The Stanford Super Series is underway and is yet to produce the sort of cricket that its founder was expecting.
The first Stanford Super Series has only partially lived up to its billing. It has certainly been ‘Stanford’ – the benefactor has been a ubiquitous presence, swilling beer and shaking hands with anyone available – but it has emphatically not been ‘super’.
The opening two matches have both been mere warm-ups, but they did little to help the image of the event. Turgid runscoring on a painfully slow wicket and catching incompetence must have left Sir Allen wondering about the wisdom of his investment. He will not break the American market with this sort of cricket.
Low-scoring limited overs contests can be intriguing, a game of cat and mouse where skilful batting and bowling is rewarded, but the initial Stanford warm-ups were so devoid of big hitting – England managed seven boundaries against Middlesex - that they resembled the middle overs of a 50 over match.
More significantly, the matches have been as low on quality as they have been on big hitting. No amount of excuses citing unfamiliarity with the floodlights can put a gloss on the shocking standard of catching, although Middlesex and England deserve credit for being embarrassed enough at their abject displays in the field to stay on the field to practice. Stanford looked on impassively, no doubt wishing Australia or South Africa had taken up his offer.
However, the big man should not be too critical of the teams he has invited – the wicket served up for them is so lacking in pace that fluent attacking strokeplay is virtually negated, with pacemen required to do little apart from bowl straight and spinners able to maintain 50 over sized economy rates. Some of the piles of money on offer should have been directed towards the groundsman.
If the $20m match between the Superstars and England follows the trend set so far, the one interesting element of this unsavoury series, that of players buckling under pressure will be removed.
There would have been a guilty pleasure in watching someone shell a chance that cost his team the pot of gold – that pleasure will not be had if chances are going down left, right and centre.
Twenty20 cricket retains its integrity when players perform the necessary skills under extreme pressure. This series is not overflowing with integrity and is in danger of turning to a sequence of beer matches, or rather champagne matches.
Written by Philip Oliver, a sports writer who blogs about cricket betting.