Proper cricket

The inaugural season of The Hundred concluded yesterday with the men's and women's finals at Lord's. The positives and negatives of the tournament have been covered both here and elsewhere and I don't intend to go over those again here.

Instead I'm going to cover a phrase that I see relatively often, both about the Hundred and other short forms, as well as associate cricket. And that is "Proper cricket".

It's almost always used in a negative sense. The Hundred - not proper cricket. T20 - not proper cricket. One-day cricket - not proper cricket. Coloured clothing - not proper cricket. Floodlights - not proper cricket. Playing on an artificial pitch - not proper cricket. A match between Spain and Portugal - not proper cricket.

Even when it's used in a nominally positive sense, it's usually done in a way to exclude other forms of cricket. See people talking about Test cricket as "proper cricket", the unspoken part being that limited overs cricket - and by extension most associate cricket - isn't proper cricket. Commentators describing a lovely looking cover drive as a "proper cricket shot". I like a well executed cover drive as much as any cricket fan, but cricket has evolved to the state where a ramp shot or reverse slog sweep is as much a legitimate shot as a cover drive or forward defensive stroke.

For a lot of people using the phrase it's done out of a mistaken sense of nostalgia. Just as every generation has its version of the "good old days", it seems that every generation has its own idea of proper cricket. It's notable that many of the reasons given for why The Hundred isn't proper cricket were being said 18 years ago about T20.

Both "the good old days" and "proper cricket" are often phrases built on exclusion. "This town was better before those people came" and "cricket was better before all this pyjama cricket nonsense" are both said by people yearning for days that just don't exist anymore. Society has evolved and cricket has evolved with it.

I've written before about how people who think that the form of cricket they like has never changed are mistaken. Test cricket, for example, has been played with durations of anywhere from 3-6 days or with no time limit and with overs of 4, 5, 6 and 8 balls. But also the idea that there ever was "proper cricket" is basically a myth.

At times in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, single wicket cricket was more popular than the 11-a-side game. When a - admittedly modified - single wicket tournament was held in India last year it was considered a gimmicky event. It wasn't proper cricket. Those who played single wicket 200 years ago would find it bizarre that what they played would one day be considered to not be proper cricket.

One of the great things about cricket is that it can be modified. And it has been time and time again over hundreds of years and it will continue to be modified in the future. Maybe, just maybe, cricket survives - and even thrives - because of things that at one time are considered to be "not proper cricket".

International round up

There's been plenty of international cricket amongst associate members in the last couple of weeks as some of the world starts to come out of its Covid-19 induced hibernation.

Germany men's tri-series

France and Norway travelled to Krefeld for this T20I tri-series that took place from 5-8 August. Germany did get to play a couple of matches last year before the pandemic but for Norway it was their first international cricket for two years and the first in almost three years for Norway.

The tournament started with the hosts taking on Norway, who were bowled out for 76 thanks to Ghulam Ahmadi taking four wickets for just five runs. Two batsmen both scored 30 for Norway with no-one else reaching double figures. Germany lost five wickets in reply and took 17.1 overs to chase their target but were never really in trouble as they opened with a win. France made it a double defeat for the Norwegians on the opening day as they restricted them to 112-7 from their 20 overs before completing a four wicket win in their maiden T20I.

On day two, Germany beat France by 2 wickets in a low scoring match in which Harmanjot Singh scored 68 in their wining score of 97. They made it back to back wins over the French the next day in more substantial fashion, scoring 164-3 from their 20 overs with Vijayshankar Chikkannaiah contributing an unbeaten 81. Virk Ali''s unbeaten 52 wasn't enough for the visitors as they were kept to 116-8 from their 20 overs, losing by 48 runs.

Norway got their first win later on the third day. They scored 131-8 from their 20 overs, and the French reply was being well led by opener and captain Usman Shahid who remained firm as wickets fell at the other end for 63 from 55 balls. Needing 12 from the last over with Shahid looking in good nick, he was unfortunately caught from the first ball of that over and France were only able to score 8, losing by 3 runs.

On the last day, Norway secured their place in the final alongside the hosts with a 51 run win over Germany. Batting first in that final, they scored 127-8. Rain reduced Germany's innings to 14 overs and a DLS target of 94. They knocked off their required runs with two balls to spare to win by 6 wickets and end what for the hosts and winners will have been a good run out ahead of their European qualifier for the T20 World Cup later this year.

