T20, Hundred – now the 6ixty: Cricket done in 90 minutes

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It will be the quickest format ever seen for professional cricketers when the 6ixty tournament begins in the West Indies this week – the equal shortest, being the same length as a 10-over match, but quicker.

Instead of changing ends after each over, 30 balls will be bowled from one end, followed by 30 from the other. Each innings should take about 45 minutes, whereas it takes more than an hour in the Hundred.

At least, however, for cricket-lovers feeling faint at the prospect of games being ever more concertinaed, the integrity of the six-ball over will be preserved, which cannot be said for the Hundred. Five overs will be bowled from one end at Warner Park in St Kitts, then five more from the other, with a maximum of two for each bowler.

Thus cricket continues to demonstrate that it is the most elastic of all sports. We had Test matches lasting up to 10 days before the introduction of limited-overs cricket in England in 1962, starting with 65 overs. The number has since shrivelled, in sync with attention spans, down to 60, then 55, then 50, then 45, then 40, with the big contraction to 20 overs in county cricket in 2003, down to the Abu Dhabi T10 and this new 60-baller.

What is missing, of course, the shorter a cricket match becomes, is the element of human character. If the game lasts only 60 balls, the batsman has only the one option: to hit the ball to or over the boundary.

Sunil Narine, the major mystery-spinner in world cricket, is one of the star attractions. On Tuesday evening the Trinidadian was representing Oval Invincibles before jumping on a plane. Specialising in the shortest formats, he takes a wicket every 24 balls: nobody has ever taken them so frequently in professional cricket.

Another innovation has to accompany every new tournament: in this case the “Mystery Fan Ball”. Fans, however remote, will be able to select between four randomly chosen deliveries. The umpire signals that the “Mystery Fan Ball” will take place, the batsman cannot be dismissed and any runs scored will be added to the team’s total as extras – not credited to the batsman’s score, nor added to the bowler’s figures, as if bequeathed from outer space.

Whether the new fans of this format will love it, it may well go down a treat in bookmaking circles in south Asia. Betting on which of the four random deliveries is chosen could become very popular, if you and your mates can flood the app and specify which ball it will be.

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Where will it all end: will an even shorter format evolve? The Fifty will no doubt be launched somewhere soon, then the Twenty – 20 balls, not overs. Watch your television for details, if you want to see the cricketing equivalent of a golf driving range, where the only interest lies in how far the ball has been hit.

The London Telegraph

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