The launch of this year's T20 Blast certainly got off to an unusual start with the
dispatching of an actual cricket ball into outer space. It is certainly one of the most unusual beginnings to a tournament that I have seen.
Cricket, and particularly the England and Wales Cricket Board, are not normally associated with such innovative ideas so must be applauded for thinking outside the box on this one. This is normally left to the more esteemed sports, such as football, who have previously hired a helicopter to deliver the FA Cup Final ball to the stadium.
However, the Nat West T20 Blast, which began last week, was seen as the ideal opportunity to try something different. After all the tournament itself has been re-branded and re-launched so the authorities were looking to do something different that would capture the imagination of the public and advertise the game around the World. This was the ECB's attempt to illustrate this.
Did they succeed? I am not entirely sure about that but you cant blame them for trying particularly when they are competing with the likes of the IndianPremier League and the Carribean T20 competition.
The ball itself was launched from Edgbaston, the ground where the 2014 Finals Day will take place in August, with the help of a team of aeronautical engineers. It was attached to a helium balloon in order to aid it's ascent, with a camera also included, bringing the spectacular, if rather odd, pictures.
On it's journey the ball had to endure temperatures of -54°C (-130°F) and eventually reached a height of 110,000 feet (33,000 metres) which is roughly three times the height that a normal plane reaches.
Once the balloon reached its highest point it popped which sent the ball back down to earth at roughly 500 miles an hour. Luckily, as we know a cricket ball can hurt at the best of times, a parachute was deployed which landed the ball safely in Newbury, Berkshire in nearly perfect condition. Nobody got hurt.
It is not an idea that is exclusive to cricket as other sports have also been part of the space experiment. Others have gone further than just the edge of space as well. In 1971 Alan Shepard played golf on the moon and, more recently, in 2007 Clay Anderson played American Football on the International Space Station. However, for cricket this is a first, it has been claimed.
Hopefully the 18 counties who are competing in the T20 Blast over the next eleven weeks
will live up to the initial hype that the ECB have tried to create.
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