Twenty-seven Twenty20 internationals are scheduled for the inaugural World Championship in South Africa next month, which is 11 more than have been played worldwide in the two and a half years since the concept went global. But in that time there have been several memorable moments, and a few stodgier affairs as well. Cricinfo casts an eye over the highlights.
Disco Divas, Australia v New Zealand, Auckland 2004-05
Retro-chic was all the rage as Australia and New Zealand squared up for the inaugural Twenty20 international at Auckland. It's fair to say that neither side took the occasion entirely seriously. The Kiwis looked especially ludicrous in their 1970s figure-hugging beige outfits, complete with comedy moustaches and, in Hamish Marshall's case, incredibly big hair. But it was Australia who looked the sillier when both Adam Gilchrist and Michael Clarke fell to unrepentant mows in the space of 11 deliveries. Before long, though, Ricky Ponting had found the right balance between attack and self-destruction. His 98 not out from 55 balls remains the highest score in the short history of Twenty20 internationals.
Crowd Pleasers, Australia v New Zealand, Auckland 2004-05
One selection and one incident summed up the occasion of that first Twenty20 international. Turning out for New Zealand, after an absence of 12 years, was none other than Jeff Wilson - who had given up on cricket as a teenager to become one of the greatest wingers in All Blacks history, with 44 tries in 60 Tests. He enjoyed a mixed return, conceding 43 runs in four overs in the midst of Ponting's onslaught, but then slapped 18 from 14 balls towards the end of New Zealand's chase. The game was up long before Wilson was bowled by Glenn McGrath, which left the stage clear for McGrath's final trick of the match - a feigned Trevor Chappell-style underarm delivery to the last man Kyle Mills, which earned him a mock red card from the umpire, Billy Bowden.
England's onslaught, England v Australia, Southampton 2005
Despite his personal success at Auckland, Ponting found it hard to be enthusiastic about Twenty20s. "I think it is difficult to play seriously," he said in the immediate aftermath of that match. Four months later at the Rose Bowl, however, in the first encounter of what would become a seismic summer, the Aussies encountered a side who were in no mood whatsoever for messing. The veteran Darren Gough sparked the feeding frenzy by hitting Andrew Symonds with a bouncer instead of going for the hat-trick; Jon Lewis, on debut, struck four times in 11 balls, and after 5.5 overs Australia were in disarray at 31 for 7. Andrew Flintoff chinned Brett Lee with a brutish short ball, Steve Harmison uprooted Glenn McGrath's middle stump to seal the 100-run win. For Ponting, however, it all remained a bit of a laugh.
Farcical bowl-out, New Zealand v West Indies, Auckland 2005-06
This was a low-quality contest from start to finish, with West Indies posting a sub-par 126, and New Zealand failing to overhaul it despite being given a blistering start by Lou Vincent. But the nadir wasn't reached until the scores had been brought level by some late slugging from James Franklin and Shane Bond. Instead of finishing as a tie, the teams went to a bowl-out to decide the winner, and in scenes of mounting farce, neither side proved able to rattle the stumps from 22 yards. The first six bowlers, with two balls each, all failed in their task, before Bond succeeded twice to bring an end to the indignity.
Big-screen entertainment, England v Sri Lanka, Southampton 2006
It's a biennial problem at the height of the English season: how do you keep the casual cricket fans interested during one of the major international football tournaments? Hampshire found an interesting solution in June 2006, when they hosted England v Sri Lanka on the same day that Beckham and the boys took on Trinidad and Tobago in Nuremburg. On a sweltering day, the crowds rocked up in early afternoon to watch the footie on the giant replay screen, before settling back to watch the cricket as the sun set. In both matches, England left it late. Two goals in the last seven minutes sealed an unconvincing 2-0 victory in Germany, but back home, nine runs off the final over proved beyond the best efforts of the debutant Tim Bresnan.
