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Four things we learned from the 2016 World T20

We could have done more than four, but the article was starting to look a bit long so we just arbitrarily drew a line under things. It’s not even the best four. It’s just the first four that came to mind.

Darren Sammy can channel energy

Marlon’s upset with Shane Warne, Chris is upset because he got told off, everyone’s upset with the West Indies Cricket Board and with Mark Nicholas for saying they were short of brains. ‘Good,’ says Darren Sammy. ‘Use that.’

The Windies captain even managed to convince his side that the world was against them when they were playing England in the final and the cricket world was therefore most definitely with them.

Quarter finals aren’t for cricket

Upsets are still possible when international cricket tournaments have quarter finals, but when a sport generally has precisely eight teams that are noticeably stronger than the others, whittling the contenders down to eight doesn’t tend to deliver much in the way of jeopardy or excitement.

This tournament, which went straight from the group stage to semi-finals, had a much better way of doing things. It meant the first phase of the tournament had actual hard-to-predict knockout matches.

The bigger the match, the more likely it is that a bit of part-time dob will buy you a wicket

Joe Root’s part-time offspin, while not technically dob, accounted for both of West Indies’ openers in the space of just three balls in the final. Virat Kohli’s rather more classical dob also reaped instant dividends in the semi.

Dob is much undervalued in professional cricket. Bowl it in the County Championship and there’s no real danger, but in a high pressure Twenty20 match, the batsman feels compelled to hit out. All that talk of targeting weaker bowlers means that when a captain brings on Alan McMilitary-Straight-Up-And-Down the batsman feels compelled to maximise his return on the next six deliveries. As often as not, this seems to involve him skying the first one to an outfielder.

There’s more than one way to win a Twenty20 match

Maybe this could replace that famous cat-skinning saying, which after all isn’t really very nice. A lot of people like to assume that whoever’s won a given Twenty20 match must therefore be playing the best ‘brand’ of cricket, but it’s clear from this tournament that all any result really means is that the victors were playing their brand of cricket better than the opposition were playing theirs.

New Zealand duffled – yes, duffled – their way through a series of matches by smothering the opposition with an endless rotation of spinners; England tried to score as fast as they could throughout their innings in the knowledge that there were always more batsmen to come; and The Windies dawdled about and then hit sixes. All were perfectly viable ways of setting about things. One day you could be watching Joe Root or Virat Kohli winning a match by refusing to face a single dot ball. The next day, Marlon Samuels faces 21 of them and the West Indies still win.

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Everyone knows that hitting four successive sixes is hard, right?

We’re just checking, only a great many people seem to be holding Ben Stokes entirely responsible for England’s defeat. Sometimes the player hitting the sixes has some sort of say in things too.

Think of it like this: if you were a primitive human and you sent one of your tribe out to take on an alien with a pointed stick, only for the alien to vaporise him with his ray gun, would it be fair to take issue with Terry’s stick-prodding technique?

Carlos Brathwaite hit four sixes on the bounce to win the World T20. With tens of thousands of people shouting at him in the ground, millions more watching at home and everything he’d worked for his entire life hinging on what he did next, it was a thick slab of brilliance.

It’s not like Brathwaite set himself for one particular shot and Stokes served it up on a trendy oblong plate garnished with fresh herbs and drizzled with some sort of balsamic jus.

The first one was angled into his pads and he picked it up and hoisted it behind square leg. The second one was again legside, near enough a yorker, and he did some sort of weird contortion and wristed it over long on. The third one was again yorkerish, this time on the stumps, and departed over long off, despite having taken what looked like a leading edge. The fourth was again legside and Brathwaite just snapped his wrists through it and plopped it into the crowd.

There were good balls and bad balls in there, but the bad ones were arguably even harder to hit for six.

The first one was a bad ball in a Test match because it would never take a wicket. A batsman could easily run it away for a single or possibly even clip it for four. It wasn’t easy to hit for six though. From that angle, into the body, it was bloody hard to hit for six. Just because it ended up over the ropes doesn’t mean it was always destined to end up there. The outcome colours our perception of what came before.

To hold Ben Stokes responsible for what Carlos Brathwaite did seems a peculiarly backwards way of looking at things to us; like blaming a pedestrian for getting hit by a drunk driver. Maybe the victim could have worn hi-vis or taken a different route, but that’s not really the point is it? The point is that the guy behind the wheel was pissed and decided to drive.

So, to recap: hitting sixes is hard.

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West Indies’ 2016 World T20 win: Fortunately for them, they weren’t playing cyborgs

Ben Stokes’ coolly outmanoevred Carlos Brathwaite at the death. Had the West Indian launched his attack earlier in the match, he could have hit six sixes in an over. As it was, he was denied by winning the World T20 after just four balls. Stokes is doubtless delighted.

