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Twenty20 Cup 2004

Leicestershire edge out Surrey

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2004 articles and scorecards

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the ECB had good reason to glow with smug self-satisfaction over its successful new invention. Within months of Surrey winning the first Twenty20 Cup on a balmy summer evening in 2003, similar tournaments sprang up with similar success in Sri Lanka and South Africa. And Australia, though holding back from a domestic 20- over competition, were in the thick of moves to bring the Twenty20 format to the international stage.

They agreed to take on New Zealand in February – and England at Southampton in June. But even on the international front, the ECB had got there first, holding a women’s 20-over game between England and New Zealand in early August 2004. Whichever way you looked at it, the Twenty20 bandwagon was zinging along at an impressive lick. This was all the more impressive because in its second year the competition faced more problems. Rain, a total absentee in 2003, barged in on the party, washing out three games and ensuring that Messrs Duckworth and Lewis were involved in several more. There was a danger too that the novelty factor might have worn off.

Not a bit of it: cricket followers lapped it up in even greater numbers. Although the use of larger grounds tended to mean fewer sell-outs – 11 of the 46 preliminary games had capacity crowds, down from 15 in 2003 – the average gate was about 1,000 up at 5,800. This was in part due to an astonishing turn-out at Lord’s for the Middlesex–Surrey game, when the crowd reached over 27,500. Not since these same teams met here in the 1953 Championship had so many watched county cricket outside a cup final. Touts at St John’s Wood tube for a county match? It seemed impossible, but there they were. And the crowds turned up everywhere: Durham, Worcestershire, Glamorgan all hosted sell-outs; Leicestershire filled seats at Grace Road that had hardly seen a backside in years. The one change from the original format was the introduction in 2004 of quarter-finals. It seemed wrong to tinker, yet there was a strong case for reducing the number of dead matches towards the end of the group stage – and by adding a tier to the knockout stages the organisers did so. Only three counties began the last round of matches with no chance of progress.

However, in October 2004 further changes were announced. These were of an altogether different magnitude, and clearly smacked of greed. From 2005, although the make-up of the three groups remains unchanged, counties will each play eight rather than five preliminary matches. This means each county will play three opponents twice and two opponents once. At a stroke, the number of qualifying games swelled from 45 to 72, a 60% increase which the ECB disingenuously described as “modest”. The aim, they said, was to ensure that each county would stage a revenue-generating local derby each year. But it introduced a new complexity to what had been a commendably simple system, and an element of unfairness too in that some teams will be disadvantaged by playing strong opponents twice.

Up till now, the guiding principle of this format had been that small is beautiful: a compact game of cricket neatly fitted between the office and supper, with the whole competition wrapped up in no time. Mission creep has set in. Call the Twenty20 a milch cow or the goose that lays the golden egg: either way, the whiff of cooking meat is in the air.

The winners of the comparatively slimline 2004 competition were Leicestershire, propelled to glory by the bats of Darren Maddy – easily the heaviest scorer in the tournament with 356 – and Brad Hodge, who came second, though over 100 behind. Mark Cleary, their unassuming young seam bowler from South Australia, led the attack with 15 victims, giving him a strike-rate of one wicket every ten balls. But this was nothing compared to Surrey’s Adam Hollioake, the Twenty20’s leading wicket-taker for the second year running: he snatched 20, prising someone out at an astonishing rate of once every eight balls. These two bowlers met in the final, where somehow Leicestershire deciphered the riddle of Hollioake’s variations in pace, and Hodge steered them to a surprise win – Surrey’s first-ever defeat in the competition.

Perhaps the best match of the whole Twenty20 summer had come earlier on finals day when Surrey edged out Lancashire by a single, but there was no shortage of tension, drama and downright entertainment throughout the tournament. With indifferent weather, it was no shock that the average total fell slightly, but intriguingly the number of centuries rose from one in the first year to five in the second, with the familiar Graeme Hick of Worcestershire and the unsung Ian Thomas of Glamorgan sharing the top score of 116 not out. The most memorable innings, however, came in Kent’s opening fixture, against Middlesex. Andrew Symonds was on three figures in a flash: he needed just 34 balls, scoring off every delivery bar two, before eventually falling for a 43-ball 112. But lightning did not strike twice and, without his explosive runs, Kent could not make the next stage.

Unlike 2003, several ECB-contracted cricketers – available because England failed to reach the final of the NatWest Series – joined in the jamboree. In the Roses clash, Andrew Flintoff of Lancashire and England came up against Ian Harvey of Yorkshire and Australia, a mouth-watering foretaste of the 2005 Ashes encounter at the Rose Bowl. Flintoff sparkled, though not as brightly as his fellow all-rounder Harvey, who belted his second Twenty20 hundred.

In the competition’s second year, there was less emphasis on off-field innovations and sideshows, though the well-travelled spectator could indulge in speed-dating at Lancashire, Worcestershire and Glamorgan, a wild-hair competition at Nottinghamshire (inspired by Ryan Sidebottom’s flowing locks), a Wild West rodeo at Leicestershire and, arguably least appealing of all, a mass aerobics workout at Somerset. All 5,902 spectators at the Hampshire game at The Oval won free tickets to the upcoming New Zealand–USA match in the Champions Trophy because a wicket fell in the fifth over. Children could swap theirs for a free ice-cream; some adults cast envious eyes on their offspring.

Sussex preferred a 50-piece samba band, while Kent chose to plonk nicknames on their shirts. Ah, so that meteoric hundred was not hit by Symonds, after all, but by “Roy”, a name which at least had an air of mystery, unlike those of his team-mates Keysy (Rob Key), Kiwi (Ian Butler) and Noisy (Alex Loudon). Gloucestershire, who laid on reflexology, felt they did not need to try so hard. Tom Richardson, their chief executive, said: “We found that once the cricket starts people want to watch that.” The Edgbaston final followed the girl-band formula adopted at Trent Bridge the year before, though an addition was the “npower derby”.

Seventeen mascots charged around the outfield, and the provisional winner was Roary, the Surrey lion. However, replays showed he had swapped his oversize paws for trainers and he was subsequently disqualified. Lanky, the Lancashire giraffe, was then pronounced victor, prompting one disconsolate Lancashire member to say “at least we’ve won something in 2004”.

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