It was indeed 'survival instinct' at its best that drove the players to up the ante and look for cutting edge tactics to face up to the modern T20 at the recently concluded Champion's League. The second run of the league has been nothing short of a discovery— unsettling yet determined shots, novel field positions and a whole new bag of tricks by the bowlers to hold them in good stead. And that is what made CLT20, a good show. In spite of some ordinary cricket played, there were splashes of brilliance in between. Here are my observations.
Starting with the fine-leg fielder inside the circle
Most teams have started to have the fine-leg fielder inside the ring and pushing the square-leg fielder back to the fence right from the beginning. This is not how teams have traditionally begun their one-day innings preferring instead to have the fielder besides the square-leg umpire to save singles and fine-leg, though slightly squarer, back on the fence. The reason for pushing the square-leg back is three-fold. One — the balls which end up in the fine-leg region are the ones drifting down the leg-side only to be helped on its way, while bowlers especially in the slam-bang format are now backing themselves to not err in line. Secondly, the batsmen in T20 aren't afraid to go over the top and taking the aerial route over square-leg fielder is a much safer bet than walking across to play fine or play the scoop shot like Dilshan and McCullum. Last but not the least, bowlers don't mind, in fact prefer giving singles away as a single is as good as a dot ball in T20.
Another thing of note is the liberal play of short-pitched stuff throughout the innings. Yes, the extra bounce in South African pitches is encouraging the bowlers to bang in short but that's not the only reason. Most batsmen regardless of their nationality have shown obvious discomfort against chin music. If Stags from New Zealand used it to good effect against the Chennai Super Kings, Dwane Bravo bowled at least a foot shorter against the South Australian Redbacks.
Slower ones are an important delivery in a fast bowler's armoury but just taking the pace off is not enough especially on bouncy South African tracks. One could get away with just rolling the fingers across the ball in the sub-continent because the lack of bounce and pace in the track makes it even slower after pitching. Ergo you could get away with it but that isn't the case on good bouncy surfaces. A poorly executed slower ones sits up to get hit and we have seen many a slower ones disappearing into the stands in this tournament. A lesson, if picked up, will help the young bowlers.
It was in fact, the lesser-known, non-IPL teams that defied the odds, and held their ground.