David Saker, the England bowling coach, said yesterday that the side were adapting to the changes in one-day rules and promised they would have mastered them by the time of the first game against India on Friday.
England take on Delhi here on Tuesday after their failure to get to grips with the new bowling regulations in the opening warm-up match against India A on Sunday. "We definitely bowled more bouncers than we probably should have, there's no doubt about it," admitted Saker, "it's just about making sure you assess the conditions well enough."
As England learnt to their cost in Sunday's 53-run defeat, just because an extra 50 bouncers are available doesn't mean they must be used. "Over here in these conditions, as we showed yesterday, the bouncer probably didn't work as well as it could have," Saker said.
The new changes to one-day cricket were rubber-stamped last October, when the International Cricket Council announced that from the start of this year, bowlers can include two bouncers per over, up from a more batsmen-friendly one. In addition, the bowling powerplay, a five-over period when the fielding side is allowed only three fielders outside the circle, was scrapped.
Pace bowlers rejoiced. Since fielding restrictions were first introduced in 1992, bowlers have felt like an unprotected species. However, what the ICC gave with the right hand, they took with the left. They restored the balance in the batsman's favour by simultaneously announcing that during all non-powerplay overs (ie 35 of the 50 available), only four fielders – rather than the usual five – would be allowed outside the circle. The move is fuelled by a desire to banish the often turgid middle overs when a deep-set field restricts crowd-pleasing boundaries and makes the scorer's book resemble binary code.
Saker should be up in arms, yet he went so far yesterday as to profess himself "really confident that the new rules are good additions to the game". He added he is "a big fan of the extra fielder in the ring. I think it's going to help".
In a sign of a more aggressive approach under England's new one-day coach Ashley Giles and with a thickly-veiled criticism of tactics under previous regimes, Saker said: "Everyone keeps saying the batters are going to benefit but I've always thought that captains have the fielder out way too many times when they should be bringing them in." His rationale is that, "it will put a little bit of pressure on batsmen to hit over that guy that comes in, especially if it's a mid-off or a mid-on and that could produce wickets."
England have just today's warm-up match here at the Faroz Shah Kotla Stadium to perfect their plans before they play their first competitive game of 2013. Come Friday in Rajkot, Saker will be praying his charges prove that what the experts view as meat to the batsmen is really poison.