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