There was an interesting piece over on Cricinfo the other day, with regard to the Big Bash League in Australia.
In 35 matches, including the final, 28 teams decided to bowl first. The seven sides that opted to bat all regretted it, because they all lost the matches in question.
It is a telling statistic and reinforces what I have espoused on here for years - that batting second affords a far greater chance of a win in the short format game.
Why? A range of reasons. First of all, when you bat first you have no idea what represents a good score on a wicket and in over-reaching, quite often end up 20 runs short of par, as batsmen fail to realise that 160 would win it, aim for 180 and end up getting bowled out for 145.
I'm no first-class cricketer, but skippered a club side of limited ability through nine seasons of T20, in which we won far more games than we should by adopting this method. We had three/four decent batsmen who could then pace their innings, knowing full well what they had to do, rather than giving it away. The perils of batting as it got darker were outweighed by this and we claimed some prize scalps, as opponents strived for scores that would have tested India, rather than a motley collection of amateurs.
Alex Wakely of Northamptonshire says that they prefer to bat second as they bat so deep and the presence in any side of a couple of lower order 'biffers' who can clear the ropes is of huge value. If you get to the last couple of overs now, with shorter boundaries and bats like cudgels, anything under thirty with a man 'in' offers good possibilities. That is when your top bowlers come in to their own, but the odds are firmly in favour of the batting side when one six and some adroit placement and running can turn the game your way.
There are grounds - Nagpur, where England lost on Sunday being one - where the wicket gets slower and runs harder to score as the game goes on, but crowds, sadly, don't turn out for T20 to see bowlers, unless they are real magicians. Mitchell Johnson was brilliant in the BBL, while Imran Tahir gives a rare sense of expectation when he takes the ball in his hand, but crowds want to see a ball heading their way on a regular basis.
It was good to read about Tahir on the same website yesterday, where it said that he rarely bowls a bad ball these days. I think he is a classic spin bowler who, like most of his kind, has got better with age and is now at a stage where he can pitch his many variations at will. At 37, I could see him playing on for another five or six years and losing little over that period. He is box office material and while some say that his wicket celebrations are over the top, supporters identify with someone who so obviously enjoys his game.
Long may he play it and hopefully the coming season isn't the only one in which we see him in Derbyshire colours.
Finally today, and answering Michael, who emailed me over the weekend, the two Big Bash players who most impressed me this year were Chris Lynn and Marcus Stoinis. Lynn is an incredible hitter of a cricket ball and would be a huge catch for any side over here, while Stoinis, a good bowler as well as a fine batsman (as he showed yesterday against New Zealand) would be a very canny signing.
Yet neither can play here. Unless they have changed, my understanding of the rules is that any player who wants an overseas contract in the county game must have either one Test match or 15 T20/one day appearances for their country in the preceding 24 months. Neither of those two come close, so it must remain a pipe dream for counties, at least for now.
Nor, sadly, and to answer another question, do I expect to see Martin Guptill back for the T20. He has been announced as the captain of the Guyana Amazon Warriors (now THAT's a name!) for the Caribbean Premier League and its timing would mean that 'The Gup' could only play four, maybe five matches here.
One of his team mates is Chris Lynn.
Now their fans are set for some serious entertainment...