New York pitches actually set up a number of thrilling T20 World Cup finishes

PROTEAS spinner Keshav Maharaj defended 11 runs in the final over to secure an exciting four-run victory over Bangladesh in New York on Monday. Photo: AFP

PROTEAS spinner Keshav Maharaj defended 11 runs in the final over to secure an exciting four-run victory over Bangladesh in New York on Monday. Photo: AFP

Published Jun 13, 2024


Comment by Zaahier Adams

I WAS in London in 2019 for the 50-overs Cricket World Cup when “America’s favourite pastime” came to the United Kingdom for the first time.

It was groundbreaking territory. An official Major League Baseball game was set to be held between arch foes the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox at London’s former Olympic Stadium and now home of English Premier League football club West Ham United.

And if you thought the ICC had done wonders to build Eisenhower Park in Nassau County in close on 12 months for cricket’s first rodeo in New York, here the organisers had just 24 days to construct 141 900 square feet of artificial turf and 345 tonnes of dirt for the infield diamond.

The game was a record-breaker, with the Yankees belting six home runs in their first inning before the Sox called their bluff with a half-dozen of their own.

The match eventually ended after four hours and 42 minutes – the second longest in MLB history ever – with the score 17-13 in favour of the Yankees.

The 30 total runs scored were the second highest in a game between these two teams.

After consultation with true-blue baseball fans who made the trip over from the US, I was informed that this was ridiculous, and not quite the game they were accustomed to back home.

And that brings me to the T20 cricket action that we have been watching in the US, and primarily New York, over the past fortnight.

— Proteas Men (@ProteasMenCSA) June 11, 2024

While baseball is not impacted by the surface as the pitcher delivers the ball on the full to the batter, cricket is hugely dependent on the 22 yards of turf that separates the batter and bowler.

And the drop-in surface at Nassau County, which was cultivated in Adelaide, has come in for severe criticism for being overly favourable towards the bowlers.

This has led to a string of low totals that has caused many to believe that the product on display was not marketable to an American audience.

I beg to differ, particularly after my experience with the baseball fanatics in London.

Americans are accustomed to the pitchers and, in particular, the ball holding sway – unlike in cricket, where batters have owned the T20 game for the past 20 years.

Hitting a home run remains an achievement, much like striking a six was back in the 1990s.

Only special ballers are assigned such striking duties, and they are heralded for their achievements in the same way Sir Viv Richards was regarded as a ‘God of Cricket’ among mere mortals in a previous era.

Furthermore, T20 cricket, largely due to the grotesque Indian Premier League, has served up a buffet of batter-thons and passed it off as entertainment for the past two decades.

Eisenhower Park in New York has brought the bowler back into the equation, along with the athleticism of the inner-ring fielder, which has set up a number of thrilling finishes.

Anyone who watched the ‘Super Bowl on Steroids’ mega clash between India and Pakistan last Sunday, and followed it up with the Proteas’ tense victory over Bangladesh on Monday, cannot claim they were not thoroughly entertained.

Whether cricket catches on with the locals in the US remains to be seen, but the ICC’s decision to take the game west has been a captivating experience nonetheless.