When a limping, struggling and tired Ross Taylor pulled off a stunning run chase against England with his unbeaten knock of 181 off just 147 deliveries at Dunedin, it showed each and every situation we face in our lives — the struggle, a period of smooth-sailing, adversity, hardships and most importantly, the will to rise above everything.
He contributed 53.39 percent of the team’s runs alone with his knock of 181. Although, he had the support of Kane Williamson, Tom Latham and Colin de Grandhomme, the sheer brilliance of his innings was the way he held himself together till the very end and the volume of his individual runs he scored, which made it look like a solo act.
Taylor has been New Zealand’s most prolific middle-order batsman over the years. He has dug his team out of trouble numerous times in his career. At Dunedin, Taylor became a part of a special trend of scores as he did justice to his potential and finished things off almost singlehandedly.
What made his innings far more special was the fact that he became the first-ever No 4 batsman to register a score of 180-plus while chasing in ODIs. Moreover, the knock added him to the list of players who have notched up scores of 180s while chasing. Individual scores of 180s have always resulted in successful ODI run chases and Taylor’s innings was no exception to that.
This was the sixth time a batsman had registered a score in the range of 180-189 runs while chasing in ODI cricket history and all six of them have resulted in victories for the respective teams.
Generally, scoring that many runs is very difficult for an individual because of the huge pressure that comes with chasing. Moreover, targets are not big enough every time to warrant a near-200 individual score by a member of the chasing team. Take for instance, the occasions when batsmen have notched up 190-plus scores in ODIs. There have been nine such instances so far and all of them have come while batting first. That sums up the whole story in general as starting from Saeed Anwar’s 194 to Rohit Sharma’s 264, all have been first innings exploits.
Take for instance the other ranges, say starting from scores of 150 and above. Although, we would see that batsmen have actually notched up such big hundreds in chases, the percentage of those instances as compared to first innings instances is pretty low.
Only nine of the total 46 instances when a batsman has scored in the 150-159 range have come while chasing. And while seven of them have ensured victories for their respective teams, a couple of instances resulted in heartbreaks and tragic endings. It shows that even such a big score doesn’t ensure victory at all.
The same goes for the ranges 160-169 and 170-179. Only four of the total 22 instances in each range have come in run-chases. And only three of them have been successful while one has been unsuccessful. The 170-179 range, however, has witnessed a couple of the best ODI run chases the world has ever seen — Kapil Dev’s 175* against Zimbabwe and Herschelle Gibbs’ 175 against Australia. Both helped in pulling off near impossible targets.
Moreover, the percentage of instances resulting in run chases goes on decreasing with each range. It starts with 19.56 percent for 150-159 range and decreases to 18.18 for each of 160-169 and 170-179 ranges respectively.
The percentage disminishes to zero completely when it breaches the 190-run barrier. However, it defies the trend in between the range of 180-189 runs. The percentage of instances coming in run chases takes a sharp rise to 40 percent in that range and a cent percent victory record in six of such instances out of total 15 instances confirms the value of these runs.
Somehow, these enormous volume of individual runs have ensured victory for teams in run chases on all occasions. We may call it a magic number or range. However, a close look at these figures logically would reveal that it becomes impossible for a team to defend a total when an individual from the opponent team scores over fifty percent of the runs required.
There have been such instances in lower ranges of 150-159, 160-169 and 170-179 too, that is, when batsmen have scored more than fifty percent of required runs. Despite that, teams have ended up on losing side as the statistics in the table above would suggest. However, the simple fact is—the more the runs an individual scores, the better it is for the chasing team. So higher the volume of individual contribution, higher are the chances of victory. Individual contributions of 160s and 170s may still fail to take teams to their respective targets. In fact, those extra 10-20 runs are what make the scores of 180s so special.
All six of those innings ranging between scores of 180-189 have been different in their aspects. The likes of Shane Watson, MS Dhoni and Martin Guptill completely outplayed their oppositions scoring that many runs ruthlessly while chasing targets below 300. It appeared like they just did it for fun and the beauty of their innings lied in their brutality.
The likes of Virat Kohli, Ross Taylor and Jason Roy, on the other hand, made chasing big targets look like a cake walk with their superb innings in times of need. It was their calm, composed and calculative approaches that worked while chasing those huge targets. It appeared like they were soldiers on their respective missions and every step was calculated and pre-planned.
Dhoni was the pioneer of this trend notching up the first score of 180s in a run chase back in 2005 against Sri Lanka at Jaipur. A target of 299 runs used to be pretty huge in those days. But, Dhoni batted on that day like he someone from today’s T20 generation. He smashed 15 fours and 10 sixes in that innings which was a world record in those days. On that very day, the world got a glimpse of what was about to come in the future.
It took six more years for someone to notch up another score of 180. The brutality of Watson’s 185* against Bangladesh at Dhaka in 2011 took the world by storm . He took just 96 deliveries to score those runs and clobbered 15 fours and as many number of sixes while chasing a modest total of 233 runs.
And next year in 2012, Kohli produced another knock that was probably the best of the existing knocks in 180-189 range until Taylor played an unbelievable one recently. Kohli’s 183 came against arch-rivals Pakistan in an Asia Cup tie. More than brutality, it was characterized by calm and composed calculations under pressure.
It took another five years for this trend to pick up pace again. And we have witnessed three such scores of 180s in the past one year—one each from Guptill, Roy and Taylor. Guptill’s knock against South Africa last year was once again an instance of brutality. Roy’s knock against Australia in January this year came as a soothing breeze for English fans in the aftermath of the Ashes debacle. And Taylor’s knock came in a situation of crisis when all odds were against New Zealand.
Each of those innings were special and each one of those will be remembered as the best knocks the world has ever seen in run chases. The scores of 180s and run chases seem like working out with each other pretty well. And maybe the combination will go on to script many more victories in future.