For many, the resounding success of 20-over cricket came as a surprise. In its first year, a few seasoned county professionals saw an opportunity for a midsummer battery-recharge, and sat it out. Come 2004, everyone wanted a piece of the high-speed, high-energy action. Those once content to sit back were now clamouring to get picked. After years of playing in echoing, nine-tenths empty grounds, here was a chance to swagger in front of thousands, possibly even tens of thousands. The overriding difference between the first two years of the Twenty20 was that, second time round, everyone took it seriously. Even Surrey, the undisputed masters of that first tournament, had not given the Twenty20 much priority. "Like many, we took it as a bit of a joke to begin with," admits Adam Hollioake, who led his side to victory in the inaugural final. A year on, it was a different matter.

At Cardiff, Glamorgan held nets where players were encouraged to improvise. If the shot worked, and if the batsman felt confident, he was given carte blanche to use it for real. Michael Powell developed an audacious paddle over the wicket-keeper's head which, when successful, brought an almost certain boundary. But despite predictions that the classical cover-drive would become as endangered as the corncrake, many runs came courtesy of the coaching manual. The rule seemed to be: do what you're comfortable with. So Ian Thomas, Powell's team-mate, included a couple of reverse sweeps in his record unbeaten 116 at Taunton, but otherwise batted in conventional manner. Similarly, Hollioake and Kent's Andrew Symonds, two of the most productive of Twenty20 run-scorers, avoided shots such as the ramp or the paddle. Robert Croft, the Glamorgan captain, put it pithily: "This year there was less slapping."

A batsman may have the option to limit his repertoire, but not a bowler. "Once you've come to terms with the embarrassment of being hit out of the ground," said Hollioake self-deprecatingly, "ordinary bowlers like me have to mix it up and be as unpredictable as possible." Variation of pace has become de rigueur for all, but some are now heading into unlikely territory. In 2004, Somerset's Keith Dutch, by trade an off-spinner, experimented with a deliberate low, slow full toss that was never going to spin in any direction. David Byas, Yorkshire's thoughtful coach, believed that bowlers had to be streetwise to survive. "The crux is the ability to adapt and to think on your feet. You need to play smart cricket. Jeremy Snape is a good example: there's someone who brings craft to the game."

In Byas's eyes, however, "craft" is best exemplified by fielding. Twice in 2004, Yorkshire passed 200 and lost. Rather than blame the bowlers, though, he pointed to fielding as where improvement was most needed: "We have to work on our craft. We can raise our fielding by 20%. That would make the difference for us." Yet there are signs that the fielder actually played a lesser role in Twenty20 in 2004. As Hollioake says, "A lot of sides think fielding is it, but a six is a massive thing and cuts out the fielders all together. We targeted them; it was a cavalier tactic, but it worked for us."

For many, the resounding success of 20-over cricket came as a surprise. In its first year, a few seasoned county professionals saw an opportunity for a midsummer battery-recharge, and sat it out. Come 2004, everyone wanted a piece of the high-speed, high-energy action. Those once content to sit back were now clamouring to get picked. After years of playing in echoing, nine-tenths empty grounds, here was a chance to swagger in front of thousands, possibly even tens of thousands. The overriding difference between the first two years of the Twenty20 was that, second time round, everyone took it seriously. Even Surrey, the undisputed masters of that first tournament, had not given the Twenty20 much priority. "Like many, we took it as a bit of a joke to begin with," admits Adam Hollioake, who led his side to victory in the inaugural final. A year on, it was a different matter.

At Cardiff, Glamorgan held nets where players were encouraged to improvise. If the shot worked, and if the batsman felt confident, he was given carte blanche to use it for real. Michael Powell developed an audacious paddle over the wicket-keeper's head which, when successful, brought an almost certain boundary. But despite predictions that the classical cover-drive would become as endangered as the corncrake, many runs came courtesy of the coaching manual. The rule seemed to be: do what you're comfortable with. So Ian Thomas, Powell's team-mate, included a couple of reverse sweeps in his record unbeaten 116 at Taunton, but otherwise batted in conventional manner. Similarly, Hollioake and Kent's Andrew Symonds, two of the most productive of Twenty20 run-scorers, avoided shots such as the ramp or the paddle. Robert Croft, the Glamorgan captain, put it pithily: "This year there was less slapping."

A batsman may have the option to limit his repertoire, but not a bowler. "Once you've come to terms with the embarrassment of being hit out of the ground," said Hollioake self-deprecatingly, "ordinary bowlers like me have to mix it up and be as unpredictable as possible." Variation of pace has become de rigueur for all, but some are now heading into unlikely territory. In 2004, Somerset's Keith Dutch, by trade an off-spinner, experimented with a deliberate low, slow full toss that was never going to spin in any direction. David Byas, Yorkshire's thoughtful coach, believed that bowlers had to be streetwise to survive. "The crux is the ability to adapt and to think on your feet. You need to play smart cricket. Jeremy Snape is a good example: there's someone who brings craft to the game."

In Byas's eyes, however, "craft" is best exemplified by fielding. Twice in 2004, Yorkshire passed 200 and lost. Rather than blame the bowlers, though, he pointed to fielding as where improvement was most needed: "We have to work on our craft. We can raise our fielding by 20%. That would make the difference for us." Yet there are signs that the fielder actually played a lesser role in Twenty20 in 2004. As Hollioake says, "A lot of sides think fielding is it, but a six is a massive thing and cuts out the fielders all together. We targeted them; it was a cavalier tactic, but it worked for us."

Winners

Winners Runners-up
2003 Surrey Warwickshire
2004 Leicestershire Surrey
2005 Somerset Lancashire
2006 Leicestershire Nottinghamshire
2007 Kent Gloucestershire
2008 Middlesex Kent
2009 Sussex Somerset
2010 Hampshire Somerset
2011 Leicestershire Somerset
2012 Hampshire Yorkshire
2013 Northamptonshire Surrey

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News | Features Last 3 days