The desired rate

There was no required rate when England batted, but there was certainly a desired rate. Samuel Badree’s opening salvo (2-16 off four) meant that they were always behind the desired rate. A few extra risks perhaps ensued.

There’s actually a case for saying that Eoin Morgan’s golden duck in the semi-final was a better innings than his 12-ball effort in the final. Facing for a tenth of England’s innings, Morgan contributed just five runs. In some respects it’s hard to blame him being as England were 8-2 when he came in, but in other, more meaningful respects, it also wasn’t good enough. Those who followed him were forced into trying to pick up the slack.

Contrast Morgan’s innings with that of Joe Root, who calmly and seemingly effortlessly rebuilt while scoring at a rate of 150 runs per hundred balls. That’s what was needed. No, it’s not easy to do, but this is the final of a world tournament. It’s about being the best.

Singles par or swingers par?

England’s score apparently fell short of ‘par’. For most of their innings, West Indies also didn’t look like achieving such a thing. Despite this, the commentators continued talking about it, as if it were of any relevance whatsoever. Maybe if the teams were playing against some sort of generic cyborg side whose results were generated by a computer before the match, it would have made sense. But they weren’t. They were playing each other.

West Indies’ innings

There’s definitely a case for bowling your five shittest bowlers in the most high pressure matches. There is nothing harder for a professional batsman to time than loopy filth.

Then there’s the ego aspect. If you open the bowling with Joe Root, for example, there is almost an obligation to get after him lest England fiddle through a couple of economical overs. And if you’re going to play on someone’s ego, pick your target carefully. Chris Gayle did what was expected of him. Johnson Charles was a bonus.

But it wasn’t really enough. Even when it got down to 19 needed from the final over, 19 didn’t seem all that large a number – although we couldn’t really have imagined how small it would prove to be. Carlos Brathwaite produced what must rank as the most brutally clinical finish under unimaginable pressure.

Moral of the story

The best way to win Twenty20 matches is to bat slowly and patiently, building a platform, before having a great big slog at the end. Turns out England were ahead of the game all that time. And now they’re behind again.

No, the truth is there’s no secret to Twenty20. The trick, really, is to play well no matter what your strategy.

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Eight things to bear in mind ahead of the World T20 final between England and the West Indies

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

You can call it a preview if you want, but it’s more of a disorderly fact-dump.

1. Windies’ spinners don’t go for owt

Samuel Badree conceded 5.68 runs an over in this tournament. Sulieman Benn’s conceded 5.78. Hell, even Chris Gayle’s banged out three overs for 17 and we thought he’d retired from bowling a year or so ago.

2. David Willey usually gets a wicket

Usually early on and while it’s usually a catch, he hits the pads of right-handers a lot. Johnson Charles should watch out. He probably will be doing though because (a) that’s his job and (b) Willey got him for a duck last time they played.

3. Darren Sammy has actually been playing

You may have missed him. He’s bowled two overs and faced 11 balls.

4. Liam Plunkett has been England’s most economical bowler

True story. He replaced Reece Topley in the team and Topley has been their least economical. Does that mean Plunkett’s way better or that the Windies’ batsmen Topley had to bowl to are way better? Well that’s why they’re playing this match – to deduce whether Liam Plunkett or Reece Topley is the better T20 bowler for England. Also for silverware.

5. Chris Gayle hasn’t made runs in a while

He made 100 not out last time these two teams met, but since then for one reason or another he’s only actually added another nine.

6. India weren’t actually all that good

The West Indies may seem terrifying to England fans after brushing India aside, but it’s worth pointing out that India weren’t actually all that good in this tournament, so of course the West Indies won. India got by with one-and-a-half batsmen and a bit of solid bowling. They got bowled out for 79 chasing 127 against New Zealand and they should have been knocked out by Bangladesh if Bangladesh hadn’t been even more hellbent on losing the game than India were.

7. England have basically never been to India before

This cannot help their cause. Hardly any of them had played an international match in India before this tournament. They don’t know how to survive there. They don’t know that on a cheap hotel menu ‘scrumble toast’ almost certainly means ‘scrambled egg on toast’. They don’t know that ‘smelinge on toast’ is… actually, we’re not sure what that was and we didn’t dare order it. We suppose there’s also a chance that England are staying in plush air-conditioned hotels rather than smelinge-on-toast kinds of establishment.

8. The final’s being played at Eden Gardens

Should probably pore through the stats to work out the implications of this. Can’t be arsed.

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Virat Kohli is not a bowler, Lendl Simmons is not out, Andre Russell is not suspended

India became so utterly convinced of Virat Kohli’s Midas touch that they gave him an over with the ball. He took a wicket with his first ball. That was the point where they should probably have drawn a line under things. Instead, Kohli came back to bowl the final over with the West Indies needing eight to win.