The maiden maiden, England v Pakistan, Bristol 2006
It's an old adage in limited-overs cricket that the best way to bowl dot-balls is to take wickets. That's what Mohammad Asif achieved in no uncertain terms at Bristol in 2006, en route to the first maiden over in the history of Twenty20 internationals. In truth it wasn't an entirely run-free over - Marcus Trescothick scampered a leg-bye off the first ball - but after that it was all about Asif. His next ball was Kevin Pietersen's first, and it zipped through his defences at 85mph to pluck out the off stump. One watchful delivery later Andrew Strauss was gone as well, nibbling an offcutter low to Kamran Akmal's left. From 39 for 0, England had slipped to 40 for 3, and a five-wicket defeat followed soon enough.
Jayasuriya runs riot, New Zealand v Sri Lanka, Wellington 2006-07
In the 1996 World Cup, Sanath Jayasuriya redefined the art of one-day batting with his ballistic displays as a pinch-hitting opener. Ten years later his performance against New Zealand was somewhat less revolutionary but every bit as emphatic. In a soggy pre-Christmas rubber, Jayasuriya grabbed three cheap wickets with his legspin to restrict the Kiwis to 162 for 8, and then, with rain in the air and a quick completion essential, he hurled himself gleefully at the run-chase. Two fours in the first over, three more in the second, and a flurry of four, six, four, four in the sixth, and he had helped himself to a 23-ball half-century. Moments later the teams were forced from the field, and Sri Lanka had secured their victory.
Christmas stodge, New Zealand v Sri Lanka, Auckland 2006-07
Four days on from Sanath's surge, and no doubt after several helpings of turkey and stuffing, New Zealand and Sri Lanka contested one of the stodgiest matches imaginable. After losing the toss and being asked to bat, Sri Lanka grumbled along like a bout of indigestion, eventually mustering a total of 115, the lowest first-innings score in Twenty20 history. And had it not been for some spirited swinging from Lasith Malinga and Dilhara Fernando, Sri Lanka might have struggled to make much more than 80. But New Zealand seemed no more acquainted with the conditions when their turn came to bat. Two run-outs accentuated the pressure as Tillekaratne Dilshan conceded eight runs from 21 balls, but they eventually skulked to victory with nine deliveries to spare.
England's post-Ashes pounding, Australia v England, Sydney 2006-07
Ponting still claimed he wasn't taking the game seriously, but 18 months on from their last encounter, the tables had rather been turned in Anglo-Aussie relations. England had had just two days to digest the magnitude of their 5-0 Ashes thumping - their first whitewash against Australia in 86 years - while the Aussies were still in a celebratory mode after their jovial three-pronged send-off to Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Justin Langer. The stage was set for a rout, and Adam Gilchrist launched the Ozzfest with 48 from 29 balls. In all a record 14 maximums were smacked as Australia racked up a massive 221 for 5 - the highest score to date in Twenty20s. In reply England lost Ed Joyce and Andrew Flintoff in the space of eight deliveries, which rather summed up the mood of the times.
Smith and Bosman rout Pakistan, South Africa v Pakistan, Johannesburg 2006-07
Doubtless, in the forthcoming World Championship there will be one or two mismatches, but the glory of Twenty20 games is that the routs are mercifully brief. So far there has been just one ten-wicket trouncing, and sure enough it is the shortest completed match on record. Pakistan never looked like putting up a fight at the Wanderers, and when Alfonso Thomas took three wickets on debut to reduce them to 129 for 8, a quick denouement was on the cards. Graeme Smith and Loots Bosman delivered in the blink of an eye. Smith smashed nine fours and four sixes in an unbeaten 70; Bosman kept pace magnificently with 53 from 32 balls. The game was all over with 51 balls to spare.
Samuels's monstrous six, England v West Indies, The Oval 2007
Big-hitting is what Twenty20 cricket is all about. In the 16 internationals to date there have been a grand total of 136 sixes, but few have been bigger than Marlon Samuels' massive smear off Ryan Sidebottom at The Oval in June. The shot was a full-blooded on-drive over midwicket, and it sailed clean out of the ground and into the traffic on the Harleyford Road. The Oval, lest we forget, is one of the largest venues in the world, and the strip on which the match was being played was right in the centre of the park. That shot was merely the most emphatic of Samuels' four maximums, as West Indies put their Test miseries behind them with a towering total of 208 for 8, and an eventual 15-run win.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo