County cricket

ECB agrees to new county schedule from 2014

David Hopps

October 18, 2012

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The Trent Bridge outfield under water, Trent Bridge, Nottingham, July, 6, 2012
T20s will be spread out over the season to reduce the affect of rain on the tournament © PA Photos
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England's county championship will benefit from Sunday starts after the ECB Board agreed to a new domestic schedule for a four-year period from 2014.

A new-look county programme will also include Twenty20 cricket played weekly over much of the season, predominantly on Friday evenings, and the scrapping of 40-over cricket which will be replaced by the 50-over format, replicating the international game. The proposals will be formally adopted next month.

The desperate need to create space in an overcrowded fixture list is made by slimming down the Clydesdale Bank 50 to eight group matches per county - four fewer days than the 40-over equivalent.

Counties will either be split into two groups of nine, which would leave no place for Scotland, Netherlands or the Unicorns, an invitation side made up of some of the best non first-class players, or into four groups of five in which case only Scotland, who have already indicated their wish not to continue after 2013, would be omitted.

The decision follows the failure of the Morgan Review, chaired by David Morgan, the former Board chairman, to find unanimity and a subsequent polling online of more than 25,000 county supporters in the biggest customer survey ever undertaken by English cricket.

Morgan's proposals that the Championship should be reduced have finally been defeated after strong opposition from players, coaches and supporters.

His preference for T20 cricket to be spread over the season has, though, found more favour. A rain-wrecked FLt20 last summer subdued calls for the competition to be played over a short, intense period in mid-summer, as did an increasing recognition that the counties are no longer able to attract the best overseas talent, especially with a USA professional T20 tournament lurking on the horizon.

An ECB statement said: "The ECB Board noted the strong desire from counties and spectators to create an 'appointment to view' for T20 cricket spread over a longer period of the season. There was no compelling preference from spectators for 40-over cricket rather than 50-over cricket and therefore the format from 2014 will replicate the 50-over format played by the national team."

The FLt20 will consist of 14 matches per County, mostly played on Friday evenings - although counties such as Surrey are expected to win the freedom to play on Thursday because of too many rival attractions in London at the weekend. The top eight counties will progress to a quarter-final round and the retention of the popular FLt20 Finals Day format.

A desire to preserve the primacy of Championship cricket is likely to see England's first-class counties opting out of the Champions League unless the tournament is put back at least a week to dovetail with the climax to the England domestic season. Counties have already decided not to participate in 2013.

In 2013, in order to avoid a repeat of the earliest starts in history in 2011 and 2012, the county season is likely to commence on April 9 and finish in the third week of September. The Champions League, which has a window in the Future Tours Programme, starts in the second week of September.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by RandyOZ on (October 20, 2012, 16:01 GMT)

This will not help the inevitable slide of England. They will have to import more.

Posted by SirViv1973 on (October 20, 2012, 14:32 GMT)

@Richard Leadbetter, It's debatable whether we should have a one day competition over 40 ov or 50 , however getting rid of both is not up for debate and would be an act of complete insanity. There are 3 formats currently played at Int level so we need 3 domestic competition that prepare players for each form of the game.

Posted by   on (October 20, 2012, 12:48 GMT)

Hurray, the man in the street can actually watch two different forms of cricket at convenient times, and thanks to a regular schedule can plan accordingly, the ECB have finally seen sense. My only issue is the change back to 50 over cricket. Are the techniques and tactics really so different in a 50 over game, I really can't see that this change will better prepare international players. More importantly spectators will have to give up a whole day to watch a game which in todays fast society, with 20/20 cricket the increasing format, seems a strange decision. Why do we need three different competitions anyway, it's unnecessary and confusing for occasional cricket followers. I don't think it will be many years before there's just County Championship and 20/20, and this may be hastened by the change back to the 50 over format, perhaps that's the idea?

Posted by SirViv1973 on (October 20, 2012, 3:16 GMT)

@Steven Nicholson, When there was the increase in T20s in 2010 all the games were played in a mid summer block which meant some teams were playing 2 or 3 games at home in the same week. This time games will be spread out over the season and no one will play more than one game a week so it is far less likely to seem like over kill. As for playing on Fri nites im guessing that Sky figure they will get a better audience as opposed to a Sun afternoon. The counties probably also feel they will get better crowds in the evening. The over thing is that with 50 over games replacing 40 overs floodlit matches would be redundant and a majority of counties have paid good money to install the lights.

Posted by   on (October 20, 2012, 1:00 GMT)

why are they waiting til 2014 to switch to 50 overs? its good to see the ecb trying to change county cricket for the better but i have to question a few things, why expand t20 to 14 games? have they forgotten the disaster a few tears ago when the t20 group stage alone was 16 games? and why start county games on sunday? i'd start every championship game on a wednesday so it'd be finished by saturday then have limited over games on sundays like the olden days, it'd work okay i think as long as the majority of july is set aside for t20

Posted by DomP on (October 19, 2012, 21:25 GMT)

The Netherlands, Scotland, and the Unicorns all ought to get a chance if they want, I feel. Other than that, this seems like a step in the right direction.

Posted by Bamber on (October 19, 2012, 17:09 GMT)

Great news overall but Friday night is Poker night, what am I going to do now?? and NutCutlet - until this season I would have agreed with your comments on overseas mercenaries but having been at Hove for Scott Styris 100 off 37 balls, I am now a convert!!

Posted by   on (October 19, 2012, 16:19 GMT)

bang on.. most of the point that me and a 1000 others made in the survey have been listened to and implemented :) now its time to wait and watch.

Posted by JimDavis on (October 19, 2012, 15:06 GMT)

Regular Friday night cricket at long last!

Posted by Nutcutlet on (October 19, 2012, 12:45 GMT)

The spreading of the T20 over a long period means that the sudden arrival of the mercenaries from all points of the compass come June becomes a thing of the past. I for one am grateful. Season-long contracted overseas players will be able to take their regular places in their adopted sides & counties will not be put to the expense & trouble of accommodating these brief-stay overpaid stars, many of whom do not deliver the performances expected of them. The crowds will still roll in if the weather is good. The County Championship thrives when there's continuity & the mid-season freeze for T20 was thoroughly disruptive, IMO. Overall, given that this is not a perfect world, these changes are for the better.The ICC World Cricket League needs beefing up for the likes of Scotland & the Netherlands. 8/10 for the proposals.

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David Hopps David Hopps joined ESPNcricinfo as UK editor early in 2012. For the previous 20 years he was a senior cricket writer for the Guardian and covered England extensively during that time in all Test-playing nations. He also covered four Olympic Games and has written several cricket books, including collections of cricket quotations. He has been an avid amateur cricketer since he was 12, and so knows the pain of repeated failure only too well. The pile of untouched novels he plans to read, but rarely gets around to, is now almost touching the ceiling. He divides his time between the ESPNcricinfo office in Hammersmith and his beloved Yorkshire.
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