Is wishful thinking a legitimate way to decide on bowling changes with the outcome of a World T20 semi-final at stake? Andre Russell hit a four and a six.

It has to be said, Andre Russell hit the ball very hard throughout. Watching him employ his giant muscles – which may or may not have been naturally produced (we don’t know which, because he doesn’t take dope tests) – it was easy to see how a soupcon of extra power can help make small gaps larger.  At the other end, Lendl Simmons repeatedly walked on and off the pitch after succumbing to three non-dismissals. Clearly aware that it was his day, he hit 83 somehow-not-out off 51 balls.

In addition to Kohli’s dreamlike batting and the West Indies’ crunching boundary-hitting, there was plenty of the truly entertaining stuff – you know, missed run-outs (including two off one ball), dismissals off no-balls, catches that turn out to be sixes and overthrows. Top stuff everyone. More of this kind of thing.

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If we start calling Jason Roy a ‘roybot’ do you think it’ll catch on?

Chris Jordan and Ben Stokes were the actual heroes for England, but this is Twenty20, so like everyone else, let’s instead turn our attention to Jason Roy – a batsman.

Roy used both edges of his bat and quite often the middle. Crucially, he also abandoned the moronic belief that it is somehow beneficial for the side that he play himself in and started hitting from what some people call ‘the get-go’ but which we, as a Briton, call ‘the outset’.

Turns out Roy doesn’t need to give himself time. Maybe he is a robot – a roybot, if you will.

Roy’s approach achieves two things. It means England score a bunch of runs and it also means the batsmen who come after him can play with a modicum of control. Not that they necessarily do. When the adrenaline’s pumping, it can be hard to deliberately take singles.

They got enough of them though (plus a few boundaries). They’re into the World T20 final.

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Eoin Morgan and Kane Williamson are having a cricket

We find ourself humming Roscoe H Spellgood rather a lot at the minute. This is because of the sheer number of match previews saying that England have come a long way in a short time.

It strikes us that if you go to the trouble of being as bad as England were at the 50-over World Cup, you do leave yourself plenty of room for improvement. What would be truly miraculous would be a half-decent team improved by a similar amount.

So of course England bounced back. Not to disregard the strides they’ve made, but it would have been an even more extraordinary feat to have remained as bad as they were. It would arguably have constituted art. A complete rejection of the surrounding world in favour of a private exploration of inadequacy.

However, after a giddy, sugar-crazed run-chase against South Africa and two shonky wins against Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, things now get tough for England. New Zealand are unbeaten and seem like one of the few sides in this tournament unconcerned by how anyone else might be approaching the game. They’ve their own methodology and they’re happy with it.

England’s strategy is simple, even if they do occasionally forget it. They ease their batting aggression slider over further than anyone else would have it in the knowledge that they have more batsmen than anyone else. They then try and bowl tight, and when that doesn’t work, they inject a bit of chaos and try and buy a wicket. It’s nice. At least nowadays they have a plan to try and be better than the opposition. Previously they just aimed to be average and were baffled when that wasn’t enough.

New Zealand, by contrast, seemingly have a multitude of plans. McCullum’s side were a bit one-note, but Kane Williamson has thus far kept the positivity while adding a few more options in terms of how they go about things. It’s worked well for them so far, but we suppose only having one note to play can also bring clarity. Doubt can arise from having choices as much as from lack of faith in your own ability.

That last point seems like the kind of thing we should expand upon, but instead we’re going to slam on the brakes and bring the article to a grinding, unsatsifactory halt.

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When it comes to Virat Kohli, object to the hero worship, not the hero

virat_kohli

Perspective is rarely so absent as in the immediate aftermath of a successful Indian run chase. Even so, the plaudits for Virat Kohli’s unbeaten 82 off 51 against Australia were… let’s go with ‘fulsome’.

Fox Sports called him an ‘absolute freak’ because a freak’s a good thing these days.  Sourav Ganguly said the batsman was the ‘greatest chaser by far’.

Alex Hales described the innings as ‘different level,’ while Michael Vaughan was one of many to call him a genius – although being Michael Vaughan he did it with a hashtag.

On Twitter, the general public had some sort of ‘All-Time Most Hyperbolic Hyperbole In History… EVER’ competition – although most people just went with ‘too good’ because most people are crap at hyperbole and instead just repeat things they’ve heard other people say.

Interestingly, Shah Rukh Khan called him ‘a very well-mannered kid’ which basically sounds like a diss when set against everything else. Amitabh Bachchan did better. He said Kohli had been ‘brilliance times infinity’.

Cricinfo tapped into the general mood with an article entitled ‘Emotional’ Kohli rates Mohali knock his best, based on a quote from the post-match presentation when he evalutated his innings thus: “It certainly has to be in the top three. Probably the top right now, because I’m a bit emotional.”

