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Posts Tagged ‘twenty20’

With the Twenty20 Champions League now down to the last four, who’s going to win the thing?

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There’s been plenty of talk in recent months of the rise of the freelance cricketer, with first Andrew Symonds, then Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff being linked with the idea. Now it seems that the latter is set to lead the way, having turned down an ECB contract in favour of what some might call a mercenary existance.

On his official website, Flintoff has said that “I said when I retired from Test cricket that my ambition was to become the best one-day and Twenty20 player in the world and playing in all these different countries can only help”, keeping mention of the potential millions on offer if he plays for six teams on five continents as it has been suggested he might.

Just in case the IPL millions don’t quite cover Freddie’s bar bill, though, he is also set to take on a second job commentating for Eurosport on the Twenty20 Champions League next month. The retirement fund seems to be coming along nicely, although it remains to be seen whether Flintoff’s popularity with England fans takes a knock from this news.

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The Twenty20 reaches its conclusion this weekend with the now traditional Finals Day. This year will be the last season of the current format, and will also see the first qualifiers decided for the Champions League after last year’s cancellation.

As well as the exciting prospect of the mascot race being commentated on by Phil Tufnell, the cricket should be of a high standard, with four good sides involved:

  • Somerset, like Kent, are former winners, and the quality of their top order (Trescothick, Langer, Kieswetter…) is beyond question. The bowling is not quite as strong, but if the batsmen make a big enough score that won’t matter too much, and the experience of the older heads will be priceless in the field.
  • Sussex may be missing Matt Prior for Finals Day, but they have quality bowlers in Yasir Arafat and James Kirtley, whilst Luke Wright can make an impact with bat or ball (or both). Defeat in the Friends Provident Trophy final may have sharpened their hunger for success, but Murray Goodwin will need to regain his form if they are to lift the trophy.

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Dutch cricket has had quite a summer – as England can attest – but it will no longer be able to rely on the services of ‘Don’t Call Him Dirty’ Dirk Nannes, who has been called up by Australia (at last) for the Twenty20 internationals at Old Trafford that will follow the Ashes. Although Nannes‘ appearances for the Netherlands do not preclude him from playing for Australia, were he to play for the latter it would mean he was ineligible to play for the ‘minnows’ again for at least four years (by which time he would be 37).

There may be some consolation for Dutch cricket fans in reports that their side may be included in the One-Day competition that the ECB are planning to replace the current Friends Provident Trophy with in their (relative) shake-up of county cricket. Given that Ireland and Scotland have had an involvement in the FPT for some time, this is likely to be welcomed as an opportunity for Dutch players to gain experience against a higher quality of opposition than it the case at the moment.

If that’s not enough to console Dutch fans, they can perhaps take some comfort in the fact that Nannes’ selection for the Aussies has brought pleasure to others

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The American Premier League seems to have run into difficulties (and not just because of its shocking website), but any American-based Twenty20 fans need not despair, for the USACA (the USA Cricket Association, the official body in the States which is affiliated to the ICC) has put out a Request for Proposals from interested parties to set up a ‘USA Premier League’ Twenty20 franchise competition.

According to ESPN, the league would start in 2011, and it would certainly chime with the ICC’s plan to get the USA involved in Twenty20 cricket (as seen in the recent decision to fast-track the US side into the next round of World Twenty20 qualifiers). Whether or not ‘mainstream’ American sports fans would be interested in cricket is unclear, but the number of expatriate Indian, Pakistani and even English cricket fans based in the USA might mean that there is sufficient support to make the competition a viable prospect for sponsors even without what might be called ‘crossover’ appeal.

Certainly, Twenty20 cricket is the form of the game which would seem best suited to Yankee consumption, at least initially. At least there would be no snide comments about matches last five days and ending in a draw.

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In honour of Umar Gul’s remarkable 5-6 yesterday (youtube here), here are four more of the best-ever T20I bowling performances:

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In case anyone was wondering why it is that Chris Gayle prefers Twenty20 cricket, watch the below, make a mental comparison to his distracted play in the recent Tests against England, and perhaps things will be clearer:

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The ICC World Twenty20 gets underway from Friday. Here’s part one of my preview:

India, the defending champions, will face high expectations after emerging triumphant from the thrilling finale last time out.  The intervening years have of course seen the development of the Indian Premier League, a competition that means India’s players have a wealth of Twenty20 experience (although the national side has only played five T20 Internationals since the last competition, winning only one). Twenty20 superstars such as MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh will certainly strengthen the holders’ chances of retaining the title.

