BY far the most remarkable aspect of Yorkshire’s victory against Gloucestershire last week was the relative ease with which it was achieved.
A target of 400 from a minimum of 110 overs was comfortably accomplished by Andrew Gale’s men, who prevailed by four wickets with 20 balls to spare in the second-highest run-chase in Yorkshire’s history. It was further proof, were any required, that the face of batting has completely changed. For where once such a target would have been deemed improbable, nowadays it is viewed as eminently gettable, particularly if one possesses the adventurous attitude shown by captain Gale and first-team coach Jason Gillespie, who forfeited their side’s first innings in Bristol to deliberately contrive a remarkable finish.
Afterwards, Gillespie stated something even more remarkable – that he would have backed his team to have chased even 450.
But it was no bravado on the Australian’s part – merely a recognition that nothing is beyond a group of players if they possess sufficient skill and belief.
It was precisely the type of approach shown by the great Australian sides in which Gillespie featured, which played no small part in remodelling the face of modern batting.
For with the likes of Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist in their ranks, no target was apparently beyond the Australians, who were able to score quickly at any stage regardless of conditions or state of the match.
A quick glance at the record books shows that we live in an era where batsmen are steadily raising the bar.
The highest individual Test innings, for example, for so long the property of Sir Garry Sobers, who scored 365 not out against Pakistan at Kingston in 1958, has been bettered on four occasions since 1994.
The man who now holds the highest individual Test score, Brian Lara, who made 400 not out against England in Antigua in 2004, also achieved the highest innings in first-class cricket in 1994 as well – 501 not out for Warwickshire against Durham at Edgbaston.
In addition, eight of the top-20 individual innings in Test cricket have been achieved since the turn of the millennium, and 13 as recently as 1990.
Five of the top-10 partnerships in Tests have been made since 1997, the highest the 624 by Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene for Sri Lanka against South Africa at Colombo in 2006, which is also a record for all first-class cricket.
Even in Yorkshire’s history there are signs of the prevailing trend; prior to last Saturday, Yorkshire had only twice scored more than 331 to win a first-class game – 406-4 against Leicestershire at Grace Road in 2005 and 400-4 against the same opponents at Scarborough in the same year.
The most obvious reason why records have fallen has been the gradual emergence of one-day cricket and, in particular, Twenty20 cricket.
Batsmen are improvising as never before, with shots such as the Dilshan scoop and Pietersen switch-hit having revolutionised the way that people play.
The size of bats is bigger too; where once Sir Donald Bradman employed a famously light blade, now significantly heavier bats are commonplace, while long gone are the days when a total of six-an-over was practically guaranteed to win you a one-day match.
Although a counter-argument is that fielding has improved, so, too, has the willingness of batsmen to clear the rope whenever possible, whatever the format of cricket involved.
This was evidenced by the fact that Yorkshire batsman Gary Ballance won the match at Bristol with successive sixes to seal the win – one that was improbable, for sure, but not, in the modern era, entirely unexpected.