One of the most memorable scenes in Gladiator is when an angry Russell Crowe storms into the arena, kills half a dozen people in no time at all, then shouts: “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED!!” as he throws his swords into the crowd.
For the cricketing purist, the longer the game, the more entertaining – subtlety and nuance aplenty. But is a two-day Test with no score above 130 entertaining? For the masses, the proles, look no further than T20 – specifically designed to be close and entertaining within a four-hour period, even if it’s not quite everyone’s cup of tea.
New Zealand and Australia have been endeavouring to hold the attention in the first two games of their five-match. Both won by the hosts, the first at a canter and the second in a heart-stopping final over.
Now, I get it if you’re looking at this and going: “Who cares!” or “But the Tests!” There’s going to be a World T20 event this year, and looking at early form of runners and riders can’t hurt. Think of it as part of the Guerilla service.
So here is your cheat sheet of the games so far.
1. Don’t get Kane Williamson out – The balance of the NZ batting line-up is interesting, but Captain Kane is the least destructive in the order. Beautiful accumulator though he may be, 30 at a run a ball is something as an opponent you’d be happy with. When watching the IPL on Guerilla Cricket, we mused whether the idea of good scoring rates had changed – a strike-rate of 140 rather than 120. The Kiwis have surrounded him with hitters that on any given day can rip a side apart. Aaron Finch, the Australia skipper, would have been better just having his long-on in the car park when Martin Guptill was batting in the second game, and Jimmy Neesham picked up where he left off with his first three balls clearing the rope.
2. Daniel Sams is the type of all-rounder you want – left-arm swing bowling at 85mph, yes please. Coupled with match-turning and possibly match-winning innings. Where do we sign? Sams had a party for the Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash, with 10 wickets, a strike-rate of 199.34 and two half-centuries. The days of the part-time slow medium bowing all-rounder may confined to history. His 41 off 15 balls in the second match helped bring Australia back from the dead.
3. Marcus Stoinis should be opening for Australia – I’m not sure the Matthew Wade experiment at the top of the order helps. His dismissals in the two matches, trying and failing to go over mid-off were pretty lame, even by T20 standards. He showed a lack of situational awareness in the first game when Australia lost two early wickets. I know that he played a big innings in the middle order yesterday, and his wicket in the last over spelled doom for the Aussies, but Stoinis seems like a more dependable, more destructive hitter at the start of the innings. He could really get Australia off to a flyer against bigger totals.
4. Those Kiwi shirts are retro and cool – that mix of cappuccino and chocolate, sign me up for one of those
5. NZ are fifth favourites for the 2021 World T20 title – 10-1 in some places. Amazing value. Good balance of seam and spin, Neesham’s only over in the second game was the last of the Australia innings, with the game in the balance. Two wickets and victory followed. Great bowling under pressure, destructive batting everywhere. Yes, I’ll have some of that.