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Explained: How T20 in sub-continent has become win-toss-win-game format

Win the toss, bowl first and win the match seems to be the mantra for success in the subcontinent. Why are teams so keen to chase in the T20 format? Will these trends prove to be decisive in the T20 World Cup?

Written by Vishal Menon , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
March 18, 2021 9:24:39 am
England's Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow celebrate winning the match against India, at Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on March 16, 2021. (Reuters Photo: Danish Siddiqui)

Captains winning the toss in T20s are generally preferring to bat second, and ending up winning a higher number of games in the subcontinent. In the recent Pakistan Super League, 13 out of the 14 games were won by teams that won the toss and decided to chase. The 2019 Indian Premier League saw 61.4% of the games going to teams bowling first. This narrative has now played out in the first three games of the ongoing T20 series between India and England as well. Win the toss, bowl first and win the match seems to be the mantra for success in the subcontinent. Why are teams so keen to chase in the shortest format in the subcontinent? Will these trends prove to be decisive in the T20 World Cup, scheduled in India later this year? Here are some of the reasons.

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Lack of clarity about the first-innings winning score: What constitutes an average winning first-innings score in T20s? How do teams batting first know whether 165 is enough? It’s been a vexing issue for most teams, and England captain Eoin Morgan had spoken about the difficulty and inherent lack of clarity in addressing it. This is prompting teams to bat second on a regular basis in the shortest format. “There’s absolute clarity about the score you need to post to win a match while batting second. You know how the wicket is playing. So even if the target is over 200, teams back their big hitters to get them past the finish line. This is why teams are preferring to chase,” former India opener Wasim Jaffer said.

Powerplay: In pursuit of posting a big score, teams batting first lose a cluster of wickets in the Powerplay. Former Pakistan wicketkeeper Rashid Latif wants batsmen to adopt a conservative approach and keep wickets intact.

“Batsmen need to approach it in a slightly conservative fashion. They should look to conserve wickets and not worry about playing dot balls. What they ought to do is increase the percentage of boundaries,” Latif said during a chat with host Nauman Niaz on YouTube channel Caught Behind.

Size of the ground: Winning the toss and batting second might well be the trend in the bigger grounds in the subcontinent. However, the reverse is generally true in some other parts of the world like England and New Zealand. “In England and New Zealand, T20Is are played on much smaller grounds and teams don’t mind batting first because they back themselves to register scores in excess of 200, which puts pressure on teams chasing,” Latif suggested.

Dew: Since the T20 World Cup is scheduled in October-November, a time of the year when dew could be a decisive factor prompting captains to bowl first. The dew makes the ball wet and affects the bowlers’ grip, be it spinners or pacers. When the dew isn’t heavy, it neutralises the vagaries of the pitch, and aids stroke-play.

The timing of the match is also crucial. “The dew becomes effective and makes the ball heavy at around 8pm. So, if it’s a 7pm start, the team batting first might get the advantage only in the last 30 minutes — six to seven overs — of their innings. However, when the second team comes out to bat (around 9pm), their batsmen will clearly have a distinct advantage from the start,” Prasanna Agoram, former analyst with the South African team, explained.

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