English cricket August 16, 2009

Key warns of Championship schedule

Robert Key has warned that next year's expanded Twenty20 tournament must not come at the cost of the County Championship. Key, whose Kent side lost the semi-final against Somerset on Saturday, supports the increase in matches but wants the ECB to ensure it doesn't mean that four-day games are crammed in at either end of the season.

From 2010, the newly-named P20 will include two groups of nine teams and be played over a longer period of the season to build on the appetite for the shortest format. Key, who missed out on an England recall for the deciding Ashes Test at The Oval despite being widely tipped, believes the mid-season period of 20-over cricket is a good idea so long as the four-day format doesn't suffer.

"What is my worry a little bit is that, either side of Twenty20 with an expanded period, are we going to get crammed in with four-day game after four-day game with one-day off?," Key said. "At the minute, we've just gone four-dayer, one day off, another four-dayer, a one-day game, one day off, another four-dayer and then this [Twenty20 Cup]."

"We've got to make sure we keep the quality in the four-day game. It is hard work for bowlers to keep backing up and doing the business in back-to-back games."

Kent had a packed schedule leading into Finals Day, having played for 13 days out of 15 including three Championship matches, and the same demands were faced by Sussex. Key refused to blame the fixture list as an excuse for Kent's seven-wicket defeat, but it highlights the demands faced by county players. His team finished a match against Northamptonshire, fellow semi-finalists, on Friday afternoon and travelled straight to Edgbaston, once again sparking the quality verses quantity debate that surrounds English domestic cricket.

"If you have got a period of Twenty20, it gives your bowlers a rest," he said. "I know it is pretty hectic but they are only bowling four overs compared to playing Championship and 50-over cricket all the time. It will help the bowlers, that period

"I think Twenty20 is a fantastic form of the game. It seems to me the public love this form of the game and it breaks up the summer pretty well," he added. "It is brilliant we've got more Twenty20 but we've got to be careful we don't end up playing back-to-back Championship games throughout the whole year."

Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo