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Spinners answer to Twenty20 question

One of the biggest hitting batsmen in state cricket, Dominic Thornely, believes the secret to cricket's fastest game, Twenty20, is to use the slowest bowlers.

One of the biggest hitting batsmen in state cricket, Dominic Thornely, believes the secret to cricket's fastest game, Twenty20, is to use the slowest bowlers.

The NSW all-rounder learnt this surprising trick during a brief stint playing county cricket with Surrey last winter.

"Spin was often the key," Thornely said at St Kilda's Junction Oval yesterday after producing the longest hit, almost 130 metres, during yesterday's official launch of the first domestic 20-overs-a-side competition to be held in Australia.

"Taking the pace off the ball made the batters really force the pace themselves.

"If the wickets were turning a little bit it obviously made it harder to find the boundary as often as you'd like.

"At Surrey we played three spin bowlers at a time and I think you'll probably find the (NSW) Blues will do the same."

It is a theory supported by Stuart MacGill, who played Twenty20 during two seasons of county cricket.

"You can bowl to a field a lot more efficiently," MacGill said.

"If you turn the ball away from the right-handed batsman you can protect that side of the field then try and force them to hit against the spin, which increases the likelihood of you getting them out.

"There's no chance at all of a spinner bowling a no-ball, that's another plus because of the free-hit situation, which can be an absolute disaster in Twenty20."

Among the modified rules of Twenty20, each no-ball carries a two-run penalty and a free hit to the next delivery.

The three-hour twilight game has taken English county cricket by storm, with fans packing grounds. Thornely played one match at Lord's in front of 36,000 spectators.

There has been a strong early response to the game in Australia. Last season, Western Australia and Victoria played the first Twenty20 game in the nation, attracting more than 20,000 fans and forcing the WACA to close the gates in Perth.

A similar number turned up to a match between Australia A and Pakistan in Adelaide.

Despite the fast and furious pace of the game, MacGill said those who resisted the temptation to slog were usually the most successful. "The batsmen will generally try and score off every delivery and then hope to get

a boundary away every over, pushing towards 10 an over," MacGill said.

"They get there not by flogging like crazy but by keeping things going.

"Obviously if you don't score off every ball then the pressure's on you to make that run up."

Thornely believes the reduced format should help his cricket.

"I'd like to think it will actually improve my one-day game, the fact that I'm able to up the ante a little bit with my batting and score a few more runs off fewer balls," he said.

"I think you still need to play good cricket shots."

MacGill was at the other end last season when Thornely produced some of the best, smashing 11 sixes in an unbeaten 261 during a record 219 last-wicket partnership in a Pura Cup match against Western Australia.

Thornely believes some of those shots went further than his promotional effort yesterday.

He and MacGill both agreed that Twenty20 was an enjoyable game to play.

"The players think it's fantastic," Thornely said.

"Maybe there will be a little bit less pressure out there for us to put on a show for the public and play some good cricket shots.

"It could show the talent that a lot of these guys have, which they may not be able to deliver in Pura Cup because of the pressures."

Each state will play two matches, with seven games in all, from January 6. The final will be played on January 21.

Aimed at attracting new audiences to the game, Twenty20 is one of the most revolutionary steps domestic cricket has taken in Australia since the introduction of the original Australasian limited-overs competition in 1969-70, which included New Zealand.

Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said the name of the competition, officially titled the "Twenty20 Big Bash" reflected the experience he expected spectators to have at the matches this summer.

He said: "New rules, fast-paced, action-packed - the Twenty20 Big Bash will be a fun and easy way to connect with the sport for both the uninitiated as well as ardent cricket fans."

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