I’m no mega cricket fan, but in recent years I have grown to enjoy the odd T20 match on TV – having shown a polite interest in the husband’s late night watching, I got sucked in. T20 really is more exciting than the usual cricket rules. And this cricket thing is much more than just a gentlemen’s sport now surely isn’t it? More than just the polite ripple of applause across the green as the sound of leather cracks upon willow, and the batsman hits another for four? More than cucumber sandwiches and a cup of tea at half time and the local vicar keeping score? More than just an elite group of public school raised youths with privileged backgrounds playing an aristocratic game? Surely the much-loved English pastime is so much more than this in the 21st century?
A T20 game allows each team just a single innings, batting for a maximum of 20 overs. The whole match usually takes around three hours, with each innings lasting around 75–90 minutes (with a 10–20-minute interval). It was introduced to create a lively form of the game which would be attractive to spectators at the ground and viewers on television and as such it has been very successful.
So when Natwest T20 blast invited us down to the Aegeus bowl just outside Southampton to watch Hampshire v Gloucestershire promising us exactly that – that cricket is so much more these days – we jumped at the chance to find out first hand.
Arriving at the Aegeaus bowl we found it conveniently situated just off the motorway, signposted clearly we made our way easily to car park 10 (a large well martialed field) just across the road from the bowl and an easy five minute stroll into the ground itself. Easy access into the ground through the automatic turnstiles; just pass your ticket through the scanner and in you go! Now, if you are a regular I’m sure once inside you know where to go. If, like us, it’s your first visit, it’s not quite so straightforward. Our tickets allowed us general entrance into the ground, but did not allocate any specific seating or stand numbers. We had had a look at the Aegeus Bowl layout on the Internet before setting off, so we did have some sort of idea as to where we would like to sit to give us best advantage for watching the cricket. However once actually in the ground this wasn’t so easy as it had seemed on the computer screen. We made our way towards an ‘official entrance’ to see exactly where we were and found immediately that we could not enter as it was for ‘members only’. However, we did find a very helpful martial in a very bright yellow tabard who informed us that we should keep going round the outside of the stands until we found the family entrance. Upon entering the family stand we were met by another very friendly martial who pointed to the many rows of seats marked off with balloons tied to each end “those are reserved for families only” he said “you will be fine anywhere inside those areas” And indeed he was right. We found an empty row with six good seats together with a great vantage point over the whole arena (to be fair it seemed wherever you were going to sit in the ground you were going to see just fine!) and settled down.
Food! Of course we hadn’t eaten, so having spotted the various options available on the way round the back of the stands we opted for the gourmet burger stand, burger and chips all round then, very tasty and certainly filling but a tad expensive at just over eighty pounds for the six of us! (Next time I think we’ll either eat before coming or bring a picnic with us!). Still full and warm inside we were ready to settle down for an evening’s entertainment. The teams were out on the pitch warming up and there were a few interviews going on down there also being shown on the big screen. Kids cricket clubs were also out pitch side practicing their skills as an added entertainment. Gradually everyone left and we were left with a large expanse of green. Then the teams were announced as the fielding side (in this case Gloucestershire) came out followed by the first two batsmen. A few more short announcements and then all of a sudden we were off and running! Hampshire put on a good performance and ended their 20 overs innings with a total score of 180 for 6 wickets, not a bad score but certainly doable for Gloucestershire we thought. All throughout the first half the packed stadium was full of noise; cheering and shouting, and plenty of excited joining in the action with waving of cards with 4’s or 6’s shown at the appropriate moments. Upbeat music accompanied major plays that certainly added extra excitement to the occasion. The camera that had been used for the interviews earlier on was doing the rounds catching the atmosphere of the crowd and certainly adding to the atmosphere as enthralled fans were beamed live onto the big screen. Pitch side there were also some young girls as cheerleaders who seemed to lead the chants and be up and doing their choreographed moves to the music that accompanied every major play, fair enough they were quite fun.
First half over then; and so far so good. Everything was living up to its billing as a fun filled family evening out, great atmosphere, a safe environment in which to enjoy an exciting game of cricket, definitely no elitism here. As a cricket virgin I admit I was surprised by just how relaxed the atmosphere was. Unlike other sporting events it was perfectly okay for people to chat away during play, and to get up for drinks or snacks. Children were able to get up and move around freely, and to wait eagerly at the edge of the pitch with a pen for the outfielders to come over and sign autographs between balls.
During the second half the young cheerleaders left the field and were replaced by their older counterparts; apparently the Hampshire’s in-house cheerleaders, the Aegeas Angels. Now don’t get me wrong I’m no prude, but I really fail to see where sexy young girls twisting their bodies in time to the music has anything to do with cricket? Let alone promote a family atmosphere. It did in all honesty make me feel a little uncomfortable that they were so openly provocative in front of my young and very impressionable children. What am I teaching my 7yr old daughter here about a woman’s place on a professional sportsfield? My husband eyed me in despair, and even my teen boys rolled their eyes at all the hair that was swishing and the backs that were arched.
Cheerleaders are an American phenomenon and in the US it’s unisex sport for highly trained gymnasts. The Aegeas Angels reminded me of nothing more than the girl parading a boxing ring with the Number card between rounds. As you can see above, even though they weren’t settled in front of the family stand to perform they were broadcast on the big screen in all their ‘glory’…
Second half and Gloucestershire in to bat needing 181 runs to win. Could they do it? To be honest we didn’t mind – coming from Dorset we hadn’t really got a side to support. In the end I think four of us plumped for Hampshire as it seemed a little closer to home and the other two (the two older boys) perhaps just to be different put their allegiances behind Gloucestershire. How would it play out?
In the end it really did all come down to the very last ball, with Gloucestershire needing a six off the one delivery. But four runs was all they got, falling two short of their target – what an exhilarating end to fabulous game. Want to see the last ball? Oh, go on then…
Overall the game was fast, furious and fun, the atmosphere was fabulous despite the little pitch side distraction in the second half, and yes we would definitely go again. Getting out of the car park was a little trickier than getting in, but it was generally well controlled and worth a little patience for such a fun evening out.
Would we go again? Yes, we definitely would. In fact my eldest two have asked if they can join their local cricket club, so it already has had a positive effect. So – Natwest T20 Blast Cricket, definitely cricket for all the family in the 21st century. Just lose those dancing girls…
(thanks to the husband who wrote most of the review for me. He’s much more poetic about sport, and way better at remembering the crickety bits than I am…)