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Twenty20 turns nasty

WHO would have thought that Twenty20 cricket could turn nasty?

Designed as light and frivolous fairy floss entertainment for the uninitiated, Australia’s shock loss to Zimbabwe on Wednesday has generated emotions beyond anything this apparently meaningless slog-fest was meant to conjure.

While Matthew Hayden reflected the mood of his sombre team-mates by saying everyone outside Australia loves to see the world champions lose, England star Kevin Pietersen was talking of humiliation.

While Pietersen has often made more noise than sense, his latest utterings have taken a quantum leap in logic, or lack of it.

It appears he was suggesting that should England beat Australia overnight and knock the Australians out of the Twenty20 World Cup, it would be revenge for last summer’s 5-0 Ashes flogging in Australia.

“We’ve been humiliated by Australia. Now we are in a position of strength where we can humiliate them,” Pietersen said after lashing 79 off 37 balls to set up a 50-run win for England over Zimbabwe on Thursday.

A day earlier Australia had lost to Zimbabwe by five wickets with a ball to spare.

Just when and how did Twenty20 cricket become so big that it can be justified as a way of rectifying failure in a real form of the game?

The world it seems has gone Twenty20 mad. Entrepreneurs have uncovered a market leading players and administrators didn’t want to know about.

Now competitions are going to offer millions to domestic players for a bit of Twenty20 slap dash — more than many of the world’s best earn playing for their country.

But for the Australian team there was only one focus yesterday as it headed into a match against an England side in good shape after a full northern summer of cricket.

This alone was significant, Pietersen said. “We’ve been playing a lot of cricket and they looked a bit rusty (against Zimbabwe) but they’ve got world-class players and you can never underestimate them,” he said.

Hayden attempted to put a positive spin on things but conceded Australia was up against it because the team had hardly played since winning the one-day World Cup for a third successive time in late April.

“We’re the first week into a tournament. We’re the first week out of retirement for four months,” Hayden said.

“We’re enjoying the fact we’re under pressure now. It’s going to make us play to the best of our ability but you can’t be at the top of your game every single time.

“We all knew the tournament was up and running at this time of year and naturally we also know there is a lot of cricket that’s going to come in the wake of this tournament regardless of what happens.

“You just have to put this performance (against Zimbabwe) into perspective. It’s one loss.”

There was some good news for Australia after Michael Clarke overcame a stomach strain to be selected for the match against England. He replaces Brad Haddin.

Hayden also claimed his back injury was improving. “It’s coming along pretty well. I’m ready to go. I have to be ready to go,” he said.

Hayden admitted Australia probably took Zimbabwe too lightly.

“I think it was a lack of respect for Zimbabwe and their position in cricket,” he said.

“As an athlete, that is a mistake you can make going into rookie competitions where you don’t know opposition sides very well.

“It just happens. Whether you like it or not you do take your own side and your own skills for granted a little bit.” It’s been a topsy-turvy week for Hayden. On Monday, his revival as a 50-overs-a-game player was complete when he won the ICC’s one-day player of the year award, just 12 months after being left out of Australia’s team.

Two days later, he was out second ball for just four runs against Zimbabwe as Australia lost an international match to the lowly ranked country for only the second time.

“You get used to it over a long time of playing professional sport. It’s very melodramatic,” Hayden said.

So, it seems, is Twenty20 cricket. What happened to all the fun?

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Categories: Cricket News, twenty20
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