NOT SO long ago, cricket was a gentile game played at a pace that would embarrass a snail. But Twenty20 has pressed the fast-forward button. We take a look at the innovation that has revolutionised cricket, and at a few other sporting game-changers.
Launched in 2003 with the ECB’s Twenty20 Cup, ‘hit and giggle’ has grabbed the game in a headlock and given its floppy hair a good tousling. New fans have been hooked by its explosive and unpredictable nature, while many of its techniques have crossed over to the ‘big game’. The need for every batsman to batter the daylights out of attacks in t20 has put a firecracker under test-match run rates, while bowlers have developed a variety of skills, including the slow-ball bouncer, in a bid to keep batsmen on the back foot. Traditionalists may not like it, but the average fan does.
Watch the Friends Life t20 on Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 throughout June, July and August
Up until the mid 19th century the list of materials used as footballs included the heads of fallen enemies, pigs’ bladders and lumps of leather more misshapen than the Elephant Man. However, after 1863, the newly formed Football Association needed something perfectly round and brilliantly bouncy. Luckily, a few years earlier, Charles Goodyear had invented the ideal substance when he accidentally dropped some India rubber on his wife’s red-hot stove. The great, great grandfather of the Jabulani was born, and football took a huge leap towards world domination.
Catch the ball in action at the Copa America live on ESPN throughout July
Half-hour training sessions followed by a pint were replaced with NASA-style conditioning
Professional rugby union
The tectonic plates of rugby union shifted in 1995 when the IRB called time on the amateur era of doctors, policeman and sheep farmers playing at the highest levels. Soon, half-hour training sessions followed by a pint were replaced with NASA-style conditioning, and players became bigger, stronger, fitter, faster – and rugby union even more brutal. Bigger men hitting each other faster and harder saw injury rates double in the first five years of professionalism, and at one point during 2006-7 a third of all Premiership players were on the injury list.
The graphite tennis racquet
In 1991, tennis legend Björn Borg made a comeback, wielding an old-school wooden racquet that looked more like a ping-pong bat – and was blown away by unknown Jordi Arrese and his state-of-the art graphite accessory.
Graphite racquets became common in the 1980s, replacing the tiny, unpredictable and warp-prone wooden numbers. The powerful, beautifully balanced and incredibly light modern racquet allowed players to carefully caress the tennis ball, while also smashing its brains out. Only one of the top 20 fastest serves of all time came from a wooden racquet – Roscoe Tanner’s 1978 153mph dazzler was the sole speedster in an era of 120mph efforts.
Catch big serves at Wimbledon live on BBC1 & BBC2 on Freeway until 3 July and catch up with iPlayer
Groovy golf clubs
Until the turn of the 20th century you could grow a beard in the time it took golfers to hit the green. It was then that E. Burr had the brainwave of adding grooves to the new metal clubs that were replacing ubiquitous wooden ones. The grooves grab the surface of the ball, allowing top players to lift it higher and impart more spin than the Downing Street press office. With an increased ability to control the length and direction of the ball the game flourished and the seeds of success were sown for the likes of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
Watch The Open live on BBC 1 & BBC2 on Freeway from 10–17 July or catch up with iPlayer. And enjoy classic golf with A-Z Of The Open
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