England August 29, 2012

SLPL's über-cool team names

And the return of Kamran Akmal

Autumn is my favourite time of year. Dew on the grass and a nip in the air can mean only one thing: the county season is nearly over. Soon, our cricket pages will no longer be gummed up with the exciting news that Keith Kolpack has taken three wickets before lunch in Sleepyshire's crucial middle-of-the-table clash with Somebodyorother at the Ennui Bowl; that Dullchestershire have installed a new digital weathervane or that Whocareshire have blown their ECB subsidy on a golden statue of Giles Clarke in the hope of winning an international fixture in 2017.

The tatty travesty that is the Futile Pursuits Trophy - a forlorn mockery of what was once a sexy young competition, like a faded sixties film star forced to eke out a living doing provincial pantomime - has already limped to its conclusion, and today I heard the welcome news that the Clydesdale Bank 40 has nearly been put out of its annual misery.

It is a curious beast, the CB40. It serves no apparent purpose; it is the appendix in the anatomy of modern cricket. Forty-over cricket? Who plays that anymore? If you think I'm being harsh, just apply the standard test for establishing whether a sports competition is worthwhile. Without opening a search engine or approaching your copy of Wisden, tell me who won the CB40 last year? Nope. Me neither.

In search of more interesting domestic fare, I have been following the Sri Lankan Premier League. It seems pretty much like the other off-the-shelf franchise affairs but it has given us a glimpse of the next stage in the evolution of Twenty20: better team names. It seems that animals and Knight Riders are so 2008. Check out these monikers: Bashnahira Cricket Dundee? Uva Next? These teams are so cool, their names don't even make sense.

Of course, the SLPL is just one of the links in a daisy chain of premier leagues that will eventually become an alternative fixture list. And naturally the best players will want to be part of it. Cricket boards might huff and puff but like the parents of teenagers, they will have to accept that their authority over their charges is coming to an end.

For the time being though, everyone is content to pretend otherwise. This week, Kolkata's bench-warming specialist Eoin Morgan has promised to devote himself to his international duty. In return, a grateful Andy Flower will pat Eoin on the head and offer him the chance to carry Jonny Bairstow's spare sweat bands in India. At which point Eoin's agent will call to tell him that the Sydney Sausages are looking for a wristy fill-in swisher and the wee fella will sneak off again to play Twenty20 hooky with his new friends.

Finally, I should also take the time to mark by far the most important cricket event of the last few days. It is, of course, the return of the Sultan of Silly himself, Mr Kamran Akmal. Early signs were a bit worrying. As you know, his modus operandi has always been to thrash a few boundaries and then give his wicket away. But against Australia on Tuesday, Kamran version 17.0 was the model of rectitude, blocking his way carefully to a steady 4 off 14 balls. And he didn't even drop any catches. I trust this is only temporary, Kamran.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England