Why the best is yet to come in World T20

England may be out but there are plenty of thrills in store as cricket's most innovative event heads towards a breathtaking finish, says David Lloyd
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The Independent Online

The holders have gone and the hosts are out. As for Australia, it was hardly worth them turning up. But, despite a little too much rain and not quite enough sunshine, the World Twenty20 has brightened up cricket fans' lives for the past fortnight. And, with a bit of luck, the best is still yet to come.

India, like England, were not good enough to reach the last four. Yet South Africa v Pakistan at Trent Bridge today and Sri Lanka against West Indies at The Oval tomorrow should produce two cracking semi-finals well worthy of our continued attention. But whatever happens over the next couple of days, and during Sunday's final at Lord's, the tournament has been a showcase for innovation.

Maybe you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. Cricketers, though, are more than willing to come up with different ideas and then spend hours in the nets trying to make them work. Twenty20 is not everyone's cup of tea – or gin and tonic, perhaps, in the case of those MCC members who have stayed away from Lord's – but there has been plenty to make most people gasp throughout an event where new skills have flourished.

The ramp shot

Batsmen scooping the ball over their shoulder is not exactly new. But Sri Lanka's Tillakaratne Dilshan has refined that art to such an extent that, when he executes the shot perfectly, the only defence for a fielding captain is a long-stop. Stretching forward to meet near yorker-length deliveries, Dilshan presents a horizontal bat and uses the pace of the ball to lift it over his, and the wicketkeeper's, head. A note of caution: do not try this at home unless you are wearing full body armour and a face mask.

The 'back of the bat' reverse sweep

The former Sri Lanka captain, Mahela Jayawardene, is a classical batsman who creams drives past extra cover that are to die for. But unless a lot of people were fooled by an optical illusion at Trent Bridge on Tuesday, Jayawardene played a reverse sweep with the back of his bat against the New Zealand paceman Jacob Oram. Twice. This stroke presumably has the added advantage that no-one, not even the batsman, can have any idea as to which direction the ball will go in.

The slower ball bouncer

Bowlers have been taking pace off the ball for a while to mess up a batsman's timing. But the (relatively) slow bouncer – say 75 as opposed to 90 mph – has come into its own during this tournament, working a treat for the likes of South Africa's Dale Steyn, West Indian Fidel Edwards and Sri Lanka's Lasith Malinga. Even when a batsman half expects it, his natural reaction is to get out of harm's way, and dot balls are as valuable as gold dust in Twenty20 cricket.

Reverse swing

Uh-oh. Not possible with a ball only a dozen or so overs old, say most experts. It happened, insisted New Zealand after their innings was wrecked by Umar Gul's sensational burst of five wickets for six runs at The Oval last weekend. And they raised the dirty subject of ball-tampering. It cannot have been lost on Pakistan that when they perfect an art it tends to be called cheating – until others catch up, whereupon it is given a fancy name and described as something quite brilliant. Gul is innocent, OK, unless the umpires say different.

Pressure fielding

Most fielders positioned on the "circle" line are there to stop balls flashing past them or to try to prevent singles. South Africa's AB de Villiers and Herschelle Gibbs do both of those jobs but are on the front foot, literally, when the bowler delivers. The edge of the circle is not for them – they want to be inside it, hunting for run-out opportunities and backing razor-sharp reflexes if a catch comes their way. Jonty Rhodes can be proud of them.

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