ECB to scrap triangular tournament
The ECB will scrap the annual triangular tournament - currently the Natwest Series - from 2006, in favour of two separate one-day international series against the touring sides. The first will be staged after the opening Test series, with the second batch of ODIs rounding off the international season after the other Test series.
This summer's fixture list has been widely criticised because England will have played ten ODIs before the opening Ashes Test at Lord's on July 21 (should England progress to the NatWest Series final). This would include facing Australia in seven matches. This problem should be eliminated in future with the new arrangement of ODIs.
The NatWest Series was introduced in 2000 as England tried to catch up with the pattern in other countries of staging a triangular tournament. But the competition has rarely seen a thrilling climax: only the 2002 event involving England, India and Sri Lanka produced a classic final, when India successfully chased England's 325. Neutral games have often been poorly attended and the identity of the finalists has been known early in the preliminary rounds.
In an attempt to compensate for this, the ECB introduced the NatWest Challenge in 2003, a series of three matches against another country. Pakistan and India have so far been the visitors (with England winning both series), but this summer Australia are taking part, to make up for the likelihood of Bangladesh's NatWest Series matches being one-sided, and to milk the popularity of the Australian side.
From 2006, the first Test series of the summer, consisting of two or three matches will be followed by a ODI series of up to five matches. The second Test series will then take place, starting no later than early July, followed by another ODI series of a least five games.