being available. The match being shifted to Princes Park #1 Oval, the home ground of Carlton.

The venue is overwhelmingly in favour of the batting side in most matches. The club has long been at the upper end of quality in presenting wickets of very close to first class standard. An outfield of grass coverage that allows proper velocity of the ball to produce runs with a short straight boundary provides the balance of a proper contest.

Carlton over the duration of the home and away season, use these conditions to their own benefit in churning out the runs.

  • 1st XI = 3239 runs @ 27 runs per wicket,
  • 2nd XI = 3685 runs (#1 in competition) @ 37 runs per wicket

Across all matches at the venue this season, 12 centuries and 39 half-centuries have been scored. No fear for the batsman. Roll up, lock in and enjoy the sweet sound of willow on leather and regale in the pleasant exertion of running between wickets as your total blooms in the late summer warmth.

So today, Andrew Kent the esteemed captain of Melbourne with more than 10,000 Premier Cricket runs @ 35.75 with 16 centuries and 62 half-centuries of his own, wins the toss and without hesitation bats first.

Melbourne CC this season with 4,140 runs @ 28 runs per wicket, always solid in any contest. When drawn to play the Demons, expectation is that some defensive bowling shall be called upon as expect to bowl the maximum quota.

With Brad Hodge rejoining the Demons in this finals phase, the requirement to only draw the game to proceed and Sunday weather prediction looking problematic for a full days play – on the toss Tom Waterhouse would have had the top team well in the red and plenty of runs by stumps.

Melbourne lost opener Petricola for 5 from 33 balls at 1/23 after the initial launch from the Tigers bowlers in Shimell and giant left arm seamer and captain, Allan Wise, had been seen off, Will Sheridan claiming the scalp. Drinks was reached at 1/39 from 15 overs, a pleasing enough position.

Richmond started to shuffle the bowlers. Dom Matarazzo, a late inclusion (but a very impressive player) was probably not expecting to get a chance before Jack Taylor or Sam Kerber with the ball. However he was able to induce the error from Kent for 26 from 55 balls, adjudged leg before, the score at 2/49. From here, apart from Sebastian Gotch who was last man dismissed for 70 runs, the remaining 8 batsmen contributed 14 runs plus 10 extras between them to be bowled out for 125 in 40.1 overs. Following the Kent wicket from post drinks to lunch, Melbourne lost a further 5 wickets for 21 runs.

A batting list that included many high level players for this standard of competition plus Hodge and Alex Keath that have played at higher levels. Wise removed 5 of these 8 and finished with the tremendous figures of 5/39 from 15 overs.

Match scorecard

Here is the conundrum of a coach watching this batting catastrophe and disintegration without any hint of warning or logic.

  • Why? How?
  • How many conversations around support, encouragement and counselling along with innumerable balls thrown, bowled or fed into a machine had been shredded by this inept display?

The batting list is strong, confident, aggressive and experienced. Many players have played plenty of finals together. Brenton McDonald a recent Ryder Medal winner and ex-Tiger.

Being at the ground in the latter part of the afternoon as Cameron White launched an assault with an unbeaten 87 that assured an already certain victory, conversations with several observers revealed the following:

  • Didn’t respect the opposition
  • Poor level of awareness against an experienced bowler in Wise
  • Kept wanting to hit the ball through the field to score
  • Not patient enough to defend or leave early
  • Not willing to soak up balls
  • Seemed to be sweating on length and anything full just went at hard

Melbourne CC is rightfully so a very proud club with enormous expectations. After conceding the match at the end of the first day’s play, they are in the unusual position of having no teams left in finals action. An interesting review of brutal honesty would be expected.

If I had the answer for the reason behind this batting collapse in a final, I would willingly share this clarity. However this is another intriguing example of the beauty of the game that lures us in to its heart.

Sleep well Tigers for at this stage in 2014/15, Demon is dead.

About Andrew Walton

Cricket exposure as a player, coach, fan, observer, analyst & tragic! Coach at Melbourne Cricket Club. Academy coach at Karnataka Institute of Cricket, Bangalore.
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