English domestic structure August 27, 2009

English game dumps 50-over cricket


The third English domestic tournament next season will be a 40-over event after the counties voted 13-5 in favour of that format instead of retaining the 50-over variety.

The tournament will be held mainly on Sundays and one of the reasons this format has survived is that counties still find it very popular among their members and easier to sell than 50-over cricket. Forty-over cricket was first played in 1969 as the John Player league and has been a regular part of the domestic calendar.

However, it now means that the domestic game won't mirror the international scene, although the latest version will at least include the same Powerplay and fielding restrictions as one-day internationals. The ECB have pointed towards the South African system, where they play a 45-over competition and are still dominant on the international scene.

"Directors of cricket and coaches reported through their county votes that the leading one-day team in world cricket - South Africa - do not mirror 50-overs at domestic level and that, provided Powerplays and fielding restrictions were the same as the international format, the skills required were very similar," said Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman. "The board acknowledged that the members of the ICC will themselves be reviewing the future of 50-over cricket after the 2011 World Cup."

England's players, however, seem less convinced by the logic. "Ideally, you want county cricket to mirror international cricket," said Paul Collingwood, England's captain for their ODI against Ireland in the absence of Andrew Strauss. "If you're not playing the 50-over form domestically, it's a bit of a hindrance.

"Forty-over cricket is what the public want in England, so it's been pushed in that direction," he added. "But from the players' point of view, you want to come into an international game with a full range of experiences you're likely to encounter. Hopefully, it won't be a massive jump because there are similarities between the two, but we'll have to wait and see next time players come into the international game."

The format will be three pools of seven teams which means three extra sides will supplement the 18 counties. The identity of those extra teams wasn't immediately mentioned, but Ireland and Scotland have been part of the Friends Provident Trophy, while a combined minor-counties side is expected to make up the numbers. Netherlands are also believed to be in the frame, especially after their success against England in the ICC World Twenty20.

"It would be a big thing to be asked to take part in the ECB's 40-over competition, and one that we'd have to take very seriously," Warren Deutrom, the Cricket Ireland chief executive told Cricinfo. "But currently, 50-over cricket is our bread and butter, and the standard by which we are judged internationally."

The two-division County Championship has been given priority in the fixture planning and has been confirmed in its current format for 2010-2013. The previously confirmed Twenty20 tournament will be formed of two pools of nine based along a North-South split before moving into a quarter-final stage.

Only one unqualified player will be permitted in the Championship and 40-over tournament with two allowed in the Twenty20 event. That is one more than currently allowed, but still a significant change from the original aim of having a tournament to mirror the IPL with a host of international stars gracing the county game.

Internationally, England face another busy summer with a Test and one-day campaign against Bangladesh starting on May 27 before a five-match one-day series against Australia from June 22 to July 3. England's main Test series next season is a four-match series against Pakistan from late July through August before five one-day internationals and two Twenty20s from September 5 to 21.

Alongside England's commitments, Australia will also play Pakistan in a two-Test series and two Twenty20 internationals during July. The ECB offered to host Pakistan for a 'home' series after the unstable nature of the country halted international cricket.

Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Keith on August 30, 2009, 0:40 GMT

    Hidden amidst the ECB's obvious fiddling is the germ of a very important sea change that could save the longer 1-day format while strengthening Test cricket's popularity. Giles Clarke's earlier mention of "two innings a side" is the key bit. It is not scheduled to happen in England in 2010, but it would do the ECB and ICC a world of good to try it anyway. A 40-over affair with 2x20-over innings has the potential to add at least some of the feel and substance of Tests to the shorter form. That, plus the idea of day/night Tests with limited overs stretched over 4 or 5 days, might just put the Great Game back on track for the 21st century. It may take a grand Cricket Convention to sort it all out. Haverford College in Philadelphia USA (a genuine historical haven for cricket) could host the making of a new constitution for cricket.

  • Will on August 28, 2009, 23:27 GMT

    I haven't heard a more absurd and ill-thought out proposal since the previous ECB announcement on the future of the county game about three minutes ago. What about the recommendations of the Schofield Report? What about the bizarre second Twenty20 tournament that never got off the ground?

