The revolution started here: Remembering England's first-ever T20 international 15 years on

Yahoo Sport UK
England bowler Jon Lewis is mobbed by team-mates after taking the wicket of Australia's Ricky Ponting in a Twenty20 match at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Southampton 13 June 2005.
England bowler Jon Lewis is mobbed by team-mates after taking the wicket of Australia's Ricky Ponting in a Twenty20 match at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Southampton 13 June 2005.

Fifteen years ago today, England thrashed Australia by 100 runs to win the first Twenty20 International to ever take place on these shores, writes Angus Oliver.

England won the toss and piled on 179-8 thanks to quickfire runs from Marcus Trescothick, Paul Collingwood and young maverick Kevin Pietersen, before skittling Australia for 79 in just 14.3 overs.

The game had an exhibition-like feel to it, as if it were designed solely to whet the palette for the looming Ashes series. On reflection, however, it became the catalyst for the momentum that would help England regain the urn, ending 16 years of Australian dominance.

“All the talk in the meetings leading up to the game was not so much about winning but about setting the tone for the summer,” recalls Darren Gough, who took 3-16 on that day.

“Even though I wasn’t going to play in The Ashes series, Duncan Fletcher told me that I had a big part to play in showing Australia that there was no fear and that we weren’t going to be bullied by them that summer.

“It was the last tour for a lot of the Australian boys and they saw it as their final hurrah to come to England and win, but that wasn’t going to happen.

“Duncan saw they had players who’d gone on a bit too long and that they were ready for the taking. He saw an opportunity to beat them and thought it had to be done by having aggressiveness going into the series.

“That’s the mentality we had going into that T20. It was about laying down a message to Australia to say ‘we are not going to be dominated, this is England’s time’.

“The noise of the Southampton crowd was unreal and the way we won it was extra special. It was after that game that we saw the opening - Australia were there for the taking.”

England would go on to win the 2005 Ashes 2-1 in a test series that glued the nation to every ripple and wave of drama. Since, however, cricket’s global popularity has shifted away from the patient battles of red-ball cricket and onto the fast-paced explosive contests of the shorter white-ball formats.

For Gough, that first T20 did far more than set the aggressive tone England would approach Australia with that summer. For him it signifies the beginning of the seismic shift in the way cricket would continue to be played worldwide.

“It all started on that day in 2005,” says Gough. “The way England played in that game - thrashing them - it inspired the way people wanted to play, and that’s the way the game has moved forward from that day on.

“Leicestershire won the T20 Cup the year before averaging scores of 140 to 150, but when we played that game, we realised scoring 200-plus in a T20 was possible.

“Cricket has now evolved. Kids are not practicing straight drives, on drives and off drives, they’re now practicing reverse sweeps, scoops like [Tillakaratne] Dilshan used to do, and switch hits like Kevin Pietersen.

“The new audience wants things quicker and quicker, so for the viewer I think it’s positive that there’s always something happening, even if the techniques are sometimes questionable. But my worry is that a bit down the line cricket will all be a shortened version of the game.

“England as a country loves test cricket but we often play tests against other countries’ second teams. The West Indies boys, for example, have chosen to play in T20 franchises to raise money for them and their families, and I don’t blame them because they’re not as lucky as English, Indian and Australian players who are paid huge salaries to play test cricket.

“The option is this: if you want to be remembered in the history of the game then you need to perform at test match level; if you want to make more money then you’ll want to play T20.

“I still think test cricket is everything and if you asked Joe Root or Ben Stokes which they prefer, they would say the same. Yes, white ball cricket provides their living, but the one they want to excel at is test cricket.

“If you go to other countries to watch test cricket, there’s no one there - they view it as a financial burden. New Zealand, for example, dominate their summers with one day cricket and only the odd test match.

“My biggest fear is that in 20 years there will only be a three nation test circuit because England, India and Australia are the only ones who pay their test players. My concern is that only the richer boards benefit, and the poorer boards and the players will disappear.”

The ICC has indeed moved to re-popularise test cricket, though attempts have come with varying degrees of success and appraisal. 

The new Test Championship, while a progressive concept that adds context to test series, has received criticism for its complexity and points system - countries who play fewer tests can pick up points most easily. Meanwhile the suggestion of four or even three-day test matches, which would seemingly suit the faster pace of the modern game, was fiercely lambasted by Virat Kohli and much of the cricketing world earlier this year.

Conversely, the introduction of shirt names and numbers so spectators can more easily identify players has been praised, while the introduction of pink-ball day-night test matches have succeeded in attracting larger average crowd numbers.

“We’ve adapted to T20, we will adapt to The Hundred, why can’t we adapt to a different way of playing test cricket?” says Gough.

“What I would like to see is having five-day test matches that start on a Thursday and Friday as day-nighters; then the Saturdays and Sundays have normal test cricket hours; and on the Monday it goes back to a day-nighter.

“That would give people at work and school the opportunity of coming to watch test cricket every single day.

“You are defeating the object by having day-night tests on a weekend, because on a Saturday and Sunday people want to watch cricket during the day in the sunshine, not when it’s getting cool in the evening.

“You also don’t want games ending at 10pm on the weekend because people are doing stuff with their families or going on a night out in the evening, and kids are going back to school on the Monday morning.

“I don’t think player fatigue would be an issue because we’re only talking about four less hours to recover between days two and three, and they would get those hours back between days four and five.

“The days can be split - it’s about adapting. I don’t want to see test cricket die, so as long as people keep watching it and putting the money into it, I’m all for expanding and growing it.”

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