Twenty20: Broad takes centre stage in razzamatazz

Old stager forced to give best to Broad on showbiz day
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The Independent Online

It was the usual stuff at the Twenty20 finals. Sid The Shark won the mascots race almost at a canter, following such luminaries as Lanky the Giraffe and Carmen the Bear.

Sid's fleet-footed exhibition after coming second last year went some way towards compensating for Sussex's disappointing display in the competition proper. Still, it paled by comparison with the much anticipated performance of Sugababes. Twenty20 finals day has obviously become a must do gig for the all-girl groups of the moment and Sugababes followed Atomic Kitten, Liberty X (who admittedly include two boys) and Girls Aloud. It might be reason enough for the Spice Girls to reform.

In between there was the cricket and if this is the raison d'être of the show it is only part of it. Otherwise what would be the point? Would Twenty20 survive by cricket alone? Presumably, the England and Wales Cricket Board have no intention of finding out.

The two semi-finals both lacked thrills because the winners were as far ahead of their opposition as Sid, aka Jamie Fielding. Essex, the favourites, were no match for Leicestershire, the Twenty20 old hands. Surrey were utterly off the pace against Nottinghamshire and lost by 37 runs.

But there was still much on which to cogitate, if Twenty20 can be said to allow time for cogitation. There was the future of the English game and what will soon be the past, to wit, in particular, Stuart Broad and Darren Gough. Both are in England's initial 30-man squad for the ICC Champions Trophy.

Gough, not quite looking in the trim he was when he won Celebrity Come Dancing late last year, did what Gough does. He bowled smartly, he tried things. But it was Broad who caught the eye more.

It would perhaps be wrong to invest too much in the evidence of a few overs in the most showbiz version of the game. But then again, demonstrating control allied to threat in such an arena can tell a few things. He bowled quickly outside off stump and he found bounce and movement.

"He looks a real goer," said the Essex captain Ronnie Irani. "I was well impressed because he nipped the ball both ways which is difficult. Swing is easier to counteract because you know which way it's going to go. He makes it go off the seam a bit like Glenn McGrath."

This was perhaps some comparison to make from four overs in a Twenty20 match, albeit a semi-final. McGrath has taken 542 Test wickets from 119 Tests, so far Broad has taken six wickets in his three appearances for England A. A long, long way to go then but it was possible to understand what Irani was talking about. If it all goes right for the 20-year-old Broad in the next few years he may recall that his first occasion on the big stage was at Trent Bridge.

Surrey were as hopeless as they were expected to be accomplished, which is Surrey's modus operandi. The Notts total of 176 contained no half centuries - 42 with four sixes from David Hussey was the best effort - and was well within their scope. But they never got over the finger injury sustained in the field to their hard-hitting opener James Benning, who decided to bat.

Surrey made elementary mistakes, Notts fielded like tigers, when they are of course Outlaws. Not entirely without blemish - they dropped five catches - but there was still a stunning run out and catch both executed by Will Smith. Nayan Doshi of Surrey at least broke Adam Hollioake's record of Twenty20 wickets in a season with 21.

For now, Twenty20 finals day has taken over from what used to be the Gillette Cup final, became the NatWest Trophy and is now for the final season the C&G Trophy, as the domestic event of the summer. It has made stars once more out county players. Perhaps it is a slight irony that the shortest form of the game should culminate with the longest day, beginning at 11.30am and ending nine hours later.

It has also helped the evolution of the game. Professional cricketers now play shots in all forms of the game that they nurtured in Twenty20. Bowlers have learned new tricks, slower balls, different, clever variations. As always, it has been a case of needs must for them.

Crowds love it and the full house at Trent Bridge had been preceded by a rise in attendances from 457,000 to 480,000. It is not only Sugababes and Sid the Shark they come to see.