Patrick Noone analyses how the Patriots’ Powerplay kings set the tone against the Tridents
As T20 cricket has evolved since its inception in 2003, the clarity of players’ roles in the team has become ever more sharply defined. We have become accustomed to categorising players as ‘finishers’ with the bat or ‘death bowlers’ with the ball if their talents demand that they showcase their respective skills at the back end of the innings.
One role that is perhaps one of the less glamorous in modern cricket’s repertoire is that of the Powerplay specialist bowler. Theirs is a task not of stump-destroying yorkers or soaring sixes, but of keeping it tight, setting the tone and ideally nicking a wicket or two.
That is not to say that the role of the new ball specialist is any less important than some of their more eye-catching counterparts. As St Kitts and Nevis Patriots showed tonight, when you have not just one, but two bowlers capable of making a serious early dent in an opposition’s batting order, it can provide an invaluable control of the early exchanges.
Sohail Tanvir and Sheldon Cottrell are both crudely categorised as ‘left-arm seamers’, but the packages they offer differ greatly from one another. Tanvir’s unusual action, canny changes of pace and length coupled alongside Cottrell’s genuine swing are a handful for any team, and so it proved in Tarouba tonight against a Barbados Tridents top order that was left reeling by the new ball pair.
It was Tanvir who bowled the probing first over, conceding just five runs and not allowing either Johnson Charles or Shai Hope to settle against his variations or changes of angle. That allowed Cottrell to get into his work from the other end and, after a slightly wayward start with a no ball and a wide from his first four deliveries, he drew first blood with a full ball that sent Charles’ off-stump cartwheeling away.
Cottrell followed that up with a genuine bouncer that crashed into Corey Anderson’s helmet, before dismissing him with the next ball – another short one that the New Zealander could only slap to point.
8-2 is a scoreline that has made a lot of headlines in another sport this week, but that was coincidentally where the Tridents found themselves after two overs. And it was about to get worse three balls later when Hope attempted an ill-advised skip down the pitch to Tanvir, only to send the ball high in the air towards point where it was comfortably taken. It was a misjudgement that had been forced by the miserly nature of the previous two overs and it put the Patriots well on top.
Cottrell would finish his spell having drawn a false shot from 44% of the balls he bowled; only twice has he bowled his full allocation in a T20 match with a highest percentage of edges or misses drawn from the batsmen. Meanwhile, such was the level of Tanvir’s trickery that the Tridents batsmen left 20% of the balls he bowled to them, an extraordinarily high percentage in a T20 innings.
The nature of having roles as clearly defined as Cottrell’s and Tanvir’s is that a strength in one area can leave a side short in others. The Tridents rallied in the middle period of the innings with the bat and, despite a wobble, were able to post a far more competitive score than it appeared they would after the opening overs.
153 turned out to be too many for the Patriots whose batting depth was found wanting against the mastery of Rashid Khan and the guile and class of Jason Holder and Mitchell Santner, but there was enough in their bowling performance that hinted at a platform to be built upon in future matches. The question next time will be whether they have enough quality to capitalise on the efforts of their new ball duo.
Patrick Noone is a CricViz analyst