Cardiff (Twenty20 Cup): Glamorgan v Warwickshire - no result, one point each.
It was not an evening that should have left Allen Standford sleeping easily. A huge amount of money has been invested in Twenty20 cricket over recent months, but on the evidence of this it is far from a sound investment.
Glamorgan’s new stadium was at least 80% empty as the new season began, suggesting the public appetite for this form of the game is not quite as insatiable as some might suggest.
It was not just the vast banks of empty seats that should have worried Standford and his ilk, however. The fact that a series of worthy but unspectacular journeymen cricketers were able to thwart the classier players on show underlines the weakness of this format: the ability to stifle and suffocate is just as important as the ability to destroy.
Limited-overs cricket can be a pretty prosaic business. Standford and co. may not understand it, but Test (and, indeed, Championship) cricket will always provide more satisfying entertainment and a more exhaustive test of players’ abilities. It would be a shame if the game’s governing bodies lost sight of that in pursuit of a fast buck.
Evenings like this should also provoke a re-think at the England and Wales Cricket Board. The ECB are currently investing heavily in helping all county headquarters instal floodlights. But floodlit cricket, in England, is rarely a comfortable experience for the on-ground spectator.
It may create scheduling opportunities for television companies, but the problems caused by dew make it something of a lottery for the cricketers. Surely, in the long-term, broadcasting such games on television will damage the credibility of the sport.
Perhaps it also raises questions about scheduling competitions in specific blocks of the season. A couple of weeks of poor weather now could decimate county finances, while spreading the Twenty20 programme across the season (possibly staging a match every Friday night) would spread the risk and allow spectators to know when games were on without recourse to fixture lists.
The prospect of Standford’s millions does raise some interesting possibilities over the next few weeks, however. An unsung professional, earning perhaps £30,000 a year at present, could be a rich fellow by Christmas if they can force their way into the England set-up with a good Twenty20 campaign.
Certainly some of the current England squad do not appear cut out for this form of the game. Ian Bell, for example, who could well open the batting for England in the Twenty20 international, averages only 18 in Twenty20 cricket and at a rate only just better than a run a ball.
He struggled to find the right tempo yesterday. Bell (35 balls, one six and five fours) left three of the first five deliveries and scored just one run from the first over. Though he did gradually spread his wings and unveil some powerful strokes, driving Cosker for 14 in three deliveries, doubts remains whether he is the man to take advantage of the fielding restrictions in the first six overs.
Neil Carter was the more effective of the openers. He hooked his first ball for six and thumped another four over mid-on in the next over, but also showed some deft touches, cutting delicately behind point and running surprisingly well between the wickets.
Bell’s departure, caught at long off, precipitated something of a collapse. Warwickshire lost three wickets for five runs as Jonathan Trott misjudged his first delivery and Jim Troughton missed a sweep. Tim Ambrose (19 balls, two fours) and Ian Westwood (22 balls, no boundaries) briefly threatened to lead a recovery, with the former striking the ball pleasingly and the latter scampering desperately, but it was left to the bucolic Tim Groenewald (nine balls, one six) to provide any hint of respectability to the total.
It is hard to say who would have been more disappointed when the rain, almost ever present during the early stages, grew more insistent. Glamorgan might have been on top, but they have only won one limited-overs game this season and Warwickshire would have targeted this game as one of their easier.
As it is, both sides will have to be content with one point.