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The need for speed

Posted in Domestic Cricket

Adam Hollioake lifts Twenty20 trophy

Surrey Lions captain Adam Hollioake lifts the inaugural Twenty20 Cup back in 2003

It feels a long time since Twenty20 was first introduced.

It’s only nine years, but already, for me as a Surrey fan, the days of Adam Hollioake’s Surrey side strutting their stuff in what was largely a novelty seem a distant memory.

Many aspects of the competition have changed since then, not least the subsiding of Surrey and Leicestershire’s domination (although this year has seen an upturn in fortunes for both).

What I saw of that great side made a lasting impression and ever since I have felt myself yearning for a return to such success. There can be no greater excitement than watching a dynamic, exuberant t20 side at the peak of their powers, boasting such players as Ali Brown, Azhar Mahmood, Mark Ramprakash and of course Hollioake himself.

In the past two years, I’ve also felt a yearning for a return to the early days of the competition too as more matches, tired pitches, and perhaps the loss of the novelty that the early competition carried have reduced its appeal. I could even swear that the music has gone downhill too!

However, while watching Surrey versus Hampshire at the Kia Oval last week, I felt myself rediscovering an enthusiasm for the format.

2011 has seen some uneventful matches played out on Sky Sports, lacking in excitement and drama, where a host of dibbly dobblers and wily spinners bowling on over-used green tops have consistently had a stranglehold on the batsmen.

This is perhaps demonstrated by the fact that this year’s most successful side, Hampshire - Surrey’s opponents that evening, have lost just two matches with a bowling attack consisting of the evergreen but much reduced in pace Dominic Cork, the military medium of Dimitri Mascarenhas, supplemented with three spinners - admittedly very good ones - in Danny Briggs, Imran Tahir, and Shahid Afridi.

Chris Tremlett, Dominic Cork & Rory Hamilton-Brown

The sound of of the 90mph thud of ball on stump gets the home crowd rocking as Surrey beat defending champions Hampshire at the Kia Oval

It was perhaps unsurprising then that a potentially brutal and enterprising Surrey top order was subdued in the first innings and largely failed to get going on a typically good Oval pitch. But what happened next was a joy to watch.

The Surrey attack boasted four genuinely quick bowlers, including England colossus Chris Tremlett. Hampshire were hit with a barrage of pace, which crowds are rarely treated to in county cricket.

As the crowd came to life and the ground started rocking to the sound of of the 90mph thud of ball on stump as another Tremlett/Dirk Nannes/Stuart Meaker yorker found its mark, it occurred to me that this was how T20 cricket was originally envisaged and how it used to be. I frequently see adverts for turbo-charged cricket, but not frequently enough do we get that.

Twenty20 must rediscover its mojo. To my mind, the answer is quick, bouncy pitches, and tall fast bowlers.

While the guile of medium-pace and spin is to be appreciated, there is nothing that gets a crowd going more than the sight of a stump cartwheeling or a ball whistling past the batsman’s ears. That, and the frequent dispatching of the ball to the stands.

While the balance between bat and ball is something to be praised in Test cricket, t20 was created to get ‘bums on seats’ for an hour or two.

This demands, like it or not, domination of the bat, and if the ball is to dominate a team, as was evident at the Oval, then please let it be Tremlett’s 90mph bumpers and yorkers rather than Mascarenhas’s back-of-a-length dot balls.

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