Prior on fire before rain returns
Sussex 203 for 5 (Prior 81) v Hampshire match abandoned
The sun shined on the ECB when Twenty20 was first introduced in 2003, sparking a craze that has seen the format take over as the most popular form of cricket in the world. Who knows what would have happened if this season's weather had ruined that inaugural campaign? The only thing worse that could happen to the FLt20 2012 is for Finals Day, scheduled for August 25, to be rained affected and taken into a reserve day for the first time.
But weather has been a blessing for some teams - those that have avoided playing Sussex. Hampshire managed it, with a washout at Hove in their first match of the competition. Here they were on the end of a battering; rain sparing them after a miserable 17 overs in the field.
Sussex were on their way to the season's highest total (currently Worcestershire's 213). This was their third score above 200 and should have been enough for a seventh win had the weather held. Hampshire were the only team that could have overhauled them at the top of the table but on this evidence there is more than three points between the sides. Sussex have won the group and it will take a special performance to stop them going all the way this year.
Their success owes much to their efforts in the Powerplay - belting sides out of matches in the first six overs with a meaty top order. They took full advantage of the fielding restricting again here, taking 84 for the loss of Chris Nash in the first over, having taken 10 from four balls. His wicket brought Matt Prior to the crease and for the next 49 minutes Prior entertained in the truest sense of the word.
He began against Dimitri Mascarenhas - a quality T20 operator with IPL experience - dropping to one knee to lift him over short fine leg for four then a six, in between going down the ground for another boundary. He struck two more sixes in Mascarenhas' next over, the best being over mid-off - timing and power in abundance. The hitting only lasted 37 balls but his 81 runs had everybody wondering how this batsman was not playing limited-overs cricket for England. If Craig Kieswetter has played better the DVD is worth watching.
The big strokes were interspersed with intelligent batting and subtle touches - twice he adjusted to full balls and guided them either side of third man. Another stroke through the covers off the back foot was marvellously elegant. There was nothing to trouble him and the bowling figures showed as such.
Chris Wood was the most embarrassed. His first two overs cost 35. Prior went either side of extra cover for two fours; five wides were also in the first set. In Wood's second over Prior limited his punishment to one boundary before Luke Wright took over with four, six, four.
Wood was grateful to return with Prior back in the pavilion and four balls for five runs just before the second and terminal rain break saved him from the worst economy rate on the card. He still finished with 15.00 per over.
He sent down two of the first nine overs, which brought 123 runs. Records looked in trouble. But Wright holed out to deep midwicket and two overs later, Prior found long-on when he had a second T20 hundred at his mercy. The wickets dried up the boundaries but Joe Gatting's 24 in 13 balls kept the scoreboard rattling along. He worked plenty of twos into the large West End outfield.
The late innings push began with Mike Yardy cutting a Kabir Ali beamer over third man and Gatting's swing past midwicket but rain ruined all the fun just when the FLt20 was getting back to what it was designed for.
Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo