Ian Hart: Has domestic T20 run itself out?

Sussex T20 action from earlier this summer. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)
Sussex T20 action from earlier this summer. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

When the Twenty20 first arrived back in 2003, although initially derided by the traditionalists, it gave the ailing county cricket scene a shot in the arm.

The shortened format was a bit of razzmatazz (I recall Sussex originally had cheerleaders from Platinum Lace) and, all in all, it was an exciting afternoon/evening entertainment all done in around three hours. Initially the grounds were packed as the new competition was embraced up and down the country. Sussex have had both good and bad campaigns over the years, winning the whole thing on one occasion in 2009, but above all T20 attracted people to the grounds who hadn’t been near a cricket match in years, if ever.

This season, I’m almost feeling a sea change, and I’m not the only one. It might be the almost blanket TV coverage on Sky, but crowds are clearly down, on numerous occasions half empty. Sussex for their part have flattered to deceive and after back-to-back opening defeats and many immediately writing the whole campaign off, they now find themselves in a very tight Southern Group with four points covering the whole table from top to bottom.

Tomorrow night (Friday) they take on Middlesex at Hove. It’s effectively a ‘bottom of the group clash’ but any county that puts a winning run together can move closer to that top two finish and the coveted ‘home draw’ in the quarter-finals.

Two Sussex games have already fallen foul of the weather, but just how those two ‘no result’ points will affect the final shake up remains to be seen.

I hope the weather is kind to the Sharks, and the Friday night crowd at Hove is a ‘full house’. Despite my misgivings, it is a great night out but unfortunately for Sussex, I think the real benefit of this format will be when the ‘City’ tournament happens.

Modelled on the extremely successful Australian Big Bash, Brighton and Hove didn’t make the final cut, but I think that tournament will attract the best T20 players from around the globe and rejuvenate the format once again.

While most of the time the sun is shining (I say most) a number of Albion fans I’m currently meeting seem to be walking around with rain clouds above their heads.

Granted the level of activity in the transfer market by Chris Hughton, up to this point, isn’t quite what many were hoping for but ultimatelyAugust 12 is still a long way off.

The year-long loan signing of Izzy Brown from Chelsea is a positive step, and there’s no doubt Hughton’s clearly keeping his powder dry until the optimum moment on a number of other transfer targets.

Fast forward to August 12 and, yes, if the Albion haven’t made any further signings then even I, the eternal optimist, will have mild concerns about the forthcoming campaign. But is that really going to happen?

We’ve come a long way from the ‘Gus Bus’, but it really is a case for the massed Albion support that through the euphoria and anticipatation of the first (hopefully of many) season in the Premier League we still have to adopt a degree of patience.

And finally I’m well and truly encamped in the 21st century, having entered the wonderful world of podcasts.

Teaming up with Kevin Clarke of Carlsberg People’s Pundit fame, please feel free to check out our latest offering via www.soundcloud.com/user-619338515

Links to the podcasts can also be found by following Kevin (@kevinclarke_) or me (@harty1964) on Twitter.

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