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Cricket: TWENTY20: A perfectly pitched show; Warwickshire beat Somerset by 19 runs.

Byline: Gerald Welch at Taunton

Stumpy the Dragon cavorted, bursts of pop music caressed the County Ground's historic acres and Warwickshire beat Somerset in their inaugural Twenty20 contest. Most significantly, people - lots of people - turned up.

Blessed by perfect weather, English cricket's gallant pitch for a new audience got off to the bold start it needed at Taunton. Twenty20 might be a fleeting presence in the game or it might be amongst its saviours. Nobody knows yet but the near-capacity crowd squeezed into Somerset's headquarters last night thoroughly enjoyed their first taste of it.

If English cricket can sometimes be accused of taking itself too seriously - and my word it can - here was proof that it's finally sunk in that you have to try to move with the times. Spice was added to this inaugural function by these two sides having had such wretched starts to their oneday campaigns that the Twenty20 is their only chance of success this season.

Both out of the C&G Trophy, together they've managed a combined one win from ten National League games so this match was much more than just a novelty. For each it was a potential lifeline to an alarmingly flagging season. The Bears grabbed it to set up a cracking tussle with Worcestershire at New Road next Wednesday.

After Somerset put Warwickshire in, it all started rather tediously with four dot-balls from Michael Burns to Nick Knight. Then the acting captain took ten runs, including a swept six, off Burns' next two offerings and the party was underway.

Jonathan Trott soon spooned to mid-off and, as blades started to fly, Knight top-edged a pull to deep long-leg. Neil Carter was spectacularly off the mark first ball with an edged six then flicked Aaron Laraman to the fence to raise the 50 from exactly six overs.

Carter and Dominic Ostler added 33 from 19 balls before the latter was smartly caught at point. Two balls later Carter skied the first delivery from off-spinner Wes Durston who showed the slow men have a role to play in this format by drawing a fatally lofted drive from Ian Bell.

That left the Bears wobbling at 76 for five in the 11th over but salvation came Afro-style. Trevor Penney and Collins Obuya, of Zimbabwe and Kenya respectively, nurdled, smashed and scampered 50 from 28 balls. Penney smote Ian Blackwell for two huge sixes in four balls and reached 52 from 28 balls with four fours and three sixes before perishing to a calm catch by Jamie Cox at deep cover. The matchwinning partnership had added 79 in seven overs.

Wagg emulated Carter with six from his first scoring stroke then Obuya (34 from 25 balls) and Neil Smith socked 16 from the last over.

A total of 188 looked testing although less so after Jamie Cox whacked Bell for 4-4-6 in his first over. The Tasmanian, hitting admirably straight, thundered Somerset to 45 from four overs.

The crowd liked that buy Wagg quietened them by bowling Carl Gozzard and Ian Blackwell with successive balls in his first over. Cox and Keith Dutch looked dangerous when adding 44 in five overs but then Obuya struck a massive blow with his third ball which he floated past Cox's charge.

After that, Dutch alone resisted as the Bears took wickets regularly, most eye-catchingly when Wagg executed a stunning one-handed return catch to oust Keith Parsons. Somerset's challenge slipped away until, needing 41 from three overs, only desperate hoiking remained as an option.

Obuya took advantage of that with two wickets to round off his fine day and that was that. All done and dusted in two hours and the crowd had lapped it up. Actually, the music was discreet enough to be barely noticeable, and the cricket was entirely recognisable as cricket, just a bit pacier then usual. Revolutionary? Not really. Just fresh - and there's nowt wrong with that.

CAPTION(S):

The country got its first taste of Twenty20 cricket yesterday (clockwise, from top left): Thomas Wall, from Worcester, enjoys the freedom of New Road between innings; Warwickshire's Neil Carter hits out against Somerset; Eager youngsters chat to Middlesex wicketkeeper Mark Alleyne as he waits to go in to bat; Surrey ballboys wait for the chance to keep the action moving; Durham's Simon Katich makes his ground against Sussex
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 14, 2003
Words:722
Previous Article:Cricket: Vaughan in need of instant joy.
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