Split-innings matches gain mixed reviews
The concept of two-innings one-day cricket, which Cricket Australia will trial next season, has been viewed with cautious optimism by two of the county second XI coaches in England who have had first-hand experience this year, but with concern voiced that matches can be decided very early.
Leicestershire and Sussex have both reached the semi-final stage of the knockout competition where the split innings are being used in the 40-over matches. Phil Whitticase, who is in charge of Leicestershire's second team, has experienced both ends of the spectrum in the matches he has been involved in.
"I think the jury is still out, in the two games we've played I've seen both sides of it," he told Cricinfo. "In the first we had Northamptonshire 76 for 6 after 20 overs and it meant we could play very steady cricket and won the game. I called it second-gear cricket, which isn't want you want.
"But in the second, against Surrey on a very good pitch, we won a good chase off the penultimate ball and it was a close game throughout. It certainly seemed to have more merit after that second game, but the feedback we have got is that some games could be over by three o'clock.
"Some of the supporters who watched the Surrey game said it was a bit hard to follow with too much chopping and changing but I think that is something they could get used to."
Mark Davis, the Sussex second XI coach, also said there was a danger of matches being decided very early but believed the format was worth further discussion because of the increased tactical element it involves.
"One issue I have had is that if a team performs badly in the first 20 overs the game can be as good as over and it isn't much of spectacle which can become a bit boring," he told Cricinfo. "First up people were quite sceptical and negative about it, much like they were at the start of Twenty20 cricket, but the two games we have played have been quite interesting and different to be involved in."
"It's a very tactical format, which makes it a good test for the captains and coaches who have to be able to think on their feet and adjust strategies depending on the situations. It has created a few novel situations."
However, where Davis feels a two-innings set-up could really benefit the game would to even up day-night one-day matches where the toss can have a major influence at grounds affected by dew. Davis remembered his experiences of playing domestic cricket in South Africa where batting under lights can become a hazard.
"It would certainly even up the contest under lights," he said. "I remember playing in South Africa, at places like Centurion and Durban, where you could basically win the toss and win the match because one team had 50 overs when the ball was zipping around all over the place. Split innings would certainly help balance that out."
Whitticase, meanwhile, has experienced what splitting an innings can do for a batsman who is in full flow when the first 20 overs ends. "We had a young guy on 48 in the first game and then he had stop and field for 20 overs," he said. "He then needed to play himself in again and although he got fifty he said he didn't feel as though he'd really earned it."
Angus Porter, the chief executive of the Professional Cricketers' Association, suggested it would be quite a while until the format was considered for first team cricket in England.
"I think it's highly unlikely that the version we are playing in the second XI this year will get transferred across to the first XI competition," he told the Press Association. "Players are enjoying it but what I think they are saying is 'we're not quite sure exactly where this particular experiment is taking us'.
"The initial feedback from that experiment is that everyone is up for trying new things but that this one doesn't actually seem to improve the game from a playing or a spectator point of view."
Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo