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India's Jasprit Bumrah celebrates after taking a wicket during the ICC Twenty20 World Cup 2024 Group A match in New York. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Twenty20 contests are typically about power-hitting, high-scoring, and monstrous sixes. Bowlers have often been left dismayed on flat pitches during one-sided games, seldom able to hide from continuous hammering. This has made them braver and allowed them to develop a bagful of new tricks to stay relevant in the cricketing world.

Changing scenarios in T20 cricket

A total of 250-plus was easily achievable, and in the recently concluded Indian Premier League, some teams were threatening to touch the 300-run mark, which is an astonishing 15 runs an over. IPL 2024 saw as many as 21 occasions where scores crossed the 220-run mark, with the highest of 287 for three set on April 15.

Two weeks down the line, the scenario has changed. The Twenty20 World Cup in the West Indies and USA has brought a new dimension to T20 contests, showcasing a good tussle between bat and ball. Bowlers have found their stride and are dominating batters under testing conditions. In 21 matches so far, only once has a team managed to surpass the 200-run mark, and on several occasions, teams have defended scores under 120.

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South African pacer Kagiso Rabada celebrates with teammates after dismissing Tanzid Hasan of Bangladesh on Monday. Image Credit: AFP

Notable performances

South Africa clinched a place in the Super 8 after a four-run win over Bangladesh in another low-scoring thriller. After scoring 113 for six in 20 overs, the Proteas managed to tame the Tigers towards the end. South Africa was reeling at 23-4 before Klaasen (46) and David Miller (29) combined in a 79-run stand.

“Our mindset is not even close to T20 cricket,” player-of-the-match Klaasen told reporters at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium. “You just want to get in and find a way to bat at a run-a-ball. You can’t just stand there and smack it all over the park. We had more or less of a one-day mindset, myself and David in the middle, and that seemed to be working.”

While a string of low-scoring matches may not be the best way to promote cricket in a new market like the US, Klaasen said the tournament was a lot more competitive. “Obviously, if you have to showcase it to the world and sell it, I don’t think it’s a great selling product. But for cricket, it’s tight competition,” the middle-order batter said. “It brings the other teams and the higher teams very close to each other, so the game is open to any team that does the basics of cricket very well.”

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Pakistan's Naseem Shah (left) celebrates as he takes his third wicket, dismissing India's Shivam Dube. Image Credit: AFP

Similarly, India edged out Pakistan in another low-scoring contest in New York on Sunday. Indian pacer Jasprit Bumrah once again proved his sublime skills by claiming three wickets to restrict Pakistan to 113 for seven, chasing an under-par target of 120. Babar Azam’s team looked on course for victory at 80-3 after 14 overs before Bumrah intervened. The seamer bowled a well-set Mohammad Rizwan (31) to bring India back into the contest, though Pakistan still looked in charge needing 21 runs from 12 balls with five wickets in hand. The right-arm seamer with a slingshot action then returned to send down a decisive penultimate over. Bumrah conceded only three runs in that over while removing Iftikhar Ahmed, Pakistan’s final hope, to set up India’s six-run victory in the low-scoring thriller.

Huge asset for team India

Bumrah’s 24 deliveries included 15 dot balls, illustrating the accuracy that makes him such an asset for Team India, especially in this format. His stunning effort helped him clinch his second player of the match award in the two matches so far in this World Cup.

“When you come here and the ball is seaming around with some bounce and pace, I would never complain. You have to be proactive, you can’t pre-empt things. You realise how the wicket is and then go back to what works for you. Once the seam goes down the pitch does settle down. You have to be prepared to bowl in all conditions, so very happy today,” the 30-year-old pacer said after the first match against Ireland.

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Lorcan Tucker of Ireland is bowled by Hardik Pandya during India's opening clash. Image Credit: AFP

“We felt we were a little under par, and when the sun came out, the wicket got a little better, so we had to be really disciplined. I tried to keep it simple, tried to hit the seam as much as I can, focus on my execution,” Bumrah added after his another stunning show against Pakistan.

Technique still vital

The drop-in pitch in New York and those in the West Indies have ensured that batting teams do not run away during the powerplay overs. Instead, being three down or sometimes four wickets down is a common sight. All this brings up the topic of how technique is still vital in all formats. A good Test player will not have any trouble in facing these deliveries. Rohit Sharma also said that batters need to approach the match like a Test, which is welcome news for the puritans of the game. This Twenty20 World Cup has been a test of character, skills, and determination. The team that adapts will survive to be in the final four.

— With inputs from agencies