Blewett and Styris blow Asia away
International XI 162 for 4 (Blewett 91) defeated Asia (Dravid 62) by six wickets
Australia's beleaguered captain Ricky Ponting may have dismissed Twenty20 as a bit of fun just a week ago, but the latest offering at The Oval was a seriously successful venture. On a balmy evening, a sell-out crowd arrived in south London to witness world cricket at its innovative best as Asia and an international XI were brought together to offer up hit-and-giggle delights to raise money for tsunami relief.
The thrills - a hat-trick from Adam Hollioake and a crashing 91 not out by Greg Blewett - outweighed the spills - several dropped catches blemishing an otherwise outstanding fielding performance. And every boundary or wicket was matched by hard cash, all of which went to charity. In all £1.1million was raised, which included a bonus £100,000 for the hat-trick, £2,000 for every four and £5,000 for every six.
The Internationals - stuffed full of players familiar with the format - dismissed Asia, full of players who weren't, for 157 which was never enough as Blewett blazed away to take his team to victory. Rahul Dravid, in his first Twenty20 match, struck a composed 62 from 47 balls, but Asia's innings never really got going.
Blewett has so far spent his summer playing for the showmen of Lashings CC, but maybe the Australian one-day side could find a use for him: lest we forget, they are currently languishing at the bottom of the NatWest Series table. He has not played international cricket since 1999, but there were lashings and lashings of super shots in the 61 balls it took him to take apart such world-class bowlers as Irfan Pathan, Chaminda Vaas and Harbhajan Singh. He ended up nine short of his century, and his knock included seven fours and five sixes - worth a cool £29,000.
Scott Styris cashed in too, quite literally - picking off boundaries through and over midwicket at will. Asia were clinging on, just, when Sanath Jayasuriya came on to bowl with four overs to go and 30 runs required - but Blewett casually dispatched a towering six back over his head off the last ball of the over. Next ball, Styris hooked Pathan for another six and, when he flatbatted Vaas over midwicket for another £5,000, the game went from being in the balance to being in the bag.
Blewett's Lashings team-mate Hollioake - who played twice for the side in March, the only matches he has played since retiring - went one better. His hat-trick earned £100,000, although things didn't start so auspiciously. He must have wished he hadn't hopped back specially from Australia for this match when Vaas launched his first ball for six - the only one of Asia's innings. But Hollioake has twinkled in Twenty20 before and tonight's effort was no less dazzling as Dravid, Vaas and Kumble Kumble holed out from successive deliveries.
"For me it's an honour," he told reporters after the match. "I can't believe I was playing alongside the best cricketers in the world. I came early just for this game - I wouldn't do that for just a normal game. It does mean a lot. But it's not a special effort - anybody would do that."
Dravid chose to bat first, and his side were soon in trouble as they lost Virender Sehwag for 1. Jayasuriya (27) and Kumar Sangakkara (15) both fell on 45 and Asia were starting to wobble. But Dravid and Mahela Jayawardene added some stability on an evening which held a few surprises. Jayawardene brought up their fifty partnership with an improvised slap for four past fine-leg, then even the members proved that they knew this evening was about going with the flow. As the inevitable Mexican Wave started to ripple towards the members' enclosure, there were boos from some of the public who were expecting the usual stony silence from the pavilion. But this was an evening to stand up and be counted - and the members duly stood. Cue cheering.
In fact, all of the crowd enjoyed their evening, with people in shirts from all nations dancing together to the beat of one Sri Lankan fan's drum and the horns of many. And although the game petered out towards the inevitable, it didn't really matter. Vijay, from India who lives in England, was supporting both sides. "It's for charity, isn't it?" he asked simply. He was wearing a West Indies shirt (for Brian Lara), he had a Kenya headband (he was born there) and he would normally be rooting for India (that's where his parents are from). But this time he was cheering both sides: it was all about the cricket, and the charity. Five-hundred thousand people are still homeless following the events of six months ago, but this evening's effort will go a long way towards helping.
Jenny Thompson is assistant editor of Cricinfo