T20: Something for everyone

2007-09-10 13:20

Rob Houwing

I'll never forget my first, slightly cynical experience of the domestic Pro20 game when the wildfire reached these shores in 2003/04.

An unashamed old-schooler in cricketing terms - Test cricket will always be my preferred showroom of legends; limited-overs is forgettable fun - I slipped into a Newlands corporate suite (somehow I couldn't yet lower myself to being on "official" duty in the pressbox) and got into a fatally extended chat with someone over biltong and a cold brew.

When I next looked up, there was nobody left on the field. "Gee," I said, "that was over quickly... er, who won?"

So I missed my judgmental opportunity that evening, but I've since been seduced, with surprising swiftness, by Twenty20.

Does it deserve a place at cricket's broad banquet? You bet... three immediate reasons spring to my own mind:

1. It is so crazily condensed that thinking on your feet (not just by captains, but yes, those hapless creatures too!) is a deliciously daunting prerequisite.

2. If there are even two of those ho-hum, stalemate 'middle' overs in this format you are entitled to feel short-changed.

3. Bowlers genuinely have to hit the ground running - as if their first over is their loose-limbed fifth or sixth in 'normal' cricket. (In short: you're a little stiff, are you? Well, you'll 'fetch'!).

And now some two-thirds or more of the world's finest players, across the codes, have converged for a 13-day battle of wits and gun-smoke.

Best of all, though, for me, is the timing of the tournament.

Yes, the nervous ground-staff at southern-most Newlands, still wrapped up on occasion against Antarctic gusts and squalls, may want to lynch me, but I did say the timing of the tournament!

For the early spring scheduling, I have a gut feeling, is going to be a particularly intriguing leveller countrywide - one which may keep devotees of 'proper' batsmanship more appeased than they realise.

Now a number of experts have tipped slow strips, for the most part, using the logic that they will not have had adequate hot-weather time to firm up.

Me?

I reckon we'll have a tricky little mixed bag - possibly with some significantly two-paced characteristics at times.

And with some balls nipping about a tad and possibly hitting wicketkeepers' gloves at head height from the likes of Messrs Bond and Lee, I foresee a few "2/2 after two" scenarios, rather than the more routinely formulaic "16/0 after two" likelier at the balmy height of summer.

In that event, "Okay, wadda we do now?" will become a million-dollar question.

Why, some judicious dollops of Test cricket pragmatism may be forced to come into play for 20 minutes or so, before scudding assaults on cow corner can be contemplated.

Don't whisper it too loudly, but in such circumstances I wonder whether South Africa aren't going to wish they'd had a Jacques Henry Kallis or Hendrik Human Dippenaar reasonably handy...

  • Robert Houwing is editor of The Wisden Cricketer magazine.

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