The future of Twenty20 cricket - or is it?

April 20, 2018

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has revealed details of its planned city-based T20 franchise league - except it isn't T20 after all. 

It is proposing a new format of 15 six-ball overs and one ten-ball over, making the whole innings 100 balls long - 20 shorter than in a T20 game. 

This new format would take place from 2020 onwards and be played by eight city-based franchises, located in Southampton, Birmingham, Leeds, London, Manchester, Cardiff and Nottingham. It will run separately from the ongoing domestic T20 Vitality Blast competition, so fans coming down to Edgbaston will have the chance to see action in both tournaments. 

However, while the 100-ball countdown has been hailed by the ECB as a new innovation that will help the new league rival the Indian Premier League and Australia's Big Bash, the ideas have divided opinion.

ECB chairman Tom Harrison, who presented the plan to county chairmen this week, said: "This is a fresh and exciting idea which will appeal to a younger audience and attract new fans to the game."

England bowler Stuart Broad agreed, saying he "loves" the novelty element. He added: "You're stepping into the unknown tactically and that brings a lot of intrigue. Everything is brand new and that brings a lot of excitement." 

Others were less enthusiastic. Among the public's responses to the BBC Sport website was a suggestion the players should wear clown outfits, while another fan jested that the next steps should be jetpacks for fielders, invisible bats and stumps made of jelly. 

Fans watching matches at Edgbaston may be more used than some to cricket's innovations. Warwickshire was the first English county to adopt the idea of emphasising a franchise-style city-based identity by using the name Birmingham Bears for T20 games, while last year Edgbaston saw the first day-night Test match in England as the traditional red ball gave way to a pink one.

Older fans might recall a few other innovations from the past as well, such as the 1980s 'Brumbrella', a vast cover that not only protected the pitch from rain, but the whole outfield as well. 

Of course, everything in cricket was an innovation once, including Twenty20 itself. It seems to have been around forever, but was only invented in 2003 - and at the time many people thought it would never catch on. 

This summer, however, there will be many chance for fans to flock to Edgbaston to enjoy the format. As well as Birmingham Bears matches, the ground will host the Vitality Blast Finals Day on 2015, an event that, even at 15 years of age, has become an English cricketing tradition. 

In addition, England will host Australia in a T20 international at Edgbaston on June 27th, the final match of a brief limited-overs tour for the Aussies. 

Australia itself has certainly not been slow to use T20 to introduce some new innovations, including playing in an indoor stadium as Melbourne Renegades matches take place at the Etihad Stadium in the city's docklands. 

Whatever new innovations arise, one thing is for sure: fans enjoying corporate hospitality at Edgbaston will always have lots of great cricket to look forward to. And, for now at least, any jelly they encounter will be part of the menu, not the stumps.

Image: Gareth Copley/Getty Images from Keith Prowse subscription

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