Marcus Hook’s Surrey CCC column: T20 is delivering entertainment…but South Londoners maybe taking it a bit too far

Next week, on June 13 to be precise, Twenty20 cricket will celebrate its 20th birthday.

The “every ball is an event” excitement of 2003 continues to be a gift that keeps giving, but Surrey do seem to be taking their commitment to entertaining cricket a bit too far.

I doubt I’m alone in recalling I had 10 fingernail ends prior to the Oval outfit’s trip to Hampshire, which they won with just seven deliveries to spare before losing narrowly to Gloucestershire then beating Kent in a last-ball thriller.

With Jason Roy battling to be fit after picking up a calf injury and Will Jacks back in the England reckoning, time seems to be running out on getting to see Roy and Jacks open in tandem in the Blast.

Following the news that Somerset spinner Jack Leach won’t feature in the Ashes, Jacks, who made his Test debut in Pakistan last December as a spin bowling all-rounder, must be close to a dream call-up for the greatest rivalry in cricket.

Even if Surrey make it through to T20 finals day, Roy will be in the USA, participating in the inaugural Major League Cricket, which gets under way on July 13.

Roy has controversially terminated his England central contract to accept a £300k deal over two years to play T20 cricket for Los Angeles Knight Riders MLC franchise.

The concern is it could prompt other white-ball specialists to consider negotiating similar releases.

The ECB’s decision to bring forward the start of this year’s T20 Blast, with more games at the weekend replacing the less profitable Monday and Tuesday night slots – to give greater prominence, in the schedule, to the Ashes and then The Hundred – has seen the bigger grounds emptier.

Picture : Keith Gillard

Thankfully, the smaller counties (those whose headquarters aren’t Test match venues) continue to pack them in for the Blast.

Tonight’s T20 clash between Surrey and Sussex at Hove, which can only accommodate 6,000 compared with the Oval’s 27,000, is a sell-out.

The crowd for Surrey’s game against Kent at Canterbury, similar in size to Hove, was bigger than any the hop county pulled in last summer.

The good news, as I highlighted last week, is that all county matches are broadcast live online for those unable to get there in person.

Sadly, the only way you can watch Kent’s T20 Blast matches, unless you’re a Kent member, is if you shell out £5.99 a game.

It’s a curious development given that, in terms of popularity, the league table published in this year’s Wisden ranks Kent’s live streams 15th out of 18, and that the Spitfires have lost four out of their first five in the Blast.

So far Kent are the only county to go down this route, but £5.99 a match, really?! For the same price, you can get a month’s access to thousands of films with some streaming services.

All I can say is woe betide anyone connected with the decision bemoaning barriers to engagement, accessibility or county cricket’s limited profile.

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