Twenty's Plenty

It seems to have become fashionable for people who despised the very idea of Twenty20 cricket when it was first introduced (to the professional game - us amateurs have been playing it for years) in 2003 to say how much they like it now.

Well, I try to avoid being fashionable in most areas of my life, but, in this case, I agree.

The competition has removed the often tedious middle overs seen in longer limited over games, giving rise to shorter, more punchy, and frequently more exciting matches.

I haven't been to a game and I don't intend to. My nearest county ground is 40 minutes' drive away and I don't feel like driving for more than an hour there and back to see about three hours' cricket. But, when you get home from work and you're happy just to collapse on the sofa and watch some six-hitting, Twenty20 fits the bill very nicely. Also, while most of us expected when the competition started that batsmen would be reliant on slogging, the majority now play in relatively orthodox fashion, and it has expanded many players' awareness of what they're capable of, both individually and collectively.

In the last couple of weeks we've seen superb innings from Justin Langer, Cameron White, Ronnie Irani, Sourav Ganguly and Mike Yardy, and brilliant catches from Arul Suppiah, Tim Phillips and Simon Marshall. Not much bowling there, but, as Angus Fraser will never miss an opportunity to tell you, 'it's a batsman's game'.

It is also genuinely nostalgic, exciting and just a little moving to see such large crowds on county grounds, especially the huge percentage of children. If just a few are hooked (and they will be) the game's future is surely secure.

Another benefit is that counties are using the competition to blood young players. One of the most significant appearances of the week was that of the 17 year-old Middlesex batsman Billy Godleman, who made a self-possessed and stylish 41 against Essex at Chelmsford to emphasize the unusual talent which those who have followed his progress through the England age-group sides have been aware of for a few years. Middlesex's Irish teenager Eoin Morgan was also impressive, confirming the promise he showed when I saw him in Middlesex's recent Cheltenham and Gloucester Trophy win over Somerset at Bath.

I confidently predict that a lot more will be heard of them both.

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