Zany distraction that became starting blocks for a gold rush

It was more than just a final here yesterday. More than just two semi-finals. Who would have imagined six years ago, when Twenty20 finals day at Hampshire's ground was just a zany distraction from the serious side of the authentic game.

The summer sport that once contentedly kept itself to itself, that only dressed up in her finery for Tests and one-day finals, has become quite giddy with her new-found celebrity and cash-creating capacity. While the faith endures in this frivolous adaptation which possesses few of the subtleties and fascinating nuances of the long game, players are being assailed from all quarters by the abbreviated version of the game.

No one would deny them joining in the gold rush, though inevitably the prospect, for the moment, still tends to provoke cynicism among the men in whites. Show us the money, is the response. Or, as Robert Key, captain of the first victorious semi-finalists Kent, declared: "No one is booking Ferraris or things like that at the minute."

Yesterday's champions, Middlesex, trousered £42,000, though that is but small beer compared to the bubbly stuff on offer to both yesterday's finalists, who will be invited to contest the Champions League, due to be staged in the Middle East in September.

The total prize money is £2.5m, with the winners receiving £1m; the richest prize in team sports... except that offered by Sir Allen Stanford to yesterday's winners, who will play three matches in the prelude to England's £10m winner-takes-all contest with the Stanford Superstars on 1 November.

Middlesex will play against England, the Superstars and Trinidad & Tobago, the West Indian Twenty20 champions. The minimum to be won by the county in that competition is some £140,000.

The Texan businessman reminds you of his fictional compatriot, Sex and the City's Carrie Bradshaw: "I like my money right where I can see it... hanging in my closet." Except where Stanford is concerned, he wants his money right where he can see it... playing cricket at his behest.

The Champions' League will feature two Australian teams, Victoria and Western Australia, South Africa's KwaZulu Natal Dolphins and Nashua Titans (Northern Transvaal) and, from India, the Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings. Probably.

As with many Twenty20 matters it is beset by doubts. English counties may be forced to omit so-called rebel Indian Cricket League players for a year, to appease the Indian board. However, the ECB, who are backing the Champions' League to the tune of three quarters of a billion dollars over 10 years, will not agree to a tournament open only to certain counties.

At present, Lalit Modi, vice-president of the Indian Cricket Board, who also happens to be chairman of the officially sanctioned Indian Premier League, will not countenance any players involved with the ICL, or their clubs, participating.

This could have meant that, if Kent had won the final, Justin Kemp and Azhar Mahmood would have been ineligible, and thus their county too. It could yet mean the abandonment of the whole project.

How compelling this hybrid of the old game and imported frippery remains in the long term will be intriguing to watch, and it will conceivably be costly for those prepared to pour millions in support of their faith and the possible repercussions on the future of the long game. The most immediate effect on the latter has been an increase in the County Championship pot; up from £100,000 for the Division One winners this year to at least £500,000 next season.

Before the start yesterday, the spectacle of one lone tout at the entrance, vainly attempting to dispose of a fistful of tickets, did not suggest that this was necessarily the hottest ticket in town. Even in Southampton. For the moment, TV will sustain it regardless. It is a format designed for the home audience. But there is no long-term certainty it will endure. If these sound the sentiments of a Twenty20-phobe, then it is possibly because this observer isn't among the male target audience, aged 16 to 34.

The disciples of Twenty20 believe there is also a hitherto untapped potential of women and children spectators. A none-too-scientific survey suggested that the crowd here were mostly men, attending an event that was male-orientated.

Beer was being consumed copiously behind the stands, not too far distant from where women queued for too long for the toilets. An all-blonde posse of npower (one of the sponsors) girls, in clinging outfits, parading in front of the stands was, at best, a little passé.

With male eyes returned to the cricket, Kent were the first team to secure their place in the final, and with it qualification for the Champions' League, after a 14-run triumph over Essex. However, the Spitfires captain, Key, was not exactly banking his windfall yet. "Until I get some plane tickets through the door, until someone actually goes and wins it and sees all that money, I couldn't care," he insisted.

In the second semi-final, Middlesex's victory over Durham was completed with the flourish of a six from Tyron Henderson – one of seven from him.

It was a yield that typifies what draws the crowds to this form of the game and why it has earned the counties an estimated £8m this year. And why, like everything connected with Twenty20, we're back to questions of money once more.

Life and Style

Do you qualify – and how do you get it?

Food blogger and Guardian writer Jack Monroe with her young son
Privately schooled, Oxford educated and a former editor of arguably the world's poshest magazine 'The Lady', it's perhaps unsurprising that Rachel Johnson rarely mixes with ordinary Proles.

The Mayor of London's sister, Rachel Johnson, apologises for shocking tweet about the PM


Actress isn't a fan of Ed Miliband

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Fraud contributes 11p to a £2.00 box of half a dozen eggs
food + drink
Dejected England players applaud the fans following their team's 3-0 defeat

Arts and Entertainment
A still from the Jurassic World trailer

Video: The official full-length trailer for the Jurassic Park sequel has dropped – two days early

The plant ‘Nepenthes zygon’ was donated to Kew in 2004
environmentNepenthes zygon had been growing for almost a decade and helping to keep down cockroaches
This artist impression shows a modern-day Atlantis
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer snapped celebrities for 40 years - but it wasn’t all fun and games
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital