Cricket: Five keys to success in the T20

By David Leggat

James Franklin has the capacity to be a late innings blaster. Photo / Mark Mitchell
James Franklin has the capacity to be a late innings blaster. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Several teams fancy their chances of winning the fourth edition of the world T20 championship starting in Sri Lanka next week. When the dust settles it's a fair bet that the team holding the trophy aloft will have all, or at least most, of the following elements to the fore in their game...

1: Explosive start

A couple of overs to find your range, then nurdle it about until you're set to go? Forget it. In T20 you get a couple of balls as sighters, fewer in the closing overs. So it's about hitting the ground running.

Think Chris Gayle as the epitome of the flying opener. The Jamaican's strike rate is a rapid 143.91 per 100 balls. But even the cool cat's number is dwarfed by beefy South African Richard Levi.

He cleared his throat with 117 not out off just 51 balls, with 13 sixes at Hamilton last summer and has the highest strike rate in the game, 189.88.

Brendon McCullum is not the world's No 1 rated T20 batsman for nothing; Indian Virendar Sehwag, Sri Lankan Tillekaratne Dilshan, England's Craig Kieswetter and pugnacious Australian lefthander David Warner are all cut from similar cloth. The message to TV viewers is don't miss the start of these games.

2: Fielding whippets

You could argue this should be a given in all forms, but when the ball is flying hither and yon from the off teams must be equipped with fleet-footed men, possessing safe hands, good throwing arms and the ability to think in a blink if a run out opportunity arises.

Martin Guptill, Nathan McCullum, Kane Williamson lead the way for New Zealand, who overall are a decent outfit.

Pakistan, India and the West Indies are traditionally not in the top echelon. Pulling off a blinding catch is one sure way of inspiring those around you. Field like duds and there's no trophy coming your way.

3: Late innings blaster

Every team needs one, the batsman who can come in and conjure, say, 17 off six balls in the last couple of overs.

James Franklin and Jacob Oram have that capacity; so too Nathan McCullum if his eye is in. The key is being able to free the arms straight away.

It's a pure hitting job. West Indian Kieron Pollard, young England player Jos Buttler, Pakistani veteran Abdul Razzaq, India's Irfan Pathan and South African Wayne Parnell all fit that bill.

4: Class spinners

Note the plural. Rare will be the team who don't use at least two, or not three slow men during the championship. That's partly down to the conditions, which is not exactly dustbowls, tend to lend themselves to bowlers who can tie batsmen down or befuddle them.

Remember, batsmen can't mess about; these are not pad-away circumstances. Batsmen must take chances.

Spinners in T20 fall broadly into two categories: tight-fisted operators like England's Graeme Swann, Nathan McCullum or, when he's on song, Pakistan's charismatic Shahid Afridi; or the clever clogs, such as Pakistani wizard Saeed Ajmal, West Indian Sunil Narine and Sri Lankan puzzler Ajantha Mendis, who can prosper through a batsman's growing sense of urgency.

5: Death merchants

One man stands frizzy head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to shutting down the batsmen in the closing stages, and Lasith Malinga's finest hour awaits on his home turf.

The round-arm slinger is the ultimate go-to man for the final overs. He can latch onto the ideal length, and changes pace with a magician's sleight of hand.

South Africans Morne Morkel and New Zealand's Tim Southee are others well versed in end-of-innings requirements.

Some bowlers shy away when the heat goes on; others thrive on it. You need nerve and a cool brain. It doesn't need to be a fast bowler either but it helps, given that changes of pace can be a key ploy.

- NZ Herald

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