June 29, 2012

Friends Life t20, Friday June 29

The franchise debate - more thoughts

The franchise debate - more thoughts

When T20 brashly introduced itself a decade ago and county members stood aghast as the comforting serenity of their treasured domain was shattered by hordes of unfamiliar faces encouraged to indulge in overt displays of fun, no one quite knew what to expect.

Well, actually that's not strictly true. It was quite easy to know what to expect: namely that there would be a surge of interest, perhaps even a substantial surge of interest in a new, bold and potentially exciting version of an essentially familiar game, but that after a while it would become an established part of the cricket calendar, alongside the Test matches and the County Championship, the novelty would wear off, the hoardes would not come in quite such large numbers and the great and good of the game would scratch their heads and wonder what to do next. And, of course, that somewhere else in the world there would be someone who had taken our idea and done better with it than us.

Which is why there is talk of making the enormous, radical leap into franchises, of trying to make a copy of the IPL, change the 'I' for an 'E' , get the marketing folk on the case and wait for the hordes to come back and spend their money all over again.

I do hope it doesn't last, that it doesn't gather the irreversible momentum that dubious ideas too often acquire because no one had the courage to suggest that they might not actually work.

When T20 was invented here the crowds came because they knew who their team was. Folk who lived in Brighton and Horsham and Hastings knew their cricket team was Sussex, even if they had never been to watch them before; the people of Birmingham did not need telling that their team was Warwickshire, even if thousands of them, in terms of to whom they paid their council tax, had never actually lived there.

And when they went along to see a game they at least knew something about, played in a new, high tempo atmosphere, with a sense of immediacy and drama, they liked the fact that the guys playing it shared that bond; that they were representing Sussex and Warwickshire and Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire as they had done before and while they were now carrying the standard in a new cause, it was still on their behalf.

The idea that a cross-county coalition teamed with random overseas players under some nebulous metropolitan franchise could find a body of supporters able to make that connection is, I fear, a delusion.

Hales back - with a warning

Alex Hales will make a quick return to domestic Twenty20 action for Nottinghamshire against Durham at Trent Bridge tonight, still pinching himself over his 99 for England against West Indies on his home patch last Sunday - not least because he still can't quite believe he missed the opportunity for a century.

"I was thrilled and gutted at the same time because I wanted to convert to a hundred and be there at the finish line," he told Nottinghamshire's website. "I was blanking out everything that people were saying for a good few minutes afterwards. But Jonny Bairstow told me I should be happy with 99 and now I’ve reflected on it I am."

Yet Mick Newell, the county's exacting coach, has already been in Hales's ear with some timely reminders not to start thinking too highly of himself. "It was a hugely impressive innings from Alex, because he was under pressure with all the talk about how Alastair Cook should be playing, but he handled that pressure and has more or less booked his World Cup t20 spot, or for me he should have done," Newell said.

"He has done himself the world of good for that tournament but it is about kicking on in all formats of the game, making himself more attractive for the 50-over matches and then the Tests. If he sits back and thinks he's made the T20 World Cup, he will not achieve that goal in all formats."

Note to self - try to remember everyone's name

Yasir Arafat has become the very model of the modern cricketer, touring the world year-round to ply his trade in return for lucrative T20 contracts. Lancashire's overseas player for this year's FLt20, he has played for nine teams in five countries.

It is a schedule not without its problems, one of which is wandering into a dressing room, unpacking your kit, exchanging pleasantries with the guy at the next peg and desperately trying to remember who he is.

“I am still struggling to get to know the names of all the Lancashire players,” Arafat admitted earlier this week. “I know Gary Keedy and Glen Chapple, but some of the younger ones I am still struggling with. I have played in Bangladesh, New Zealand and Pakistan this year, with different teams, so you can see why it is difficult to remember all the names sometimes."

Arafat travels with Lancashire to take on North Group leaders Yorkshire needing one wicket to become the first bowler to take 100 wickets in T20 cricket in England. It is the 16th T20 Roses match in what has been a remarkably evenly contested rivalry thus far. Of the first 15 clashes, Yorkshire have won eight to Lancashire's seven.

Beer back on tap?

Three years ago, newspaper headline writers were anticipating some fun ahead when a legspinner by the name of Will Beer began to make a name for himself with Sussex. Then aged 20, and only just out of the Sussex academy, Beer played a match-winning role as the south-coast team won the Twenty20 Cup, taking the crucial wickets of James Hildreth and Craig Kieswetter as Sussex beat Somerset in the final at Edgbaston.

Since then, however, Beer's career has not gone according to plan. Although he has clocked up 35 T20 appearances, he has not played a first-class match since the beginning of the 2011 season and at 23 he needs something to revive his prospects.

Perhaps it will be the T20. Beer could not add to his 27 career wickets in the short format as Sussex beat Essex to maintain their lead in the South Group last night, but crucially hit nine runs off Ryan ten Doeschate in the final over as the Sharks, chasing 178 to win, got home with one ball to spare.


Somerset v Gloucestershire, Taunton, 17:30 Worcestershire v Glamorgan, New Road, 17:30 Yorkshire v Lancashire, Headingley, 17:40 Nottinghamshire v Durham, Trent Bridge, 18:00 Northamptonshire v Warwickshire, Northampton, 18:50 Derbyshire v Leicestershire, Derby, 19:00 Essex v Hampshire, Chelmsford, 19:00 Sussex v Kent, Hove, 19:10