By the turn of the millennium there was a growing feeling that county cricket was stagnating.
The existing one-day competitions no longer seemed to possess the sense of occasion they once had, and a new kind of sports audience was thought to be developing, one accustomed to the instant entertainment of the digital age and less willing to sit watching cricket for six or seven hours at a time. Enter Twenty20 - all the entertainment value of the limited overs game condensed into a neat two and a half hour package; perfect for TV audiences or the after-work office crowd.
The format was initially intended to be a shot in the arm for domestic cricket, much as the Gillette Cup had been in the 1960s. But T20 cricket took off at an incredible pace. Less than two years after its debut on the county scene, the first T20 international took place, albeit as a fancy dress party with cricket attached. The commercial potential of T20 cricket at international level was too great to ignore; the landscape of cricket was changed forever.
The Twenty20 Cup made its first appearance in county cricket in 2003. The counties were split into three groups leading to semi-finals and a final. Middlesex played their home matches at Richmond and Uxbridge, with the semi-finals wrapped up into a grand finals day at Trent Bridge. The following year – with the competition’s popularity already established – Middlesex’s final group match was scheduled for Lord’s. The visitors were Surrey, reigning champions and undefeated in the tournament so far. A bumper crowd turned up to see 28 fours and eight sixes bludgeoned off the 240 balls bowled in the match. Surrey’s Adam Hollioake hit an unbeaten 65 from 41 balls as his side made 183 for 5. Although Lance Klusener scored 53 from 32 balls, Middlesex were always behind the pace and fell to defeat by 37 runs.
Another final appearance beckoned for Surrey. It would take Middlesex a little longer to find their feet in cricket’s breathless new world.