April 17, 2003

Twenty20 Cup heralds change at start of the 2003 first-class county cricket season

Media Release

The Twenty20 Cup is the most exciting new feature of the 2003 county cricket season which starts tomorrow (Friday 18 April) with the first round of Frizzell County Championship fixtures.

The Twenty20 Cup replaces the old Benson and Hedges Cup and is the first brand new competition in county cricket for 30 years - since the Benson & Hedges Cup began in 1973. Matches will be 20-overs-a-side but the action on the pitch will be matched by enhanced off-the pitch entertainment. Barbeque zones, beer tents, music bands, karaoke, fancy dress and interactive games for children are some of the activities planned to ensure a fun evening out for all spectators.

Tim Lamb, ECB chief executive, said: "This is the most ambitious and revolutionary step county cricket has taken since 1963, when the first one-day domestic competition, the Gillette Cup, was born. The Twenty20 Cup is unashamedly aimed at getting new and younger audiences to watch county cricket matches - whilst also, we hope, retaining existing spectators. Before this year, the shortest county match lasted over five hours; Twenty20 Cup games will be over in two hours 45 minutes with matches played at convenient late afternoon times to make cricket watching more accessible for both school children and office workers alike."

The 18 first class counties are divided into three groups of six teams each with the group winners and the best runner-up progressing to a finals day on Saturday 19th July. The competition starts at 5.30pm on Friday 13th June, when five late-afternoon group matches are scheduled, and all the 45 group matches will be played over a 12-day period - thus intentionally scheduling the competition around the longest days of the year.

Other significant changes for the domestic season include Scotland's entry into division two of the National Cricket League, while the number of points gained for a win in Frizzell County Championship matches increases to 14. For the first time, penalties have also been implemented to punish sub-standard one-day pitches.

There are 367 matches, or 797 days of cricket in total, scheduled for firstclass counties across four different competitions in the 2003 season. The Frizzell County Championship season starts on Friday 18th April, the National Cricket League begins on Sunday 27th April, while the third round of the Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy takes place on Wednesday 7th May.

The women's domestic season will include the Super Fours trophy, now in its second year. The 48 best women cricketers in the country will be divided into four teams and will compete against each other in six one-day matches ahead of the international season. Super Fours will run each weekend from Saturday 17th May to Sunday 15th June.

Yorkshire, meanwhile, will aim to retain their title in the Frizzell Women's County Championship which will run from Saturday 26th - Wednesday 30th July at Cambridge University grounds.

Winners in 2002
Frizzell County Championship Division One          Surrey
Frizzell County Championship Division Two          Essex
Norwich Union National League Division One         Glamorgan Dragons
Norwich Union National League Division Two         Gloucestershire Gladiators
Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy                     Yorkshire
Benson and Hedges Cup                              Warwickshire
Women's County Championship                        Yorkshire