Vir Cantium

I'm right, you know …

First Time at the Oval

Having been to Lords twice, I had never yet been to the Oval, which as someone from very south of the Thames was just wrong. So last night, I attended Surrey vs Kent at what Lord’s loyalists refer to as “that working men’s club south of the river”. (Whatever.)

Twenty20 cricket has sparked a less-than-quiet revolution for the game, with the shorter matches being accessible not only in terms of length, but also the timing of the matches themselves. Starting at 5:30, the game last night was clearly attracting spectators, still in suits, leaving work early.

The match – Surrey v Kent – was also a first class showcase for the format. The game swung from Kent to Surrey to finish with the two neck and neck. With less than an over left, and only one wicket in hand, Surrey were 14 runs short of the winning line. A few balls later they were just 3 runs behind – and not because of any airborne boundary shot. Twenty20 has a special timekeeping rule, to keep the games short: the 20 overs must be bowled in 75 minutes, otherwise the batting side gets awarded six runs.

So from Kent looking like they should keep the lid on the home side, Surrey then only needed 3 runs off 3 balls. Another ball and run later, 2 runs off 2 balls – surely it was all over? And it was, as the final Surrey wicket fell – a run out – leaving Kent the victors by one run. So justice was served after all.

The 75 minute rule does have its flaws. Though well intentioned, it could, in a close match, be open to a certain degree of subtle gamesmanship, with new batsmen taking the longest possible time (without falling foul of the subjective judgement of the umpire) to get to the crease. Even with the new victim sprinting to the middle, it inevitably penalises the more successful bowling side, as was the case last night, when Kent took more wickets than Surrey managed. Even if the innings had gone the extra couple of balls to the full 20 overs, we were only minutes over the time limit. Rather than keep the game short and exciting, it very nearly killed the game stone dead – a few minutes later and Surrey could conceivably have won the match the instant the penalty was announced.

So I think a modification is called for. How about a 70 minute time limit applying to, say, 17 overs? After that, if it’s the sort of tight finish that makes for a memorable game, the crowd aren’t really going to be bothered whether the innings finishes inside 75 or 82 minutes.

A final note to Surrey from a 20/20 relative newbie: get a decent name, chaps. Surrey Browncaps? Sounds like it should be rhyming slang for something.

Kent Spitfires: now that’s a name.

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