Odd that it should be Kohli himself who should identify that lack of perspective.

Kohli is an extremely effective T20 batsman. Websites that can be bothered will give you the stats should you require them. However, he’s not as good as all of the above gushing might imply, for the simple reason that no-one is and no-one ever has been.

Your response to it may therefore be to roll your rheumy, jaundiced old eyes and yearn to see Virat taken down a peg or two. But that’s probably not fair. Whisper it, but Virat Kohli’s basically all right.

The rage!

As we’ve mentioned before, no-one on earth is as enraged by their own sporting success as Kohli. It’s as if he concluded that human emotions were an on-field distraction and after paring them all back found he still needed to retain one to function with rage being all that remained.

Opposition batsman acting up: anger. Opposition batsman behaving himself: anger. Guilty of throwing away his wicket via a stupid shot: anger. Reached a magnificent hundred in what promises to be a match-winning innings: anger.

But that’s on the field. It’s but a part of the man. Off it, he’s capable of dignity, thoughtfulness and humility (albeit the last of those to the point of arse-kissiness). He can even smile.

Virat Kohli’s not your best mate and you probably won’t ever go to the pub with him, but he’s not actually a complete dick and he doesn’t ask for people to talk about him in such a way that you want to lamp him one.

So stop fantasising about lamping him one. Instead fantasise about a world in which everyone’s a bit less frenzied about paying tribute after every half-decent performance.

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Sick of winning hearts, Afghanistan win a match

With West Indies needing 10 to win off four balls, Carlos Brathwaite whopped one high into the legside outfield. Najibullah Zadran sprinted, dived, took the catch, broke his neck or something when landing, but never let go of the ball.

Of course he didn’t let go. Why would he let go? His team-mates seemed largely unconcerned about his wellbeing because the main thing – the catching of the ball – had gone okay. They knew Zadran would be happy when he regained consciousness because Afghanistan were a sizeable step closer to beating one of the top sides in the World T20. That was the main thing. They all understood that compared to that a broken neck or a snapped arm or a lost knee was trivial.

Afghanistan are pretty talented – some of the spin bowling, in particular – but at heart there’s a lot to be said for simply enjoying the game of cricket and just really, really wanting to win.

If Afghanistan have a superpower, it’s that losing matches appears to give them strength. Bigger teams get downhearted when beaten. Afghanistan are still on the rise, so they sort of expect to lose and shrug it off in an instant, but then at the same time assume the defeat will make them better come their next match. At that point, they give it everything.

They look casual and the physiques of some of the players have that distinctive part-time cricketer look often seen in players from the less-established nations, but their commitment to their cause is at a level you can only attain when you’re grasping for every advantage you can get.

At one point, Mohammad Shahzad and one of his team-mates celebrated a wicket with some sort of airborne arse-bump. At another point, he threw down the stumps as if they’d assaulted his daughter.

Afghanistan really, really want it and they really, really enjoy it. They’re really, really fun to watch.

After the match, Mohammad Nabi said: “I think so we have had enough of winning the hearts of cricket fans so this time we won the match.”

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Either India or Australia will be/have been knocked out – but who could have predicted the outcome (and when)

virat_kohli

We changed what time this site’s daily email went out recently. We can’t be bothered checking what time range we set it to and we also can’t be bothered working out what impact British Summer Time will have. As such, this post is a preview of the India v Australia match written in the knowledge that you may well be reading when the result is already known.

We wouldn’t be making any predictions anyway. Predictions can quickly look foolish. They have a thing that constantly tries to predict which team’s going to win running throughout each match of this World T20. It’s called The Win Predictor. The Win Predictor is making a good case for being rebranded The Momentum Disprover.

At one point quite early on in England’s match against Sri Lanka, The Win Predictor indicated 100 per cent likelihood of an England victory. England did win, but not before it had later had Sri Lanka’s likelihood of a win up around 70 per cent.

We made a comment about The Win Predictor effectively taking the piss out of its own earlier predictions during that game and one of the founders of the website behind it (CricViz) got in touch. We felt bad, because it’s not really the Win Predictor that’s at fault, it’s the game it’s trying to model.

T20 matches tend to progress in surges. Get a partnership and the run-rate can skyrocket. A wicket or two and it can come to a standstill. The swings can be so swift and dramatic that it can make earlier predictions look preposterous. Your general feeling as a viewer is: ‘Why should I pay heed to this prediction now when the one five minutes ago was so wildly different?’

Like we say, it’s not the predictor that’s the issue here, it’s the format. At the same time, that uncertainty is what keeps us watching. One thing’s for sure though. As far as India v Australia goes, the big story is already known: New Zealand knocked one of them out.

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