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180 'score to beat' in Twenty20 tonight

Craig Spearman believes a score of around 180 will be an ideal target in tonight's ground-breaking first New Zealand-Australia Twenty20 cricket international at Eden Park.

Former Black Cap Craig Spearman believes a score of around 180 will be an ideal target in tonight's ground-breaking first New Zealand-Australia Twenty20 cricket international at Eden Park.

Spearman bases that on his experience with the abbreviated version of the limited-overs game (20 overs a side) at Gloucestershire in the English competition where Twenty20 has made a highly successful debut.

Aimed at a younger audience and women seeking exciting entertainment packaged within three hours, the game has taken off not just in England, where it has been played for two seasons now, but also South Africa.

New Zealand Cricket puts its toe in the water tonight to gauge reaction and feedback to the international tour opener that in the recent past has been launched with another hit-and-giggle game Cricket Max (10 overs a side, but two innings each).

Spearman, who leaves New Zealand next week for his fourth county season with Gloucestershire, said the batting side aims at scoring on average a run and a half per ball from the 20 overs at bat.

"You can't slog wildly at everything and try to hit it for four. After the first season the teams settled down more approaching the matches and thought things through."

Spearman, a punishing opening batsman, said it was a matter of playing with controlled but not reckless aggression throughout.

"Obviously you have to strike the ball pretty much from the outset but the difference to the 50 over game is that there is no accumulation phase in the middle of an innings.

"That doesn't appeal to the purists but does to others who like to see plenty of big hitting."

Spearman said he personally preferred several overs to play himself in before taking advantage of the fielding restrictions in the first 15 overs in a traditional 50-over contest. That is condensed in Twenty20 because fielding restrictions only apply in the first six overs.

Spearman said the bowlers have to concentrate on their variations and control because of the all-out assault they are under.

Spearman also played Twenty20's forerunner in New Zealand, Cricket Max, and said both games had their pluses and minuses.

Spearman liked that in Cricket Max you would get a second innings and that a match could be turned around after a poor first innings.

"You were not necessarily out of the game but in Twenty20 and you get a bad start, say 40 for five, then the result is pretty much a foregone conclusion early on."

Spearman said Cricket Max forced the batsmen to hit straight to get double value for fours and sixes in the Max zone which he did not think was necessarily a good thing.

"Shots all around the wicket should be rewarded the same.

Spearman said the matches in England were usually played from 5.30pm to 8.30pm after the working day and took advantage of the long English twilight.

He said at his county ground, Bristol, crowds averaged about 5000 a game while a local derby battle between Middlesex and Surrey at Lords sold out with over 20,000 attending.

Spearman said he did not think the game in New Zealand had that large a support base to get those types of figures but it was worth trying to tempt the fringe fan with a different type of event.

The match has relevance internationally because in the official one-day game matches can be reduced from 50 down to a minimum of 20 overs aside if weather intervenes.

And a winner tonight?

Spearman could not pick it with both sides new to the game although John Bracewell was coach at Gloucester for the first season of its introduction.

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