Cricket: Twenty20 bowling “101”-is it really that hard?

Dale Steyn v Mitchell Starc (photos: Getty Images)
Dale Steyn v Mitchell Starc (photos: Getty Images)

Recent performances in world Twenty20 cricket – especially with the ball – has got me thinking; is there anyone in a national side that still knows how to bowl a good yorker or land it on an uncertain length for a batsman consistently?

Mitchell Starc can hardly be forgiven for his penultimate over debacle against the West Indies in the World Twenty20Requiring 31 to win from 12 balls, it was Australia’s game to lose on Friday night.  One delivery can change the momentum of a Twenty20 game; two balls can be worrying.  Six bad balls is a whole world of hurt.

I was very disappointed watching Starc trying to bowl everything wide of the batsmen, rather than stick to a consistent attacking line at the stumps.  Would it have saved some runs?  Quite possibly.  What is certain is the pressure on the West Indies would have remained, rather than being released.

Watching test matches, rarely is there a whole over of full and wide or short and wide deliveries.  Rather, bowlers playing test cricket can – nine times out of ten – hit a good line and length and not concede runs.

The counter argument here is Twenty20 is a whole different ball game.  It is; but principles of line and length bowling exist in all three formats.

Starc is certainly not the first to notch up an over (and this one against the West Indies went for 19 runs) at the death which has given the chasing team a chance.

Here’s three points that I believe could come in handy when bowling in Twenty20:

  •         Experimentation is not needed for every ball in the over.  It gifts the opposition runs.  Demonstrated by Darren Sammy on Friday, being too predictable as a bowler in T20 is going to hurt the fielding side.  Bowling to your field is critical, especially in the last two overs.
  •         Bowl someone who can tie up an end.  Pacemen can be very easy targets for the big-hitters; utilising spinners could potentially have batsmen going for the big shots and having them less likely to succeed.
  •         If your opposition is chasing, and you have all the momentum; don’t lose it. A game plan needs to be tight, and bowlers sending the ball wide at the end is like candy to the batsman on strike.

There you have it.  Being able to restrict the chasing team can come down to simple logic.

South Africa’s dynamo fast bowler Dale Steyn played a polar opposite role against New Zealand at the start of the competition.  With the Kiwis requiring seven from the final over (chasing 171), the over produced turned the game into an absolute thriller.

How did Steyn do it?  By putting the ball in areas that made the batsman play a bad shot or work hard to score runs.  That final over read:

W, 0, 0, 4, W, W (RO)

Grabbing three wickets was the key; but not giving the opposition any room to play shots over the top squeezed the life out of New Zealand.

Crucially, the fielding stuck too.  Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis held on to what proved to be match-winning catches.

“Smash and bash” is the essential nature of Twenty20 cricket.  Bowling isn’t just a part of the play, it’s an art; to concede as few runs as possible, and working in partnerships.  Variety becomes lacking at times, and it is incredibly frustrating to watch (onus on the pacemen with this) short ball after short ball being bowled at times.  There is too much time given to the batsman to swing away.

Good balls win matches; wickets even more so.  The chance of snaring one is more likely by bowling closer to the stumps than attempting to have the batsman swing air at each ball.

Bowlers, take note; the batsmen love short, wide balls and full tosses.

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