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Alex Winter at Taunton
August 10, 2012
Nottinghamshire 156 (Hussain 4-29) and 176 for 5 (Hales 54) drew with Somerset 249 (Hildreth 83)
Despite a push that took the game into the last hour, Somerset couldn't force a win over Nottinghamshire. The game was hindered badly by the weather and, with the ECB launching more consumer research into the domestic game, attention among members turned to the makeup of the fixture list in the future.
A healthy crowd was in to enjoy the sunshine, highlighting Somerset's good membership and the support for Championship cricket. The county also boast a big following for Twenty20 and the balance between all the competitions gives the chief executive, Guy Lavender, plenty to ponder for his wishes of the schedule.
"We're lucky here; we're extremely well attended for County Championship cricket," Lavender told ESPNcricinfo as Notts batted out for a draw on the final afternoon. "We've got a very strong membership base and we attach importance to the Championship as the premier competition. But there are different views about it around the country so there are certain things we have to do to make the structure more sustainable.
"Number one: the fixture list has to be easy to understand; number two, it has to be interesting; and number three, it has to be at a time where people can come and watch the games. If we just descend into 'how many matches' or 'how many counties', it misses the point. You don't need detailed debates, we've got to say, 'What works? What type of structure is attractive to the customer?' That is what drives the game."
When the counties decided more T20 would drive the game there was a general downward trend in overall profit. Somerset were one of few that thrived. They can make more matches work and saw takings fall back this season with the reduction in games.
"We'd like to see the number of T20 games increase," said Lavender, who wasn't pleased to see the Morgan Report rejected. "As a club we have the capacity to increase the number of fixtures and not only make them pay but make them good experiences for the supporters. We would have a preference for matches to be spread out across the course of the season because it provides the best opportunity for more people to come and watch. If you schedule T20 at the right time - as with CB40 - then people will turn up. It's not rocket science."
But finding regularity in the calendar is hampered by broadcasting demands, with Sky keen to screen a match every night of the week - reducing the capacity for T20 to be staged on a regular evening and the scope for matches to be spread out.
"Of course there are broadcast demands but I don't think that drives all of the decision-making about the schedule," Lavender said. "If we want cricket to thrive then we have to give people the best opportunity to come and watch and I think there is recognition from the ECB and Sky that that needs to happen.
"With the Gloucestershire T20, because of the rivalry and locality, that match will sell out whenever it is played but others won't. So we need to provide something that, perhaps as a not-as-keen follower of Somerset, you can go to every other Friday. It creates regularity and it fits into the way people live their lives and I think that's really important. And that holds true for other formats of the game.
"The problem is every county is looking at the structure of the game through their own lens and it's the responsibility of the ECB to work for the greater good of the game."
That greater good is being worked out through further consumer research. What it should find - given the backlash the proposed cuts received from players and supporters - is that the County Championship is just fine; and at Taunton both teams lost ground to Warwickshire in the title race that has four more rounds to produce another thrilling climax.
Nottinghamshire will be the happier of the teams from this draw. They keep Somerset at arm's length and survived what could have been a tricky afternoon on a pitch that began to show signs of invariable bounce and some turn. Pete Trego was also getting some deliveries to tail into the right-hander - it was an inswinger that ended James Taylor's attractive 46. He also had Michael Lumb superbly caught one-handed by Jos Buttler - keeping wicket in place of Craig Kieswetter and suggesting Somerset have enough depth to stay the distance in search of a first County Championship success.
They have hung on to the title race despite a host of injuries, their squad so depleted they had to cancel a second-XI match earlier this season. But they now have the chance to make another run for a maiden title and three of their remaining four matches are at Taunton, against Sussex, Surrey and Worcestershire.
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