Twenty20 struggling to create room for itself as 50-over game thrives


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The Independent Online

If 50-over cricket is now an elongated Twenty20 on speed, what does that make the original short form game? That is probably imponderable but equally something of an answer may be offered today at Old Trafford when England meet New Zealand in a solitary match.

It is almost an apology of a fixture at the end of a wonderful tour, which if there had been any semblance of order, would have ended on Saturday evening in Durham with England having clawed victory from defeat against superb opponents. But that is not the way of the cricketing world.

This is an extra match few genuinely want although the ground should be full, largely because of the entertainment provided by these sides in the past two months. It accentuates the uncertain place on Twenty20 in the international fixture list.

Towards the end of the summer, there will again be one T20 international against Australia, squeezed in between the Ashes and a five-match one-day series (though that might be a cracking day out with the women’s match also being played at Cardiff). It is pertinent to ask why anyone would want to bother and the answer is countries must have these matches to try to embed some kind of established side for the World Twenty20.

That competition, attractive though it has been in all its five versions, is in place primarily because the ICC needs the income from it generated by TV rights. It is part of the four year cycle of ICC events along with the Champions Trophy and the World Cup, both 50-over events.

Twenty20 has essentially become a club-based franchise game whether that be in the Indian Premier League, the Australian Big Bash, or the Caribbean Premier League taking place at the present. England’s Twenty20 Blast, alone in being played over the whole season, still has some catching up to do.

The international variety between world championships lacks context even more than one-day internationals. Countries like England have never quite seized the idea of making it part of a full tour. No doubt there will be a rash of them before the next World Twenty20 in India next year.

The shortest form should be thanked, of course, for encouraging innovation, improvisation and enterprise. Scores of 200 and more will shortly be commonplace.

No one should be surprised if either England or New Zealand make as many today. There is a determination among both sides to ensure the sizzling nature of the trip continues right to the end.

Sam Billings, one of England’s bright new contingent who played a key part in their series-clinching victory on Saturday, spoke for everyone yesterday. “It has been a phenomenal experience and one I will remember for the rest of my life,” he said.

“Yes it is a great start - as we mean to go on – but it is only a start. We want to take this team further forward. Hopefully it has generated a bit of interest and got people behind the England cricket team going into the Ashes.”

Ah, the Ashes. Things are about to change markedly quickly. Australia, as their captain, Michael Clarke, averred two days ago, are not here to be nicey-nicey. The Conservatives could learn a thing of two from the Australians about being the nasty party.

Martin Guptill, the Kiwi opener, reflected yesterday on Australia and their boorish behaviour against New Zealand in the World Cup Final. “It was a tough game and they were on it from ball one,” he said. “It’s just the way they are. We can’t do a lot about them can we?” Australia might like to watch today’s proceedings in Manchester and learn a thing or two. They almost certainly will not.


Probable teams:

England JJ Roy, AD Hales, JE Root, EJG Morgan (c), BA Stokes, JM Bairstow (wk), SW Billings, AU Rashid, DJ Willey, MA Wood, ST Finn.

New Zealand MJ Guptill, KS Williamson, BB McCullum (c), RPL Taylor, GD Elliott, L Ronchi (wk), MJ Santner, NL McCullum, TG Southee, MJ McClenaghan, MJ Henry.

Umpires  R Bailey (Eng), M Gough (Eng) & I Robinson (Eng)

Weather Warm and sunny. Maximum temperature: 18 C

TV Sky Sports 2, 6.30pm