The World Twenty20 began in predictable fashion. It rained, it poured, and the opening ceremony was cancelled. That was probably a blessing. But a pipe opener against the orange minnows of Holland hardly augured well, with more than two billion eyes turned towards England's goldfish bowl on Sky Sports.
Yet that extraordinary game has proved to be the best of the tournament so far. It has been a week of looping spinners and flailing bats, and Twenty20 can change in a trice, but too many matches have been as predictable as the precipitation. Frankly, Mr Gayle, cool as you are, Test cricket is still the daddy when it comes to sheer drama.
The only other narrow finish apart from Holland's was a dead game between South Africa and New Zealand. Pakistan haven't even looked like they want to win (now why would that be?); Australia generously allowed the Poms to scoff before doubtless stamping all over them later on when the far more serious business of the Ashes kicks off; England have been terrifyingly inept... We've seen it all before.
There have been moments of dazzling brilliance – Angelo Mathews of Sri Lanka leaping around dementedly on the boundary rope (you'll make an idiot of yourself if you try it), or his team-mate Tillekeratne Dilshan playing the overhead shovel shot (you'll end up eating hospital food through a straw). But the big shots, the breathtaking catches, all too often come to nothing. In the surreal cloud that hung over England's defeat of Pakistan, as the game almost ground to a halt, David Lloyd was reduced to jabbering: "It's all over! Start the car! Or for our friends in France, 'commencez la voiture'." And suddenly there arose the spectre of France qualifying for a World Twenty20 and beating us.
As for the Aussies, all that can be heard now is the sound of Ian Chappell moaning like a gale in the outback. He has already tried to start an Ashes war of words but Nasser Hussain refused to rise to the bait, which is amazing in itself. As Owais Shah was almost run out against Pakistan, Chappell growled: "A direct hit and he would have been stone cold motherless dead." Charming.
And he insists on criticising the innovative "switch hit" shot, whereby a right-handed batsman assumes the persona of a leftie, because it is unfair on the bowler, who has to tell the batsman if he is changing his action. And this coming from the man who patented sledging, and whose brother once bowled the last ball of a one-day international along the ground to stop the New Zealanders hitting a six.
Influential voices like the former Australian captain should not be so quick to condemn. At the moment Twenty20 rarely absorbs the attention like a good session in a Test match can, so at least let's give it the chance to create new and extraordinary ways to change that.Reuse content