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Wisden Cricinfo staff
After helmet-cameras and player-mics in the inaugural competition last season, this year's Twenty20 competition is to experiment with the use of umpire microphones, to enable commentators to communicate with officials in mid-match and allow viewers a unique insight into how decisions are made.
"This is a major development for cricket broadcasting," said Barney Francis, executive producer for Sky Sports, "as fans at home have never enjoyed such access to the umpires. Our commentators will be able to discover the reasons behind the decisions, the conditions out in the middle, plus the umpires' own opinions on the way the match is progressing. It should make fascinating viewing."
Second seasons are always the most difficult for successful innovations, but on the evidence so far, the Twenty20 Cup is proving just as popular this time around. With two weeks to go, advance sales for tickets have already topped the 80,000 mark - nearly a third of the total audience at matches last summer.
The game between Surrey and Kent at The Oval, reduced to a 6000 capacity due to reconstruction works, has already sold out, while over 10,000 tickets have already been sold for Middlesex v Surrey, at Lord's on Thursday, July 15.
"We are delighted," said Tom Harrison, the ECB's marketing manager. "Domestic cricket has not had an advance ticket sales culture in the past and it is something we are very keen to create. My message to fans is, `buy now to avoid disappointment!'"
For any fans who are still undecided, maybe Warwickshire's new initiative will tilt the balance. To capitalise on the new wave of female fans, the county is introducing speed-dating to its entertainment, in which members of the opposite sex have until a wicket falls to chat each other up.