The T20 World Cup is now the most-watched cricket event in the world, following its short rise from a replacement county cricket game in England to a World Cup event. Twenty20 was designed to attract new viewers to cricket by being a shortened version of the game, which rewards teams that play exciting run-scoring cricket.
T20 was created by the England and Wales Cricket Board in 2003 to replace a cup competition played by county cricket teams in England and Wales. The ECB came up with a 20 over per-team game played over a maximum of around three hours, which allows games to take place at night under floodlights when most spectators had finished work. Middlesex took on Surrey in the first ever T20 match in front of 26,500 spectators.
The idea for a World Cup came around quickly and was eventually held in 2007, only four years after the first county game in England. Held in South Africa, the first T20 World Cup was played by international teams wearing bright uniforms instead of the plain white of longer versions of the game. In the 2007 World Cup final, India beat Pakistan by five runs. To honor the invention of Twenty20 cricket, the next World Cup was held in England just two years later in 2009; Pakistan was the eventual winner. A third World Cup was held in the Caribbean in 2010; England finally won an International Cricket Council trophy at the event by beating Australia in the final.
The T20 World Cup, much like its soccer cousin, allows small nations with developing cricket programs to enter and face traditional cricket powerhouses. At the 2012 World Cup in Sri Lanka, developing cricket nations Afghanistan, Ireland, Bangladesh, and Zimbabwe all entered the group stages of the competition. After playing a series of games in the group stages, the top eight teams progress to the next stage, known as the Super Eights, which takes the form of league play. From there, the top four teams take part in semifinals, with the winners facing each other in a final.
The rules of T20 are basically the same as those in all other formats of the game, with a few small changes. In the T20 World Cup, fielding restrictions limit the number of fielders a team can place outside of 30 yards from the center of the pitch; for the first six, six ball overs only two fielders can be positioned farther than 30 yards from the batter. In the following overs, only five fielders can be positioned outside the 30-yard area to encourage fast scoring from the batters. When a batter is out, his replacement has only 90 seconds to make his way onto the field and prepare to bat. If an umpire believes a team is time-wasting, a penalty of runs can be awarded to the other team.
The aim of T20 games is to score more runs than your opponent in the allotted 20 overs or before your team reaches 10 outs; the team with the highest score wins the game. Batters score runs when they cross to the other end of the 22-yard wicket and ground their bat or a part of their body behind the batting crease line. T20 rewards teams able to score runs faster than in singles. Four runs are awarded when the batter hits the ball to the boundary and the ball bounces before leaving the field of play. Six runs are awarded to the batting team when the ball clears the boundary around the perimeter of the field without hitting the ground in the field of play.
Reigning T20 World Cup holders England will again be amongst the favorites to reach the final of the 2012 event at Colombo's Premadasa Stadium on Sunday, October 7. England's Eoin Morgan is the country's brightest T20 star; the Yorkshire County cricketer, who was born in Ireland, scores runs quickly in limited over games.
The West Indies will feature heavily in the later stages of the competition if batsman Chris Gayle can stay fit and get some help from his teammates. Host nation Sri Lanka will hope to improve on its T20 pedigree of a semifinal and final appearance in the competition's short history. Angel Mathews will hope to score runs and bowl well as Sri Lanka's main all-round player in the short game.
Paul Cartmell has played cricket throughout most of his life; his greatest game was played in a charity match with West Indies cricket legend Brian Lara.
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