Swingeing penalties imposed for unfit pitches
The ECB is set to announce a range of new regulations designed to improve the quality of pitches in domestic cricket ahead of the county season.
It had already been announced that visiting teams would be given the option of bowling first, rather than having a toss, in the County Championship, with the aim of improving the standard of pitches. Now the ECB have unveiled strict penalties on clubs whose surfaces are deemed so poor that matches are abandoned.
A pitch deemed unfit to the extent that a match in the Championship is abandoned will now see the visiting team awarded the match. The visiting team will also gain 16 points plus whatever bonus points they have earned, or 20 points; whichever is greater. The home team will gain zero points from the match and any bonus points they have already earned in it will be deducted. It will also count as a loss to them.
A pitch deemed unfit to the extent that a limited-overs match is abandoned will also result in the visiting team receiving the two points and the home team zero. Furthermore, the home team will be regarded as having been dismissed for zero when it comes to the net run-rate calculation. The visiting team's run-rate from the match will be discounted.
Other changes to the playing conditions ahead of the 2016 season will see group matches in the Royal London One-Day Cup matches start at 11am. They have previously started at 10.30am which was seen as providing too much assistance to seamers in moist conditions. Knockout matches played later in the summer may have to start at 10.30am to avoid problems caused by the earlier sunset, though it is possible floodlights could be used to avert that issue.
The ECB have also decided that no-balls given for bouncers passing above the batsmen's heads in limited-overs cricket should no longer warrant a free-hit. They were concerned that, in 2015, bowlers were reluctant to bowl short-pitched deliveries as the penalty was potentially so costly.
They have also decided that, in televised games, the TV umpire can unilaterally intervene if they see that a full ball over waist height is delivered. The on-field umpires cannot refer to the TV umpire on the matter.
In a move designed to bring the ECB's playing regulations into line with the ICC playing regulations, the wording surrounding the issue of mankading has been altered to ensure that the batsman can only be run out if the bowler has "deliberately" broken the stumps. This is to prevent a situation where a bowler bumps into the stumps - a la Steven Finn - and accidently runs out a batsman despite the delivery being adjudged a no-ball.
The ECB will also announce that, in 2016, half of Second XI Championship matches will be played with Tiflex balls and half with Dukes balls. It would appear the main purpose of that arrangement is to ensure they are not overly dependent upon one supplier and retain some bargaining power when it comes to agreeing costs.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo