The toss is one of cricket’s many, many nuances. That one flip of the coin that, for club cricketers, goes a long way to determining the happiness of a weekend forfeited to chasing leather around a field. For the professionals, it has the potential to decide the outcome of a match, potentially a series.
As is the case with most of cricket’s quirks, there are layers to this act; the fall of a coin carrying so much weight in the outcome of a sport otherwise defined by fine margins, sure, but the majority of which are without such a reliance on good fortune.
Luck is, of course, something that touches all sport but it is rarely as tangible as it is in cricket.
It can be a look up at the clouds in Headingley, a pre-empted prayer to the cricketing gods that you bat first in Adelaide or send shivers down a side asked to bat last in a Test match in Galle. And T10 is no different to its cricketing forefathers. There is a clear formula: win the toss, put the opposition in. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Across 47 completed matches of T10 cricket in a nudge over two years of its existence, only five captains have won the toss and elected to bat. There were four such instances in 2017, just one in 2018 and none so far from six matches across the first two days in Abu Dhabi.
Shane Watson, the captain of Deccan Gladiators who has played in the past two editions as well, explained it as such after losing their opener on Friday having been asked to bat first: “In T10 you don’t really know how many is enough…but there’s no question that when you’re chasing, knowing you’ve got 10 overs and 10 wickets in hand, I don’t know the statistics exactly but I remember last year that most teams that batted second found it easier chasing.”
Indeed they did. In fact, only 13 teams have gone on to win after being told to strap on their pads by their opponents, a figure that equates to a win percentage of 27.6% of all T10 matches. Without knowing that figure, Delhi Bulls captain Eoin Morgan suggested on the first day that there is “probably a small percentage advantage” in chasing but should you “hold your nerve and execute well, it shouldn’t really matter.”
As Morgan’s side became just the 12th team to lose batting second, the 33-year-old’s words from the previous day certainly rang true. Even more so by the time Darren Sammy‘s Northern Warriors made it 13 sides with defeats chasing, the reigning champions feebly falling to Qalandars with the lowest total in T10 history and only the second team to be bowled out in 10 overs with their 46 all-out in a 66-run defeat.
As for Watson, less than 24 hours after defeat to Morgan’s Bulls, he was calling correctly earlier in the day and had no hesitation in putting the Bangla Tigers into bat. The result? A six-wicket win.
“If you lose the toss, you don’t want to feel like you’re out of the game,” Watson said after his side got their first points of the season. “There’s no doubt from a mentality point of view, to know how many you’ve got to get and there’s only 10 overs, it’s definitely an advantage but that’s not to say you can’t set a really good total and then it’s just too many for the opposition to chase.”
The Australian’s counterpart in the Tigers dugout, Thisara Perera, agreed that “every team likes to chase” but insisted that the toss is not at the forefront of his side’s mind despite its continued influence in T10.
Even accounting for the Warriors making it two defeats from three for sides batting second on day two, the win percentage remains at 70.2% in favour of teams chasing. And with seemingly no captain in a hurry to set a target after winning the toss, they clearly see the value in coming out on the right side of things at the start of play.
The wins for Qalandars and Deccan Gladiators prove that it is far too simplistic to suggest that a won toss is a won match, but the formulaic actions of the captains in the middle, plus the numbers that indicate an advantage for sides chasing, should be enough for the league to ponder its trend.
Is T10 too predictable? Should the toss be optional like it is in the County Championship? Perhaps who bats first and second should be pre-determined in the scheduling?
The longer T10 remains repetitive, the more pressing the answers to these questions will become.