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Turning Points

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

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
Surrey were the champions of the inaugural Twenty20 Cup  •  Getty Images

Surrey were the champions of the inaugural Twenty20 Cup  •  Getty Images

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