At first glance, T20 Finals Day, one of the showpiece events of the domestic season, should be a day of celebration.

For the second year in succession, the tournament has attracted record numbers of spectators. Across much of the country, attendance and revenues are up by 20%. But does the ECB want you to know that? Does the ECB want you to think of the NatWest Blast as a success? Or would that complicate its plans to replace it with a city-based competition?

Is it possible that - ridiculous though it sounds - some at the ECB might want the NatWest Blast to fail?

For behind the scenes this season has seen an increasingly bitter fight being waged for control of the game. On one side we have the new ECB executive team - the likes of chief executive, Tom Harrison, and commercial director, Sanjay Patel - while on the other we have the bulk of the counties.

That is confusing in itself because the ECB is supposed to represent the counties. It is supposed to amalgamate their interests in a cooperative body. But, as the season has progressed, it has been increasingly obvious that there is a clash of cultures between the new ECB executive and a majority of the counties whose interests they are charged with protecting.

The new ECB management, led by chairman Colin Graves, had high hopes of reorganising the domestic schedule. With the best of intentions, they hoped to wrestle with problems that have affected county cricket for decades. They hoped to cut the number of games to allow more time for rest, recovery and practice and to play the white-ball game in blocks, with players and coaches believing this allows them to concentrate on skill development and helps prevent injuries.

Most of all, they wanted to develop a domestic T20 tournament that generated substantial revenue and increased the reach of the game far beyond the scope of the current competition.

To that end - and in the finest traditions of county cricket - a committee was formed: the county and international playing programme review (CIPPR). It was given three aims: improve the standard, make more money and increase cricket's popularity.

There were many eye-catching discussions. There was talk of starting the season in March in the UAE or Caribbean, there was talk of city-based teams playing 50-over cricket, talk of playing each tournament in a window, talk of cutting the Championship schedule to 12 games per team, talk of inviting three more teams (including Ireland and Scotland) to play in the Championship and much, much more besides.

Most of this has now fallen by the wayside, with administrators possibly fearing a drain of money away from the county game.

The most contentious plan of all involved the future of domestic T20 cricket. The ECB executive's contention was that, to maximise revenues, the game required a new-look tournament based on the Big Bash model and centred around eight city-based team. Broadcasters, they said, had little interest in the current tournament.

But as the CIPPR continued its work, they began to draw different conclusions. They found - and it should be said they are not due to make their proposals until next week - that, while city-based cricket would bring benefits, it would also bring problems. They found that counties would not be happy to sit out the new-look T20 competition, however much the ECB promised to compensate them, and they found that, actually, broadcasters could be enticed by the competition in very similar form to its composition now.

The ECB executive, frustrated at what they saw as the caution of the committee, decided to press on. They drew up plans for a new tournament, based around eight city teams and probably starting early as 2017. The games would have been played in July (pretty much every day of the month), they would have been televised and there was hope that more of the best international and current England players would be available. Broadcasters reacted favourably to the proposals.

"The desire to play in a block is understandable but it has been tried before. It left the competition at the mercy of the weather and asked spectators to spend heavily in a condensed period of time"

But, just as Harrison prepared to put this to the ECB board the counties - or a majority of counties, anyway - made it clear that of he did so, he would not win their support. Instead, his position - and that of Graves - could become untenable. A rebellion was a real possibility.

So Harrison and Graves took a step back. They came to a realisation, like many of their predecessors, that change in county cricket could not be hurried and assured the counties there would be no changes ahead of the new TV deal in 2020.

They continued to work on the plans, though. As recently as last week, there were those in ECB management who thought they could present their plans for a new-look County Championship, incorporating eight teams in the top division and 10 in the second playing 14 games each, for the 2016 season at a board meeting this September.

That would have meant that those clubs who had spent the year fighting for promotion - notably Surrey and Lancashire - might have faced the prospect of being told they had to remain in the lower division, while clubs who have fought to avoid relegation - the likes of Worcestershire, Hampshire and Sussex - could be told that, to accommodate the smaller top division, they would have to be relegated anyway. It would, in short, have made a mockery of the competition.

