Whose game is it anyway?

This is the new world. You spend nine hours on a flight across an ocean, a couple more to reach your hotel, and still manage to squeeze half a cricket match into what remains of the day. It was a pity that only one half of that half was meaningful: Sri Lanka's challenge against Pakistan fizzled out under lights in a flurry of compulsory but fatal strokes. As the first experience of live cricket in this version of the World Cup (though it isn't officially a World Cup, we're told; that comes next year), it wasn't particularly memorable.

But then what is, these days? This tournament is only a week old but it already seems to have started a long time ago. It seems ages since Shane Bond took a wicket with his first ball. Last seen, he was disappearing into the stands against Sri Lanka. Or was it against England? Was it yesterday or the day before? As matches blur into one another, the memory gets hazy and scrambled. You are left with a lot of moments, but can you place them? Can you find context?

You see, I am trying to like Twenty20. I really am. I know it's here to stay, and as long as I choose to make my living out of cricket writing, it's my professional obligation to watch the game and write about it. I really don't want to sound either like an old bore or a cricket snob. Give the damn thing time, I tell myself; it might grow on you.

There have been two enthralling matches in the tournament so far - which is admittedly twice as many as the first phase of the 50-over World Cup had. Zimbabwe's win over Australia, because of its unlikeliness and because everyone loves the underdog; and the tie between India and Pakistan.

I wouldn't call that match a win for India. The bowl-out ruined it for me. A thoroughly thrilling game reduced to a farce by five minutes of meaninglessness. Even in a penalty shootout, which many football fans deride as a lottery, there are basic football skills on display. In the senseless adaptation of the concept to cricket, part-time bowlers have a much better chance of success than regulars. And honestly, what's wrong with a tie? It's rare and precious. Why must cricket copy football thoughtlessly?

The best way to enjoy this game, perhaps, is to enjoy the moments. That will take some reorientation because it is not the way we grew up watching cricket. Yes, cricket is finally all about the moments, but there's always the larger plot to consider; a lot more goes into making those moments. In Twenty20, the moments are the plot. Games can often be decided by one innings, one spell, one over: it is cricket without pauses. You flow with the tide, soak in the atmosphere, and come back for more the next day - or the next hour. It's not cricket as art but cricket concentrated into an adrenalin shot; it's designed to give you a kick but not to linger.

In Twenty20, games can often be decided by one innings, one spell, one over: it is cricket without pauses. You flow with the tide, soak in the atmosphere, and come back for more the next day - or the next hour

An over can produce two sixes and two wickets, and if Bangladesh are batting, it's more likely to be the first over than the last. A top-order collapse could mean absolutely nothing. And the finest strokes could be followed by the ugliest hoicks.

Of course it's a far better game to watch at the stadium than on TV, but how much of the fun at the ground is real? The DJ gets into action at every over-break. Every boundary and every wicket is a cue for the dancers to go into overdrive. Some of them don't even know the game. It all feels a bit contrived and lacking in understanding. Edges are cheered as lustily as sublime strokes.

Yet it's easy to see why Twenty20 has a future. It is far less demanding on the spectator: it requires much less patience, engagement, and understanding of the nuances. And it has no history or tradition to intimidate new audiences. Most of all, it is short and something is happening all the time. If you are not burdened with cricket's past and the knowledge of its finer, complex aspects, Twenty20 is pretty good entertainment. It has revived domestic cricket in England, and in South Africa where audience figures for Test cricket have fallen hopelessly.

My children, who have dumped cricket for football, loved the bowl-out. My son, in fact, sat with me to watch the last five overs and was so excited about the "shootout" that he started text-messaging his friend at 1.30am and dragged his sister out of bed. As they cheered and exulted at every hit by the Indians, I was left with conflicting emotions. It felt like both victory and defeat. I was delighted by their sudden involvement with my game, but was it really my game?

Sport is about skills and possibilities. Tests provide the best platform for a full exhibition of cricket skills. Twenty20 shrinks that range. But spectator sports are also about enjoyment. People having a good time can't be such a bad thing after all.