ECB to embrace one-day innovations
England and Australia are set to become the first teams to test-drive the ICC's new one-day regulations, when the three-match NatWest Challenge gets underway at Headingley next week.
Two new innovations have been approved at this week's ICC meeting at Lord's - flexible fielding restrictions and, more controversially, the use of substitutes - and although the plan was to be trialled worldwide from July 30, England and Australia have been given special dispensation to get underway early, after pressure from the tournament sponsors NatWest, who want to mark their 25th anniversary of cricket sponsorship in style.
The fielding restrictions have changed from a block of 15 overs at the start of an innings to a total of 20 throughout, with a mandatory 10 first up, plus two blocks of five to be used at the fielding side's discretion. The substitutes issue is sure to raise more eyebrows, however, with each side allowed one replacement who will be able to bat and bowl, providing the original player is not already out or has bowled their quota of overs.
"It's a big decision, but we should welcome the recommendation," said David Collier, the ECB's chief executive, who will confer with the game's stakeholders - NatWest, Sky television and the BBC - before reaching an agreement. "Spectators have been telling us that the middle period of the game is becoming predictable and this should help liven it up. We believe it's a positive proposal and something the crowd will enjoy."
The final word, however, will rest with the respective coaches, Duncan Fletcher and John Buchanan, and the international team management group at the ECB.