Isaac, Toby and I went to the T20 Blast game between Middlesex and Hampshire this week. The match itself was forgettable but the atmosphere was terrific.
The last time I attended a live cricket match, the Twenty20 format hadn’t even been created yet. (It was introduced in 2003.) I’m a Test match purist at heart but I can see the attraction of the 20-overs-a-side version of the game, especially for drawing in younger fans. It reduces matches to under three hours, is much faster-paced than its five and one-day siblings and is geared towards more spectacular play and American-style razzmatazz. Big hitting. Jets of flame that mark every boundary. Bursts of music between overs – Neil Diamond must be raking it in with the royalties every time Sweet Caroline blasts out over the PA. Oh, and foam fingers. Mustn’t forget those.
Better still, this fixture was billed as a ‘Family Night’, which meant there were lots of activities laid on for kids before the game. The highlight for the boys was having a go at a virtual reality batting challenge but there was also an opportunity to snare autographs and try their hand at a coconut shy and other throwing games.
If the one-sided match itself lacked the usual on-field pyrotechnics – Toby proclaimed himself bored at about the three-quarter mark of each innings – there was still much to enjoy from the general ambience within the ground. The feel of a cricket match – even a T20 game which is much more geared towards the masses – is different to, say, football. It’s all more jovial and genteel in nature and the game is almost incidental to the more serious exercises of beer consumption, getting your face shown on the big screens and competing for the t-shirts that are occasionally lobbed into the crowd.
It was also the first time I had experienced cricket under floodlights. I rather liked it. Lord’s looked rather beautiful and dramatic in the fading evening light.
Anyhow, overall the boys seemed to enjoy their first taste of live cricket. At least, I hope so, as we’re back for more at the Oval next weekend …