Do you miss the thrills of high-stakes T20 action? You're in just the right place. This week on What We're Watching, we look back at the short-lived Stanford 20/20
Would West Indies have won their two World T20 titles if it hadn't been for Allen Stanford?
It is an awkward question on which few in the Caribbean would wish to dwell, with the scars from the Texan fraudster's conviction for engineering a US$7 billion Ponzi scheme still visible across the region.
But, as Daren Ganga said in Freddie Wilde and Tim Wigmore's book on the T20 revolution, Cricket 2.0, Stanford's domestic tournament "exposed a lot of young, raw talent... the investment made in that format led to West Indies dominating T20 cricket around the world."
Stanford's tournament - played exclusively at his Sticky Wicket ground next to the airport in Antigua - saw 19 teams compete. There was access to a level of professionalism through coaching and fitness regimes that was unprecedented for many local cricketers. The incentive to win was huge, with a $1 million cheque waiting for the champions, and the competition gave birth to one of T20's great teams, Trinidad and Tobago.
That might have been difficult to foresee on the first day of the tournament, on July 11, 2006. "You can see the vibes and the enthusiasm of the teams being here," said Courtney Walsh in the pre-match build-up. "I think this could be the start of what we need to generate a lot of interest back into cricket in the region."
The first ball brings chaos. Stanford walks off smiling with Sir Vivian Richards, having delivered a baseball-style first pitch - though sadly the footage is lost - before Marlon Brutus, No. 69 on his back, charges in to bowl with a bright orange ball. Terrance Webbe plays all around it, and nearly managed to run out his partner, Alderman Lesmond, and the Stanford 20/20 is born.
Sir Curtly Ambrose was less impressed, telling Ian Bishop before the second game that he is now "more of a bass player in a local group called Big Bad Dread and the Baldhead", and that he thought the first game "would have been a little bit more exciting". Way to sell it, Curtly!
The second game was livelier, with 42-year-old Pearson Best clubbing 74 off 40 balls to lead Cayman Islands to victory.
The tournament quickly found its feet, with T&T in particular flying: sadly, there is no video evidence of Kieron Pollard's 38-ball 83 in the semi-final against Nevis, the first of his 49 T20 half-centuries.
The final was something else altogether. Guyana are in all sorts, needing 14 off the last over with captain Ramnaresh Sarwan at the wrong end. Mark Nicholas and Tony Cozier bemoan his partners' inability to get Sarwan on strike: when he finally gets it, he heaves Samuel Badree for six, but then can only scramble one. As Nicholas tries to work out what will happen in the event of a tie, Narsingh Deonarine gets down on one knee and heaves the ball into the leg side.
"Could be six… it is, it is!" cries Cozier. "Guyana have won with a six from Narsingh Deonarine! What a match we've had - a one-million dollar shot from Narsingh Deonarine!"
Footage from the 2008 tournament is harder to come by, but a short compilation from the final provides a reminder of the brilliant theme music, "Come Rise With Me".
The 20-million match
The best-known Stanford game, though, came later that year, when England were bowled out for 99 and thrashed by ten wickets in a winner-takes-all, $20-million match. West Indies, playing under the name of the Stanford Superstars, were irresistible: Jerome Taylor knocked over Ian Bell and Matt Prior in quick succession, but the best moment was Daren Sammy's exuberant celebration when he bowled Kevin Pietersen round his legs. Nasser Hussain then expertly put the mockers on Paul Collingwood before the rest of the innings disintegrated.
It's easily forgotten that England started brilliantly with the ball: Andre Fletcher came very close to being run out without facing, and Steve Harmison started with a menacing first over. But then came the Gayle-Fletcher show (parts one and two. The moment of euphoria was tinged with sadness, knowing what happened next. Mike Haysman slipped up massively when handing over the cheque he said was "for $20,000", rather than USD 20 million - but that, in the end, was much closer to the sum that Stanford could actually afford to pay.
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