Along with the newly-founded Indian Premier League, the English Twenty20 competition played a substantial role in building the foundations for the country’s first triumph in the shortest form of the game.
From its first involvement in the county schedule in 2003, the standard and quality of Twenty20 cricket has improved rapidly; epitomised by the level of performance with both bat and ball.
The talent now being produced through county youth systems coupled with the star players being attracted from overseas could make this the best year for the competition in itsÃ¢â‚¬â€albeit shortÃ¢â‚¬â€history.
Already we have had no fewer than 2086 runs and 91 wickets in just seven matches. Last year’s winners Sussex opened the competition at home to highly rated Somerset. Confident from his duties with England, Luke Wright set the tone with a quick-fire 39 before Murali Karthik was introduced applying the breaks to the innings.
Despite pinch hitter Craig KieswetterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 41 it was another England player, Michael Yardy who ensured a good start to the defence of their title with 2-17; Sussex winning by 52 runs.
Elsewhere other internationals have too been impressing. Loots Bosman of South Africa has scored 133 runs in DerbyshireÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s two matches helping them to win both. Pakistani leg spinner Imran Tahir guided Warwickshire to victory over Northamptonshire which also saw Chaminda Vaas feature for the losing team.
It has not been a happy start for Adam Gilchrist, however, who was bowled for just 1 in MiddlesexÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s heavy defeat to Sussex at Lord’s. Continuing the theme of disappointment look no further than Essex, and Ryan Ten Doeschate. The Dutchman rescued his side against Kent, not for the first time this season, striking a stunning 98 from just 48 balls. He then went on to bowl three overs for just 18 runs and picked up the wicket of Van Jaarsveld. Despite these efforts Essex could not overcome Kent.
However performances from younger players have made sure that the early stages have not been dominated by the overseas crop. What is more important is that teams seem willing to give opportunity to young starlets. West Indian under-19 Chesney Hughes has featured in all formats for Derbyshire and is rewarding the faith with 82 runs in two wins over Leicestershire and Yorkshire.
Hampshire fielded two products of their youth academy and members of the England under-19 team against Kent. James Wood and Danny Briggs, both took wickets in the win over the Spitfires.
All the counties have strengthened considerably in preparation for the Twenty20 campaign, tightening the gap in quality between the sides and making for a far more competitive tournament.
Looking further ahead, a competitive domestic competition will aid in maintaining that England continue to challenge on the international scene.
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