Mumbai Indians v New South Wales, CLT20, Chennai October 2, 2011

A pitch that defied stereotypes

In an era that is hell-bent on spoiling its batsmen, pitches that offer bowlers some help are not necessarily a bad thing

The Champions League Twenty20 is doing its darnedest best to debunk the most enduring of all Twenty20 myths: that the format is about flat tracks, ugly slogs, fours and sixes, and hapless bowlers. After another low-scoring game ebbed and flowed before New South Wales took control, it is perhaps time to revisit conventional wisdom on just what variety of pitch contributes to a good game of Twenty20 cricket.

By all accounts, this was a very good contest, though it ended with three overs to spare. With a measly 100 runs to defend, Mumbai Indians had blasted out the NSW top order, and were closing in on the lower middle order with intent. Harbhajan Singh had pressed slip, leg slip and silly point into service, but he had to hold the boundary-riders back. He needed wickets, but couldn't afford to concede boundaries. This wasn't slam-bang cricket - this was a round of chess in the rapid format, and it was intriguing while it lasted.

Steven Smith and Ben Rohrer responded to Harbhajan's gambit with a series of soft nudges for singles - ten on the trot at one point - on a pitch so sluggish it made grafting an ordeal. The challenge was accentuated by the fact that top-class fielders like Kieron Pollard and R Sathish were prowling inside the circle. Smith and Rohrer persevered, and took it to 44 needed off 48 balls.

Smith, who at one point had been on 1 off 14 balls, chose that moment to produce the only six of the game - and the stroke he played wouldn't have been out of place in an attritional passage of Test cricket. He skipped down the pitch to Yuzvendra Chahal, got to the flight, thereby negating the lack of pace and bounce, and whipped with a flourish over midwicket. It was a loaded stroke, and it came off. So telling was the blow, coming on the back of a bunch of clever singles, that, as if by magic, Mumbai Indians' intent dissolved.

"There was a pretty big gap at midwicket, and Chahal was bowling a few little back-spinners," Smith explained after the game. "So I thought if I got it in the right spot there was a chance to get a boundary away and change the momentum of the game.

"It was pretty tough at the start; they bowled well at the top there. I thought if I gave myself a chance to build my innings and work it around, and if I was there at the end, it would give us the chance of getting home."

James Franklin had played a similar role to the one Smith did earlier in the day: picking up the pieces after the Mumbai Indians top order had chucked their wickets away, on what he termed "a real grafting wicket".

"It was always a case of us trying to get a decent score [after those wickets]," Franklin said. "If we had got to 130, it would have made things interesting. Our bowlers gave us a chance of winning, but Smith and Rohrer batted outstandingly; they had lots of time, took minimal risks and got themselves through."

Simon Katich later panned the wicket, singling out the low bounce for particularly harsh criticism. But the fact remains there was nothing in it to justify a combined effort of 201 for 12 in 37 overs. It wasn't a wicket for bull-headed slogging, as Pollard found when he attempted the ugliest of heaves against Patrick Cummins. It wasn't a wicket for indifferent footwork, as Symonds found when he wandered out of the crease and missed a lash against Steve O'Keefe. It had a little bit in it for every kind of bowler - grip and cut for Stuart Clark, slow turn for O'Keefe, and zip for Abu Nechim. All it asked from batsmen was a little bit of patience. In an era that is hell-bent on spoiling its batsmen, pitches like this are not necessarily a bad thing.

Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Tahir on October 3, 2011, 10:58 GMT

    Any competitive 2020 cricket is interesting just IPL/ICL stuff has been criticized. You can see in the Champions league which is like a worldcup of domestic champions that IPL teams don't look meaningful and many times get humiliated like India in England. Champions League is here to stay. Competitions have been very tight and lot at stake than just hitting sixes. Also the domestic sides who build the national teams in various countries. T&T looked better than WI. Somerset is like England for IPL sides.

  • Dummy4 on October 3, 2011, 8:30 GMT

    What happened to mumbai's Indian boy S kanwar, one knock of 45 and an article! Dont know when the next article abt him come?

  • Daniel on October 3, 2011, 8:09 GMT

    My favourite types of T20 games are the ones played on "bad" or "poor" pitches.

  • Dom on October 3, 2011, 8:05 GMT

    I thought the games were quite absorbing and entertaining, isn't that the point of T20? It was a refreshing change to see batsmen actually have to earn their runs, a low scoring game doesn't necessarily mean a bad game and if T20 is to prosper and survive I think it needs to be played on a variety of pitches and in varying conditions to keep the format fresh. It needs this because it doesn't have the time to or the subtle nuance that is avialable in test cricket.

    The crowds in this tournament have been a little disappointing, how well attended will the semis and final be if no IPL teams progress?

  • Karthikeyan on October 3, 2011, 4:54 GMT

    Wish-List: 1) Please do away with low-and-slow tracks. 2) Please also do away with flat-track batting beauties. We want true (not necessarily baked hard, fast & with steepling) bounce-&-carry pitches, & diabolical turners, all combined into one. The vagaries of two-paced pitches would help even things out for the fielding side in any form of Cricket. 3) We don't want flat-track bullies & minefields laden with divots & cracks. 4) Please come up with the Ice Hockey-equivalent of Zamboni machines to resurface the pitches smoothly instead of relying on old-fashioned heavy-duty rollers. 5) And, to counter the fast outfields, please extend out the straight boundaries to at least a minimum of 270 feet (90 yards) from the pitch (as at the Adelaide Oval.) to reduce fielders from being mere spectators. Please have a tinge of green on the pitches, & not necessarily produce green tops. Please use drop-in pitches if you have to. All in all, this would help setup a good contest between bat n' ball.

  • andrew on October 3, 2011, 3:13 GMT

    While I agree that T20 offers more when the pitch has something for both bat and ball, last night's wicket was diabolical and I wish commentators would stop making excuses for sub-standard pitches. Simon Katich had every right to complain.

  • John on October 3, 2011, 2:49 GMT

    @Vishal_07: T20 is a fad, designed to draw in people who don't understand cricket. In the end it will blow itself out, just like all fads. It's to be hoped that players will not have forgotten the technique, strategy, fitness and concentration needed to play traditional cricket, in the rush to make T20 money. Unfortunately, India's tour of England showed that the team which plays the most T20 was ill-equipped to deal with the demands of traditional cricket. Hopefully the lesson will have sunk in and proper consideration will be given to bringing along a new generation of properly schooled players. Otherwise, T20 will not survive the knowledge that the players who take part in it are second-rate, unable to cope with the greater demands of tests.

  • Andrew on October 3, 2011, 0:37 GMT

    @Vishal_07 - didn't see many in the crowd in this game & series for that manner! LOL!

  • Vishal on October 2, 2011, 19:51 GMT

    For all the T20 haters, I have bad news for you, T20 is here to stay. T20 pulls in crowd and money and matches are exciting. A Test tests your skill like no other format but cricket cannot survive just on Tests!

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