Friday, 20 August 2010

Twenty20's Fine Margins

I was at the Rose Bowl for Finals Day of the Twenty20 cup last Saturday. Sure, I've already podcasted about it, but another blog about it can't hurt. I mean, if any cricket tournament ever was to have saturated coverage, it would be the 170+ game extravaganza that has been this year's FPt20.

While the competition had a ridiculous amount of games, the nature of Twenty20 is seen in the fine margins between victory and defeat. Notts missed out in the semis (boo) by slipping just below a high Duckworth/Lewis score (by 3 runs), and Somerset lost the final after a scrambled leg-bye was taken off a ball which should have been lbw, meaning they lost by wickets in hand. Fine margins indeed.

Coaches, analysts and self-appointed experts often speak of how improved fielding can make all the difference in the shortest form, as a boundary saved or a fine catch can be the margin between a win or a loss. And in the semi, we saw that as Kieron Pollard both saved a six and took a great catch to dismiss Samit Patel. This had the double impact of slightly altering the D/L, meaning for the first time in the game Notts slipped below par - and sod's law dictated that less than an over later they were off for rain and Notts were off home.

Obviously anyone who saw the final will be very aware of the fine margins throughout. In the Somerset innings, Dom Cork found the fine margin between Pollard's visor and grill; managing to smack the Trinidadian right in the eye. And in the final overs it was all happening. A dropped catch by Nick Compton from Sean Ervine, Craig Kieswetter failing three times to run out Hampshire as they sneaked byes, Daniel Christian scrambling a run with only one leg, the umpire missing Zander de Bruyn's massive lbw appeal off the final ball which would have won it for Somerset.

So what does this say about Twenty20 cricket? Had one (or more) of those 'events' (as Bumble loves to refer to deliveries in T20) gone differently, they would have been dancing on the streets of Taunton on Saturday evening, rather than Eastleigh. So basically Twenty20 is down to luck?

Yes and no. While Notts ended up short thanks to D/L and a good catch from Pollard, the real reason they didn't have enough runs was that they weren't athletic enough in their running. Patel is notoriously large, and David Hussey is no spring chicken, and all to often clear twos were rejected as the pair weren't able to push hard enough. Yes, in Twenty20 cricket the best team often wins, but when the teams are evenly matched, the result is down to the fine margins between teams. That and a heap of luck.

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