Slogathon shows its value to game

Middlesex 146-7 Surrey 183-5 Surrey win by 37 runs

A couple of the names on show at last night's sell-out Twenty20 encounter between Middlesex and Surrey were the same as those that used to fill Lord's for county matches in the 1950s. But what Denis Compton and Len Hutton would have made of the music, the colour and the frantic nature of this abbreviated form of the game is another matter.

But for Nick and Ben, the grandchildren of two of England's greatest cricketers, this was the biggest match they will have ever played in. Neither starred in Middlesex's defeat but this was an evening they, and the 12 other players in this match who are yet to play international cricket, will never forget.

Over 26,500 flocked into St John's Wood for the 5.30 start and each lapped up the entertainment provided by London's two major cricket clubs. So great was the interest, and so good was the atmosphere, that it was difficult at times to believe you were watching two counties playing at the home of cricket.

The clientele were different to those normally found here on big days but their enthusiasm for the game was remarkable. The £10 and £5 admission prices gave the touts little chance of a decent mark-up, encouraging parents to treat their children to an evening out, and the prospect of three hours of frantic cricket - and a couple of pints - proved to be too good an attraction to miss for those in the city as they made their way home from work.

In anticipation, Lord's treated the game as though it were a Test match. All the bars were open and the crowds that surrounded the Champagne and Pimms tents highlighted how right they were. Indeed, it was reassuring to see high-rollers spending their petty cash on a glass of bubbly here rather than at a flash bar in the city.

It was the crowd as much as the players who provided Lord's with such a wonderful occasion. If we are being honest Twenty20, as a game of cricket, is pretty ordinary. Those promoting it will build it up and tell you how much it will improve the standard of one-day cricket. But it will not, it is nothing more than a 20-over slogathon that allows players to go out there and have some fun.

Thankfully, though, it is an exciting slogathon which has a vital role to play in the game. Yesterday's match brought more than £250,000 into the county game, money that it previously had no means of raising. Those with a fleeting interest in the game loved it and those with a more puritanical view would be fools if they did not enjoy it and accept it for what it is.

This game was not a classic and the Surrey Lions were far too strong for their North London rivals. The victory maintained Surrey's 100 per cent record in Twenty20 cricket and ensured a home draw in Monday's quarter-finals.

Batting first, the Lions amassed 183 in their 20 overs. Mark Ramprakash played well for his 38, but it was a belligerent 41-ball innings of 65 from Adam Hollioake which took this game away from Middlesex.

Hollioake was dropped twice before he reached 12 and he made these escapes count. England's former one-day skipper cleared the ropes on two occasions with lusty heaves and the Lions added 109 runs in the second half of their innings. Paul Weekes was the only Middlesex bowler to check the run-rate.

The Crusaders' reply began wildly. Andrew Strauss and Weekes swung hard but failed to make contact with the ball far too many times. Strauss fell to Philip Sampson, who proved that it is possible for bowlers to contain batsmen if they bowl straight and hit the pitch aggressively.

Owais Shah looked like he might grab hold of the game when hit a huge six over extra cover, but when he was out in the 10th over Middlesex only had 64 runs on the board. With Lance Klusener in your side anything is possible, but the Lions kept the South African all-rounder off the strike brilliantly.

The left-hander smashed 53 off 31 balls, but received little support from his team-mates. Hutton and Compton scored 10 runs between them. In the 1950s fans would have gone home disappointed.

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