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Finals day suggests England's got talent

Mark Mitchener Mark Mitchener | 19:23 UK time, Saturday, 26 July 2008

The focus of the Twenty20 Cup's Finals Day has primarily been entertainment - but since the competition was launched in 2003, the Twenty20 world has changed.

With riches now on offer from the Indian franchise leagues, the Champions League and (more importantly for the England-qualified players) Sir Allen Stanford, 2008's showpiece day at Hampshire's Rose Bowl ground on Saturday had more of the look of an extended audition.

On a day when county mascots participated in a "dance-off" as well as the usual race, the innings of the day came from Middlesex's Owais Shah, a regular in the England one-day side, whose stunning 75 in the final overshadowed two brutal knocks by team-mate Tyron Henderson, a non-English-qualified "Kolpak" player - while there were still plenty of homegrown cricketers keen to prove their credentials in the shortest form of the game.

Owais Shah and Tyron Henderson batting for MiddlesexAs soon as the curtain rose on the first semi-final, we had Rob Key, eager to prove his England days are not behind him after being named in this summer's Performance squad, opening for Kent with the exciting young talent of Joe Denly, who has played for England Lions this year and has the potential to go one step further.

Having added 58 together in their semi-final, Denly and Key went even further in the final, putting on 89 to give the defending champions a platform to challenge Middlesex's total.

Shah had been content to play a supporting role to Henderson in the second semi-final, but cut loose himself after Henderson fell for 44 in the final, smashing five sixes including three in succession off James Tredwell - helping Middlesex claim the highest ever score in a Twenty20 Cup final.

But a thrilling final was just reward for the loyalty of the Rose Bowl crowd. The ground took a while to fill up during the first semi-final - although having only qualified for finals day at four days' notice, you can hardly blame the Durham fans if the long journey brought them to the south coast in time for their team's game rather than the start of the day.

However, there was hardly a spare seat to be had for either the second semi or the final - and the majority of the defeated semi-finalists' supporters appeared to have stayed for the final. Someone who was certainly there for the whole day was Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe - who watched the last couple of overs of the final from the Kent dug-out!

On one of the hottest days of the year, the three games were played in an electric but friendly atmosphere which contrasted sharply with that on Headingley's Western Terrace during last week's Test match. Shah's big hitting earned him a standing ovation from his own fans, opponents and neutrals alike when he finally departed - as well as earning him a plane ticket to Antigua.

Meanwhile, with the England wicketkeeping position under scrutiny as intense as ever, Essex's James Foster was red-hot behind the stumps, outshining fellow England discard Geraint Jones - national selector Geoff Miller, here to announce the squad for the third Test against South Africa, cannot fail to have been impressed by Foster's glovework.

In typical Twenty20 style, there were also some entertaining cameos throughout the day, and some baseball-style blasts over the ropes, notably from South Africa's Justin Kemp in the final - while Martin van Jaarsveld's batting stance, with the willow held aloft, would not be out of place at Yankee Stadium. Injured Middlesex captain Ed Smith, author of a book on baseball, would have been impressed.

Fielding played an important part, as Kent caught the eye with three run-outs and a couple of smart catches in the first semi-final, including a superb effort from Key to dismiss the dangerous Graham Napier - a huge turning point in the Essex innings.

Napier's six-hitting feats earlier in the competition had seen his name mentioned tentatively in connection with the Stanford game, although there was a sense of anti-climax when he trudged off after scoring just three runs and talk of an England call-up faded somewhat.

Spin is an under-rated commodity in Twenty20, and the wily old warhorse Shaun Udal marked his return to his old ground with a miserly 1-18 from his four overs against Durham and 1-21 against Kent, bowling well in tandem with India's Murali Kartik, while Kent also benefited from a clever spell of containment in their semi-final by off-spinner Tredwell, who toured New Zealand with England earlier this year but carried the drinks for the entire ODI series. However, he lasted just two overs in the final after being savaged at the hands of Shah.

