Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

SMASHING TIME FOR OLD RIVALS; Greatest Contest in Cricket Embraces Twenty20 Revolution

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

SMASHING TIME FOR OLD RIVALS; Greatest Contest in Cricket Embraces Twenty20 Revolution

Article excerpt


FIRST the bad news. There will be no hot tub, no bouncy castles, no bouncy Natasha Bedingfield, no Wild West rodeos nor mascot races between Roary the Lion and Lanky the Giraffe. Neither will Mr Glenn McGrath be miked-up for us to hear his badinage with Mr Botham in the commentary box or his gentle words of encouragement for the batsmen.

The good news, though, is that, even shorn of some of its all-singing, all-dancing sideshow attractions, we can still concentrate all our energies on savouring a cricket revolution tonight when the mustiest and mightiest rivalry in the game bumps into the thoroughly modern phenomenon that is Twenty20.

Remember the Ashes? Well, take a deep breath and welcome what the Aussies have already dubbed "Smashes and Bashes".

If the hardiest traditionalists haven't already surrendered, they should be hoisting the white hankies by the time Michael Vaughan either leads his men out on to the field or towards the perspex dugout at Southampton's Rose Bowl this evening, with a sell-out 15,000 straining to make themselves heard above a blaring loudspeaker rendition of Eminem's Lose Yourself.

For they must recognise that, love or hate it, there's no way of halting the rise of this noisy, stunted offspring of one-day internationals.

Twenty20 is perfectly in tune with its age. A three-hour slugfest for a generation with a short attention span, or a tasty bite-sized supper for cricket lovers who can't afford a day off ?

Either way, its triumphant two-year march makes it look unstoppable.

This year, it's gone global with Australia hammering New Zealand in the inaugural 20-over international in Auckland. It was a success but, with Kiwi players in retro-1980s beige uniforms and indulging in a moustachegrowing competition, no one appeared to take it seriously.

What looks set to give the experiment rather more legitimacy tonight is that both teams so evidently see the fixture as a way of setting the tone for the umpteen battles to come this summer. "It's England versus Australia.

It's important," as Ponting said.

Which is why the England and Wales Cricket Board haven't bothered with any of the beyond-theboundary distractions that counties introduced so enterprisingly to woo the Twenty20 crowds. Who needs live music when you've got a double act like Pietersen and Lee? Hampshire have installed and sold an extra 5,000 seats for this and could easily have shifted 5,000 more.

There's no doubt that Twenty20 frames cricket as showbusiness like never before. David Clarke, the ECB's events manager, wouldn't normally have to work with a specialist production company just to make sure the loudspeaker accompaniment to the game is in order.

Yet still he explains why some of the more revolutionary aspects have no place tonight. …

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