    The ECB agreed to abolish the 40 over domestic competion in July of last year. What exactly has happened to change the situation so radically since then? The ECB give the impression of coming up with these plans after a night in the Lord's Tavern with one too many lager shandies.

  • Michael on August 28, 2009, 21:10 GMT

    If I examine this logically I do not think I can complain. I enjoy the 40 over comp as it is, I like the idea of a Sunday limited overs game like it was,though I might ditch the divisions and have everybody play everybody for a year or so if only just for fun. I think also a September Cup Final is a far better and more fitting occasion than on a weekend in July. However I do also like being bombed with 40 over games by Sky.What's the solution? Ditch 20/20 and have 2 40 over competitiions one for relaxing Sundays and one for midweek evenings. Anyway at least they have something a bit right so well done ECB.

  • Tony on August 28, 2009, 17:53 GMT

    I think there is some logic to this decision....financial logic for county chairmen. On the subject of the 40 over competition:How does 3 groups of 7 produce 4 semi finalists? Is the final to be played at Lords? By my reckoning there are about 22 Sundays in a season,so two groups of 10 would have been more sensible,enabling 18 games and then quarter finals,semis and final over the last 3 weeks. From an international point of view,it makes no sense at all,as the television contracts are tied into 50 over games till at least 2015.The use of the South African structure to justify this stance would have more credence had South Africa won an ICC 50 over event. This is less of a dog's breakfast than originally mooted,but a dog's breakfast all the same.

  • Max on August 28, 2009, 9:40 GMT

    I am confused, does this replace the current Pro40 (and if so, what is the difference)? Good plan playing them on Sundays but FP should have remained for both 50 over experience and a "Cup final" at Lord's which still seemed to be popular.

  • David on August 27, 2009, 20:44 GMT

    "The ECB have pointed towards the South African system, where they play a 45-over competition and are still dominant on the international scene"... Er, can anyone recall the last time SA won a major 50 overs competition?

  • Nick on August 27, 2009, 18:54 GMT

    Had 50 over cricket been retained the best solution would have been a shorter group stage in April and May (3 groups of 7, sides playing each other once) with knock-out stages to follow and a 22 match single league 20/20 competition played in June, July and August with sides 3-6 qualifying for play-offs to join the top two on Final's Day. Given that that was such a simple solution I'm surprised they haven't gone with it until a decision was taken about the international 50 over game. At least the daft two innings idea appears to have been shelved.

  • Ben on August 27, 2009, 18:10 GMT

    The moral of this story must be that if you're not succeeding at something then simply give up trying altogether. It's little wonder that England have enjoyed such minimal success in the 50 over game when this is the type of attitude shown by the ECB and around the county circuit. I wonder if anyone at the ECB noticed the common denominator when they were pointing towards South Africa as another example of a country who don't play domestic 50 over cricket. Maybe someone should have pointed out to them how many World Cups South Africa have won.

  • AARON HUSSEIN on August 27, 2009, 16:04 GMT

    Y-E-E-S! That happened at last!! Good decision!!! Along with OD 50-over game, 40-over leagues should be scrapped altogether, as they have evolved into Twenty20, which originally introduced by the ECB, in 2003. In cricket two format is enough. Test format gives the ultimate proficiency of the cricket, and Twenty20 gives revenue, dynamism and globalism of the cricket. The "time-killing" ODI 40 / 50-over format cricket gives nothing at all - nothing materially, spiritually, or proficiently. I also hope ICC will review the future of ODIs after the 2011 World Cup and cross out...

  • Arron on August 27, 2009, 15:00 GMT

    Further proof that the ECB are unfit for purpose. If other countries have suddenly become our exemplar, why hasn't the County Championship evolved to become as competitive as, say, the Sheffield Shield? Of course, we know why: Clarke's weasel words simply obscure the fact that the counties' selfish short-termism determines everything. The ICC are "reviewing" 50-over cricket, and the ECB scraps it. A five-year-old could highlight the complete absence of logic in this change. This egregious man runs the most incompetent governing body in world sport.

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