The good, the bad and the ugly sides of Twenty20

THE elusive and oft-discussed 'spirit of cricket' and what relevance it has on the game in post-Stanford age was writ large during Durham's spirited and controversial defeat to Nottinghamshire.

What had been a tight game between two in-form teams turned ugly over just how this spirit of fair play should be carried by both players and spectators, with regards to Dale Benkenstein's dismissal by the "was he or wasn't he over the rope" catch by Alex Hales on the boundary.

Had the game been taking place at any level below first class and certainly not in front of a packed house, presumably Hales' word would have been taken that the catch were a clean one and not another word would have been uttered on the matter, but such were the howls of derision from the County Stand that Benkenstein quite rightly believed there to be an element of doubt.

So far, so professional one would suppose, especially as the umpires, working within the letter of the law, gave the batsman the benefit of the doubt.

Benkenstein's decision to take Hales' word on the matter and walk then exemplified what we could traditionally expect to be cricketing values of fair play and taking a fellow player at his word, even if there were evidence to the contrary.

Whether Hales believed his decision or found himself in the moral quandary of fair play or embraced the sort of professionalism one wouldn't bat an eyelid at in football or some such, we'll never know, but the reaction of the crowd was quite another matter.

Again, there would be no shock at a booing football crowd or chanting of 'cheat', but for it to appear at a cricket ground felt oddly jarring.

Perhaps there is an expectation in these days of video scrutiny that every decision should be absolutely perfect and when this facility isn't available, somehow people feel doubly cheated.

Perhaps in that respect, we are the generation that knows too much.

Whether the influx of a new type of fan to Twenty20, the younger, arguably less sober group who bring with them the expectations of a football crowd soured the atmosphere.

As a Sunderland season ticket holder, this isn't to be critical of the new fans that Twenty20 has brought to the game or that football mentality and perhaps this is what inevitably comes with popularity.

However, the sickening scenes at the Lumley End of the ground which saw Samit Patel racially abused and his continual shouts back into the crowd that said abusers should, how shall we say, "go forth and multiply" and that they were in fact the worst of four-letter expletives, set a shocking example to the influx of young supporters.

While football doesn't allow such one on one interaction and barracking, the consequences on both sides would presumably be worse on both sides should a fan been clearly heard shouting racist abuse and a player continually shouted back into the crowd.

Having witnessed football fans of all stripe descend into less savoury behaviour, it's a depressing thought that this minority could blight cricket and likewise, whether 'professional' acts could creep into the playing mentality.

Which all seems a side issue after the two successive defeats which followed the comprehensive victory against Yorkshire, especially in light of some confusion about just how long Ross Taylor will be able to remain at the club, due to international commitments.

The format of the competition, while incredibly forgiving to numerous defeats, is not infinite and a win is sorely needed against Northamptonshire before the relative novelty of the return to the similarly faltering County Championship campaign.

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