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Opinion

How T20 cricket has enhanced Test cricket

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Roar Guru
15th February, 2021
15

Every time a Test team collapses in the modern era – and is bowled out of 36, 60 or 67 – the cricketerati goes into a tailspin of condemnation, blaming the insidious influence of T20 cricket on modern batting techniques.

The front foot, if it moves at all, is positioned towards the leg side so that the batsman may be in an ideal slogging position, when any well-coached youngster knows best practice mandates placing your front foot adjacent to where you expect the ball to pitch so that your eyes are in the right position to monitor – and combat – the moving ball.

And that’s before we even start talking about the batsman who fails to notice everybody is wearing whites and instinctively attempts an unscripted reverse sweep for six when he should be defending his wicket for his cricketing life.

Doubtless, the proliferation of T20 franchises has contributed to some dismal dismissals.

But I’d like to argue a case for the positive influence of T20 on Test cricket.

Whilst batting techniques may have suffered, we’ve also seen players bring a T20 mindset to Test match problem-solving, with exhilarating results.

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Washington Sundar attracted deserved acclaim for his poise under pressure in his recent Test debut at the Gabba. That he performed so well on the back of just 13 first-class matches is to his credit.

But the guy had also played 107 T20 matches, 20 of them in the international arena. Is it any surprise, then, that he kept his head in both innings in Brisbane? He doubtless endures more pressure in the IPL.

I daresay there is a generation of young cricketers – from all countries – marching towards Test match cricket, armed with a deep ocean of experience, having already performed under the claustrophobic tension created by the partisan crowds and fickle remuneration to be found in the T20 world.

The perfect mix of Test match grind and T20-style controlled hitting was surely on show when Ben Stokes batted at Headingley in 2019. Would any batsman, in any era, have been able to flick the T20 switch so effectively as Stokes did on that tragic day?

Ben Stokes celebrates winning the third Ashes Test

Ben Stokes celebrates England’s third Test victory in the 2019 Ashes (Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Though he had played with such admirable circumspection for almost a day’s doggedly determined batting, Stokes adopted a T20 mindset from the time Leach joined him with 72 to win and the last man at the wicket.

And it was breathtaking to see him suppress any fear of being dismissed as he mowed down the runs required, like a thrashing machine in heat, in less time than it takes to say, “Alan Border and Jeff Thompson took a more cautious approach in 1982 in remarkably similar circumstances, until the ball with Thommo’s name on it finally got him!”

Yes, the prevalence of T20 cricket has made Test batting more tenuous in some circumstances.

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But the fearless T20 mindset is also worth celebrating.