Among the pace bowlers, the newly-recalled Steve Harmison was despatched to the four corners of the Rose Bowl by Henderson, who smashed seven sixes in a blistering 59 not out from 21 balls in the second semi-final. His fellow Durham seamer Liam Plunkett struggled for line and length and on this evidence, an England recall is a long way off. But Tim Murtagh did his chances of crossing the England radar in the future no harm at all, with some accurate seam bowling.

Of the other England probables, possibles and tried-and-discardeds on show, Essex all-rounder Ravi Bopara has been a regular in the ODI side for the last year or so - and as if to prove that he is under-bowled by England, picked up three wickets before adding 78 for the first wicket with Mark Pettini. Paul Collingwood, still England's ODI captain despite serving a suspension for poor over-rates, made a run-a-ball 35 before holing out when trying to accelerate against Udal.

Meanwhile, Middlesex captain Ed Joyce (who has the rare feat of an ODI century against Australia at the SCG on his CV, but has seemingly fallen from favour with England) made a fluent 41 in the semi-final, setting the table for Henderson to feast later in the innings. However, he was almost made to rue dropping Kemp at long-off while the powerful South African "Kolpakker" aimed sixes and fours into the night sky.

With a one-day series and a Twenty20 international against South Africa on the cards before the Stanford adventure, it remains to be seen if England again opt for Twenty20 "specialists" in Antigua, after the selection of Darren Maddy, Jeremy Snape, Chris Schofield and James Kirtley did not meet with total success in last year's World Twenty20.

But if entertainment was the aim, the crowd should have gone home happily entertained. And isn't that the idea?

Kent mascot 'Bomber the Spitfire' takes part in a 'dance-off' at finals day, watched by Hampshire's Harry Hawk and Lancashire's Lanky the Giraffe


  • Comment number 1.

    I have already said what I wanted to say on a previous blog, but I will repeat it here.

    At half time in the Twenty20 final, I have to admit that this "frivolous" form of the great game can be very entertaining. I'm not sure I would want to be there, with all the noise and razzmatazz, but it is obviously very popular and the BBC coverage has been excellent, transmitting all the excitement through a great combination of commentators, here, there and everywhere.

    Tuffers seems to even better than on TMS.

    The time will come for us to comment on the selection for the third test. There is a key decision to be made between Collingwood and Harmison. If Collingwood is given the nod, it will be very difficult for the selectors to say they have made all the necessary changes. Great to see Owais Shah playing such a good innings. He has been badly treated by the selectors.

    Come on Kent!! I don't know why I say that because I am a ciderman, but it will be great for this "frivolous" game if there is an exciting finale.

    And there was.

  • Comment number 2.

    Can we expect to see England's next T20 side contain players from the domestic final of the competition, or as usual pick players on a seemingly random, illogical and theoretical basis?

    It's no coincidence Kent reached the final two years in a row, how many Kent players were in the England T20 side? While I wouldn't want to see Robert "The Don" Key in the England Test or ODI side, he and one or two others should be in the England T20 side. It isn't like there aren't any qualified to play for England - Denley, Key, Cook and Stevens surely have to be considered?

    It shows the selectors have a different mindset and agenda, in this shortest version of the game you have to pick those who have shown to be the best. The Kent side is the best T20 side around in the past couple of seasons, they may not have won yesterday, but they got very close and I will not be surprised if/when the Kent players don't get picked for England's next T20 side - just annoyed as usual.

    And I'm no Kent fan, I know someone who went to school with one of their English players, but I have no allegiences to any county. I believe the Test players don't play enough T20, be that a good thing or a bad thing, so the domestic competition should provide a lot of the players for England's T20 squads.

  • Comment number 3.

