Somerset round off poor English campaign
The performances of the Twenty20 Cup winners and runners-up in this tournament have left much to be desired. Sussex and Somerset, taken outside their comfort zones, were left in the wake of much more formidable and fitter teams in the Champions League in India. Their performances are in a way symbolic of the way England, where Twenty20 was born, has been overtaken in running the format by countries such as India who have brought fresher and innovative ideas to add a new element to the game.
Both sides arrived in India on the back of rigorous campaigns in county cricket, with the last Pro40 game ending on September 27, just about a week before this event. Sussex were literally involved till the last day of the season having won the Twenty20 Cup and the Pro40 and ending runners-up in the FP Trophy while getting relegated in the Championship. Sufficed to say, they arrived to India with a lot of baggage.
Despite their thrilling last-ball win against IPL champions Hyderabad, Somerset would have counted themselves lucky to have reached this far in the tournament. It owed plenty to six balls from Dwayne Bravo - arguably one of the best final overs in Twenty20 - that knocked Hyderabad out of the tournament.
Even as the Somerset players went to bed with firecrackers lighting Hyderabad skyline, their captain Justin Langer knew the celebrations would last only a few more hours as they were line up against New South Wales. Langer knows the exact definition of the term "world-class" - as he described NSW - having been part of Steve Waugh's invincibles that won 16 Tests in a row. But Somerset, who had squeezed into the domestic Twenty20 finals after a bowl-out against Lancashire in the quarter-finals, were never a scare for the Australians today, as David Warner helped erase a target of 112 with an astonishing 49 balls to spare.
After the defeat Langer could only doff his hat at NSW. As he passed high plaudits to the likes of Brett Lee, Stuart Clark, Doug Bollinger and Nathan Hauritz after the match, he sounded more like a Sydneysider than the overseas captain at Taunton. "Hands on heart Somerset have no excuses the way we have played," Langer said.
Even in defeat Langer refused to buy the theory that English sides were at a disadvantage coming into the tournament on the back of a long and arduous domestic season. Conversely, he felt it was to their advantage. "We came here on the back of a long season but we should've had a lot of cricket fitness but we didn't play a good cricket as we would've liked unfortunately," he said.
Not everyone would agree with Langer, not least Marc Robinson, the Sussex coach. In his appraisal Robinson was scathing. Speaking to The Wisden Cricketer last week, Robinson said that there was an overload in English domestic cricket and it was highly impossible for the county teams to adapt after playing another brand of cricket.
"We came right at the back of the Championship to a Pro40 decider at Worcester. We haven't played a Twenty20 game since August and we come out to India. It is hard to try and stay in the Championship, win the Pro40 then come here. I've been speaking to the other teams in the Champions League and they've had month-long training camps on Twenty20 cricket."
Opinions remain divided.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo