The Major League Cricket got under way in Texas, and the most serious attempt yet to establish a domestic competition in the United States provided all the ingredients of a modern Twenty20 league.
Fans at the purpose-built cricket stadium on Thursday, just a 15-minute drive from Dallas Fort Worth airport, were decked out in the yellow shirts of the victorious home side, the Texas Super Kings, and were treated to the familiar sight of big sixes and non-stop action.
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The Super Kings won by 69 runs after making 181 for six and then bowling out the Los Angeles Knight Riders for 112.
Any concerns that cricket in the US might not be the real deal vanished when the action got under way and the crowd began cheering the big hitting of the home team.
The stadium previously belonged to the now defunct Texas Airhogs minor league baseball club, but since taking over the venue, MLC has spent over $20m making it cricket-specific.
For viewers watching the TV broadcast, it would have been hard to tell the difference between MLC and the other T20 tournaments that have sprung up around the world.
‘Such a grand event’
With international players competing alongside domestic talent from the US national team, the standard of play was clearly professional and the field and wicket looked up to scratch.
That was in marked contrast to many previous, short-lived attempts to “break the American market” with one-off events in unsuitable venues, and was also light years apart from much of the domestic cricket, which for years was played on matting tracks.
— Major League Cricket (@MLCricket) July 14, 2023
Texas’ South African bowler Rusty Theron was taken aback by the success of the opening game.
“I am actually a little bit emotional, to be honest. This is such a grand event. There was an unbelievable atmosphere and I want to thank each and every individual who has come out here,” he said.
Super Kings batsman David Miller, who was awarded Player of the Match for his hard-hitting 61 from 42 balls, including four sixes, was also impressed.
“It’s fantastic to see such a great turnout and the facilities have been fantastic. I think there have been a few guys, kind of questioned around what it was going to be like but it shot the lights out here,” said the South African, one of a number of players with a background in the world’s top Twenty20 competition, the Indian Premier League (IPL).
MLC has backing from four IPL franchises including the Mumbai Indians, whose New York team began play on Friday.
England opening batsman Jason Roy, Australian batsman Aaron Finch, South African pace bowler Kagiso Rabada and West Indies spinner Sunil Narine are among the foreign players drafted by the six teams.
Other games will be played in Morrisville, North Carolina, before the playoffs and final return to Texas.
As well as the involvement of IPL teams, Australia’s Cricket Victoria has a high-performance partnership with the San Francisco Unicorns, and Cricket New South Wales has a similar role with the Washington Freedom.
The league has broadcast deals with streaming service Willow TV, whose owners are also investors in MLC, and also with Viacom18 in India.