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Twenty20 looks to future

By Ben Wyatt
CNN
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LONDON, England -- (CNN) -- Twenty20 maybe a relatively new format of the sport, having only been introduced in 2003, but it has already injected new life into the grand old game.

The Oval cricket ground under floodlights.

The Oval cricket ground with a Twenty20 game being played under lights.

At international level, battles between cricketing nations are traditionally fought out over five days in the much-feted Test format of the game. Attrition, concentration and strength of will are the characteristics that often hold sway -- a factor that often stifles flair, flamboyance and throwing caution to the wind.

Sometimes circumstance leads to an explosion of action in the game, like Ian Botham's scintillating innings that turned the result of an enthralling game against Australia in 1981, but such situations are rare.

In Twenty20, however, the limited overs nature of the game means the situation of pressure is present right from the off. The result is cricket with an incendiary element, with each player forced to bring out the most action-packed attributes of his game.

Big-hitters have the ability to rescue victory from the clutches of defeat with their penchant for hitting powerful shots to the boundary for 4s and 6s. A factor that saw Chris Gayle of the West Indies hitting six sixes, two of which were hit out of the Oval ground, to knock the mighty Australians out of the World Cup recently.

How could any cricket lover not admire such a display of pyrotechnics? Bowlers too must be inventive and canny, balancing the need for taking wickets with the requirement to keep runs to a minimum. Yorkers, bouncers and the full toss are all employed and are complimented, if the current tournament is anything to go by, fantastically athletic fielding.

Victory is there for the taking for the team that dares to gamble in such circumstances, fortune favors the brave, a factor that promotes a great spectacle.

In what other tournament could England lose to the part-timer team of the Netherlands and bounce back to beat the reigning world champions India in the same week?

But it not just the action on the wicket that makes the Twenty20 package so attractive. Brightly colored kits replace the formal whites of the traditional game, music pumps up the excitement of the crowd as each wicket is taken, floodlights ensure games are not impinged by darkness and video screens relay in dramatic fashion the fate of the batsmen after a tight call.

The game is a gift for broadcasters too. Whereas Test matches struggle to fill their arenas, let alone attract big television audiences, on the first and last day's of the match -- these are normally Fridays and Mondays when fans are back at work -- Twenty20 can fit into an evening slot, allowing attendance from those heading to the ground straight from the office or enjoyable evening viewing.

Test cricket is undoubtedly the standard for international cricket and a highlight in the sporting calendar, but Twenty20 could well be the populist future.

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