No. 46 July 24, 2011

The birth of Twenty20

The game's newest format emerged as a marketing gimmick but the cricket went on to out-glamour everything around it


At first the Twenty20 Cup was viewed with the sniffiness of a maiden aunt at a shotgun wedding, but as with all the best shindigs, even the fuddy duddies soon found themselves tapping their feet to the beat.

The concept had been dismissed as a gimmick when it was launched in the spring of 2003, and worse than that, a marketing gimmick, for it was Stuart Robertson, the ECB's head of marketing, who was credited with coming up with the plan, ostensibly as a reaction to tumbling county audiences. But even before the first fortnight-long season was done and dusted, it was abundantly clear that a revolution had been spawned in the shires.

The ECB executives at the official launch in Kensington turned up looking hip and trendy (and distinctly uncomfortable) in their open-collared shirts, and this awkward attempt at melding tradition with innovation continued around the grounds, where pop and samba bands, jacuzzis, and speed-dating were just some of the attractions on offer, as brand-new audiences were lured through the turnstiles by whatever means possible.

It didn't take long, however, for the cricket to recapture centre stage - and for all the glitz and glamour of subsequent initiatives such as Stanford and the IPL, that fundamental truth has propelled the format towards the stratosphere.

The inaugural Twenty20 Cup was won by Adam Hollioake's Surrey, who were at the time the finest limited-overs outfit in the land, and whose nine-wicket victory over Warwickshire at Trent Bridge was completed at 9.35pm, at the end of the longest day of cricket ever staged in England.

The star of the show was instructive as well. For all the fears that a 20-over slog would turn bowlers into cannon fodder, it was the medium pace of Jimmy Ormond that trumped the big-hitters. With his line, length and modicum of movement, Ormond was the very antithesis of a glamour-puss, but his match-winning figures of 4-0-11-4 proved from the start that it is a bowler's game after all.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. This article was first published in Wisden Asia Cricket magazine in 2003

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 26, 2011, 0:35 GMT

    You might be surprised to find that T20 cricket, thanks to our long summer evenings, has been a staple of Scottish club cricket for half a century or more.

  • Dummy4 on July 25, 2011, 12:06 GMT

    Agreed. T20 cricket was first played intensively in local cricket tournaments in Pakistan--namely North Nazimabad, Karachi. This lead to the discovery of Moin Khan and several other Pakistani greats! The T20 culture is embedded in Pakistan's cricket style therefore we have the best records amongst all the nations in T20s!

  • Dummy4 on July 25, 2011, 8:53 GMT

    T20 cricket.. Andrew, as someone who might have been to some T20 Finals Day events, have you ever seen queues of spectators outside the ground at 3am as we have had today outside of Lords for the climax of England versus India?

    Test cricket all the way. Why settle for three hours of whacking when you can have six hours of tension?

  • James on July 25, 2011, 0:04 GMT

    The birth of T20, cricket for those who don't like "cricket", the impatient, people with 20 pairs of shoes/sunglasses/handbags, cricket for those who want immediate gratification. A sign of the times unfortunately.

  • Wayne on July 24, 2011, 21:58 GMT

    Never watched a 20/20 match in my life, nor do I ever intend to. LONG LIVE TEST CRICKET.

  • Dummy4 on July 24, 2011, 21:37 GMT

    I think T20 was intruduced way back by Pakistan local tournaments even I participated in 1997 in one of that tournament. So please do not forget this format was well established in Pakistan than other country around and we should give at least this credit to Pakistan.

  • Trishu on July 24, 2011, 11:47 GMT

    Twenty20 might be fun to watch but there is no way I'll ever recall any of the games that took place and key moments - with test cricket you never forget all those moments - T20 might be heavily invested now but unless Test cricket is looked after the game will go to oblivion because it is test cricket that holds the magic of cricket.

  • Dummy4 on July 24, 2011, 6:40 GMT

    whatever, i aint tapping my feet to the beat. id rather watch cricket anyday.

  • Dummy4 on July 24, 2011, 6:30 GMT

    Long live innovation, thinking outside the box, daring to try something new and sticking it to the naysayers and the doubters who prefer the view with their heads buried in the sand!

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