June 28, 2012

Friends Life t20, Thursday June 28

Tim Wigmore

Franchises and the false Australian comparison

As the franchise debate rumbles on, comparisons have been made with Australia’s T20 league. If Australia, which shares the deep history of the English domestic game, were able to make franchises a success, why can’t England?

Actually quite a number of reasons. While any potential franchise system in England would remove perhaps half the counties, thereby making games less accessible, the opposite was true in Australia. The Big Bash kept the traditional six state sides, while supplementing them with extra ones in Melbourne and Sydney. It meant it was easier to go to Australian domestic cricket than ever before, whereas a franchise system in England would, on average, double the distances supporters had to travel.

The Big Bash received huge short-term impetus from the return of former Australian greats like Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden. This is a legacy of Australia's success since the mid-90s - something England doesn't have; short of dragging Andrew Flintoff out of retirement for a few games we have no comparable names who crowds would be desperate to see one last time. Regardless, that the Big Bash’s initial success was so dependent on returning 40-somethings suggests it may lack genuine long-term viability.

And then there’s the greatest Anglo-Australian difference of them all – the weather.

Rashid returns – but Rafiq is now the man

Adil Rashid made a welcome return to the Yorkshire side in their four-run win against Leicestershire. But, with three overs of erratic leg-spin going for 30 (and one wicket), it was less a performance to remind Yorkshire of what they’d been missing than one to reaffirm the rationale behind dropping Rashid in the first place.

There were no such problems for Azeem Rafiq, the man who has usurped Rashid as Yorkshire’s No. 1 spinner. His four overs went for only 21 runs while claiming a wicket. Moreover, in the third game of his stint as stand-in captain with Andrew Gale still injured, Rafiq, whose captaincy style in T20 is more aggressive than the norm, earned his second victory (the other game was abandoned) as Mitchell Starc successfully defended nine runs off the last over. So as Rashid’s career flounders, Rafiq is increasingly becoming every bit as treasured as the Rashid of a few years ago.

Paul Stirling plays the reverse sweep, Kent v Middlesex, FLt20, South Group, Canterbury, June 26, 2012
Paul Stirling is now the leading run-scorer in the FLt20  © Getty Images
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Trending: Paul Stirling

Paul Stirling’s imperious form continued at Richmond, when he followed his 63 at Canterbury on Tuesday with an unbeaten 82 yesterday. It all means that, despite missing two Middlesex games for Ireland duty, Stirling leads the tournament run-scorer table, with 254 runs at an average of 63.5.

The most striking facet of Stirling’s batting is the sheer power he generates from a short, somewhat stocky base. He is most impressive scything cuts or launching lofted straight drives; his ease hitting over the top from the start of his innings makes him especially dangerous in Powerplay overs.

There are certainly areas to improve on outside the Powerplay overs. At Richmond, Stirling became frustrated, wasting several balls attempting to reverse-sweep spin rather than trust his power straight, contributing to him managing only 43 off his last 46 balls after the Powerplay against 39 off 18 balls during it.

Yet, aged 21, Stirling is already a dominating force in English T20 cricket, the disdain for reputations in his cocksure batting supplemented by an ability to bowl canny, predominantly flat, offspin. His form gives Ireland to believe that, come the World Twenty20 in September, they may be celebrating another triumph over a Full Member.

Player of the day: Sean Ervine

It was Sean Ervine’s first significant contribution in this season’s T20 competition – but his 51-ball 75 not out was quite a contribution. Entering with Hampshire struggling at 41 for 3 after some brainless batting, Ervine began his innings calmly supporting Simon Katich. But after a modest start – with 14 runs, none of them boundaries, from his first 17 balls – Ervine launched a devastating, calculated assault.

Ervine plundered a combined 26 runs from the 11th and 12th overs, bowled by Ollie Rayner’s offspin and Neil Dexter’s medium pace. In his hits over wide long-on, the arc of his bat, and his sheer power, were almost reminiscent of a baseball slugger.

Having now reduced the required run-rate to just over seven, Ervine had the experience to avoid the usual T20 mistake of continuing to seek boundaries even when there was no need. From his next 20 balls he hit only one boundary, until he allowed his explosiveness to return when wrapping up Hampshire’s victory. For its changes of tempo, Ervine’s was a T20 innings of rare subtlety. And it ensured Hampshire’s second consecutive victory – both away from home – to restore genuine qualification hopes.

