After considerable debate the new structure for next season's Big Bash has been confirmed. Here are some key points after the announcement of the fixtures for a tournament that needed a shot in the arm after an underwhelming 2018-19 edition
Shorter regular season
After much criticism of last season, the home-and-away part of the season has been cut down from 54 to 42 days, beginning December 17 and ending on January 27 across the Australia Day holiday weekend. It will mean more double-header match days and some busy periods of playing and travel for teams - often with two games in three days - but the new timeframe keeps the majority of the league stage within the school holidays and should help stop the tournament drifting.
New finals structure
As part of keeping the regular season alive with fewer dead games, five of the eight teams can now reach a new-look finals stage that gives the teams finishing in the top two a second chance to make the finals. After the competition expanded to a full home-and-away season last year it was clear that there wasn't enough reward for consistency across the season with the team finishing fourth having the same route to winning the tournament as the side that tops the table. Playing 56 matches to lose just three sides is a lot although the teams in the 4th v 5th match would need to win four consecutive matches to take the title. The new format will also allow a little more time to market and prepare for the final with one of the hosts known a week before it takes place.
Christmas Eve night game ditched
There have been some minor tweaks within the regular season, among the more significant being scrapping the evening game on Christmas Eve which last season was held at the Sydney Showground featuring the marquee Sydney derby but attracted a very modest crowd. The popular afternoon fixture on the same day - which will be Hobart Hurricanes v Melbourne Renegades - has been retained, but after that it will be about wrapping those last minute presents. For now, Christmas Day also remains clear of a match although that could be something reassessed in the future.
BBL v India-Australia ODI
After the New Year Test against New Zealand at the SCG, Australia's men's team won't be in action on home soil again during the BBL. They are, however, playing a one-day series in India and one of those matches - the third on January 19 - will go head-to-head with the Brisbane Heat facing Melbourne Renegades at the Gabba. There are BBL matches on the days of the other two ODIs, but they are afternoon matches that precede the games in India for television audiences, while there are plenty which follow a day of Test cricket as has been standard.
Regional venues retained
The tournament is again being taken away from the major centers in attempt to spread the game. The Hurricanes will play their first 'home' game of the season in Alice Springs against Sydney Sixes - last year's match at Traeger Park was moved away at the last minute due to an unfit outfield - while the Heat play two games on the Gold Coast over the Christmas/New Year period (December 20 and January 1). The Stars will also play the Hurricanes on the Gold Coast on December 27. There are four fixtures with venues to be confirmed: two for the Thunder who played in Canberra last season, one for Melbourne Stars, which is expected to be Moe in regional Victoria, and one for the Sixers in regional New South Wales.
No easy answer to big name overseas stars
It is hoped that by shortening the regular season by 12 days and the whole tournament by a week that it will help attract overseas players who were put off by the length of last season. However, that was only part of the problem and budgets remain a key stumbling block to getting A list stars involved. When AB de Villiers' signing was mooted, before he pulled out, it would only have been possible with funding from additional sources. There is, though, the chance that Australia's international players will appear a little more often - those in the ODI squad to travel to India could be available for the final two regular season matches and the final, while any Test-only names who are wanted by BBL clubs will be free after early January.