I know cricket is a bit outside my usual remit, but any true believer knows that it’s basically a strategy boardgame played in a field so I have no apologies for this.
For those who still refuse to understand the king of sports, there are several forms of cricket. They fall into three main categories: the multi-day match (Test matches, internationals and first-class cricket matches), all of which give each team two innings and often ends in a draw; the one-day or limited-overs match in which each team gets to bowl (and face) a fixed number of balls, usually 240, or 40 overs of six balls; and the recent development of Twenty20 cricket, a game of 20 overs (120 balls) per team, that can be played to completion in three hours or less.
Twenty20 has proved massively popular, and is having extraordinary amounts of money thrown at it right now. And justly so. It’s fantastic entertainment, it’s what you want cricket to be: both teams fresh and not afraid to take risks, balls being smashed all over the ground, big scores, no draws, drama, the crowd on its feet. I was at a Twenty20 match last summer where Surrey captain Mark Ramprakash, needing six runs off the last over, won the game by walloping a six into the pavilion. It was a moment from the Boy’s Own Paper. Twenty20’s not subtle, nor is it strategic, but it’s a brilliant evening out.
The one-day match, or ‘Pro40’ as it’s now being called, has suffered as a result. This is much more of a game: it’s tactical, limited-resources stuff, fatigue beginning to play a factor, it’s intelligent cricket in a digestible form, but for the audience it requires a whole day’s commitment, which is great if you’re a student or retired but not a lot of use for the rest of us.
Nevertheless the county sides are pushing Pro40 to those who have come to the game via Twenty20. Some matches now start in the afternoon and run late under floodlightsâ€”a problem for many cricket grounds built before such things were invented, and who now have to deal with planning permission and objections from local residents before they can even bring in temporary lights. But there’s a big publicity push on for the longer-form game, to convince potential spectators that it’s a better game.
Even so, despite all that, I’m not sure Surrey CCC’s slogan for the next series of Pro40 matches hits the spot. I can see where they’re coming from, but ‘Twenty20 with twice the balls’…. Well, we’ll see.
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