Nine things we learned from the T20 festival
1. Bringing the tournament to a climax over a three-day weekend works.
Pembroke was a spectacular venue, and the club and Cricket Leinster pulled out all the stops with a kids’ zone, plenty of parking spaces, extra seating, souvenir programme, ground announcer, and – for those who couldn’t make it – a live stream sponsored by the Lightning team sponsor Cairn Homes. If the model is to be repeated then Cricket Ireland must insist on a similar level of buy-in from the host club and union.
2. There was an unexpected bonus too.
Munster coach Ted Williamson usually gets to work with his players just after they jump out of a car after a 260-mile drive, just before they play a T20 at the Mardyke. He gushed about how good it was to review performances with his team, and plan for a game next day. Getting a chance to have your squad live, eat, train and play together is proven to improve performances – and Munster showed that better than anyone.
3. Munster need more encouragement – it’s working so far. Two wins over the best T20 sides in the land made the Reds the team of the weekend, although they ruined the competition’s hoped-for showdown on Saturday night. Yes, they’re a mostly-Leinster 2nds selection, but hopefully the opportunity – and success – will inspire some youngsters to put their backs into it and aspire to playing for their native province. Munster is one of the most potent brands in Irish sport and all should be done to nurture its cricket. Two hopes for 2019: they get David Murphy back from Warwickshire and get to join the IP50.
4. Sixes matter – there were 61 over the six games, which must have cost Cricket Ireland a few bob when they landed in the gardens of the unfriendlier neighbours. The joy of seeing maximums brings people to the grounds, and out of the bars. Most prolific hitters? Greg Thompson and John Anderson, both of whom hit five over the weekend – and each did it in one match-winning innings. Next best were Simi Singh and Aaron Gillespie who hit four each.
5. Change is gonna come.
Graham Ford didn’t miss a ball on each of the first two days, perched beside the sightscreen at the SMC Print and Design End (needs work, Steve – SPADE maybe?). Ford was surrounded by his acolytes, and they will have learned plenty about who’s coming up.
The continuing slide of the men’s senior team means the imminent series against Afghanistan should be used for some serious experimentation – I’d take another look at some who’ve been discarded such as Max Sorensen (as a batsman), Tyrone Kane, John Anderson, Greg Thompson, Eddie Richardson and Craig Young, and hand new caps to David Delany, Stephen Doheny and Aaron Gillespie.
6. Look at the strike rates.
Over the six games of the tournament, 13 batsmen made at least 100 runs (top three – Andrew Balbirnie 262, Doheny 193, Gareth Delany 171). But only four of them scored at better than 130 runs per 100 balls.
Greg Thompson was best with 146 off 91 balls (sr: 160), followed by the Lightning trio of Anderson (145), Balbirnie and Singh (137 each).
Two others who didn’t quite make 100 runs had impressive hitting rates – Mark Adair 92 off 58 balls (158) and newcomer Oliver Gunning 96 off 59 balls (163). The latter, a Melburnian with Irish aspirations, might also come into Ford’s plans sooner rather than later.
7. Keep looking at the strike rates.
Twenty-four players scored more than 50 runs in the tournament, of whom only three hit fewer than 112 runs per 100 balls – Warriors’ William Porterfield (104), David Rankin (106) and Andy McBrine (111).
8. Bowlers’ run-rates are vital in T20.
There’s no doubt the format is only geared towards making batsmen look good, so a bowler who can keep his run-rate below seven is a rare gem.
There were 23 bowlers who delivered more than 10 overs in the tournament, and the best by far was Andy Britton with 50 off 11.1, or 4.5 runs per over. (Minor caveat: he only played in the three IP20s staged on Ulster pitches, when the opposition averaged 122 – in Pembroke the Warriors’ opposition averaged 178 per innings).
Others with rates under 7 – Graham Kennedy 5.2, Dockrell 6.2, Peter Chase 6.4, Eddie Richardson 6.8, Jacob Mulder 6.8, David Delany 6.9 and Jeremy Benton 6.99.
At the other end of the scale were Gary Kidd 9.9, Sorensen 9.9 and Jared Barnes 10.0.
9. Wickets are important too.
Bowlers who take wickets can wreck a T20 innings, at the very least stalling its progress. Those who took most wickets in the 2018 T20 interpros were Yaqoob Ali Shah 12, Young, Dockrell and Kane 11 each, Shane Getkate 10.
Frequency of wicket-taking is also a useful guide, and Kane is the king of this metric with a wicket every 8.2 balls. Richardson took a wicket every 11.7 balls, Graham Kennedy every 11.8.
Other bowlers who took their wickets more frequently than every three overs were Dockrell, Yaqoob (12 each), Young (12.4), Chase (16), Nigel Jones (17.2) and David Delany (18).