South Africa v England, Group E, Cape Town

The allure of the double-header

One of the greatest strengths of Twenty20 has been the willingness to experiment

Hugh Chevallier at Newlands

September 16, 2007

Text size: A | A



Graeme Smith and Paul Collingwood toss up at the start of an eagerly awaited contest © Getty Images
Enlarge
One of the greatest strengths of Twenty20 has been the willingness to experiment. Reverse-pulls and slow bouncers have confused bowlers, puzzled batsmen and thrilled crowds. And there's another innovation, perhaps less apparent to the TV audience than the spectators (and writers) at the ground.

The double-header is an intriguing idea: two separate matches involving four different teams on the same ground, one played an hour or so after the other. It's a long way from five-day Test cricket, but if you try to squeeze a 27-match tournament into under a fortnight, there's no choice.

So what do the audience think? They seem to lap them up. Today's games at Newlands were sold out - although, given that one was South Africa v England, it would have been a major surprise if they weren't. Wisely, that game was scheduled for the evening, so there was no chance of a full-house dribbling away once the Australia v Bangladesh game ended soon after 4.30. Even at the start of the less (locally) appealing game, the ground was at least three-quarters full.

Despite the predictable, one-sided game that began in the afternoon, the atmosphere was lively. The crowd seemed happy enough - as well they might given that they could see two matches for R60 (a little over £4) if sitting on the grass, or R120 (around £8.50) in the stands.

What they couldn't do between games, however - at least not until 5pm - was drink beer. It's a long-standing tradition that the Newlands bars close between 4 and 5, so they had to make do with other attractions.

The England team, for example, were in the nets. With around 17,000 in the ground and no live cricket, they cannot have had such an audience for a practice session anywhere outside the subcontinent. The fans were about ten deep. Elsewhere, small boys and their parents - mums as well as dads - were playing impromptu games of cricket on the tennis courts. Older lads put jumpers down for goalposts and kicked a ball about.

And suffusing the air was the smell of grilled meat. The early spring sun was bright rather than warm, but the braais burnt regardless, and the stalls selling peri peri chicken had snaking queues. In contrast to the high-octane sport, the break had a relaxed feel. Everyone seemed to feel that the double-header was a bit of a bargain really - rather like a supermarket's BOGOFF (Buy One; Get One For Free) promotion.

Unlike the stands, the press box was distinctly quiet for the Australia v Bangladesh game. But it filled up as the floodlit match approached: the two biggest media contingents at this tournament are from South Africa and the UK, so it was rather more of a scrum come the evening. One or two from the British Sunday papers had even had time for a spot of whale-watching before bowling up to the ground.

For them, though, a double-header is old hat. Finals day in the English domestic Twenty20 Cup - the model for this tournament - has its own triple-header. The ECB, wrongly as it turned out, had worries that the final would not be enough of a draw in itself, so the semis were held the same day. That's three games, 120 overs. Hard work for the journalists.

Same again this evening, with the dailies having to file just moments after the game ended if deadlines were to be met. They'll be taking a familiar line... Dropped catches, an innings that never got going... England needing to win all their remaining matches to stay in a global competition...

Hugh Chevallier is deputy editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

FeedbackTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print

    What is Rohit Sharma's role?

Should India have practised slip catching in the nets? Who will play at the G?

    'I'd like to have faced the West Indies quicks'

Northamptonshire's David Willey picks his ideal partner for a jungle expedition, and talks about his famous dad

    Benn shows up in body and spirit

Tony Cozier: The spinner has brought in a sense of discipline into his bowling and behaviour on the field since his Test comeback

    The return of Bob Simpson

Rewind: When the 41-year-old former captain came out of retirement to lead Australia against India

Why Steven Smith's here to stay

Russell Jackson: He has experienced captaincy at every level. Most admirably, he has managed to reinvent his game to succeed at the highest level

News | Features Last 7 days

What ails Rohit and Watson?

Both batsmen seemingly have buckets of talent at their disposal and the backing of their captains, but soft dismissals relentlessly follow both around the Test arena

The perfect Test

After the tragedy of Phillip Hughes' death, this match showed that cricket and life will continue to go on. This time Test cricket dug in and got through to tea.

Hazlewood completes quartet of promise

Josh Hazlewood has been on Australian cricket's radar since he was a teenager. The player that made a Test debut at the Gabba was a much-improved version of the tearaway from 2010

Australia in good hands under proactive Smith

The new stand-in captain has the makings of a long-term leader, given his ability to stay ahead of the game

Karn struggles to stay afloat

The failed gamble of handing Karn Sharma a Test debut despite him having a moderate first-class record means India have to rethink who their spinner will be

News | Features Last 7 days