Kent’s Blast triumphs as a uncommon genuine second in an infinite cricket match | Jonathan Liew
TThe woman in the bird costume can hardly believe what she is seeing. The man disguised as a mustard bottle is fascinated by the flight of the white ball against the dark night sky. The two jockeys, hopping in anticipation of a Somerset six, now cling to their heads as Jordan Cox of Kent flings himself skyward, throws the ball back over the perimeter rope, and comes back into play. By the time Cox finally hits the lawn, Matt Milnes has the hook at Darren Stevens bowling, and Kent is on his way to becoming England's Twenty20 men's championship for the first time since 2007.
And for all its individual brilliance, Kent's triumph felt like a team effort, an appropriate reward for a likeable troop of cricketers: the evergreen Joe Denly, the brilliant Qais Ahmad, the grinning Sam Billings, the experienced all-rounder Stevens, a man who looks like he just threw a shoe across a pub and can't wait to do it again. Above all, it felt like a moment of catharsis for Kent's long-suffering fans who have endured the global plague and trophy drought impressively and irrepressibly.
In other words, it meant something. Maybe not for everyone. Perhaps not even for everyone in Edgbaston on Saturday night, some of whom had apparently arrived with no greater ambition than to have a pint in a rented suit. There are times when Finals Day feels less like a cricket event and more like some weird pagan ritual, the kind of folk anthropological tradition you find in National Geographic magazine. But amid the made-up frivolity and industrial consumption, an event centered around sport was at its center: a matter of true joy and pain, sacrifice and achievement.
Less than 24 hours later, I saw Mumbai Indians face the Chennai Super Kings in the resumed Indian Premier League. That was a nice game too. Young opener Ruturaj Gaikwad scored a dazzling unbeaten 88. Dwayne Bravo effortlessly hit 23 with eight balls and then took three quick wickets without getting into a run at any point.
But here, too, there was something else: an expression of possession and power, a feeling for the claim to territory. Adam Milne, the fast bowler who so impressively secured Kent's Blast qualification earlier this summer, now took the new ball for Mumbai. Many of the players on display – Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Moeen Ali – were supposed to play in the abandoned fifth Test against England at Old Trafford, but had instead been spiritedly driven eastwards, blown to Dubai by trade Winds of Cricket- Financing and a number of hastily arranged charter flights.
So this was the result of all these board-level discussions, the tense and hectic negotiations, the broken schedules. With all the glitz of production, it's nearly impossible these days to see the IPL without also being aware of what was looted and looted to make it possible: the gravity of an entire sport has warped just to make us Suresh Raina can be seen waddling around, trying to burn his breakfast.
The day of the finals is the perfect excuse for fans to drink beer in rented costumes. Photo: Harry Trump / Getty Images
Especially as someone who likes all the cricket, who will see it played between pretty much everyone in every format, it's hard to remember a time when this sport was more confusing, confusing, and stressful. The blast final took place three weeks after the quarter-finals, which took place five weeks after the group stage ended. The IPL comes right after the shortened series of tests that overlapped with the Hundred that overlapped with the Royal London Cup.
The county championship ends this week. England's women play New Zealand for the second time in seven months. There are T20 World Championships in 2021 (men), 2022 (men), 2023 (women) and 2024 (again men).
In whose interest are all these crickets shoveled on us? How is someone supposed to reasonably and sensibly track, trace the narrative threads, find out who is playing whom, when and why? Who is Chris Jordan playing for right now? (There are at least four answers, none of them wrong.) And if cricket has been repackaged as a kind of endless content, a multitude of games and jurisdictions and seizures of power and competing self-interest, at what point does it no longer matter who? wins and loses?
Maybe this is the moment when a sport just dissolves. It becomes a fungible entertainment product, a lucrative payday, a tribal bickering, and most importantly, nothing else. Nothing can be taken away, just added, and over time the only real way to navigate this infinite feed is to pick a filter, pick your character – T20 Specialist, Test Connoisseur, County Seasoned, IPL Obsessed, Knight Riders- Stan, Worcestershire Ultra – and fight to the death.
The irony is that the English T20 probably did more to spark this process than anything else: the quick greed, the excessive schedule, the close church interest. Now, strangely enough, Finals Day feels like one of the few constants in the home game: a wild and irrepressible phenomenon that somehow manages to generate full houses, to feel vital and authentic and unique through saturation and neglect, new fashions and new fashions .
That's why catching Cox felt like a special moment: a 20-year-old and a 46-year-old united to exorcise a 14-year-old curse, a rare moment of clarity that blends with the past like the best sport felt and bound to the future, while it makes absolutely no sense in the present.