New Zealand v England – some thoughts on the T20 series

We’re continually looking at our watch waiting for the New Zealand – England Test series to start but in the meantime we’re having to make do with what the cat dragged in, namely the T20 series. We haven’t managed to watch an awful lot of it owing to being busy socialite types (at least that’s the persona we’re trying to perpetuate), but what we have seen of it has been absolutely woeful. Here’s why:

Playing cricket on rugby grounds may get people through the gates but it is a crime against sporting decency. We recall a couple of ill-fated exhibition games played at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, in 2002, which rewarded teams with (in addition to usual fours and sixes) eight runs for getting the ball into the second tier, ten for the top tier and twelve for hitting the roof. It went down about as well as a horsemeat and sawdust ‘beef’ burger and quickly sank without a trace, although T20 followed the next year and was rather better thought out. However, the New Zealanders, being about ten years behind everyone else, seem to have only just cottoned onto the idea and are playing cricket on grounds with 20-yard boundaries. It’s an utterly cynical degradation of cricket – when the merest tap can sail 30 yards over the boundary for six, there’s something wrong. In the first game, there were sixteen sixes in England’s innings alone. Donald Bradman only ever hit six sixes in international cricket. Nuff said. It’s dire.

Another demonstration of how ridiculous T20 cricket has become was on show in this series. Two evenly matched teams, it seems. So why did England absolutely thrash NZ in the first game, only to be rolled over in the second, before bouncing back and winning with over seven overs still to spare in the third? None of the matches went down to the wire and one side’s poor start in each case cost them the match. This shouldn’t happen. It even has us yearning for a good old-fashioned ODI, and when that happens, you know the end days have arrived for the format. We might even have preferred the IPL.

This bipolar cricket was summed up nicely by Mr Mercurial himself, young Stewie Broad. Match One: 4/24; Match 2: 0/53; Match 3: 3/15. One moment, he looks like a world-beater, the next like a 5th XI second change lob bowler. No wonder he continues to be one of the most frustrating cricketers on this planet.

England’s three best players (even in this format), Pietersen, Swann and Anderson, were all rested for this series, which says all you need to know. Even more notable is the fact that no one even batted an eyelid about this – they all play too much cricket and an insignificant T20 series in NZ was probably right at the bottom of their list of priorities, just below clipping their toenails and repainting the garden fence. If they’re not being paid several hundred thousand crisp US dollars to play T20, it’s just not worth the effort…

You may have got the impression from this incessant ranting that we dislike T20 intently and you’d be right. However, it does have its moments. This series, though, was the absolute pits. We’ve never yet set our readers homework but you should all go and do this: 1) Go and purchase a DVD of the 2005 Ashes 2) Every time you are tempted to watch a T20 match from now on, put the DVD on instead and relive some real cricket. If you fancy being a little more up-to-date, just watch some live real cricket, such as the absolutely corking South Africa side currently playing in a humdinger against Pakistan.

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