There seems little point in providing a blow by blow account of the Twenty20 games as there is so much media coverage of it already. But having attended the first three games of the tournament I thought I would share some of the best (and worst) bits of the two days as well as a few pictures. So here goes with the 20 observations from the opening days (in no particular order).
1. How much money did the opening ceremony cost? The fact that no one had planned for a contingency of bad weather seems to think it would have been done on the cheap. And apart from winning some Strictly come Ice Dancing X-Factor’s got Talent show, what has Aliesha Dixon done to warrant an opening ceremony appearance? And when was the last time one was cancelled? And the Duke of Kent delivering the opening address? All I could focus on were his huge ears! Far too many empty seats as well but not surprising considering it was up to £60 for a ticket!
2. Despite their “solid” start, at what point were England supposed to kick on? Every other team in the tournament hit a decent number of boundaries. We managed 14, of which 13 came from the opening two. But even they didn’t do that in a impressive way. Bopara’s laboured 46 included 5 fours, Wright’s 71 was made up of less than half in boundaries. Once Bopara went at 102 we batted appallingly…Where were the likes of Mascarenhas and Napier?
3. Robert Key cannot bowl, cannot run and judging by his 10 off eight balls at the death of the innings, cannot bat in these conditions. Queueing for my media supplied tea at half time I made the point to Nasser Hussain (bit of name dropping I know) that if Mr Key was with us know we would all go hungry – he agreed.
4. I got an email less than 24 hours before the game saying I had been allocated a last minute media seat. When I arrived there was a total of 45 empty seats….Guess the result was a foregone conclusion??
5. What on earth are those dancers all about? Apparently the Reliance Mobile dancers are a “clutch of high energy pitch side performers who will take crowds through their break dancing routines and encourage them to throw a few shapes”. They looked naff, got in the spectators way and were as high energy as Chris Gayle. They have no place in cricket!
6. Twenty20 is about players like Darren Reekers. Born in New Zealand but has since chosen the pancake diet and played for the Dutch. Hardly the most mobile of players and once conceded 82 off a 6 over spell versus Sri Lanka. With the bat it is a different matter and he has scored a couple of One Day centuries before including 196 versus Norway off 117 balls including 152 in boundaries. He set the tone for the Dutch reply with two sixes and a four in his 13 ball 20.
7. The best innings of the evening was without a doubt Tom De Grooth – a real Dutchman this time! 49 off 30 balls kept the Dutch ahead of the D/L score and it was a crying shame he did not get his half century. There was not one risky shot in this innings – most of the English players should take note!
8. Collingwood made some appalling bowling decisions, such as swapping Sidebottom and Broad after a single over, and in the last over with the Dutch needing just seven runs. Broad’s last over provides the turning point when on his second ball he should have run out Schiferli but opts to fly into the stumps rather than throwing from 2 yards away – he hits the wicket with his hand and not the ball so its not out and another run to the total. Then on the final ball with Netherlands needing 2 to win they take a single, Broad throws at the stumps but no one is backing up and they run another to win….
9. Rain, rain and rain stops play starting on time on Saturday morning. Lolly and I meet Dan at the ground at 12 o’clock, some two hours after play should have started. Scotland v New Zealand is to be a 12.20pm start and 7 overs per side. Scotland hit twenty eight off the first two overs as Ryan Watson (technically a Zimbabwian) scores 27 off ten balls to set them on their way.
10. Despite their names, Coetzer and Poonia are Scottish by birth and put on 59 for the second wicket in just over three overs including three cracking sixes – the first of the tournament. Both go within two balls in the final over, and Colin Smith gets a golden duck on the last ball of the innings. 89 off 7 overs is still a respectable score.
11. A “gourmet” burger at the Oval costs £6!!!! Why is it gourment? Because the bun is a multi-seed one. Simple as that. It still tastes of cardboard, the lettuce is limp and in the middle it is raw. Lolly has some chips at £2 of which there are 23 of them. She drops one on the floor and a bird swoops down to take it – I will be docking the 8p out of her pocket money don’t worry.
