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Friday, June 20, 2008

Twenty20. Where's the tragedy?

To Lords yesterday evening. We were invited to a hospitality box to enjoy champagne, dinner and the lengthening rays of the sun over the loveliest lawn in the world. (Thanks, Chris.) The match was a Twenty20 encounter between Middlesex and Sussex. The first time I saw one of these games it was between England and the West Indies at the Oval and there was plenty of hitting the ball out of the ground, the sort of thing the marketing men love.

This one was a walkover for Middlesex. They batted first and Sussex never looked like making their total. This meant that the match was more of a non-event than even the least eventful traditional game of cricket could ever be. The beauty of cricket is the tension. This had none. Obviously the world game is now being reorganised in the light of the success of Twenty20 and you can see the reasons why, not least that people can turn up after work and get home in time for News At Ten. But I wonder whether a game can develop in the long run if it doesn't have that essential drama.

All the great world games have a tragic dimension that keep us coming back. Rugby is like war in that momentum is all. In the sense that the defences nearly always win, football is like life. In Test cricket even the greatest reputation can be undone through a microsecond of miscalculation. Golf is man against himself. And so on. But Twenty20? It's a laugh, which is a good thing now, but it's not enough in the long run.