Fixtures Essex v Sussex, Chelmsford, 19:10

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Posted by Steven Nicholson on (June 28, 2012, 19:46 GMT)

the overseas players and Eoin Morgan seem to be the only people pushing for a franchise system mainly because they are the people who would benefit the most especially the likes of Styris, Murali, Gibbs, etc who are now globe trotting T20 mercenaries. Franchises will never work in England, i live in Preston, Lancashire and i want to support a team full of local players that represents all of the county plus parts of Cheshire and Cumbria rather than a team that only represents Manchester and is full of foreign T20 mercenaries, i'm sure there are many thousands of real cricket fans around the country who feel the same.

Posted by AB on (June 28, 2012, 15:47 GMT)

I couldn't give a monkeys what the players think. We pay to watch them, not the other way round. I'm capable of playing T20 games during the week and 50 over cricket at the weekend, I find it hard to believe that a professional isn't able to do the same. That swishing across the line nonsense is a very, very poor excuse. We barely attract any overseas players as it is, and does anyone really notice? Fan numbers would approximately double if you had it throughout the season rather than crammed together in such a ridiculous fashion. Who on earth has time to go to 2 games a week? I certainly don't. Yet I would happily go once a month throughout the summer.

Posted by Samuel on (June 28, 2012, 15:01 GMT)

AB - massively disagree with T20 spread over the season. The players themselves, in the review published at the start of the season, said they much prefer it in a block as it gives you the chance to actually work on specific skills, as opposed to flit between two wildly different styles of cricket. If T20 was spread through the Championship season, we'd see more batsmen swishing across the line and getting out in first class cricket and struggling to up the rate in T20, and both tournaments would suffer a massive drop in quality, not to mention the fact you'd struggle to attract any overseas players. There is nothing to be gained from having it weekly throughout the season at all.

Posted by Samuel on (June 28, 2012, 14:58 GMT)

I think you're massively underselling the sport-loving public Tim - a franchise with world class players based in Durham, Cardiff or Manchester would get good crowds. Never forget the massive communities of cricket-mad people from around the world; the Caribbean and Indian populations of the UK in particular is a market you could definitely tap into if the likes of Gayle and some IPL stars were able to play. A massive part of it all would be marketing, which let's face it, is not one of the county game's strong points. Case in point: I live in Bath, a city in a prime location for both Somerset and Gloucestershire to try and sell tickets, but have I ever seen either side advertising, in a local paper or on the side of a bus perhaps? Advertise, and pull in new fans, instead of relying on the likes of us to fill the grounds. It can be done, but it seems that most people just don't want it to be.

Posted by AB on (June 28, 2012, 14:54 GMT)

Thats the thing Tim - 3 competitions is already pushing it, especially when they all have different formats, leagues, knockout phases, bonus points, scoring systems, and are all played on different days of the week with this huge gap in the middle. You can easily imagine why so many English cricket fans never really translate to county cricket - its all so damn complicated! Simplicity and continuity is what is needed, not more competitions. A 16 game county championship, Friday night T20s with final in early August and Sunday league 40 over games with final in September.

Posted by bill on (June 28, 2012, 14:34 GMT)

No point of asking ethier Stirling or Dockrell as nethier are ever going to play test cricket so they might as well play for ireland

Posted by Tim Wigmore on (June 28, 2012, 13:47 GMT)

Stirling and Dockrell still need to pass the four year eligibility rule - which means they'd qualify just before the 2015 World Cup. The way they're going, they might both get asked...

Regional T20 sounds like what England players need to get high-quality practise - would be a good idea, say, as specific preparation before a T20 World Cup, but maybe not an annual thing. I think if we have too many competitions it might just confuse things somewhat!

Posted by Jim on (June 28, 2012, 13:27 GMT)

@AB

Your naked hostility doesn't fool me. You'd be first through the gate, making a beeline for the stall selling commemorative T-shirts.

Posted by AB on (June 28, 2012, 13:26 GMT)

I think our T20 games work very nicely as they are: the only criticism is that they are all too crammed together and often on difficult nights of the week- I often get the train to London to watch them but it does mean a tired day in the office the next day as I don't get home til gone midnight. Space them out over Friday nights throughout the season and the attendance will remain at high levels indefinitely, with far more repeat visitors.

Posted by Phil on (June 28, 2012, 13:16 GMT)

People who start suggesting English 20/20 cricket should go down the franchise route are bonkers. If their expectation is that franchises would attract massive crowds, then where do they expect these games to be played? Obviously they could only be at the current Test Match nominated venues which would have the capacity, as the article indicates this then would make it more difficult for more people to attend. Our Test Matches are currently the best attended anywhere in the world as the expectation is you are prepared to pay the entrance fee plus the travel to see 6 hours of play during daylight hours. Going to the same venues to watch 3 hours play for a night game would make the logitics of getting home unless you were local alomost an impossibility by public transport.

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