Faced with dwindling crowd support and falling sponsorship, in 2003 the England Cricket Board were looking around almost desperately for something to reverse their fortunes.
In response, their marketing manager, Stuart Robertson, proposed a new fast-paced form of the game in which each team would be restricted to 20 overs. The chairmen of the county cricket clubs were sceptical, but voted 11-7 in favour of the idea.
English county teams played the first official Twenty20 matches on 13th June that year, with one of them, Hampshire v Sussex, being shown live on television at 5pm.
An unconvinced Daily Mail commented: “Whoever chose the traditionally unlucky Friday the 13th to launch this bold format had better hope there is nothing to the superstition.
"For cricket cannot afford to fail with a new tournament that the authorities hope will tonight attract a whole new audience and revitalise the game.
“At just 20 overs apiece, this breakneck, knock-out game is all done in three hours. What on earth would WG Grace have thought?”
We will never know how the legendary Mr Grace would have reacted, but the rest of the cricketing world enthusiastically embraced the new format, complete with its American-style cheerleaders, flame-throwers and wild celebrations.
It all led in 2007 to the first T20 World Cup (officially the ICC World Twenty20), a fast and furious knock-out contest between 16 international teams.
Many of the wildly enthusiastic supporters might agree with playwright Harold Pinter who once said: “I tend to think that cricket is the greatest thing that God ever created on Earth – certainly greater than sex, although sex isn’t too bad either.”
Published: April 27, 2016