Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Twenty20 generates new spectator skills

There is a lot more to Twenty20 than big hitting: indeed the game demands a whole set of new skills from spectators as well as players.

With only twenty overs per innings, each represents a significant swing in the advantage. Indeed, every delivery generates a perceptible gain one way or another.

Each over is a game within the game. A dot ball first-up compels the batter to take greater risks in hitting a boundary; but a first-ball boundary force the bowler to aim for containment. As an over proceeds, the risk-benefit profile moves one way or the other.

Towards the end of an innings each succeeding ball accounts for an ever-increasing percentage of advantage. Yet at almost any point, accumulated benefit may suddenly be overturned by a catastrophic batting collapse or run haemorrhage.

As spectators gradually learn to track these ball-by-ball patterns of evolving superiority, so Twenty20 should continue to become both richer and even more enjoyable.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Twenty20 is a whole new game

Reflecting on my tremendous enjoyment of the recent Twenty20 'world cup' it strikes me that Twenty20 is not just shorter but qualitatively different from 50-over One Day cricket.

Two aspects stand out.

The first is intensity - with just 120 deliveries, every ball counts. I can't think of many other games like this.

To be specific - after each delivery the odds have shifted in one direction or another: a wicket or a dot ball moves favour the bowling side (unless the wicket brings in a big hitter); a two or (even more) a boundary favour the batters - YET even as the odds are shifting gradually throughout the game, there exist the possibility of a sudden and radical change in advantage: eg. a 'big over' with twenty something scored (or even six sixes), or a hat-trick.

And as the game progresses, each delivery counts for more, so there is a mounting of tension.

The second is the glorious exhilaration of so many boundaries - especially the big sixes. I enjoyed this far more than I had expected.

While 50 over cricket is pretty much a shorter version of the same kind of thing as a test match, Twenty20 really is like a new game.

On top of this there are lots of sudden changes in momentum and advantage, and plenty of tight finishes.

It's great! So much better than I had imagined. And the reason it is better is that we are all still learning how to watch it. In this respect Twenty20 is indeed like baseball - a game of percentages and shifting dominance.

I think Twenty20 has taken us all by surprise, but we should let it rip. Who knows where the new game will evolve?