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Wednesday, 13 November, 2002, 12:53 GMT
Pure entertainment beckons
There's too much tranquility in the county game
The Twenty20 Cup will not be a tranquil affair

Some of the sport's cynics doubted the claims of limited-overs cricket when it first arrived on the scene more than 30 years ago.

It follows that there will be those who are bound to rubbish a 20-over-a-side competition.

But the format of Twenty20 cricket could renew interest among people who enjoy cricket but find it difficult to devote an entire day to watching the sport.

Who knows, people may even queue to watch matches that promise a thrill a minute, and presumably a very good chance of a nail-biting finish.

An England and Wales Cricket Board's 'working party' conducted 1,400 interviews to discover whether 20-over cricket met with approval.

Members were turned off by the 1998 B&H final
Members were turned off by the 1998 B&H final

In April, it recommended the format, and the counties then backed those findings, with many chief executives round the country seeing it as a money-spinner.

Even those who don't have such a high opinion of it must favour it to the 50-over-a-side Benson and Hedges Cup which it will replace.

Most of the B&H Cup was crammed into the end of April and May.

Many games were lost to rain and counties were also fitting in four-day matches and the Norwich Union League.

Nobody can genuinely claim that the stand-alone 20-over contest would be a case of 'dumbing down' the noble game.

Surely it's a dumber thing hitting the counties with three concurrent competitions at the start of the season.

Fans wrap at a B&H Cup match in Spring
Fans wrap at a B&H Cup match in Spring

True, there would be no time for consolidating an innings as often happens in the middle overs of a traditional 50-over-a-side contest.

But isn't that a largely boring spectacle in any event? Batsmen hitting flat off-spin to long on for four singles an over never sets pulses racing.

And it's fun to watch cricket being played at a helter-skelter pace.

Those mad first few overs of a one-day match on a good pitch with a hard ball often don't seem to last long enough.

In the 20-over game the ball would never have time to go soft, and even if early wickets fell, batsmen would be compelled to keep playing their shots.

Cricket has already lost so many fans to football in England, but this is a chance to get some of them back.

Nottinghamshire's Chris Cairns: A future 20-over star
Nottinghamshire's Chris Cairns: A 20-over star?

Ironically perhaps, Twenty20 cricket recognises that cricket can get value out of producing an overall time-span much closer to the 90 minutes of a football match.

The ECB sees the games as being ideal for children and those returning from work.

Some matches will start at about 5.30pm and be finished well before dark sets in.

Others, at grounds blessed with floodlights, will begin at 7.30pm, making them similar to a mid-week kick-off in a football fixture.

Entertainment is surely the name of the game these days. These matches will be exactly that - pure entertainment.

Players who become stars in Twenty20 cricket will not automatically be picked for England's one-day side.

But sometimes cricket has to give something back to its loyal fans.

See also:

12 Nov 02 | Counties
12 Aug 02 | Cricket
06 Mar 02 | Counties
04 Mar 02 | Counties
11 Sep 01 | Counties
Links to more Counties stories are at the foot of the page.


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