At the last minute, however, Harrison again realised the board would not back such a proposal. Perhaps stung by the feedback following a revealing interview on the BBC's Test Match Special on the first day of the final Investec Ashes Test - several counties were alarmed by what they heard and quickly made their feelings known - the ECB released a statement to ESPNcricinfo confirming that no substantive changes would be made to domestic competitions ahead of the 2016 season. It is a statement which is hard to square with the draft fixture lists which were prepared.

Which brings us back to the original question: does everyone in the ECB - or even at Sky - want the NatWest Blast to succeed in its current form? And, if so, why have they not celebrated the growing attendances? Why did they block ESPNcricinfo showing highlights, provided by counties from footage that had already been made available on club websites? Why do they talk about it so negatively, as if it is so in need of change, despite its growth?

One answer would be that if the public perception of the competition is poor, it will render it easier to change it. It will diminish the power of the counties and make it easier for the ECB and Sky to bring in the competition they want.

The counties' reluctance for change is understandable. Domestic cricket is two years into a four-year plan for T20 growth that seems to be working - in terms of higher spectator figures at grounds - and while it is accepted that work is required for county cricket to remain relevant, there is a strong argument that suggests evolution (such as the T20 tournament starting four weeks later in the season to coincide with the school holidays or the introduction of two divisions) might prove as beneficial as revolution, but without the potentially damaging consequences.

While the desire to play in a block is understandable - in terms of signing the best overseas players and raising standards - it has been tried before. It left the competition at the mercy of the weather and asked spectators to spend heavily in a condensed period of time rather than spreading the cost across the season. It was abandoned for good reasons.

The predictability of the current fixture list - with many games on Friday nights but enough scope to alter that where beneficial - has been a success. And a quick assessment of some of this year's overseas players - Chris Gayle, Glenn Maxwell, Brendon McCullum, Shahid Afridi, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and others - suggests the counties are managing to secure the top talent pretty well. The lack of Indian names might be relevant in terms of attracting a global TV audience, but there is some doubt as to whether the BCCI would allow its players to participate whatever the shape of the competition.

The counties' concern is that one of the aims - increasing the revenue - seems to have taken precedence over the other two: improving the standard and increasing the popularity of the game. And, while the counties are keen for that extra revenue - the cost of redeveloping stadiums around the country means that they owe an accumulated sum of somewhere around £170m - the ECB already has reserves of £70m.

Which led to the conclusion that it is not money the game needs most urgently; it is exposure. However good Sky's coverage - and few who see coverage elsewhere around the world would disagree that it is exceptional - there is a problem with its reach as it is behind a paywall. If cricket is to grow, it needs to reach a bigger audience. It needs to be - or some of it needs to be - on free-to-air TV.

So, when the next package of broadcast deals is put to the market - perhaps 18 months from now - it seems highly likely there will be an option for free-to-air broadcasters to get involved. It is understood that, right now, there is more interest from some traditional names than there has been for some time and that at least one is particularly attracted by a competition that occupies the window between football seasons. So while the situation remains fluid, the prospect of city-based cricket (the more accurate term to describe what is often referred to as franchise cricket) is more distant than it has been for a few years.

Where does this leave Harrison and co? Wiser and weaker, probably. He joined the ECB with big plans to stamp his authority on the game but may have come to the conclusion that the counties will not be paid off or intimidated. There remains a huge role for him in arranging the next package of broadcast deals, improving the strength of the county game and running the Champions Trophy in 2017 and the World Cup in 2019. But if he insists on trying to force through a city-based T20 competition, it is hard to see how he can survive.

There is scope for improvement in domestic T20 cricket, for sure. But let us not forget: it was the 18-team county game that gave birth to the professional T20 game and the 18-team county game that has grown by 20% in the past year. It does not have to be the shape of other T20 tournaments to succeed. There is plenty to celebrate on T20 Finals Day.