    I was at the Rose bowl yesterday,and even as a disappointed Kent fan enjoyed a fantastic days cricket. Here's the 'BUT' tho,21,000 spectators treated like cattle. This ground is great to look at but doesnt have have the infrastructure to host events like this. It took two and a half hours from leaving the ground,to exiting the park and Ride car park. It reminded me of going to football in the 1980s. Bag searchs,soft drink cans being taken off children,body searches,including women,all overseen by hundreds of over zealous stewards.These same stewards who had all disappeared at the end of the days play.
    Couple this with the ranks of Portaloos,you can imaging the state they were in after 10 hours play,which were pitched right by the food and drink stands,it was disgusting.
    I feel the ECB needs to take a long look at these issues before counting the cash in the till,and patting themselves on the back.
    And this from a country which is hosting the Olympic Games.

  • Comment number 4.

    I agree with "jimmytcfc". Very disappointing ground - so may things were good - seating, view, quantity of food and drinks outlets and the service. However, the crush behind the stands was appalling and probably a safety hazard. Access to the ground is poor, we were staying at the Holiday Inn for the night so we were spared the worst of the chaos. Why build a new ground and get these things wrong?. 20/20 finals at Trentbridge and Edgbaston have been superb days. Those at the Oval and the Rose Bowl disappointing. Let's keep one final in the Midlands. Lords can have the others.

  • Comment number 5.

    Kent get to the final because of Arafat, Mahmood, McLaren, van Jaarsveld etc.

    Not Key, Cook and Denly.


  • Comment number 6.

    It was great to see some good T20 being played, I have no problem with T20 if they were all up to this standard. But one thing that Hasnt been mentioned but was a big factor in such exciting cricket was the weather, it was glorious!
    Now I only saw one T20 match this summer and that was Yorkshire vs Lancashire. It was a cold wet miserable night, the players were off and on again because of the weather and people were doing Mexican waves just to keep warm! Darren Goughs (Legend) last 3 overs triumph turned it into a good match but other wise it wasnt much of a spectacle- shows you how much fun you can have when the sun shines!

    With that in mind the weather should be fine out in the west Indies! which means we should have some exciting cricket. But who has impressed enough to get into the England side.

    Its time that England brought the one day side out from the doldrums start picking specialized players, instead of using players that might make it into the Test side.

    Shah has always looked a class act and showed that he has shots that work well in both the Test and one day arena

    Foster showed that its not all about batting in T20, his brilliant stumping will win you games and for me he should be in the England One day and T20 side.

    Joyce and Key showed their experience and both captained well, and Denly showed that he is one for the future and if you put him alongside.

    Udal and Tredwell showed how useful spinners are in T20.

    But what I saw is that Medium paccers will always pick up wickets, perhaps more than the fast guys like Harmy. So Bopara and Colly need to be bowling more overs.

  • Comment number 7.

    Yesterday it looks like we have just seen some England hopefulls in twenty20. Joe Denly played really well and we will see him partnering Alistair Cook for England soon no doubt. Owais Shah shown why he is a really good one day player with his superb innings. The way Ed Joyce played yesterday I would like to see him back in the England side but only if he doesn't drop catches like he did against Kent yesterday. Tredwell for me is a good spinner and we could do with more in the England team but I just think there are better players out there at the minute.

    Lastly I would like to say the final was great and good fun well done Middlesex.

  • Comment number 8.

    I think more respect needs to be shown for Middlesex by cricket fans on this website.
    Middlesex place faith in young talent and this should be embraced and celebrated by all cricket fans.

    Middlesex are an inspiration for every other county out there and are doing so much for the future prosperity of English cricket and put s lot of counties to shame.

    The likes of Godleman, Malan, Housego, Finn, Evans, Morgan, Levy, and Compton are an exceptional batch of young talented players and I’m sure a lot of these will go on and represent England in the future (Morgan can qualify soon too).

    Middlesex were shamefully written off before this weekend by so called experts. When will people learn that individual stars don’t make a successful team. You just have to look at the England football team to see that

    I can’t wait to watch them play later this year and it would not surprise me if we win one of the tournaments out there.

    Applaud ladies and gentlemen.

