Outside Edge: Not even boundaries galore and hipster beards can elevate T20 above fast-food status

Diary of a cricket obsessive

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The Independent Online

Three days after one of the great Test matches of recent years, Lord’s returned to domestic duties on Thursday to host a NatWest Twenty20 Blast match between Middlesex and Kent.

There was less champagne in evidence, fewer blazers and considerably more hipster beards than might be expected among a Test crowd. T20 encourages enthusiastic support from a fan base which is at once egalitarian and refreshingly diverse, attracted in part by (relatively) affordable tickets and by the promise of sixes, flame-throwers and general good fun. More than a decade since the advent of the game’s shortest form and the world remains hungry for more.

On Thursday, as I clapped every boundary (31 fours and sixes in all) and munched on a vastly overpriced “Dirty Dog” (dirty, but apparently made with an “artisan” pork sausage), it was easy to see why 14,000 others had turned out too. Paul Stirling hit a sparkling century, while Eoin Morgan often looked a cut above with a 50 on his return from the IPL, as Middlesex racked up 205.

James Franklin, loping in like a youthful Hugh Laurie, then bowled beautifully, mixing his pace to take 5 for 21 from his four overs, as Kent were dispatched for just 90. The whole shebang was done and dusted by 8.45pm.

And yet, for all the fun, bombast and excitement, T20 cricket lacks the underlying tension that Tests provide by the  bucket load (unless the buckets are full of Yorkshire’s finest rain). Nor is there the intrinsic nuance, the feeling that you are watching multiple games within a game. Even the best T20 is light music to a great Test’s symphonic complexity; a fast-food joint set against Michelin-starred subtlety.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my “Dirty Dog”. But three bites in, I had the measure of it; three more and I knew its sustenance, and its memory, would not be long-lasting.

Northeast almost pays for smashing time in the nets

Players and coaches don’t always get on. Greg Chappell’s relationship with Sourav Ganguly was notably fiery; the ramifications of Kevin Pietersen’s rift with Peter Moores are still being felt. Shane Warne famously believed that a coach was simply a means of getting to and from a game.

On Thursday, as Kent’s batsmen warmed up in the nets, captain Sam Northeast got in the mood for Blast action against the gentle spin of Jimmy Adams, West Indies legend turned Kent coach. Smashing the head boy out of the net is one thing, but Northeast’s fearsome drive into Adams’, erm, midriff caused gasps and giggles from the watching schoolboys. The pair were immediately all smiles, however; Northeast having seemingly avoided  a Ganguly moment by  a whisker.

Hiring a coach or barbie duty – best send for an Aussie

After the sacking of Moores, Andrew Strauss noted this conundrum: “To be a credible international coach, they need to have international experience. If they haven’t played international cricket, then you get that situation where they can only get international experience by coaching, but they need it in order to coach. That’s the situation we’re in at the moment.” Alternatively, it seems, you just need to be Australian. A bit like when someone’s required to man the tongs at a barbecue.