June 20, 2012

Friends Life t20, Wednesday June 20

What were they thinking?

What were they thinking?

Scheduling a Twenty20 group match on the same evening as an England match in the European Championship? T20 was designed to get non-cricket fans through the gates with people being asked to give up as little time as possible. Football fans are the obvious target market. With the cricket they can have a few beers and watch live sport at the same time. Christmas!

So why therefore, would anyone try to compete with a pub and a television? Worcestershire tried it in 2010, going head to head with England v Germany, and found half the regular crowd turned up.

At least that was a stunningly gorgeous afternoon but Warwickshire took on the football under floodlights last night. While Warwickshire did battle with Northamptonshire, England's European Championship tie against Ukraine was shown live on a big screen in the Pavilion Stand’s Exhibition Hall, as well as in the Member’s Lounge and in Hospitality areas.

The sparsely-populated terraces told their own story.

Warwickshire: County cricket’s England football team?

A famous team, talented players, a high-profile coach, excellent support and yet no real end product. Sound familiar? Yes Warwickshire have plenty of similarities with our national football team that has so often flattered to deceive.

Warwickshire have an annoying knack of falling at the quarter-final stage – they have competed in more Twenty20 quarter-finals (six) than any other county but their only appearance at Finals Day is a distant memory. They lost to Surrey in the inaugural final of 2003. At least England got over the line once. Warwickshire have nine years of hurt and counting. Last night’s win was their first of the season.

Turning back the clock

Twelve months ago I watched the best T20 game I have ever seen. Leicestershire required 62 off 24 balls to chase 165 in 19 overs against Lancashire at Old Trafford. No chance. But then Abdul Razzaq unleashed the most devastating, brutal, brilliant display of hitting imaginable.

Razzaq, who had only been in the country for two days and making his Leicestershire debut, reduced the Lancashire bowling attack to the rubble comparable to that surrounding the redevelopment of Old Trafford last year.

Five sixes, three fours, 30 balls, 62-runs. An innings akin to Albert Pujols’ record-equalling three home runs in game five of that year’s World Series. It was spell-binding stuff. Razzaq and Wayne White scored 66 in five overs and Leicestershire’s magical season, this was their second win, was up and running. They return to Old Trafford tonight.

Trending: James Franklin

Essex are often a fancied side for T20. Their combination of dashing batsman – Bopara, Foster, ten Doeschate – and a small ground, suited to T20, is often presented as a recipe for success.

They have reached three semi-finals and with New Zealand allrounder James Franklin on board for this season, they should do well once again. Franklin has an ability to hit the ball terribly hard and swing the ball into the right areas. His T20 record rivals some of the more glamorous cricketers in the world: 2,246 runs at 31.63, with a strike rate of 124.63 and 55 wickets at 33.80. They are good numbers and you would back him to help Essex into the knockout stages once again.

Franklin, who played for Gloucestershire between 2004-2010, hopes to play county cricket on a more regular basis once again. "I still play first-class cricket back home and four-day cricket is probably still the format of the game that I enjoy most," he said.

Player of the day: Laurie Evans

Evans left Surrey for Warwickshire at the end of last season but has found his chances of first-team cricket similarly limited in the Midlands. Last night against Northants he was wishing he was back in a leafy commuter town after dropping Cameron White – the highly dangerous Australian batsman – on just three. He went on to make an unbeaten 60.

But with three facets to the sport, cricket often gives one the chance of redemption and Evans obliged with a match-winning innings. His 34-ball half-century steered Warwickshire to their target of 150 with an over to spare: a relieved man indeed.

Fixtures

Lancashire v Leicestershire, Old Trafford, 17.30 Essex v Kent, Chelmsford, 19.00 Derbyshire v Durham, Derby, 19.10

Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

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