Twenty20 June 12, 2010

Twenty20 as you don't know it

With the Test in West Indies getting interrupted by rain, Andrew Hughes switches to domestic Twenty20 action in England, a world with its own set of rules, no floodlights and faraway music

New Road in the good old days when the River Severn came visiting © Getty Images

The rainy season is an important part of the ecological cycle, bringing many benefits to the various ecosystems of the Caribbean. It does, however, have certain regrettable aspects, specifically that, in my experience, it is impossible to have a rainy season without a certain degree of precipitation. I suspect that it was the high volume of rain that falls during this time of year that led to it being called the rainy season in the first place.

You and I might think that such a season might not be the best time to stage an outdoor sport. But that is why we are not employed in an official capacity on one of the many cricket boards around the world. It turns out, you see, that a rainy season is precisely the best time to hold a Test series, just as Monday night is ideal for a major international one-day final and nine months is the appropriate length of time that should elapse between one World Cup and its successor.

Watching a Test series during the rainy season does, though, require a certain degree of optimism. The man-in-a-suit in the Sky studio was suitably ebullient; Colin Croft waxed lyrical on the subject of drainage systems and Robin Jackman at the Queen’s Park Oval brushed over damp patches and discounted gloomy clouds. But umpires are made of sterner stuff and upon consulting the lugubrious Steve Davis, it appeared that the men in white coats had followed the umpire’s first instincts on such occasions and yielded to the temptation of an early lunch.

Thank goodness then for county cricket. There is no officially designated rainy season in England, mainly because it would be devilishly tricky to determine which of the four quarters was the rainiest. So the ECB have no choice but to pencil in their fixtures and hope for the best. I say pencil, but a collection of felt-tip crayons would have been required to adequately illustrate the myriad competitions that make up the English summer. This season’s fixture wall-chart resembles an early Kandinsky and requires 3D glasses and a seven-page manual to fully decipher.

Right now, it is Twenty20 time. Now Twenty20 in England is not perhaps Twenty20 as you have come to know it. Thursday’s encounter between the Royals of Worcestershire and the Outlaws of Nottinghamshire was a day-night fixture without floodlights: day-night cricket au naturel, as it were. Naturally, there was music, but it was suitably muffled, as though emanating from a village fete a few miles away. And as a procession of Royals batsmen trod a weary path to the crease and back, the DJ should probably have ditched the stirring "Ride of the Valkyries" for something more appropriate; perhaps "Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now".

There has been lots of talk of "no-fear cricket" in the wake of England’s Caribbean triumph. That may be de rigeur in the tropics but in the damp and clammy land where Twenty20 was spawned, it is not always the best policy, particularly when Dirk Nannes is tearing in on an iffy pitch in the gathering gloom. Wickets fell with unseemly haste and although Vikram Solanki appeared to cast several despairing glances in the direction of the River Severn, sad to relate for Worcester fans, the waters did not swell up and engulf New Road, Nannes and the Outlaws and with the inevitability of a shower in the monsoon season, Nottinghamshire won.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England