Rocking Twenty20 lights up cricket world
If proof was needed that Twenty20 cricket was dramatic, spectacular and a crowd puller, look no further than the ongoing world championships in South Africa.
The inaugural tournament has provided more thrills, excitement and stunning results in two days of competition than what the entire 50-over World Cup in the Caribbean earlier this year did in six weeks.
West Indian Chris Gayle smashed the first-ever Twenty20 century in Tuesday's opening game, but that was not enough to secure victory as South African Herschelle Gibbbs hit 90 off 54 balls to see the hosts home.
In the next match in Durban on Wednesday, New Zealand's Mark Gillespie returned the best figures in the format, taking four for seven in 2.5 overs as Kenya crashed to a new low total of 73.
Later the same evening in Cape Town, Zimbabwe created a cricketing tsunami with a shock win over the game's undisputed leaders Australia that left Ricky Ponting's champions on the brink of elimination.
Australia, who won their third successive World Cup title in April, must defeat in-form England at the Newlands in Cape Town on Friday to avoid an early flight home.
South African fans, who whole-heartedly support their own team or anyone that plays against Australia, are gripped by sporting fever not seen here since the 1995 Rugby World Cup which the hosts won.
Crowds flocked to both the night games so far in Johannesburg and Cape Town and organisers expect full houses for all matches in the Super Eights round which starts on Sunday.
Even old-timers, who still regard Test cricket as the ultimate cricket contest, are enjoying the spectacle.
"It's quite exciting, isn't it?," said Johannesburg resident Johan Smidt, 61, who went to Tuesday's opener at the Wanderers.
"For me, Test cricket is the real thing but I suppose they can't do without the limited-overs game because it brings in the money.
"If there has to be limited-overs cricket, why don't they play only Twenty20? Those 50-over games are so insufferably boring."
Former England captain and commentator Tony Greig said the shortest version of the sport was here to stay.
"I certainly see an impact in a playing sense," Greig told a Cricinfo discussion.
"We've seen the dramatic changes in the way Tests are played as a result of the traditional one-day internationals - it's strange to be using the word "traditional" to describe one-day cricket isn't it?
"But the big change lies is in what the public wants. I think they are looking for cricket to provide them with a quicker fix."
Even Asian team will soon realise that there is more to Twenty20 cricket than just a hit-and-giggle outing.
Asia, cricket's financial backer, has organised more one-dayers than any other region, but India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have been so reluctant to embrace Twenty20 cricket that they have yet to host an international match.
Domestic Twenty20 cricket was introduced in England in 2003 to boost dwindling viewership. Indian officials say cricket-mad Asian nations have never faced such a problem.
Cynics, however, blame the lack of interest on commercial reasons. After all, a full-scale one-day international allows 100 overs of advertising breaks as opposed to just 40 overs for a Twenty20 game.
All that could change at the end of the two-week world championships. Twenty20 cricket rocks. Ask the fans.