June 30, 2012

Friends Life t20: Saturday, June30

Alex Winter
Glenn Maxwell shapes to play an attacking shot, Australian Institute of Sport v India Emerging Players, Emerging Players tournament, 3rd day, Townsville, August 13, 2011
Who is the cricketer? Answers on a postcard please...  © Getty Images
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The future of UK T20

Plenty of talk once again about tearing up our T20 competition but if you look at the attendances last night, there's an excellent case to say we're not that far wrong at the moment. 10,000 turned up at Headingley, 7,000 at Taunton, I'm sure they had good crowds at Chelmsford and Hove too. The challenge is obviously to keep these numbers up regularly.

There are several things that could be done. Theory No. 1 is spread the matches out over the course of a season. This would make the events more special - there wouldn't be another game a couple of days away to go to instead - and more affordable for spectators - £20 every month rather than every week or an even tighter schedule. Spreading the games out would mean the audience isn't diluted and there can be more build up to matches.

Theory No. 2 is that the game works best in a block because it is better for attracting the world's best players. But that only works if players are actually available for the competition. At the moment we have West Indies about to play New Zealand, Sri Lanka playing Pakistan, England playing Australia and South Africa having just finished a tri-series with Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. So that just leaves Indian players available but they are contractually banned from playing in any competition that could be seen as a rival to the IPL.

So theory No. 2 requires a gap in the world calender for it to work. And that requires the involvement of the ICC. And that means it's impossible. So let's go with theory No. 1 as the future of T20 in this country.

The power of momentum

I wrote about this a while back but it really comes into fruition for T20 played in a block. You get into the swing of winning matches, you work out your formula to win games, players get into form and it's no surprise that teams can go on big winning streaks - Leicestershire lost just two of 19 matches in winning last year's tournament.

This year, Sussex are on a roll, unbeaten and topping the South Group with five wins in seven matches. Last night they racked up the second highest total of this year's competition - 212 against Kent at Hove. Their score came just five days after their previous highest total this season - another 200+ effort last Sunday against Essex. Momentum indeed.

But it can certainly work the other way and if you forgot how to hit it off the square it can become quite annoying. And with only 10 matches it certainly is more difficult to rectify a bad start. Time to mention Leicestershire again, becoming something of an enigma, they slumped to four defeats in a row before just about staying in the competition with two wins against Derbyshire.

The value of spin

Everyone thought that spinners were in for a right hiding when T20 first began but then they became the keys to victory. Last year Tim Phillips - Essex's slow left-armer - was the top wicket-taker in the competition and spinners have increasingly become several counties choice for overseas players. Worcestershire have had Bangladeshi Shakib al Hasan and initially signed Pakistan mystery spinner Saeed Ajmal for this season, Surrey brought in Murali Kartik, Gloucestershire Muttiah Muralitharan, Hampshire Shahid Afridi.

And it turns out any old joker can turn up with a bit of slow stuff and find success. Low and behold Michael Rippon, a chinaman from Cape Town (that mean he bowls unorthodox left-arm spin and is from South Africa by the way), who has played just three first class, one List A and 10 T20 matches, rocked up with 4 for 23 and sealed a thumping win for his new county. Easy game.

Trending: Gloucestershire

The former one-day kings are currently an embarrassing shadow of their former glory sides a decade ago but last night they produced an outrageously good performance to hammer Somerset on their own patch. A performance to really be proud of in a era where there has been little to shout about at Bristol.

But they do have previous down at Taunton. In 2007, they bowled the 2005 champions out for just 104 and knocked off the runs in 12 overs - stick that in your cider vat and drink it!

Player of the Day: Glenn Maxwell (Pictured above!)

Who? Sorry? I have never heard of Glenn Maxwell? But last night anyone who didn't write the story of his singing for Hampshire for this website realised the county had registered a random Australian playing in the Hampshire league for South Wilts CC. And also realised he could hit a cricket ball. He struck 60 from 24 balls last night at Chelmsford, including 30 in a single over off Tim Phillips - supposedly one of the best T20 bowlers (he was the top wicket taker last season). He helped Hampshire to a six-wicket win over Essex.

The problem for all the who-the-hell? crowd was that Maxwell's already produced one blitz - a 32-ball 66 to beat Kent at Canterbury. He also has Big Bash experience with Melbourne Renegades, appeared briefly in IPL2 and holds the fastest List A fifty in Australia. And he's only playing because Shahid Afridi is delayed in arriving in the country because of visa problems.

Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by Stuart on (June 30, 2012, 22:15 GMT)

The other advantage of spreading the games out is that you can stick them all on the same day and have going to the cricket become a habit. As far as practice is concerned, a large part of what county cricket is for is developing international players. With modern tours a team may not have long between the Tests, the ODIs and the T20s so switching formats quickly is an important skill for players to learn. Smaller grounds may have no trouble filling up, particularly on a Friday, but I don't think it's the same for Test grounds. The Oval was half empty for their one home match so far and I'd be surprised if it gets anywhere close to full for the first three matches next week. The thing to remember about franchise cricket is that it's not about the crowds. You need to sell the ground out for the atmosphere but the money comes from TV and sponsorship; who's going to be watching when the matches start at midnight in India?

Posted by Rag on (June 30, 2012, 17:41 GMT)

It is Glen Maxwell from Australia

Posted by Joe on (June 30, 2012, 14:48 GMT)

I was at the Essex v Hampshire match at Chelmsford last night. Chelmsford is a small ground but it was a sell out last night, and it was for the other Friday night game Essex played at home as well. No problem with attendances at Chelmsford

Posted by dpk on (June 30, 2012, 14:39 GMT)

i spoke to someone regards prices to get in £16 for 2.1/2 hrs of cricket. at the lancs home game against yorks £21 im told bought on the night and they expect 15,000. do the math its like printing money. i bet a full house of over 50,000 in India would not bring in the likes. franchising the way to go, i doubt it.

Posted by Samuel on (June 30, 2012, 13:12 GMT)

Spreading throughout the season may work for 40 over cricket, but I really think it's a bad idea with T20. The constant switching between two such wildly different formats in the 20 over stuff and championship cricket is only going to lead to worse batting and bowling overall, with batsmen stuck in aggressive mode and bowlers stuck in defensive patterns. The players need time to bloomin' well practice for each format properly!

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