Northamptonshire won the T20 Blast this season, which now looks set to be England’s premier 20-over competition until 2020 © Getty Images
The ECB’s proposal for a new city-based T20 competition, which had originally be slated for a launch season in 2018, may now be postponed until 2020 to coincide with a new broadcasting deal.
The go-ahead to further explore the eight-team proposal was given by a 16-3 vote at the ECB board meeting at Lord’s in September, following discussions between the 18 first-class counties, the Professional Cricketers’ Association, and MCC.
The ECB hierarchy, led by chairman Colin Graves and chief executive Tom Harrison, have been keen to push through a new T20 league to rival the success generated by the Indian Premier League and Australia’s Big Bash, despite fears from many counties that it would undermine their raison d’etre.
Surrey, Kent and Sussex were reportedly the three counties who opposed the proposal, although several have since expressed reservations about the lack of detail.
The original plan had been for the competition to be shown on Sky Sports for at least the first two seasons, with few England players likely to be involved due to an overlap with international commitments. However, the delayed start may now encourage a terrestrial broadcaster to come forward, in line with the ECB’s desire to use the competition as a vehicle to attract new audiences to the game.
In a separate development, the ECB board today ratified a recommendation from the Cricket Committee that the option of allowing the visiting team to bowl first in County Championship fixtures should be retained for the 2017 season.
The proposal caused some controversy when it was brought in for the start of the 2016 season. However, the stated aim of encouraging home counties to produce better four-day pitches – and improving the conditions for spin bowlers – were broadly considered to have been a success.
The Cricket Committee – which included Yorkshire’s director of cricket Martyn Moxon, Leicestershire’s chief executive Wasim Khan and David Leatherdale, the chief executive of the PCA – studied a range of data that showed, among other factors, that a total of 10,094 overs of spin had been bowled across the season, compared to 8,643 in 2015 – the highest since 2011.
Peter Wright, the chairman of the Cricket Committee, told ECB.co.uk: “In many ways the statistics merely reinforced the feeling we had been picking up around the game throughout the summer, that the experiment was working in beginning to rebalance the game.
“As we stressed when we introduced the new options for visiting captains, this was not all about spin. We wanted matches to last longer, and to become more thorough preparation for international cricket.
“That meant better, four-day pitches, which would mean bowlers had to work harder to take wickets, and would encourage a greater variety of bowling, whether spin in its various forms, genuine pace or reverse swing from more abrasive pitches.
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