Could the absence of a toss impact on fielding levels in cricket’s...

Could the absence of a toss impact on fielding levels in cricket’s elite?

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To toss or not to toss? Pic: Yorkshire CCC, with thanks.

A roar goes up from Headingley’s North East stand as a foreign fielder tries to stop a four, fails and collides with the advertising boards in the process.

The ‘three factions of cricket’ are frequently spoken about at international level, but is the fielding faction becoming more prominent on the county circuit with the changes to the toss (or lack thereof)?

Today saw Yorkshire open their Specsavers County Championship account with Day One of their home match against Hampshire.

Whilst the morning saw a delayed start due to ice on the outfield it then didn’t get much better for the hosts as they found themselves 55-3 just 15 minutes before the lunch break.

The bowlers were getting some swing in the cool Leeds air and Adam Lyth, although striking the first ball of the season over mid-wicket for four, had racked up just 18 runs in 90 minutes and not only because wickets were falling at the other end and he had to try and stay put.

So, in this battle we have the bowlers and the batsmen who have both contributed plentifully. The symbiotic nature of their relationship not unacknowledged, the fact of the matter is there is a third faction to the structure of a cricket match: fielding.

The Hampshire fielders were putting on something of a masterclass in fielding – if the ball came their way, whether they were able to affect the fall of a wicket or not, they offered something to their side’s chance of victory.

In three, four maybe even five instances a Hampshire fielder – and it wasn’t any one in particular so I shan’t name names – threw himself towards the ball and prevented a boundary, on some occasions any run at all.

Fielding actions such as this helps to build pressure on the batting side; there is seldom worse a feeling than each time you make contact with the ball finding a fielder! And there is no need for us as English folk to explain what happens to a batting side under pressure…

It’s the first game of the season and therefore nigh-on impossible to comment whether this top-drawer fielding demonstration is something Hampshire have always done well, have worked on for general team development or whether it’s a direct response to the toss situation.

It could be that teams are looking to start tightly with their fielding because when they are the away team, their option is to bowl first or enforce a toss. If they can get off to the best possible start, the game and the whole season could turn.

It’s been witnessed numerous times on the international circuit that fielding is critical to the course of a game, admittedly the afternoon session of day one saw Yorkshire dominate with the bat but the morning session was very much Hampshire’s and preventing boundaries was a huge factor in that first session dominance which left Yorkshire on 80-3 from 30 overs.

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