There has been much talk of Twenty20 cricket replacing 50 over cricket as the premier one day format. At Chelmsford last night I saw for myself why this is.
The main advantage Twenty20 cricket has over the traditional one day format is its ability to excite. It is not the big hitting, sociable start time, music and other gimmickry, but purely the prospect of a close finish.
This is all I ask from a Twenty20 match. 50 over matches are criticised for producing a winner early, reducing the crowd’s interest in the remainder of the match. As nice as it was watching England hammer New Zealand at Chester-le-Street in the first ODI, the match ceased to be a contest as soon as Brendon McCullum was dismissed. Not a great competitive spectacle.
A poor start to the innings can be turned around in Twenty20, and so it was at Chelmsford last night. Essex started off slowly, losing two wickets for nine runs in the first three overs. Such a poor start would necessitate a rebuilding job in 50 over cricket, but the Eagles continued to play aggressively and set a competitive target of 148.
By racing to 50 for one inside seven overs, reigning champions Kent seemed to be cruising to victory, especially as they are so adept at judging run chases. However, Danish Kaneria dismissed Martin van Jaarsveld with his first ball and the momentum changed.
In essence, the match was enthralling for its entirety and went down to the wire. Few one day games ebb and flow in such a fashion, keeping interest alive throughout. Indeed, close finishes are becoming more common in the Twenty20 cup.
37 matches have been completed this season, with 22 teams winning batting second, 14 by defending a target with one tie. 13 of those successful run chases have climaxed in the final over. Of the 14 final ball finishes in Twenty cup history (excluding ties), four have occurred this season.
This not only proves how likely a tight finish is, but also suggests that teams are improving in the format. Essex’s one run win last night (albeit being with eight needed off the last ball) was the first time a defending team has won by a margin of less than 10 runs this year. If chasing teams get close, they generally reach their target.
All this reflects well on Twenty20 cricket, and as news filtered through of the farcical wet finish between England and New Zealand at Edgbaston, it was hard not to think that the one day future of the game lies in Twenty20.