June 13, 2003

So far, so good

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So, the new era of Twenty20 cricket has begun. We were promised a new form of fast, fun and funky cricket to attract a new crowd to the game - and the first round of games didn't disappoint.

After much hype and expectation, the journey into the unexpected started with a bang. Perhaps launching the tournament on Friday 13 wasn't a good omen, but the cricketing gods showed mercy on the ECB, who would have been as pleased as punch after a breathless first round of games excited packed crowds across the country in glorious evening sunshine.

We all knew about the crazy, madcap antics off the pitch such as pop concerts, karaoke, jacuzzis and jazz-bands, but no-one was quite sure what to expect on it. How would the players adapt? Would it just be a huge slog-a-thon or more a calculated variation of tip and run?

Well, it was a bit of both. One of the things going for this format is that, barring rain, the games are never going to be dull, whatever happens. If you look back to the World Cup, only a handful of games early on in the tournament were memorable as the tournament dragged on to an inevitable conclusion. Once upon a time, one-day internationals were the new cool thing needed to spice cricket up after all those boring Test matches. But now the majority of the endless glut of ODIs are becoming all too predictable: Hit over the top in the first 15, then knock it about a bit for the middle 20 overs, then have a dash for the last 15.

However, there's no need to sneak off and come back for the climax of the innings in Twenty20, because the final assault or the run-chase start straight away. That may not be an ideal way to hone a high straight elbow and immaculate front-foot defensive, but cricket's not just about that anymore. It's about entertainment.

At the Rose Bowl this evening, a near full stadium revelled in the sunshine while watching a close, entertaining game. When was the last time the Hampshire locals roared with such gusto when their county hit a six or took a wicket? And when was the last time they stayed behind to give their team a lap of honour?

Ok, so maybe it's just because this was the first day of the tournament and once the novelty has died down, the interest and backing will fizzle out. But if you take the Twenty20 Cup for what it is and what it's trying to do, then so far, so good.