"Not proper cricket”?
So with the Summer Solstice been and gone it’s time for T20 cricket. It doesn’t seem like ten years since the newest and shortest form of the game took it’s first tentative steps. It was initially an experiment thought up by the ECB to replace the B&H Cup. In response to dwindling crowds they cooked up a format with a younger audience in mind, probably expecting the “hit and giggle” to remain a domestic oddity. Instead they spawned a new form of the game, one that has both horrified traditionalists and purists and captivated others around the globe, particularly in India where the IPL has reinvented cricket as glossy, hectic, belligerent three hour entertainment.
Domestically the Friend’s Life T20 remains a bit of a “marmite” concept for cricket fans with some Members still giving it a swerve whilst more casual supporters flock through the turnstiles provided the price and the weather is right. Every year I have the same conversation with a friend of mine, he’s cricket mad, a life long Kent Member and even spent the 70’s taking in Kent’s away games in the old Sunday League and yet he steadfastly refuses to attend T20 matches.
I’ve made it my mission to persuade him to give it a go. He insists it isn’t “proper cricket” and often tries to time his summer holiday to be abroad when the annual bun-fight begins. I think he’s missing out. I don’t think the Championship and T20 are mutually exclusive. You can appreciate both for what they are, acknowledging their strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately I’m a cricket fan and a Kent fan and want to watch them succeed in all forms.
Like many I was unconvinced by T20 when it began in 2003 but it only took a couple of matches before I was won over. I think it compliments the other two forms (one day 40 or 50 overs and Championship or Tests) perfectly. Some say the shots aren’t classical, the bowling designed to limit scoring rather than take wickets but actually the game has matured into a particular genre which has helped reinvigorate the longer one day format.
Anyone lucky enough to witness the utterly astonishing Yorkshire Bank 40 game at home to Sussex on Wednesday night will have recognised that some of the inventive shots on show, the magnificently fearless hitting, inspired fielding, canny bowling and mental strength on show had undoubted echoes from the T20 revolution. Teams now approach 300 plus scores in one day games with genuine expectations of chasing them down in part due to often facing 180 plus in T20. Having witnessed most of Kent’s T20 home games over the last 10 years I’d have to say some of the batting has been mind boggling. One day bowling has become more cat and mouse, trying to second guess the batsman, particularly with fielding restrictions. Andrew Symonds’s monster six hitting at an early game at Beckenham caught the eye, as did his incredible 112 at the Mote against Middlesex.
Many Kent fans finally fully embraced the format in 2007 with the wonderful win in the final at Edgbaston against Gloucestershire. It was all very nip and tuck, McLaren’s hat-trick had us all dancing in the aisles, but in a game of relatively mediocre scores Kent held their nerve (just) to clinch the Cup. It was and remains my best ever moment watching Kent. Don’t get me wrong, my lifetime ambition is to see Kent win the Championship and a Lord’s Final, (still counting having missed the “glory years”!), but that balmy evening in Birmingham was sublime. The following year the dénouement at the Rose Bowl was no less buttock-clenchingly thrilling, sadly destined not to go our way, but a game that illustrated all the best features of T20 cricket.
Now T20 isn’t perfect, a Friday night at the Oval can see you surrounded by already squiffy groups of spectators more concerned with getting paralytic and boorishly building “beer snakes” than appreciating the cricket. The weather can also ruin a T20 game very quickly due to the lack of wiggle room if it rains and 5 over bashes to constitute a game tend to be absurd. Nevertheless the format is here to stay, my nephews love watching it and it is an ideal length for television. Doubts over spot fixing in the Indian subcontinent and the antics of Allen Stanford have tarnished the image as has the clash between the Champions League, the IPL and our own domestic fixture list, but the speed at which the format spread round the cricketing world and the vibrancy of the subsequent T20 World Cups show that it might not be “traditional” but it has become one of the three legitimate forms of the game. If you haven’t already, then I urge you to give it a go!
Eddie Allcorn was born in Canterbury and now resides in Harbledown. He started watching Kent in 1979 and has been an active Member since the mid/late 1980's. Eddie will be providing further blogs during the 2013 season. Many thanks Eddie.
Photo: Sarah Ansell