12. We sit in the no-alcohol section, which isn’t an issue. Most fans around us do not try and break the ban but one West Indian gentlemen does. Every so often he walks down the steps, past three stewards, gets a pint, holds the drink precariously in one hand whilst he shows them his ticket to get back in them comes up the stairs. When he has almost finished his fifth beer a steward sees him drinking and tells him off – he is too pissed to care at this point. Beer glass snakes / conga’s are banned at the Oval…as too are musical instruments and beach balls which are removed at various points by Stewards who are the fun police today!
13. New Zealand rattle off 90 from just 6 overs. Big Jesse Ryder is the star of the show as he scores 31 from 12 balls. One of his fours comes when a Scottish fielder misses a catch some twenty yards in field and the ball slips through his fingers and hits his foot, flying over the boundary for a four!
14. The main scoreboard is fucked up as it says New Zealand need 22 from last over, even though there is actually two overs to go. Doesn’t matter though as Ross Taylor and Scott Styris hit 19 from first four balls of the over and see the Kiwis home with six balls to spare. Great respect to Scotland though for such a performance.
15. The organisers had forgotten to do the national anthems for Scotland and New Zealand, but the Aussies and the Windies linked up for theirs at 2pm on the dot. Tunes provided by DJ Karl “K-Gee” Gordon who is “one of the highest profile music producers and DJ’s in the UK”. What’s wrong with Dave Lee Travis??? K-Gee’s amazing remixing of songs like Blur’s Song 2 (involving just starting the song twice) was legendary….
16. The dancers were back again, swapping their podiums at the end of each innings. Not one fan seemed to appreciate them, apart from the pert bum of one of them in front of us who had forgotten to remove the tag from her shorts. And one was a spitting image of the Big Man himself, who is currently saving computers in Malawi. Or so we thought???
17. Lolly wanted to know what the view was like from the press box. I obviously couldn’t take her up there but she “dared” me to go, so against all of the advice of CMF (hold her hand, don’t let her wander off – well technically she didn’t, I did) I went up there, grabbed a free sandwich and a programme and came back down.
18. Could there have been a better opening over? Well I suppose six wickets could have fallen but to see three wides and two wickets was a “mixed” bag to say the least. And how we sympathised with Ricky Pontings Silver Duck (it technically wasn’t his first ball as that was a wide) to add to Shane Watson’s three ball duck. The Hussey brothers restored some pride for the Aussie’s as 169 was a decent total and with the West Indies batting attack not exactly briming with talent, as we saw at Lords on Wednesday they were confident of a win.
19. Why do people dress up to go to Cricket? It is the most bizarre thing. We saw a Buzz Lightyear, a fat Scottish Sumo, A Mickey Mouse, Superman, Batman, numerous tennis players (why???) and a group of a dozen convicts. And what has happened to the art of catching the ball in the crowd. Not one catch held by the spectators today…
20. So talking of sixes I will let the BBC’s short video summary of Chris Gayle’s six massive sixes do the talking. One of them apparently was the longest ever hit at the Oval and ended up in the school across the road before an enterprising local took it home for a souvenir. West Indies demolished Australia much to the crowds delight. The opening stand of 133 was brilliant to watch and Andre Fletcher’s contribution of 53 off 32 balls cannot be ignored either. What makes it all the better was the fact that they scored 71 off the first 5 overs when the field was close – an example to anyone how to play the 20 over game. In the middle section they simply coasted, with Gayle happy to amble down the wicket for singles. After Gayle went for 88 (off 50 balls and including 60 in boundaries) it was fitting that the win came from two consecutive Sharwan boundaries with over 4 overs to spare!
So there we have it….Three games, two big shocks and one near one….The tournament has been blown open from day one and with such a short tournament in terms of time, both England and Australia could be waving goodbye within 72 hours. I have to say that seeing so many empty seats in the grounds in London (where tickets were priced from £30 to £60) and the price of food is another sign of Cricket’s attempts to follow football and fleece the fan for all they are worth. They place so many restrictions on what you can bring into the grounds that you are forced to buy food and drink from the venue – all very wrong.
With my shiny new media pass the world is my oyster for the tournament so who knows where I will pop up next….well CMF does as I have to “sort out childcare if I want to see anymore games”