  • Comment number 9.

    I was at the 20:20 yesterday - dont get me wrong - it was a fantastic final and we had a great day out but if I had a choice now I would rather have watched it on tv.

    The rose bowl is probably the worst cricket ground I have ever been too and I agree with earlier posts about the stewarding (the green team as they were liked to be known), shocking toilet facilities and access to and from the ground. It should certainly not be added to the test circuit.

    For me and five friends it took best part of THREE hours to leave the ground after the final. An hour of this was spent sitting on a bus waiting to leave for parkway station. After a long day of drinking in carribean style weather this was the last thing you needed. Tempers were getting frayed by just about everybody.

    We finally got to our hotel in winchester at nearly two in the morning, and that was with getting a taxi from parkway station as the trains were too full. Why they dont allow taxi firms around the ground too operate is beyond me. The park and ride system does not work for this amount of people. It was chaos.

    Ok ECB, 20:20 might be bringing you pots of gold and success but treat the paying public like that and it will quickly turn into an armchair event. Can I suggest when planning next years final you do a recce first as the rose bowl is just not suitable for such an event. And for the team at hampshire who signed off and paid for this depressing ground, I would hang your heads in shame. It was shambolic.

  • Comment number 10.

    England has got talent. You are right. But will Owais Shah ever get a chance to play Test Cricket for England or will they stick with the people who fail with the bat time and time again..e.g, Vaughan, Collingwood, Ambrose.

    No, no, instead they will get rid of possibly the most in form batsman in the team, Stuart Broad.

  • Comment number 11.

    T20 Squad:

    9Foster (wk)

  • Comment number 12.

    Why didn't one of your commentators mention that Ed Joyce "walked" when he nicked one to the wicket-keeper so setting a terific example to youngsters coming into the game?

    If we only had more of that attitude I'm disapointed your guys were not looking out for that.

    Come on BBC - let's set the standards and applaud them when they're observed!

    Shropshire Tattye Bogles Manager

  • Comment number 13.

    England have been going down hill they need to pick themselves up in every sport.

  • Comment number 14.

    It is perplexing the constant reference to baseball when English cricket commentators start on about Twenty20.

    I've lived in New York for five years now - married to an American - and have been dragged along to a dozen games in that time.

    Baseball is very boring. Very very boring. Not the wham, bam, thank-you-mam that British sports journalists keep giving it quasi-credit for.

    You're considered a genius if you even lay bat on ball one time in three. And it's not unusual for a four hour game to end 7-3 with both teams having hit the ball only 10-15 times in all those hours.

    People spend a large majority of their time at the game lining up for drinks and food, well out of the way of the 'action' that is all too missable. It might be an appealing way of life, but it's not a sport.

    If America was starting from scratch now they'd play cricket. It won't ever happen as once a sport's part of the culture, it stays there, any more than England would stop with football or cricket and take up ice hockey and basketball but the best sport - more action, athleticism, skill, sporting ability, etc - is cricket.

    And for all the constant reference (not necessarily in this piece) that cricket is some small fry 'colonial' game, that sort of forgets the billion people in India and the hundreds and hundreds of millions of people from cricket playing nations.

    Nearly 80% of professional baseball players, by contrast, are from the Dominican Republic. One small Caribbean country - the equivalent would be 80% of worldwide cricket players hailing only from Jamaica.

    The only things that make baseball better than cricket are the wages (hopefully cricketers will keep their pay packets rising from now on) and the stadiums which provide better vantage points than the ground level seating and laughably tiny grounds which English cricket has.

  • Comment number 15.

    If nothing else is good about English sport,
    well done the guy in the spitfire costume.
    That gave me a chuckle.

  • Comment number 16.

    I thought Southampton had improved access and facilities? Clearly not. Obviously ECB not interested in the paying spectator.

    Young talent? So far as I could see, only Joe Denly and Billy Godleman tick the boxes for being young and produced by their counties.

    Very depressing.


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