Twenty pointers to the Twenty20
England begin the defence of their ICC World Twenty20 crown in Sri Lanka on Friday and if Stuart Broad is to lead his side to back-to-back wins he will need everything going for him. Stephen Brenkley marks your card
England will definitely come out slugging this week. It was a key part of the strategy in their 2010 triumph and those first six overs can determine what happens next. Not the least aspect is responding in the event of losing three wickets quickly.
They can be notoriously slow and unrewarding for bowlers in Sri Lanka, and they may well be tired by the time the last matches come round in Colombo, with both men's and women's semi-finals and finals at the Premadasa Stadium. England's bowlers will need patience if they are to thrive.
In this form of the game in both bowling and batting left-handers can be potent. Ryan Sidebottom's left-arm swing was key to England's 2010 success, as was the left/right opening batting partnership. No Sidebottom (right) this time, but Danny Briggs's left-arm spin could be a real weapon.
4. The wind
Stiller, humid days may not replicate the stiff breezes of the Caribbean, of which England took full advantage two years ago. But if there is anything worthwhile on the Beaufort Scale expect the well-rehearsed batsmen to know how to hit with it.
One of the joys of the Caribbean and of last year's World Cup in India was the engagement of the crowds. It helped make the spectacle (as the recent Olympics in London demonstrated) and England prospered. The worry is that Sri Lankans will not feel so compelled to watch.
6. IPL experience
England frankly lack it because their players are barely allowed exposure to it. This could make a difference, because dealing with different match positions helps if you have come across them in the past. Experience in domestic T20 may help a bit. Eleven of England's squad have played more T20s than the captain, Stuart Broad.
7. Heat and rain
All players in Sri Lanka will be affected by the near- 30C temperatures as well as the stifling humidity. How they deal with it will determine their fate. Seasonal rains are just about to begin. Not beyond the bounds that some matches will be shortened to Ten10.
8. The bowl-out
Akin to soccer's infamous penalty shoot-out, tied matches in which the scores are level will be subject to the one- over-per-side eliminator (the so-called oopse, as, presumably, in oopse-daisy). Difficult to practise, but teams losing two wickets in the shoot-out over automatically stop batting. Oopse bound to happen to England.
9. Young man's game
For all the virtues of familiarity the feeling that T20 is a young man's game is hard to shake. There are two main reasons: the boundless athleticism needed in the field and the fact that they have all been brought up on it. Jos Buttler's array of non-textbook shots are perfectly normal to him. He's always played them.
Staying calm yet making decisions quickly will have an immense bearing in this tournament. The difference between the Paul Collingwood of 2010 and the Paul Collingwood of 2007 was noticeable. Stuart Broad (above) has to learn and assimilate information swiftly, and his mere nine matches as captain may find him in difficulties.
11. Lack of international T20 will be a problem
There is a definite imbalance which the ICC have yet to tackle properly. Most players play most of their matches for their country during this tournament. It leaves teams precious little time to gel. This has to change very soon.
12. The threat of small teams
Perhaps the biggest shock in world cricket was the Netherlands' defeat of England at Lord's in the opening match of the 2009 World T20 (until Ireland beat them in last year's 50- over version). The small format means the small teams can be winners, and England will be distinctly wary of Afghanistan in their opening fixture of the tournament next Friday.
13. New shots galore
Make no mistake, there is still scope for new shots, and expect to see more transfers from right-handed to left-handed batting by more players. Batsmen will leave their crease far more and look to exploit gaps in the field on an industrial scale. Scoops, switches, reverses, ramps will be normal.
14. Recognising your role
It has always been the case that limited-overs cricket is a potted version of the proper thing. So realising that a sparky 12 from four balls or three dot balls in a row can make a difference is essential. Players have to know instantly what is expected at any given time. No one has a chance to dither.
15. The lack of umpire reviews
There is no time in Twenty20 for decisions to be reviewed. But most teams may find that difficult to come to terms with, and there are bound to be some howlers. India, however, have steadfastly refused to embrace DRS in their Test and one-day series so should be perfectly at home. Could that make a difference?
16. Smart bowling
For the reason above the death bowlers will, so to speak, have a life of their own. Change-ups, change-downs, flight, drift, wobbly seams, general deception will all be significant. Do not forget that England won last time largely because their bowlers performed when it mattered.
17. Do not forget the women
Part of the beauty of the next three weeks is the inclusion of the Women's World T20. First tried in England in 2009, it should form an integral part of all series in future. The semi-finals and final, when the sexes conjoin, will be much the better for it. England, unbeaten in 16 matches, have a superb chance under the blessed Charlotte Edwards (left).
18. Middle-over syndrome
This peculiar phenomenon, which has afflicted 50-over cricket for long enough, has somehow become a part of the shortest form. It is the period where the boundaries and the excitement cease and the players merely seek to accumulate. But it means an unfeasible amount of runs can be scored in the final five overs.
The standard of wicketkeeping is not as high as it should be in international T20, sacrificed on the altar of keeper-batsmen. But it should have a much greater effect as the game evolves, keeping batsmen in their creases and serving in a predatory capacity. Hopefully this will be the tournament to move things forward.
20. But remember, anything can happen
In St Lucia last time the semi-final tie between Pakistan and Australia was wending its way to victory for the holders, Pakistan. Needing 192 to win, Australia were 122 for 5 with five overs left and still needed 18 from the final over, to be bowled by the fearsome spinner Saeed Ajmal. Mike Hussey had the answer, hitting 62 runs from 24 balls, and did it with a ball to spare. But England still beat the Aussies in the final. No one should wager too much money on the outcome this time round.
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