Italy v Austria women's T20I series

Italy's women's team played their first T20Is recently, hosting their Austrian counterparts for a five match series. It was a closer fought series than Austria's last international action - a whitewash by Germany 12 months ago.

Italy started their T20I career in fine fashion, restricting Austria to 107-3 before chasing down their target with 3.5 overs to spare to win by 8 wickets. Captain Kumudu Peddrick top scored for them with a run a ball unbeaten 47.

Austria bounced back with two wins the next day though, beating the hosts by 7 wickets in the morning and by 7 runs in the afternoon. In the fourth T20I there was an unusual look to Italy's total of 73. The highest individual score was Rashini Aththidi's unbeaten 8. Their runs instead came from the 40 extras conceded by the Austrians. Nevertheless, Austria were able to secure a series win with a game to spare, chasing down their target in 12.1 overs to win by 6 wickets.

Italy then got a consolation win in the final T20I, scoring 99-5 from their 20 overs and keeping Austria to 98-8 to win by 1 runs.

Denmark v Sweden men's T20I series

Jonty Rhodes' first assignment as Sweden coach took place in Brondby last weekend at Svanholm Park as his charges travelled to Scandinavian rivals Denmark for a three match T20I series.

The impact of Rhodes was clear to see as the series was closer than the form book might suggest. Sweden scored 122-9 in the first match. An unbeaten 63 by Taranjit Bharaj helped secure a six wicket win for the home side.

Hamid Shah top scored for the Danes in the second match, scoring 66 and sharing in a 93 run partnership for the second wicket with Bharaj, who continued his form with a knock of 43. The home team scored 135-4 from their 20 overs. In an exciting finish, Sweden scored 15 from the last over of their run chase to secure a three wicket win and level the series.

In the deciding match, Sweden again scored 122-9 batting first. And it was that man again - Taranjit Bharaj - who dis the business for the home team with an unbeaten 63 from 46 balls to help his team completed a six wicket win with five balls to spare.

Like Germany, Denmark will be pleased with a run out ahead of the European qualifier, but will be worried about how close they were pushed by a Swedish side they would traditionally expect to beat easily.

Rwanda v Ghana men's T20I series

A five match T20I series between Rwanda and Ghana concluded yesterday at the Gahanga International Cricket Stadium in Rwanda. They were the first T20Is for the hosts - and their first matches of any kind in three years - and the first matches in two years for the visitors.

Rwanda got of to a winning start in their first ever T20I, successfully chasing a target of 165 with two balls to spare, winning by just one wicket. Ghana bounced back later the same day with a two wicket win.

After a break on Thursday, the series resumed on Friday with Rwanda scoring 136-8 batting first in the third match. They defended their total thanks to Zappy Bimenyimana taking 3-16 as the visitors were bowled out for 79, losing by 57 runs. Later that day, Rexford Bakum scored 63 from 41 balls to take Ghana to a total of 166-6. Rain ended the game after five overs of the Rwandan innings with the hosts on 30-1. Confusion rains over the result at this point as publicly availably scorecards record a Rwandan concession. However, they were behind on DLS, suggesting that there is either an error with the online scoring or a fault with the DLS system being used by Rwanda. Updates on this to hopefully follow in my next column!

This set the stage for a deciding fifth T20I yesterday. Rwanda batted first after winning the toss with a knock of 51 by Eric Niyomugabo helping them reach 147-8 from their 20 overs. Kofi Bagabena was the pick of the bowlers for Ghana with 3-27.

Ghana's Amoluk Singh then hit an unbeaten 80 from 57 balls, sharing in a 120 run partnership for the third wicket with captain Obed Harvey. The team completed a seven wicket win with 11 balls to spare to secure a 3-2 series victory.

Ongoing series

Currently ongoing as I write this are a men's T20I tri-series in Portugal also involving Gibraltar and Malta and a four match men's T20I series between Finland and Sweden. Thailand's women are in the midst of an expansive African tour, currently playing a one-day series against Zimbabwe which will be followed by a T20I series against the same opponents and one-day and T20 matches in South Africa against their emerging team. Namibia are currently hosting a Zimbabwe Emerging Players team for a three match one-day series. Reports on all these and more to follow in my next column!