Changes to structure of domestic tournaments
Changes to next summer's Friends Provident Trophy and the Twenty20 Cup have been announced by the ECB.
In the Friends Provident Trophy the initial stage will be contain four groups of five teams comprising the 18 first-class counties as well as Ireland and Scotland. Each team will play the other four teams in the group twice throughout the competition - home and away. The top two teams from each group will then qualify for the quarter-finals, with the winners of each group earning a home draw.
In terms of the Twenty20 Cup, the group stages will change to a symmetrical format of five home and five away games. This means each county will now play ten, rather than eight, group matches. The groups will remain regional-based with three groups of six first-class counties.
"The changes to the format of these two competitions will be implemented for a number of reasons," explained David Collier, the ECB's chief executive. "We were keen to reduce the number of so-called "dead games" in the Friends Provident Trophy and add a competitive edge to all of the games in the competition without increasing the volume of cricket.
"The Twenty20 Cup continues to attract new spectators to the sport and the introduction of extra fixtures will give even more people a chance to sample the Twenty20 experience at their local county ground. And the prospect of more local derbies will add further spice to the competition at the group stages.
"Counties may play fewer teams under the new structure but there will be more local derbies thus reducing travel and making the logistics of the programme more acceptable. There will also be more opportunities for the supporters of each county to see an increased number of home matches."
An ECB spokesperson also told Cricinfo: "The fact that there is a small reduction in the Friends Provident Trophy is a balance meaning that counties play one less match in the FPT zonal rounds (100 overs) versus two additional Twenty20 matches (80 overs).
"In addition the fact that the FPT has been zonalised provides more local derbies and less travel for players which is a benefit to both spectators and players. There is an additional cricketing benefit in that for the Twenty20 the counties now play all the opposition in their group at home and away and in the FPT there is the same number of home and away matches in the zonal stage.
"Both 50-over and Twenty20 cricket are formats of the game played in ICC global events and the balancing of the reduction in FPT cricket and the rounding of the group in the Twenty20 zonal rounds is consistent with the England Report [Schofield Report] and further enhances the opportunity to identify England players in these formats of the game."