New Zealand's domestic Twenty20 tournament has been expanded from six to eight rounds as the short format's popularity continues to increase. New Zealand Cricket has released its domestic schedule for 2008-09, with the State Championship beginning in November and the State Shield set for December to February 1.

A dedicated spot has been set aside for the State Twenty20, which will be the only domestic cricket on the calendar from February 4 to March 1. Justin Vaughan, the chief executive officer of NZC, said the expansion of the Twenty20 tournament was logical considering the success of the IPL and the inaugural World Twenty20 last year.

"Twenty20 cricket offers high octane entertainment in a condensed three-hour window, and is bringing in record crowds both to live games and televised matches," Vaughan said. "It simply makes sense for NZC and our major associations to expand that offering in this year's schedule."

Extra matches will also be televised in the Twenty20 tournament, which will feature the former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming leading the Wellington side. His team-mate Matthew Bell has been handed the Wellington captaincy for the State Shield and the State Championship.

"We have a very good all-round team with plenty of talent and I'm convinced we can make a big impact in the three competitions this summer," said Bell, who previously led Wellington from 2000-01 to 2005-06.