Bangladesh caused a minor shock last time out when they beat the West Indies to make the Super Eight, and hopes will be high that they can reach that stage again. The likes of Tamim Iqbal, Mohammad Ashraful and Shakib Al Hasan are potential match-winners, but no Bangladeshi player has yet set the IPL alight, and any progression beyond the last eight seems unlikely for the Tigers.

Ireland qualified for the tournament mainly thanks to an impressive performance from Andre Botha. The side will, however, be missing a key player of recent years in Eoin Morgan, who has been called into England’s squad for the tournament.  A surprise result against Bangladesh could see the Irish sneak into the Super Eight (much as they did in the last 50-over World Cup), but on balance the current side (especially without Morgan) may be hard-pressed to repeat the heroics of 2007.

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Kevin Pietersen has, presumably half-jokingly, admitted that he’s not very good at something. The fact that KP is capable of articulating the idea that he isn’t amazing at everything will be shocking enough in itself to some, but that’s not all – the thing he’s not great at is cricket.

“I’m not very good at Twenty20 cricket”, Pietersen told the Mirror (the English tabloid paper, that is, rather than the reflective surface – I imagine that his comments to the latter are more along the lines of ‘hey there, looking good’). Presumably, the Bangalore Royal Challengers, who paid more than $1.5m for Pietersen in the second IPL auction only to see him dramatically underperform, would agree.

KP has a history of odd pronouncements. He previously called Twenty20 ‘a silly game with silly shots’, which is doubly strange given his well-documented predilection for unorthordox shots of his own. It’s also worth remembering that this is the man who made a resignation statement containing the phrase “I wish to make it very clear that I did not resign as captain of the England cricket team this morning“.

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Just as Twenty20 cricket seems to be taking over, with the IPL looking to expand, Gayle’s recent comments and the upcoming World Twenty20, there are whispers that the tournament that started it all, the Twenty20 Cup in England and Wales, is struggling to attract fans.

Advance ticket sales are reportedly down by as much as 40% on last year, and a number of theories are being advanced in explanation. One is that the novelty of Twenty20 is no longer enough to attract spectators who have experienced the glitz and glamour of the IPL, another that the early start to the international season and the prospect of a busy summer with the World Twenty20 and the Ashes on the way (plus the involvement of English players in the IPL) has overshadowed the county game for UK cricket fans.

It could be that casual fans who flocked to matches in the past are cutting back on their cricket watching during the current recession, or even that the novelty of Twenty20 as a format has worn off following the overkill of the last few years. The prospect of the latter may worry the ECB, who are planning a second Twenty20 competition from next year – the P20.

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David Lloyd thinks it’s time for a new broom. “There are lads in England, young ‘uns, I’m talking young ‘uns, who can whack it”.

The rant actually works better better with odd pauses instead of questions from the studio, I think.

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Andrew Strauss hasn’t played a limited overs international since April 2007, but tonight he leads England in a Twenty20 international against a West Indies side superficially similar to the Stanford Superstars team that beat England by 10 wickets back when Allen Stanford was more likely to be asked ‘is it fun being a millionaire?‘ than ‘how do you plead?‘.

Cricinfo’s preview of tonight’s match expects Ian Bell to open the batting for England alongside Strauss. Yes, that’s right, Ian Bell.

England have never quite managed to get their Twenty20 opening partnership right. They have tried the following in the last four years: Geraint Jones and Marcus Trescothick, Strauss and Trescothick, Trescothick and Bell, Ed Joyce and Michael Vaughan, Alastair Cook and Matt Prior, Prior and Darren Maddy, Prior and Luke Wright, Maddy and Vikram Solanki, Wright and Phil Mustard, and Bell and Wright. That’s 10 different partnerships in a mere 14 matches.

I doubt that Bell and Strauss are the solution, but I will graciously suspend judgement until, ooh, maybe the fifth over of tonight’s match.

UPDATE: It now seems that England will try another opening pair – Steve Davies and Ravi Bopara. They seem more like a Twenty20 opening pair than Strauss and Bell, so let’s hope for some success.

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